Thursday, November 30, 2006

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Updated Spratt-Norman analysis

If you click on the link in the column title, you are carried to a prior post, in which I broke down what I thought the salient political factors in the Fifth District Congressional Race.
Many political reporters and pundits, some old hats who have been doing this for years like Lee Bandy at The State, some newcomers wet behind the ears like Matt Garfield at The Herald in Rock Hill, some bloggers and apparently the national Republican Party made a lot of hay out of the Fifth District "trending" Republican.
Before the race kicked into high gear, I questioned that thinking because I've lived in different corners of the district and had significant ties to other parts of it. It's a big district.
I don't think the race is necessarily absolutely secure for John Spratt, and it could have been won. But trending Republican, I don't know if the facts bore that out early on.
I don't think the results of the election bear it out still. But I looked at the numbers. Then and now.
For my first analysis, I took Spratt's 2004 numbers, Bush's 2004 numbers AND the political makeup of the county government of the counties in the Fifth District.
For this update, I'm going to look at what I said THEN, and compare Spratt's numbers, Norman's numbers in each county, and what happened in each county, Democrat versus Republican for county level races.
Who knows what it will show.
I'll thrown in some basic observations first, district-wide.
Spratt beat Norman by a double-digit margin. It was closer than in the Presidential election, however, when a popular war president led the GOP ticket. That president did not THEN have the negatives Bush brought indirectly to the GOP in this election.
Spratt won every county in 2004. He did NOT in 2006, but surprisingly enough, it wasn't York County that Spratt lost.
I saw a post that said any Republican who cannot carry York County deserves what he gets.
Very cynical, but true to a point as well. York County is the one definitely GOP county in the Fifth District. Spratt is from York County as well, but how could Norman not beat him here?
First off, there is some distance between the mindsets of the people of Rock Hill, who WANT to be the county seat, desperately, and the rest of York County. A vast divide.
Secondly, Norman before announcing his run for Congress was involved with a dustup between him and Rock Hill City Council about the clearing of the Dave Lyle Boulevard intersection of Interstate 77.
If someone had decided to challenge Norman just for his seat in the State House, I don't see that was a sure bet he'd hold on to it. He ticked off some of the powers-that-be, certainly, with that stand. He also voted to sustain Gov. Mark Sanford's vetoes in his first year. This got him named a taxpayer hero by Sanford, but it was a vote against money for York Tech and Winthrop.
Not a way to shore up the base he ought to have been starting from.
Spratt has supported worthy projects in the entire District during his entire tenure, and very few of them are wasteful "pork" products.

So, anyway, here's my analysis. County by county. What I thought might happen, and what did happen. Old stuff is in italics, new stuff is in plain text.
"The Fifth Congressional District is trending Republican, experts say, so Norman was hand-picked to go up against Spratt by national GOP leaders. U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney visited Rock Hill for a fund-raiser that threw a lot of money into Norman's coffers."

The truth won't be known until November, but when it comes to this race, do any actual numbers give a clue?

It's certain that York County, home of both Spratt and Norman, is a Republican county. Chester County is in the Fifth District, and the word on the street is here is candidates who want to win a county office have to run as a Democrat.

Only one candidate is running as a Republican in a contested race for a county-wide office.

A person who considered a run for county office in the coming general election called the newspaper earlier this year, asking where to file. The potential candidate asked for the information on both the Democratic and Republican filing locations.

Many of the backers of Norman's candidacy look at what happened in the Fifth District, but use the Presidential race numbers to justify their belief that the Fifth District is “trending” Republican and so ripe for a Republican to win a race for Congress.

That's what pollsters and pundits say.

Funny that only the district totals bear out the “trend.” The county-by-county numbers do not.

George Bush won in Chester County in 2004.

By eight votes.

Does that make Chester County GOP Country?

State Rep. Greg Delleney represents the bulk of Chester County in the State House, and he is a Republican.

But state Sen. Linda Short represents all of Chester County and some precincts outside the county. She is a Democrat.

The message here is mixed.

Does Delleney keep his seat because he is a Republican reflecting the values of his constituents, or because he is an incumbent who hasn't drawn any opposition lately?

He'll be on the ballot in November, but there is no Democratic or third party challenger.

Until a strong Democratic Party candidate steps up to challenge him, the question will remain a question.

So if Chester County is a Democratic hotbed, and York County is a GOP enclave, what's the story on the Fifth Congressional District of South Carolina?

Let's take it a county at a time by using the best number available - the 2004 election results.

Cherokee County

In the 2004 election, more voters went for George Bush and Dick Cheney than went for John Spratt, percentage wise. Bush had a 5,600 vote edge over the rest of the field, while Spratt had a 2,500 vote edge. This county went more heavily for Bush than any other county in the Fifth District, edging York County by .15 percent.
The auditor and treasurer in this county are Democrats, and just three of the county council seats. The Sheriff and other county-wide officials are Republican.
This county is definitely trending Republican.

In 2006. this is the one county that went for Norman, 6726 to 6705. Just 21 votes difference. It's a trend, for sure. What else happened in Cherokee County?
A Republican auditor was elected.
A Democrat state rep was elected in District 29, in a close race, with the Republican getting his best turnout in the York County precincts of that district.
It went heavily for Mark Sanford and more heavily for Andre Bauer.
The incumbent Republican Sheriff won.
A heavy Republican trend here.

Chester County

Bush won. By eight votes. He did not win a majority. He won a plurality, 49 percent. From a field of six candidates, 5,790 voters went for Bush-Cheney. At the same time, 8,008 voted for John Spratt. Spratt had a 5,039-vote edge over his opponent, almost as many as voted for Bush-Cheney. All of County Council and all the county-wide officials in Chester County are Democrats.
This county is not trending Republican.

In 2006. a Republican won only one race -- Secretary of State. The hottest race in the county was the county Supervisor's race. The Democrat who held the office for 20-plus years trounced the GOP challenger almost 2-to-1. He wasn't an incumbent, because the county was returning to the supervisor form of government. Spratt won by almost as much as the supervisor.
This is a Democratic County. No bones about it.

Chesterfield County

Bush won, by 523 votes. Spratt won, by 5,993 votes. All the elected officials and the council are Democrats.
This county is not trending Republican.

In 2004, Norman got 3,154 votes to Spratt's 5,339. that's 37.12 percent to 62.84 percent.

Sam Parker ran unopposed for Sheriff as a Democrat. Ted Vick ran for the main State House seat unopposed as a Democrat. Brother Davis, who was an ancient probate judge when I worked in Chesterfield County ran unopposed as a Democrat. I’m thrilled he’s putting “Brother” Davis on the ballot now, instead of Edwin. Nobody calls him Edwin. Gerald Miller, Al Johnson, Anne C. Brumley and Crawford Moore all ran unopposed for County Council, as Democrats. Al and Gerald were on Council when I covered the county 10 to 12 years ago.
Anybody doubt this is a Democratic County?

Darlington County
Bush won by 1,587 votes. John Spratt won by 6,432. All the major county offices are held by Democrats.
This county is not trending Republican.

In 2006, Norman got 6,311 votes to 9,197 for Spratt. that’s 40.69 percent to 59.30 percent.
Denny Neilson, the Democratic incumbent for State House 56, had a Republican challenger. Neilsen got 70.72 percent of the vote. Robert Williams, the Democrat, got 63 percent of the vote in the House 62 race. This is the smallest of three House districts in Darlington. District 62 has a Republican who ran unopposed. Jay Lucas won that race.
Three of four County Council candidates ran unopposed as Democrats. In the only contested race, Democrat Ann C. Parr beat her Republican challenger 63 to 36 percent.
Call this one for the Dems, but changing a little.

Dillon County
Bush lost by 531 votes. Spratt won by 4,393. All the major office holders are Democrat. This county is not trending Republican.

In 2006, Norman was pounded.
He got 1,791 votes to Spratt’s 4,305. Norman got 29.38 percent to Spratt’s 70.61.
In the main state House race, Jackie Hayes, the Democrat, beat Republican Carl Altman 65 percent to 34 percent. The Democrat Auditor, Treasurer and probate judge and three county council candidates ran unopposed for re-election.
Democrat. Yellow dog. Republicans aren’t even trying to get elected.

Fairfield County
Bush lost, his most severe loss in the district, by 2,233 votes. Spratt won by 6,900 votes. All the major elected officials in the county are Democrats. There is no Republican trend.

In 2006, Norman got a whooping put on him.
He got 1,792 votes to 4,777, which is 27.28 to 72.72 percent.
Creighton Coleman ran unopposed as a Democrat for the county’s main State House seats.
It’s a little odd and hard to track the rest. The County Council seats are listed as non-partisan, but they are geographical districts.
The Democrat won the probate judge race facing a PETITION candidate.
The Democrat candidate for treasurer was unopposed.
Strong lean if not solid Democratic County. (Non-partisan council? Odd.)

Kershaw County
Bush won handily, by 5,645 votes. Spratt won strongly as well, but not as strongly. He had a 3,036 vote edge over his opponent. The auditor and treasurer in this county are Democrats, but the sheriff and other officials are Republican.
This county is trending Republican.

In 2006, Norman was more competitive here than in most of the district, but still lost 8,130 to 9,625. That’s 45.79 to 54.21 percent.
House District 52 featured an unchallenged Democrat. House District 65 featured an unchallenged Republican. House District 79 was won by incumbent Bill Cotty facing candidates from three other parties and a petition candidate. He got well more than half the vote.
A Republican won a contested sheriff’s race. Democrats ran unopposed for auditor and coroner’s races. A Republican ran unopposed for treasurer.
A Republican won a contested race for County Council Chairman. A Republican won a contested race for a council seat. A Republican ran unopposed for another seat on council.
A Democrat squeaked by in a contest race for a fourth seat on the council.
As before, a lean toward the GOP, strong at the county level but not enough to float up to Norman.

Lancaster County
Bush won strongly in this county, by 5,285 votes. Spratt's win was stronger, by 5,485. Bush got 62 percent of the votes cast in the presidential balloting. Spratt got 63.5 percent. All this county's elected officials are Democrats.
The county is not trending Republican.

In 2006, Norman lost 6,824 to 8,716, which is 43.89 percent to 56.06.
Republicans won two seats in the House, one in a contested race and the other running unopposed. A Democrat won the third house seat running unopposed.
A Democrat won a contested race for probate judge. Democrats won two contested county council races, and took the other race unopposed. This county is growing in its northern area. But not yet enough to make a major Republican trend.

Marlboro County
Bush lost by 1,561 votes, getting just 39.99 percent of the vote. Spratt won by 5,005. Spratt got 81 percent of the vote, his largest margin of victory in the district. The county's elected officials are all Democrats.
It's a Democratic county.

In 2006, Marlboro County went about 4-to-1 for Spratt.
Norman got 1,177 votes to Spratt’s 4,212. That’s 21.84 to 78.16 percent.
Doug Jennings was unopposed as a Democrat for a seat that scootches over into Chesterfield County but is mostly Marlboro County.
The auditor, probate judge and four council races all featured unopposed Democrats.
When John Spratt was campaigning in Chester County, he said he was in Marlboro County the “other day,” and the people there “haven’t seen” Norman. If he did make an appearance, ouch. The edge was chipped away for all the money that Norman spent on TV ads. Turnout was down This is still a Democratic county.

Newberry County
Bush won by 3,171 votes. Spratt won by 2,424 votes. The county's elected officials are all Democrats.
The county is not trending Republican.

In 2006, Norman lost 4,431 to 5,535, or 44.45 percent to 55.53.
A Democrat ran unopposed for the main State House seat in the county. A Republican won a contested race for the other, smaller district.
Democrats won all three races for County Council, one running unopposed, one facing a petition candidate, one facing a Republican. The probate judge race featured a Democrat running unopposed.
Still not trending Republican, but could happen soon.

York County
Bush won by 21,008 votes. It was his biggest numerical margin, but Cherokee had a slightly larger percentage go for the president. Spratt got the nod from his home county, but by the smallest percentage of the county's in the district. But while his margin of victory was smallest here, just 55.65 percent, it was a 7,716-vote margin.
York County's leadership is strongly Republican. Just one elected official, the probate judge, is a Democrat. The county does appoint its treasurer and auditor, however, so it lacks two elected officials used for comparison in the other counties.
This county is not trending Republican. It is Republican. It is the most populous county in the district, so it skews the numbers. Take York County out of the equation, and Bush's victory in the district drops 3 percentage points among the counties that are completely in the Fifth.

In 2006, Norman almost won the county, getting 25,807 to Spratt’s 25,906. That’s 49.88 to 50.07 percent, barely a majority percentage-wise. Spratt won by 99 votes.
He is a hometown boy, after all.
In house races, the county is in District 29, which went for a Democrat, Dennis Moss, but a recount was ordered. York County went heavily for Republican challenger Danny Stacy, making the race competitive.
A Republican won the District 45 contest over a Democrat. It is mostly a Lancaster County seat.Republicans ran unopposed for the District 43 and 46 seat. Democrats ran unopposed for the District 47 and 49 seats. seat. A Republican handily beat off a Democrat challenger in the District 48 seat, the seat Norman gave up to run for Congress.
On County Council, one Democrat won a contested race. Republicans won the rest of the seats, four running unopposed, two facing challenges from Democrats.
It is a heavily Republican county, with surprising Democratic pockets.

The district does have parts of three other counties.

Florence County
Sixteen of Florence County's 68 precincts are part of the Fifth District. Florence County as a whole went for Bush, with a 55 percent margin. The 16 precincts went for Spratt with a 66 percent margin. Its county officials are all Democrats.

In 2006? In the Fifth District part of the county, Norman lost almost 2-to-1, 1,180 votes to 2,016 or 36.88 to 63. percent. But most of the county is in the Sixth Congressional District, which Republican Gary McLeod edging out incumbent Jim Clyburn. (But Clyburn won the Sixth.)
The county as a whole is a mix. The probate judge candidate is a Democrat who ran unopposed. Three council races featured unopposed Democrats. Two featured challengers from both major parties A Democrat took one race heavily, the Republican won the other handily. State Sen. Hugh Leatherman wasn’t up this time, but he’s a Republican from this county. But he’s not the hard Republican many want him to be. Florence Mayor Frank Willis is a long-time incumbent, and ran in the Democratic Primary for governor.
The Fifth District portion of Florence County is a Democratic hotbed. The county as a whole is a mix.

Lee County
Bush lost, his worst blow in the district. The percentage of voters choosing against Bush was higher in Lee County than any other. He lost by 2,059 votes and gained just 36.73 percent of the votes. Spratt's margin of victory was bigger than the total number of Bush voters. Spratt won by 3,537 votes. The county's elected officials are all Democrats.
This county is strongly Democrat.

In 2006, the county’s portion of the district again went for Spratt, big. Norman got 1,180 votes to Spratt’s 2,944, or 28.61 to 71.37 percent.
The other half of the county is in the Sixth Congressional District, and went even more strongly for Democratic incumbent Jim Clyburn.
State House District 50 featured a Democrat running unopposed.
The county’s treasurer, auditor and five council seat races all featured Democrats running unopposed.
This is a no-brainer, slam dunk, Democratic county.

Sumter County
Twenty-six of Sumter's 58 precincts are part of the Fifth District. Bush lost Sumter as a whole, getting just 48.6 percent of the vote. The 26 precincts went for Spratt with 66.8 percent of the vote.
The county's elected officials are all Democrats.

In 2006, Norman lost 4,167 to 5,499, or 43.09 to 56.87 percent.
The rest of the county is in the Sixth Congressional District, and it went more strongly for Clyburn. Again, a Democrat.
Three House District races featured Democrats running unopposed. District 60 had a Democrat beat a Republican. District 67 had a Republican run unopposed.
The council races featured two Republicans running unopposed and a Democrat running unopposed. The probate judge ran unopposed as a Democrat.

Just two of the 11 counties that are fully in the Fifth District are Republican counties, York and Cherokee. Kershaw is now a very strong lean, almost ready to tip over.

In 2005, a county like Lancaster can clue pundits in to what is happening in the district. Strongly Democrat in its local officials, it went for Bush, but more strongly for Spratt. For its congressional race, it went also strongly went Democratic. But it rejected the Kerry-Edwards ticket.
Perhaps voters thought Kerry-Edwards were just weak candidates, by comparison. The war was an issue, and it might have led some with Democratic tendencies to choose to not upset the apple cart.
In a presidential election year, that race is said to draw people to the polls who are not interested in other elections. But in the Fifth District, more people cast votes in the Congressional Race than voted in the Presidential race, in the 12 counties fully in the district.
The totals, all available online from the S.C. Election Commission, show that 231,393 people voted for Bush-Cheney in the 12 counties, while 242,518 voted in the Congressional Race.

There was significant drop-off in the 2006 election, because it isn't a presidential election year.

The numbers do strongly suggest that the Republican-leaning “trend” for the in the Fifth District that led to Norman's candidacy is based primarily just on the bottom line total for the presidential race, and on Spratt's “poor” showing in his York County.
He only won his home county by 7,000 votes.

The Republican Party is going to have to convince voters who strongly went for John Spratt in 2004 to vote for Ralph Norman, a candidate running because of national GOP support, who was relatively unknown when the campaign kicked off.

The numbers show neither Norman and the party pulled it off. Early on, the campaign said it was going to focus on getting media buys into the “important” Charlotte television market.
That shows the campaign either didn’t know enough about the district to be competitive, or that it was truly focused on York County first, foremost and only.
When I lived in Cheraw, we got one Charlotte TV station, WSOC. None of the others. Most of our channels were out of Florence or Myrtle Beach. We also got WIS.
The Fifth District straddles too-many television markets.
When push came to shove, also, the national Republican Party officials who tapped Norman for this race pulled the money for the TV ads they said from the outset was vital to the campaign.
The focus on York County, if it was there, was misplaced. If Spratt were from any other county, it might have worked.
Spreadsheets are wonderful things. I took 10,000 votes from the York County column of Spratt and gave them to Norman.
If Norman could have won in York County by 69 percent of the vote, he still loses the overall race to Spratt.
Norman needed to win York County by about 78 percent for it to discount the rest of the Fifth District.
So that’s what we come to.
Before the ballots were counted. the word on political pundit street was that Norman would be competitive because the Fifth District was “trending Republican.”
You heard it almost everywhere. The strategy was built on looking only at the Bush results and the York County results for Spratt in 2004.
But you didn't hear it from me.
You heard it because the prediction didn’t involve getting out into the counties and finding out what people actually think.
That happen at the campaign strategy level but, problematic for me, happened in the media covering this race.
A Republican can win in the Fifth District. But he must run a flawless campaign and beat the bushes across a huge district. If he wants to do it through TV, he can’t focus on one big market that, ostensibly, just on North Carolina TV stations.
Spratt has done things all over the Fifth District for a lot of people. The message can’t be he hangs with bad people. It has to be why can I do better.
I found it amusing, reading The Charlotte Observer’s Neighbors section for Fort Mill and York County on Sunday.
It had an article by a new reporter who, perhaps, gets it. But it's easy to get it now that the ballots are cast. Before they were cast, The Charlotte Observer was picking up Lee Bandy’s stuff all the time, regurgitating the Fifth District “trending Republican.” mantra without testing it.
The new guy wrote a piece that says the Fifth District is still yellow dog Democrat.
It is an improvement, but it comes late in the game. Newspapers that presume to tell you what will “probably” happen need to be dead-on accurate. I could have told anyone who cared to ask, and said so back in June or July.
But The Observer article, and even my analysis, does not answer the real question.
Is John Spratt the congressman for the South Carolina’s Fifth Congressional District because it is Democrat?
Or is the Fifth District yellow-dog Democrat because John Spratt is the Congressman?

P.S. You don't have to take my word for it. The results are online, and the State Election Commission's election results are a bit more interactive. Check it all out.
Click here.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Spratt-Norman race

The numbers are listed in the link above.
But again, the numbers in the Spratt Norman race were a little screwy.
Florence County had, in its unofficial original numbers, listed Norman as having like seven votes, and Spratt lagging behind like 1,200 write-in votes.
I heard absolutely NOTHING about this, and I was shocked. Apparently the Norman camp said it was going to have a poll watcher at every precinct.
Why no fuss about apparently 1,200 write-in votes that is more than BOTH balloted candidates combined.
Well, the certification straightened it out, but I don't know why the ballots were put in the wrong columns.
Spratt won Florence County, Norman came in a respectable second, and the write-ins were in the double digits.
I will compare the results in this race to the analysis I did back in June/July for my paper, later on.