The Inverse Wave: Crunching the Idaho Election Numbers
This post is meant to buttress the contention that Idaho Democrats should jettison, deep six, kill, eradicate, eviscerate and otherwise ignore the notion that running Democratic candidates against the Democratic party as a game winning strategy. And since Alan at IdaBlue likes it, let's refer to it as the "self loathing strategy". Its a well known Republican trap which the last cycle demonstrated as a failure. Democrats need to target independents and other non-voting demographics to make up for high Republican voting bloc in crimson Idaho.
In addition to the foregoing posts on the subject pertaining to Allred's race and Minnick's race, the self loathing strategy suppresses base participation in elections. Despite early predictions of record turnouts, this election actually had low voter participation with only 58% of registered voters sending a ballot and below 40% of eligible voters engaged in the process. That's the lowest since 1978. Now the question is who sat it out and why?
Serephin expressed his desire to see more numbers, and, lo, the blog interstices delivers. Indeed in three separate posts they seem to hear our plea, not only for numbers, but graphs to illustrate the points. First voter turnout.
In another post, they graph four separate factors documenting low Democratic turnout. This is the inverse wave that led directly to Democratic losses this election.
Despite favorable trends in Democratic votes the past six or eight years Allred was unable to hold to a common pattern of outperforming the Democratic Presidential nominee two years previous. Only in 1998 did the Democratic Gubernatorial candidate not do as well as the Democratic Presidential candidate two years previous.
Despite all the advantages of incumbency such as mega dollars for campaigns Walt Minnick not only lost his reelection to Raul Labrador, he was also unable to equal the total votes earned by his predecessor Larry Grant four years prior. Grant was underfunded in his challenge for the open seat in 2006, won that year by Bill Sali, but Grant won more votes than an incumbent Minnick.
One underlying dynamic of the election was, on a statewide basis, voter turnout did not increase over that from 2006, despite an electorate that is 100,000 larger (voting age population). The state grew in population, there was a record turnout in 2008 and lots of new voters. Yet turnout statewide the number of votes appears only a few thousand higher than 2006. And the last chart shows when you drill down into Ada County that turnout in the 1st Congressional District did increase but was offset by a decrease in the 2nd Cong. District.
I think the Grant/Minnick comparison is overemphasized and has serious distinctions. But pay close attention to the comparison of Allred's performance and Obama's in Idaho two years before. Party poobahs were bragging at our massive caucus participation and how that would vault us into winning territory because we were signing up lots of newbs. Yet no such translation occurred. interstices blames this on systemic failure by the party after analyzing the legislative district votes in Boise City.
What happened appears to best be described as a systemic failure on the part of the Democratic Party to put on a campaign at the top of the ticket that would help drive voter turnout at the lower races such as for State Legislature. As mentioned, the token candidate for Congress did not bother to campaign. The Democratic candidate for Governor ran a campaign based largely on advertising and public relations and put together no organization that would build a ground game that identifies potential supporters, gets them registered to vote if needed, and draws them to the polls, with the expected trickle down effect on the local races. The result in Boise was the Republicans captured two seats in the State Legislature and the most Democratic districts saw the typical big landslide victories decrease to merely blowout proportions.
I agree that it was systemic, not just from lack of focus on the top of the ticket in the second congressional district, but from a common inability for the party to get the resources necessary to help campaigns out with GOTV efforts. Those two legislative races Democrats lost in District 18 were exceptionally tight. I'd also highlight the fact that Branden Durst was one of the few pro-life Democrats which may have diminished his appeal to pro-choice Democrats in blue Boise. Neither was it the fault of just party poobahs unless they gave the blessing for Allred, Minnick, and Olson campaigns to run away from being a Democrat. Its the self loathing message, stupid. The fact that these campaigns ran embarrassed at being Democrats certainly wasn't welcoming to Idaho Democratic rank and file. They failed to provide a reason for Democrats to go to the polls. Why should they vote for candidates who don't seem interested in having them for constituents.