By Chris Huttman

Georgia’s Future Looks like Romney’s Present

I file this dispatch from Swing State Virginia, where I decamped to knock on doors for Barack Obama and Tim Kaine.  The atmosphere at the Kaine victory party in Richmond was electric as the votes finally started to be reported from Fairfax County and the city of Norfolk and first Kaine took the lead and finally Obama was declared the winner.  Virginia wasn’t as solidly blue as it was four years ago, but a win is a win and Republicans currently do not have a path to electoral victory in Presidential races.

To Georgia – where Romney turned in a mostly similar victory to McCain’s 4 years ago.  Our final poll for Better Georgia put it at 52-46, and I expect with rounding the final number will be 53-46.  On the local front, our firm (20/20 Insight) had accurate results, as did Landmark. Matt Towery emailed two days ago to say that Obama would not get 42% in Georgia due to a rising tide of Republican voters.  Anyone who listens to or hires this guy should be ashamed of themselves.

In a year when the national popular vote tightened and Obama won some swing states by much narrower margins than four years ago, Georgia stayed about the same.  We are trending Democratic.  And soon enough, with the Hispanic vote rising each year and the share of the white vote decreasing, the Republicans will have the same problem winning here that they had last night for Mitt Romney in the rest of the country.  To my Republican friends: well done so far, but I see no evidence that you’re doing anything to combat this problem.  Let’s take two local races as examples. Read more

The final Georgia poll

Most polls have 400 respondents.  Some have 600 or 800, some even have as many as 2,000.  What if I told you that there was a real live poll of Georgia voters out there that had nearly 1.9 MILLION respondents with a margin of error of 0.0?  Of course I’m talking about the detailed statistics available about early and absentee voters that the secretary of state releases.  A little context is in order.

In 2008, Georgia led the nation in early voting, with a 45 day window that allowed many first time voters to take part.  African American voters particularly took part – making up 34.1% of all early voters – which led to a record breaking total (including election day) of 30%, propelling Obama to 47% here and putting Jim Martin and Jim Powell into runoffs.  That year, white voters made up  61% of early voters, but saw their total numbers increase with a strong election day showing.

So – this year – we only had three weeks of early voting and one mandatory Saturday.  But Georgians packed in nearly as many votes.  With two mail days left for absentee votes to come in, we’re at 88% of 2008’s total.  African American voters make up at least 33.6% of early voters (compared to 34.1% four years ago) while white voters make up only 59.4% (down from 61%).  The biggest change is the unknown voters – they have grown from 2.6% in 2008 to 4.8% this year. Read more

Wait – Romney only leads by 6?

So – Matt Towery apparently slipped in the shower and hit his head and put out a “poll” showing Romney leading by about a bazillion points, and also that only 5% of Georgians think Obama will do a better job on the economy, and that no one wants to go to dinner with the President.  Best comment I saw was that maybe just a lot of people that responded weren’t hungry.  Now on the heels of this Fox 5 poll (and to anyone from Fox5 reading this – how can you release that garbage with your name on it?), internet pollster YouGov is out with a new poll of Georgia – one of what seems like a multi-state monthly poll that checked in on almost half of the states.

YouGov has a national panel of respondents that they randomly select and match to a stratified sample that complete their polls online.  It’s new-fangled technology to be certain, but they have a decent track record.  They weight their survey using the 2006/2007 American Community Survey results and use 2008 exit polling and turnout as a guide.

They show Romney with a 6 point lead – 50/44, but looking under the hood at their crosstabs, they also show African Americans making up just shy of 26% of the electorate.  I personally think people get a little carried away “reweighting” every poll that comes out until it suits their fancy – maybe fewer African American respondents was naturally and scientifically balanced by interviewing more white Democrats than normal – you never know and that’s why it’s dangerous to reweight to your heart’s desire and also kind of the point of the margin of error.

But I will say that in 2008, African Americans made up 30% of the actual voters (roughly the same % as registered voters), and even in 2010 – a down year for Democrats they accounted for 28% of all voters.  For 25% of the electorate you’d have to go all the way back to 2004 – when the decidedly very white John Kerry was the standard bearer.  So…if the electorate is really 4-5% more African American than YouGov’s sample and you were to recklessly reweight this survey, you’d come up with pretty much a 47-47 tie.  My firm conducted an IVR survey for Better Georgia before the conventions in August and we had among likely voters a 49-46 Romney lead, with a tie game among all registered voters.

So pick your poison – giant Romney lead (IA/Fox5), modest Romney lead (YouGov), tiny Romney lead (20/20 Insight for Better Georgia) or jump ball (YouGov re-weight/20-20 RV).  One thing is for sure – at the Presidential level this state isn’t as boringly predictable as it used to be – and could be a legit swing state contender in 2016.  Maybe let’s not get rid of that electoral college afterall!

T-SPLOST: A Democrat’s Dilemma

It would be an understatement to say that we Democrats haven’t been able to win a partisan election in this state for quite some time.  And although I love this great state, it would be dishonest to pretend that I don’t think my party’s philosophy and plans for it are better than the alternative – and that I root for my side to win and am disappointed when we lose even when the Republican is a good man.  When I ran for the legislature, there was certainly a desire to wield some personal power – I’d be lying if I said otherwise and so would anyone else who runs for office – but there’s also a loyalty to party and ideology and a willingness to sacrifice one’s self (win or lose) to advance that.

Next Tuesday, I’ll walk into a voting booth and decide whether to support a highly flawed T-SPLOST that nevertheless threatens to doom my beloved state’s future if it doesn’t pass.  Make no mistake – for the time being and for the foreseeable past and future, this is a Republican state.  The T-SPLOST is a Republican plan (part of the reason it’s so flawed, I will get to that) and the Republicans who want to yield none of their power to Democrats at the state level (unless they meaninglessly switch to their party) are counting on me and my friends to do their dirty work so that the state can succeed and they can take the credit.

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Governor Deal’s Price Tag

I was just watching coverage of today’s healthcare ruling on WSB-TV and the Governor’s office has put out their latest numbers about the Medicaid expansion.  They anticipate that roughly 620,000 additional Georgians will gain healthcare access, and that over a ten year period it will cost Georgia taxpayers $4.5 billion.  I’m no math expert (actually I am) but I ran the numbers and what the Governor’s office is basically saying is that 620,000 Georgians that currently don’t have healthcare now will soon have it at an annual cost to state taxpayers of $725/newly insured.  For all taxpayers it’s a tax increase of $50/year.

And it means that (same newscast) a large part of the $200 million of healthcare that Grady Hospital “gives” away each year will now be paid for – by a combination of these patients now having insurance and having a way to pay or having a way to pay for cheaper alternatives like preventative care or urgent care.

Now, I hate giving Republicans advice.  But 620,000 Georgians getting health insurance that don’t currently have it for $725/person.  For $50/year per taxpayer?  Saving Georgia hospitals a billion dollars a year?  Getting a chance to put their own Georgia spin on the program and show how it can cost less than the federal government mandates or other states run by liberals are spending?  I’d figure out a way to run on that.  And based on some of Gov. Deal’s hedging comments, I think he’s already trying to figure that out.

Or, you can listen to the Tea Party and give Democrats the opening they need to get some of those 620,000 uninsured the reason to show up in an odd year election.  The demographics in this state are already getting better every year, and even in the worst Democratic year in most of our lifetimes (2010) we were only short by about 1/3 of that total.  Your choice guys!

Peach Madness

Biting your nails until the exit polls get released?  Play Peach Madness.  Here’s how it works – for each Republican Congressional district (plus the 14th) pick the winner – and for each one you pick right you get 2 points but you get 4 points if the person you picked wins the CD but not statewide (so basically if you pick a non-Gingrich winner who wins you get 4, you pick Newt and he wins you get 2).

Then there is one final multiple choice – 2nd place statewide. Choose wisely.  Finally, you get extra points for nailing the following: Romney % in Cobb (Gingrich’s most recent home base), Santorum % in DeKalb (Democratic crossover alert?) and the total number of Gingrich delegates.  The link spells out exactly how it’s scored for these but basically if you nail it you get 10 points for each one, if you’re close you get 5 and if you’re far off but not a total loser you get 1.  Not sure what the maximum number of points are available, since it depends on who wins and who wins where but I will post the winners maybe later tonight or tomorrow.

There’s no actual prize – just bragging rights.  Here’s where you fill it out:

Google Doc Form Peach Madness

Happy forming!

Georgia Looks Swingy

Survey USA notes in their freshly released Georgia poll that our state “remain safely red”, what with Romney (49-42) and Gingrich (48-42) both leading Obama.  But allow me to dive into the crosstabs and beg to differ.  In 2008, African Americans made up a record percentage of the electorate.  30% of all votes cast were from voters identified as black on the voterfile.  Whites made up 64% and voters who are identified as either Asian/Hispanic/Indian/Other or Unknown rounded out the rest at 6%.  Prior to 2008, the largest percentage African Americans had made up in modern times was 2004 when they were at 25% (which was also a record at the time).

Fast forward to 2010.  A year when Democratic enthusiasm was said to be at an all time low.  You’d think that would mean that we saw the Obama fueled wave of African American voters recede back out to the ocean – but no.  In 2010, 28% of all voters were African American.  Whites made up 66% and all others came in at 5% (numbers may not add to 100 due to rounding).  28% is the second highest percentage – only behind 2008, and represents almost an identical jump from four years earlier when it was about 24%.  In other words, African American turnout is always higher in Presidential elections, but the increase from ’04-’08 was matched when looking at ’06-’10.  This largely explains, but for some reason isn’t popularly discussed, why in a record year for Republicans nationally most of Georgia’s statewide winners were held to 53% (a win is a win, but hey gotta have something to boost our D spirits).

So what does Survey USA think the 2010 electorate will be?  Only 25% black.  And 67% white.  I ran the raw counts on their website to get the White and African American percentages for each candidate and was able to compute the “other” by subtracting from the known.  Here’s what it comes out to…(converted to percents for ease of viewing)

Candidate Total Whites Afr Am Other
Obama 42 24 86 59
Romney 49 65 9 32
Undecided 9 11 5 9
Obama 42 24 86 58
Gingrich 48 65 9 30
Undecided 9 10 5 11


So remember – in 2008 it was 64% white, 30% AA and 6% other/unknown.  Let’s assume that both whites and blacks pick up 1% each from the unknown category – the state voterfile might not know what they are but presumably they’d be able to tell a pollster.  And let’s also assume that the state in 2012 is basically about the same (in actuality from this point out I predict it will slowly get less white and more Hispanic at the polls with African Americans essentially maintaining their percentage).  So let’s re-weight whites to 65%, African Americans to 31% and others to 4%.  What do we get when we recompute the totals?  We get Romney with a 47-44 (2 point margin without rounding) lead and Gingrich with a 46-45 (1.5 point margin) lead.  In other words, according to Survey USA’s data, Georgia looks swingy.  It’s just too bad they think it’s still 2004 here for some reason.

Megabus Pro Tips

Megabus is coming to Atlanta.  I have used these and other buses to travel between various parts of Virginia/DC and New York City. While not as nice as taking a plane or (my preferred method) Amtrak, they are cheap, tickets can usually be purchased same day which makes them great for a spontaneous trip or for those on a budget.

Allow me to share two pro tips.  The first one is that although the top front of the double decker buses look awesome, ride on the bottom.

What could happen to the top of a megabus
What could happen to the top of a megabus

My second tip would be, as always, no smoking on the Megabus.

Don't smoke on the megabus
Don't smoke on the megabus

Defending Mason Dixon (in part)

As technology reduces the cost of calling people on the phone and finding out what they think about things, just about anyone can be a pollster these days.  We’ve got a few on this site, including me.  Ultimately there’s nothing truly special about asking people what they think – it’s basic statistics.  The hard part, something that Mason Dixon is being criticized about quite a bit in the last few days is figuring out how the population of all people that you’ve surveyed represents themselves as actual voters.  Follow me below the cut to get my defense of Mason Dixon’s methodology in their most recent survey of metro Atlanta’s 10 county TSPLOST vote.  Mason Dixon’s poll showed that it’s at least possible for the TSPLOST to pass, and many here disagreed.

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Justice Department Pre-Clears Anti-Incumbent Change

The other day Galloway noted some pre-clearance activity for a few voting changes here in Georgia.  The most newsworthy allows our Secretary of State to wait until the last minute to pick a Presidential primary date in order to maximize Georgia’s influence in selecting Obama’s challenger.  Less discussed is HB 92, which attempts to standardize the early voting window for primaries and generals.  It does this by shortening the period from the current 45 day period to 21 days, and also adds a standardized Saturday voting option which some metro counties experimented with last year to much success (for Democrats at least).

As a Democrat, my first instinct was to suspect the motives of the shorter period, as my bias is going to be in favor of making voting easier, not harder.  Sorry that’s where I come from.  It’s important to remember two things though – one is that the 45 day period was a relatively new invention and so from a pre-clearance perspective at least, having a 21 day period instead isn’t a huge change (it’s still way better than just 1 day).  But more importantly, the data shows that about 80% of the early voting was actually happening in the 21 day window anyway and if you have a hard time voting during the working week more Mondays-Fridays aren’t helpful anyway, but Saturday might be.

All of that aside, the real benefit (for Democrats) of the shorter voting period is that incumbents have less time to lock in votes before the voters learn negative information about the incumbent or positive information about the challenger.  In their quest for super-majority status, Republicans have drawn a lot of very competitive districts in places like Gwinnett County.  Districts where, if they are to achieve their super majority they’ll have to win some of these places 51-49.  Less than 10% of the final electorate voted in that 45-22 day window, but you have to think that at least some of those voters would have voted differently on day 45 than they now will on day 21 because of some new piece of information they’ve learned.  A Democratic challenger will by definition be underfunded in this state and likely doesn’t have the budget to start mailing/calling/advertising/knocking when it’s T-minus 45, but much more likely to have begun by 3 weeks out.

In a state where it’s usually pro-incumbent all the time, it’s nice to see legislation like this slip through, no matter the original intent.

Do Republicans Have a George Allen Problem on Their Hands?

For you Republicans that are worried I have an incriminating videotape, let me assure you that nobody called anybody “Macaca”.  Long before George Allen was a problem for Republicans, he was a serious problem for Democrats.  In 1991, the then state legislator was elected to Congress from Virginia’s Charlottesville-centered 7th district in a special election.  Democrats thought they were smarter than the voters, so they chose to eliminate the seat during that year’s redistricting, leaving Allen out of office and looking for a place to run.  Allen, a former football player and son of the longtime Redskins coach, consulted his playbook and decided to launch what was at the time considered to be a longshot bid for Governor against Democratic Attorney General Mary Sue Terry, who was leading by as much as 29 points going into the race.

The rest, as they say, is history.  Allen won by nearly 20 points, ushered in a modern era of Republican control in Virginia and after serving as Governor defeated venerable Democratic Senator Chuck Robb in the 2000 election.  I read Tom Crawford’s column ($ub reqd)  in the Georgia Report today, and he repeats many of the rumors that Majority Leader Stacey Abrams voiced just a few days ago.  It talks about a Republican redistricting plan for the House that aims for a Constitutional majority, and combines many prominent Democrats.  It also sounds like it might have serious VRA problems, but for this piece let me stick to the Allen parallel by focusing on two up and coming House Democrats that are slated to be combined into a single district.

If you haven’t figured out yet, I’m talking about recently elected Democrats Scott Holcomb (82) and Elena Parent (81).

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Name That Store

Right now, I’m thinking maybe “Wilder Indoors” or “Wilder Nights”.

Google is your friend.

Open thread, friends.

UPDATE 12:20 pm:

Seriously guys, how good of a forensic accountant are you if you are setting up a seller financed transaction to operate a business to someone and you didn’t figure out for three days after it closed (after already being in negotiations for months) that he runs a bunch of porn shops?  It’s the first 10 results on Google!  Here’s my ultimate take on Nathan Deal: Nice guy, but surrounds himself with guys of questionable character and intelligence.  Jimmy Allen is just the latest in a long line of people to take advantage of old man Nathan.  I mean, I think Nathan would make a great Grandfather/Uncle/Friend, just pretty sure I wouldn’t want to do business with him.

What Rob Woodall Really Means

“I’m too lazy to raise money for my race, so no one else should be allowed to either.” 

If he’s itching to regulate campaign contributions I suggest he start with the Citizens United decision.  In all honesty, I suspect Woodall is just fine with Citizens United.  So what he’s basically proposing is that a candidate isn’t allowed to build up a cash reserve, so that then some entity created solely to make a large campaign contribution can come along and wipe them out.  And before you Republicans think this will just benefit you, remember there are a lot of ultra rich liberals (and foreign nationals – tell me why they couldn’t create and then dissolve a Romney-esque company?) who could just as easily take out a Rob Woodall or Austin Scott since they would be helpless to fight back.

Catching Copper Thieves

According to the AJC, Copper Thieves are still at it, and still hard to catch, even with new requirements that they show an ID when they sell the copper to recyclers.  Carrollton’s Southwire etches serial numbers onto the wiring they sell – which is great if you just installed new wiring, but won’t help you much if a thief just emptied out your 10 year old air conditioner.

It’s obvious to me that thieves don’t play by the rules – which is why even with the ID requirement it’s hard to find the people who drop off the wire at recyclers.  I’m guessing the thieves drop by the Lakewood Flea Market (popular in my high school days) before they hit the metal shop, or wherever people go to get a fake ID nowadays.

It seems to me that if you really want to cut down on this crime, there’s a simple way to do it.  Require the metal shops to pay only 1 cent / pound on the day that it’s dropped off, with the remainder mailed as a check after 60 days.  Legitimate haulers would take a one time 60 day liquidity hit, and someone in the marketplace could probably set up a loan program for them if they really couldn’t afford to be without the cash for 2 months.  For petty thieves, waiting 60 days and having to give an address for the check to be mailed to would probably be an incentive to find other work (which still could be crime, I suppose).

Think this doesn’t affect you?   Georgia Power says they lost about $500,000 due to theft last year, and the number of incidents is on pace to match it this year.  And we all know that by law and public service commission, any business expense Georgia Power incurs is borne not by its shareholders, but by we ratepayers.

An Odd Hobby?

Some people are into birdwatching, other people put ships into bottles.  Apparently former Rep. Kevin Levitas gets his kicks writing legislative session newsletter updates as if he were still in the General Assembly.  Some background: Levitas was the Democrat who ran for House District 82 in 2004 and 2006, losing the first time by about 100 votes and winning the second time by a larger margin.  He was re-elected in 2008 and qualified to run in 2010, only to change his mind after qualifying ended a few weeks later.  Due to a bad precedent established previously by Karen Handel when SD 13 in Southwest Georgia needed a candidate after qualifying and only Republicans had qualified, a special qualifying period in HD 82 was opened up for Democrats only.  Scott Holcomb, a former candidate for Secretary of State in 2006 and all around nice guy was the only Democrat to run, and after a failed attempt to launch a right leaning write in campaign, he won the seat unopposed in the November election.

Fast forward to now.  With redistricting looming, Levitas feels the need to scratch the itch and send out a constituent update to his old list.  If you are so inclined, you can read it here.  What’s the deal?  Is Levitas angling for his old seat as a Democrat?  Does he want to now run as a Republican?  Does he think Anne Lewis is penciling in a new district for him?  Does he know something we don’t – like that Holcomb’s house is going to be combined with someone else and the old district will be vacant?  Most Democrats I know (including yours truly) would support Holcomb in a contested race, whether it’s a primary or general election.  Levitas is a smart guy, but he never seemed that into the necessary political things you have to be into to be an elected official.  Maybe distance and going back to your boring day job makes the heart grow fonder.  Has the first shot of the wacky battle known as redistricting been fired?  I suppose time will tell.