Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Will there be a fall election?

Hey look, the assessment hearing is delayed. No reason given. Leaves time to talk about other things.

News around is that the Acklin for Mayor campaign kicks off today in Shadyside. It’s a better venue than the Pennsylvanian I guess, but still I wonder what gets into people’s head. Shadyside as a venue for a challenger in this race is only going to result in preaching to the choir. I don’t understand why challengers don’t start their campaigns with events in Esplen, Lincoln Place or Northview Heights. Many don’t even realize those places are city neighborhoods, neighborhoods filled with lots of supervoters. A hundred or even a thousand folks who show up in Shadyside are likely votes a challenger has no matter what. Showing up in neighborhoods that rarely see mayoral candidates could actually sway some votes. Make a statement and start a campaign in Fairywood. Also a city neighborhood!

Anyway, it’s a common discussion I hear of late as to whether these challengers have any chance at all. Certainly if both run in the fall there is no possibility whatsoever of an upset of any kind. Even with one main challenger it would be awfully difficult to defeat a nominated, and incumbent no less, Democrat for mayor. The question is does difficult mean impossible. Here is how I see city voting adding up. Some of this comes from semi-defensible data, some of it is quite honestly my educated guess. But if you had to break down the major voting patterns in a fall election in the city it goes like this.

The Registered Republicans – 20% of the vote

The thing about registered republicans in the city is that you have to be kind of hard core to remain registered as a Republican. You pretty much give up your right to vote in the primaries when most all city races are determined. This group will never vote for a D under almost any circumstance. The big mystery is whether they vote for an R under any circumstance or whether an Independent in one form or another will suffice.

The ABL crowd. – 15% of the vote

Of course the Republicans are sort of an ABL crowd, but in reality they want to support anyone who is not a D. This group I call the D’s who are pretty opposed to LR no matter whether he is running in the primary or in the general. I think if you take the 20% R vote out of the 37% Desantis got in the 2007 general you pretty much scope out this group. Since this is a mobile/younger crowd I will cut it down from 17% to 15% based on migration and fading memories, but I bet at least 15% is at least starting from a point of not voting for LR. You could argue over a couple points around that.

The AABL crowd – 5%

This gets tougher to pin a number on. But this is also where it at least starts to get interesting. The Almost ABL crowd I define as those Democrats who are generally inclined to against LR, but will never ever vote for a Republican. While I am pretty confident in the size of the first two groups, this group is hardest to pin down. How that 27% for Dowd in the primary is split between this groups and the ABL group is the question. If the ABL crowd is 15% in the fall, that equates to 20% in the primary. Net that from the 27% and you get 7%. Call it a range of 0-10%. Say 5% for a SWAG, but clearly with error bounds on either side of that. The big question for them is whether that 5% would consider voting for an Independent in the race even though they would normally not vote for an R.

The African American Vote – 30%

To be clear. The African American vote is consistently a D vote in general elections and you have to have a strong reason to think it will not be the case this fall. Many R candidates in recent years have received zero or virtually zero AA support. If that is the case this time around, then the result will be the same as previous results no matter. I think it’s kind of a myth that AA voters don’t turn out as much as others. Even if that is true in general, the fall shows they will come out to vote if they want to. So 25-30% of the vote depending on turnout.


The Democrats Uber Alles – 30%

Separate from the AA vote just for discussion, these are the remainder of the folks who either literally pull the D lever in general elections or vote pretty much the same as if they did. If the AA vote is more like 25% this could group may be more like 35. Where either falls in that range depends mostly on the scale of AA turnout which is more variable than turnout in this group.

Add it all up and what do you get? Just MHO again. To repeat, all of this all becomes a non-issue if there are multiple candidates in the race. Even if a third candidate gets 5% of the vote what is marginally conceivable as a close race becomes pretty near a mathematical impossibility. If you believe my math above which I am sure many will dispute. The Republican and ABL vote currently gets you to 35% no matter who is running. For sake of conjecture, if the AABL crowd is in play only because the challengers are not running as R’s, though that remains to be seen. So it’s not a given but for sake of argument that could get you to say 40%. That might be better than any challenger has come in memory, but it would still be a blowout by most criteria. Assuming the core non-Black Democratic vote is not going to budge much… that means the remaining 10% would have to come from that 30% of the electorate that are African American. A challenger who gets a third of the African American vote would at least make this a competitive race. The problem is that while a third sounds like an attainable number for a challenger, even one that loses… it has most often been the case that the AA vote in a general election votes 95% or more one way or another. How that could play out I leave for others to conjecture for now.

The uber-cynical side wonders if the multiple candidates jumping into the fall race are really there to help ensure a LR win. I don’t doubt that Harris and Acklin both have sincere desires to be mayor. Where you see my cynicism play out is in their support. It will be interesting to see where their big money comes from. I all but guarantee you that if they both remain in the race someone supporting LR will make sure some resources flow to whomever appears the weakest of the other candidates to ensure a greater split among their potential votes.

Some things I don’t even try to quantify in because I just can’t. Parsing out the split within the Republican party in town here could have an impact. In some ways this is the last bastion of moderate Republicans which don’t get along with more conservative R’s. That lack of unity could play out in turnout or organized support for any one candidate. It seems thus far that Acklin is getting the de facto R support. Another factor is the Democratic version of party infighting. I think some folks who might support either Acklin or Harris if that vote were held in a vacuum are nonetheless threatened either of them would displace their preferred candidates. So some (I didn’t say all ok?, I don’t even say most, but they are clearly some out there) hard core Dowdites or Pedutoheads would prefer a LR victory at the end of the day even though they would never admit it in public. Cynical? You bet, but if you are not cynical analyzing politics you are not analyzing politics. How big a factor that is or could be I just can’t begin to put a number on. If it adds to splitting the votes among challengers it could be a big factor.

Finally the complete mystery is the Franco factor. Does it impact the lever-pullers in any way at all. Even a couple percentage points among the Democrats Uber Alles group above would mean less is needed to be gained elsewhere. Whether even a couple points is conceivable I really don’t know. I need to go back and look at the Swann governor results a little more for clues. My guess is that I really doubt there is much pure ‘Steeler’ factor, but Franco isn’t Lynn Swann at least in how involved he has remained in local things. How many years has Franco been the public face of LIHEAP around town? I’d love to see any polling on how much folks associate him with that program. All in it’s a long way from the fall.


Anonymous MH said...

Are registered independents spread-out among the middle groups or are there just too few of them to matter here?

Wednesday, June 03, 2009 5:56:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

Good question. There are a lot of registered independents, to include all the minor parties and 'no party' voters. But a lot of them are there because of things like motor voter and the like so they really never vote. A lot do vote during presidential cycles, but for these off cycle general elections few do. Makes sense when you think about it. If you really are motivated enough to vote in a general election that normally does not matter.. then you would probably be someone who would get registered in a major party to be able to vote in the primary. Otherwise you are someone who is voting just to make a statement by showing up, your vote almost never matters for these offices.

So it looks to me that the Nov 2007 mayoral race had maybe 5% independents who voted. A lot kind of, but the number of non-major party voters looks awfully similar to the number who cast ballots net of votes cast for anyone in the mayors race. So I even wonder if they all voted for anyone for mayor. Not much pattern to where they are, so it's hard to infer they are in any one camp much more than another. So even if one candidate got a big win among those voters it still probably does give much of an edge in terms of the total vote county. Normally of course.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009 9:15:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

Thanks. I was not expecting it to be so low. Maybe Pittsburgh hasn't seen as strong of a weakening in party ID as much of the rest of the country or maybe its just the combination of off-year elections and one party dominance.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009 10:13:00 PM  
Blogger EdHeath said...

I wonder how “Dok” Harris feels about the "Franco factor"? Unlike virtually every other potential candidate, Harris could actually run a positive campaign for mayor, using that theme. I could see an advertisement campaign played for laughs, having Dok Harris dropping an “immaculate reception” in a variety of contexts. There are a number of ways in which he could be presented to Pittsburgh voters that could play off his inexperience, his education and of course his famous father. But there is also a subtext that he is an African American candidate for Mayor, and several comparisons can be drawn between him and Barack Obama. That’s where the thirty percent African American vote could be quite important.

This would depend on Kevin Acklin dropping out of the race. I don’t know anything about the man, so I wouldn’t shed a tear, but I see hints that he is popular with some group(s), so I still think he could be offered a place on the campaign and Zober’s office if Harris won. Is it an insult to suggest he could be the Joe Biden of the Harris campaign? It would reinforce the Obama comparison.

Thursday, June 04, 2009 6:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Romney/Acklin '12! said...

Acklin and his wife gave thousands of dollars to Romney in '07. He also contributed to Melissa Hart and Specter. He is a Republican, regardless of his current claim of independence.

I know spouses often don't see eye to eye on many issues including politics, but we might be able to glean some insights into Kevin from his wife, Erica's blog.

First, she does not mention his mayoral bid on her "Acklin's Army" family website. Does she know about it? Is she embarrassed by his candidacy? Does she think it's loony or is she just showing good sense?

But wait, she does occassionally address politics.

Last June 4 she put up a post about a conversation that she had with her 3-year-old son about how wonderful Ronald Reagan was. It started when the boy saw her wall calendar, which featured pictures of Reagan. She concluded the conversation by showing him a YouTube of Reagan's Brandenburg Gate speech:

"George listened and when Reagan said, "Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate!" George said, "And tear down this wall!" It doesn’t take much to butter-up a mommy (and daddy) who studied government in college. Yet another proud moment in the life of the Acklin Army."

On April 24 2008 she posted this gem:

"This picture from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review caught my attention . . . of two local men as they rig in favor of Hillary Clinton prep and pack a few hundred of the over 4,000 voting machines used in Tuesday’s primary throughout Allegheny County." (It doesn't show up here, but Ms. Acklin coyly crossed out the phrase "rig in favor of Hillary Clinton")

Independent visionary, or opportunistic Republican hack? You decide.

Thursday, June 04, 2009 9:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to admit I'm baffled by a number of "progressives" who seem to be supporting Acklin. It seems a great way to ensure Luke gets another four years. I think maybe (MAYBE) Dok Harris has a chance if its a one on one race with Luke, but Acklin clearly blows that out of the water. Why is anyone who labels themselves a progressive supporting Acklin? I'd love to hear their rationale.

Thursday, June 04, 2009 10:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What you aren't taking into account:

Luke is the Republican nominee. How do you beat a guy who gets the lever-pullers from both parties?

Thursday, June 04, 2009 10:16:00 AM  
Blogger Paz said...

Aklin is going to have to overcome the calling out of his political contributions. It probably won't sting as much, since the Republicans are no longer in power at the Federal level, but you can be certain that Luke will bring it up.

That being said, the guy is bright (that's his good Central education vs. Luke's North uprbringing) and articulate enough that he should be able to deflect those criticisms.

You're absolutely correct that Luke will win if these two challengers are both in come November. At least in the primary Robinson and Dowd's bases weren't completely overlapping. If she had polled better in some of the African American districts (or gotten more turnout) it could have been a different game.

Chris, your take: Would Dok or Acklin have a better shot if they were from the from the other side of the Mon? The 17th ward (South Side) was the only ward that was even close to competitive in the primary, the rest were washes for Luke. The 7th and 14th wards would vote for the progressive candidate regardless of where he or she lived. But would a Carrick or Beechview progresive be able to siphon off enough southern votes to make Luke vulnerable?

Thursday, June 04, 2009 11:05:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

Someone should find O'Toole's piece on the whole Central political nexus in town. I'm sure he himself is an alum.

I only have one obligatory comment on the earlier Cold War comment: George Kennan!

Thursday, June 04, 2009 12:19:00 PM  
Blogger Bram Reichbaum said...

When you talk about the hard-core Pedutians and Dowdistas, you remind me that there's another aspect to look at which is ground support. It's one thing to look at voters as individuals, it's another thing to look at the political jobbers who are presumably good at manufacturing and optimizing some of those votes. The fact that I saw not just one but two or three faces from the "progressive" wing I'd say is an encouraging data point for supporters of Acklin; I did not yet notice any Dowd carryovers but I'm not sure how much that applies.

It'll be interesting to see what Franco does. Going up against the well-funded Democratic machine is bad enough, going up against that and another well-rounded operation seems less like tilting at windmills than helicopter blades. Is it too much to ask that they join forces? Sooner or later Pittsburgh is going to get around to doing that with greater frequency.

Thursday, June 04, 2009 1:05:00 PM  
Blogger Schultz said...


A South Hills progressive candidate would most certainly have a better shot than an East End candidate. My prefered candidate for the Dem Primary would have been Chelsa Wagner, basically because I felt she could win in both the South and East Ends.

Thursday, June 04, 2009 3:39:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

I'll be honest in saying that I am more fascinated that someone is really aiming fire at Acklin just yet more than what is on those sites mentioned. But of all the places in the country the allusion to Ronald Reagan is a difficult one here. When Ronald Reagan last came to Pittsburgh in 1983 he was actively protested in the street and I think there was even some controversy over threats in classfieds against him that kept him from some public appearances. He would never ever come back to Pittsburgh. Interesting contrast to Clinton coming here a lot and now Obama bringing the G20. If I remember all that, a lot of local voters, especially the supervoters, will as well.

Does bring to mind an old post here with a great video of the then-Democrat Ronald Reagan. See:

So I am not quite sure its the best message to sway Pittsburgh voters.

Thursday, June 04, 2009 5:26:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

"I'll be honest in saying that I am more fascinated that someone is really aiming fire at Acklin..."

Me too. Acklin's biggest issue isn't that he was a Republican. It's that nobody knows who he is.

I also thought Matt H's long attack on Harris (in what, April) was strange.

Thursday, June 04, 2009 7:08:00 PM  
Blogger Matt H said...

"But there is also a subtext that he is an African American candidate for Mayor"

But do people know he is African-American?

Thursday, June 04, 2009 8:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What? Do people know he is African American? What people in Pittsburgh know is that he is the son of Franco Harris. I am sure that they know what Franco is, a Superbowl Football Hero. Who, is African American.

Friday, June 05, 2009 1:25:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

I forgot the Hoagie's exposé too. That's when I realized he was quite the googler, he had those pictures I couldn't find via Google.

While there is an interesting sociological question there in Hoagie's question. I'm not touching it.

Friday, June 05, 2009 7:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chelsa Wagner would do well in the East End because ... why? She's a young, well-educated woman who wears funky eyeglasses? I think East Enders might look beyond the window dressing to her family connections/influence.

Regarding Acklin, he's not just some Joe Sixpack hanging on the corner. It's perfectly legitimate to focus attention on a person who is running for mayor, conducting his second broad-based political campaign (at-large County Council seat, wasn't it?) and recently got media coverage because he ostensibly rejected the Republican Party as part of his strategy to assume leadership of the city.

So directing fire at Acklin is a good way to help people get to know him. It's also worthwhile to probe the growing ranks of Republicans who are switching to Independent, just to see how deep their commitment is to blazing a new political trail.

Friday, June 05, 2009 9:08:00 AM  
Anonymous MH said...

Harris's dad played football? Who knew? What team did he play for?

Friday, June 05, 2009 9:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Romney/Acklin '12! said...

Aiming fire at Acklin just yet?

Chris Potter ran this on his blog May 27:

"Acklin could have an even bigger problem in this respect. According to FEC reports, Acklin contributed $1,000 to Santorum in four contributions made since 2004. He's also sent six checks totaling $3,000 to Melissa Hart between 2005 and 2008 -- and $750 to Tim "Santorum Lite" Murphy in 2008. Another recipient of Acklin's largesse: the Pro-Growth Action Team, to which he contributed $500. The Action Team was a leadership PAC that contributed to national Republican candidates -- AND which was affiliated with ... former Congressman Pat Toomey."

Friday, June 05, 2009 9:49:00 AM  
Blogger Paz said...

"It's also worthwhile to probe the growing ranks of Republicans who are switching to Independent, just to see how deep their commitment is to blazing a new political trail."

You make it sound like there's a need for some kind of witch hunt. I fully believe that we should be examining his policies and the company he keeps in this election. Campaign contributions shouldn't carry the same weight as policy proposals or legislative record (which, I admit, doesn't exist yet). At the local level, ideally, it shouldn't matter if he's running on the "Stealing Candy from Babies" ticket if you like his stance on the pension crisis or the school system. And really, if the Democratic Party had been as overwhelmingly mismanaged as the GOP has been over the last three years or so, I'd consider switching my registration too.

That being said, we are in a town where brand loyalty means a lot (see: Isaly's). And I fear that his campaign could get nipped in the bud quick without the chance for him to get his opinions out there. But let the man speak in the context of 2009 before we put old words in his mouth.

Friday, June 05, 2009 10:38:00 AM  
Blogger Infinonymous said...

Acklin seems educated, articulate, earnest, civic-minded . . . but his choice of playmates (former and/or current, including Santorum and Toomey) likely creates an anchor tied around his ankles.

I sense that Acklin sees value in being the "other guy" on the ballot if Luke implodes (indictment, full-blown FBI investigation, damning whistleblower), a prospect that seems silly to discount entirely. He also may be creating name recognition, on contributors' dime, for a run at county executive, state senator, U.S. represenative, etc.

Friday, June 05, 2009 6:45:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

kind of sad that even among the list of former R's switching to D's Larry Dunn does not even get a mention by anyone. It's like people just forget that he all but ran the county for a few years. I'd venture to say he is singularly responsible for the success of the home rule charter revisions that only passed by the slimmest of margins. You could say he has had the biggest impact on county politics in decades. But never mentioned.

Monday, June 08, 2009 11:05:00 AM  
Blogger Paz said...

The piano player from Earth, Wind, and Fire? Before my time.

Monday, June 08, 2009 10:03:00 PM  

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