Not standing alone

June 22, 2016 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, Polling, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Not standing alone 

When all the ballots were counted, Donald Trump amassed about 44% of the total Republican vote in the 2016 primaries. Granted, that total surely includes some Democratic crossover votes in open primary states – so we can’t discount a successful Operation Chaos in reverse by the Democrats – but considering there were 6 to 10 contenders in play at the time many states voted that’s a fair amount of support.

But the guy who wrote about the art of the deal seems to be having a tough time closing the sale with the GOP. In a CNN/ORC International poll released today, there are 48% of Republicans who would like a do-over in this election cycle.  (Page 18 of the poll.) Granted, Democrats are not completely thrilled with Hillary Clinton because only 55% back her with 43% still wishing for Bernie Sanders. (There is no alternative to Trump given for the GOP.) If it’s not obvious by now, I’m one of those 48% who think we can do a lot better.

Obviously the path to that is one of allowing convention delegates to vote their conscience at the RNC convention next month. There are a number of renegades who will do just that, but the question is whether they would be enough to make a difference and whether they could even open up the balloting. The only alternative candidate who could be nominated as the rules stand now is Ted Cruz, who would need to restart his campaign that was mothballed in May after the Indiana primary. (But Cruz would have more cash on hand than Trump has now, and his mainly inactive campaign pulled in almost as much in May as Trump’s did.)

Yet the 48% of Republicans who don’t care much for Trump must be the ones not donating money to him, putting the GOP in a financial position it didn’t think was possible given the political climate and eight years of a stalled economy and spotty foreign policy. The trend over the last sixty years has been eight years of one party controlling of the White House before yielding to the other side, with the only deviation being the first term of Ronald Reagan giving the GOP an “extra” four years from 1981-85. (The second term of Reagan plus George H.W. Bush were the “natural” years in this cyclical pattern, which resumed with Bill Clinton.) So the Republicans would be in the position of thinking it was their turn on the merry-go-round.

A candidate that has been the “presumptive” nominee for several weeks running but only has the support of a small percentage that didn’t vote for him is perhaps a fatally flawed candidate. I’m sure many will blame the #NeverTrump movement for poisoning the well for The Donald as he tries to consolidate support, but it’s not up to us to earn the votes – that’s on the guy running. The other candidates on my ballot at least have some conservative credentials I can rely on as I give my support, but Trump is wrong on so many issues (or is right for about a day before backing off) that I think he will extinguish all the progress we’ve made since Ronald Reagan took office. Things eroded a lot during the Bush and Bush years but we would go the other way toward a more “yuge” and oppressive government regardless of who wins if we stay as Trump vs. Clinton. Whether it’s “our” authoritarian or not, the Executive Branch will gain power because we already know Congress isn’t doing much to stop the Obama agenda and it would be hamstrung by Trump’s excesses by his being a Republican. I didn’t sign up to be part of a dictatorship.

So I’m not standing alone in demanding a better alternative, and the movement grows daily.

The 61% solution

October 16, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The 61% solution 

A recent poll by the Washington Post brought gasps of surprise from Republicans – even in a state where registered Republicans are outnumbered by better than 2-to-1 by their Democratic counterparts, the people of Maryland approve of Larry Hogan’s performance by a margin of 61% to 22% disapproval. Since a similar poll taken shortly after Hogan took office, he has gained 19 points in the approval department by pulling in a large percentage of those who previously had no opinion and even whittling the disapproves from 24% to 22%.

All those are encouraging signs, particularly as the Post points out Hogan is nine points up on Martin O’Malley at a similar juncture and back in the territory Bob Ehrlich enjoyed early on.

Of course, the Democrats retort that a portion of the goodwill is based on Hogan’s ongoing treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, with his last round wrapping up. Hogan’s newly bald head is regularly featured on social media as a constant reminder of his treatment, something which he’s parlayed into a lot of good press coverage.

Insofar as policy goes, though, Hogan has gone pretty much down the center of the road. The incoming governor whose initial act of significance was to pull unpopular phosphorus regulations from being published in the Maryland Register ended up compromising on less stringent measures in order to avoid a veto fight over a legislative version of the O’Malley regulations. Days later, his first budget made some unpopular “cuts” (read: more modest increases in spending than the opposition was conditioned to expect) but still was larger than the previous year’s.

On the transportation front, Hogan pulled the Red Line in Baltimore but decided to keep the Purple Line in the suburbs of Washington provided the local governments paid more for it. He used the money saved from the Red Line to fund needed highway projects and also figured out a way to reduce the tolls in Maryland. Unfortunately, we still have the higher gas taxes passed by Martin O’Malley to pay for the Purple Line and planned Red Line.

In a number of ways, Hogan has achieved his level of popularity to working around the edges. The makeup of the General Assembly is such that Hogan had a number of bills that passed where he allowed them to become law without his signature. It was probably a political calculation of the likelihood of whether his veto would hold and if the hill was vital enough to die on politically. Both sides seemed to be feeling each other out in a cautious session – save the doomed effort to roll back the “rain tax,” Hogan’s legislative agenda had a focus on economic development that was to some extent left over from the O’Malley administration’s half-hearted attempts to address the state’s awful business climate.

The question for Maryland Republicans going forward is just how much conservatism they want to push. Those in the party who disapprove of Hogan generally fall into either or both of the two categories of wanting fewer gun restrictions or better leadership on social issues – naturally, the Democrats tried to use both as wedge issues against Hogan and failed.

Maybe a better way to frame this is to question whether the Republican caucus in the General Assembly will create its own legislative agenda for next year or just ride along with Hogan’s. One thing I have noticed over the years is that there are several legislators who introduce bills in the General Assembly but we don’t seem to have a platform we follow – it’s like every man for himself.

Perhaps next session the GOP should pick out eight to ten important, conservative bills and work like hell to get them passed, bypassing the committee if necessary. (For example, had they done that on the original “rain tax” bill, they could have forced a floor vote on sustaining it, putting Democrats on the record as favoring it.) They can even be repeal bills of O’Malley legislation – after all, if Hogan is rolling back O’Malley’s toll hikes and Red Line boondoggle, we should hope he will ditch items like the “septic bill” and PlanMaryland.

If you have 61% of the public behind you, it’s time to grab a bully pulpit and make needed change.

The polling continues

October 7, 2014 · Posted in Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, Polling · Comments Off on The polling continues 

On Saturday I pointed out the Gonzales Poll Larry Hogan has cited as proof he’s within striking distance in the governor’s race. The news wasn’t quite as good in a more recent Washington Post poll, but it wasn’t as bad as previous polls in that newspaper.

But again it’s a question of turnout, and the Post simply replicated the pattern of registered voters in the state. If Republicans come out to a greater extent than Democrats – many of whom aren’t excited about Brown – that cuts into the Brown lead. Considering the Post poll is of randomly selected adults, I suspect the turnout model they’re using favors Brown in the poll.

So instead of the 15 to 18 points Brown has led by in previous polls, this poll by itself drove the RCP average down from 15 to 12 points.

But the breakdown on issues is interesting. Remember, this is a sample that is probably slightly oversampling Democrats, but the key issue is taxes. Yet on a number of other issues the only ones which reflect closely the partisan breakdown are social issues and public education. It’s hard to believe that fully half prefer Brown on the issue of health care considering how he botched the state’s website, but others like gun laws, job creation, and illegal immigration lean Hogan’s way in comparison to the partisan breakdown of the sample.

Given the crosstabs, though, the best way for Hogan to cut into Brown’s lead is to chip away at the Democrats on the issues that he’s closest to moving ahead on. It’s absolutely essential for Larry to somehow get to about 25 percent of Democrats going his way, with this polling suggesting he’s at about 14 percent. If Democrats get the 62% turnout this poll suggests (with Republicans at 65% and unaffiliated at 48%) that’s the only way he can win.

Somehow the case has to be made to the low-information crowd that a third term of Martin O’Malley is too much for the state to bear. Those of us who have a lick of common sense already know this, but too many people must actually think a poor economy is a good thing.

Is Hogan returning to earth?

There’s some concern in Larry Hogan’s campaign about a New York Times/CBS News/YouGov Battleground Tracker Poll showing Hogan again trails Anthony Brown by double digits, particularly after a Republican pollster showed Hogan trailing by just three points last month. This outfit’s July poll of over 1,400 registered voters showed Brown on top by 13 points in July, and is computed in the Real Clear Politics average.

The Republican’s campaign contends the poll is “so flawed and so misleading that Politico hammered the New York Times for lending their name to this internet survey.” YouGov’s methods are different than most pollsters, as they conduct their surveys among an audience which opts into the poll via the internet, then weighs the results among demographics. The overall survey even solicits new customers, requesting people to “Join YouGov today to take part in surveys like these and earn money…”

Maryland’s race is also interesting because of the relative lack of responses compared to other states. Out of 35 states surveyed, Maryland only beats 12 states in terms of participation. Most of the states Maryland beats are fairly rural and sparsely populated: Alabama, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, and Wyoming. It’s not a tremendously representative sample.

Nor is it necessarily reflective of the Maryland electorate. The unweighted sample actually has independents well over their voting strength at 29%, with Democrats comprising 45% and Republicans only 25%. (It’s actually close on the GOP.) But weighting the sample as YouGov does places the Democrats at 52%, independents at 26%, and Republicans at only 22%. In reality, according to the latest voter registration figures, Democrats have 55% share, Republicans 25.7%, and independents just 19.3%. So both major parties are undersampled by about 3% apiece.

Polling is all about turnout. While the YouGov survey claims these are “likely voters,” in reality those not affiliated with a party are the least likely to turn out for a gubernatorial election. Yet when I reset their polling numbers to a very likely turnout model (that of the 2010 election, which was a muted TEA Party wave election in the state) and distribute the “not sure” voters in the same proportion as those who have decided, I come out with this possible result:

  • Brown 57.5%, Hogan 40.2%, other 2.3%

I think the reason this turns out the way it does is that the YouGov sample has Brown winning Democrats at roughly the same rate Hogan wins GOP voters. In a lot of ways the YouGov poll is almost a worst-case scenario for Hogan, who needs to both boost turnout for his side to levels last seen in 2002, when almost 68% of Republicans and over 45% of independents came out to vote – in 2010 those numbers were about five points lower – and get far more than the 6% of Democrats the YouGov poll has voting for him. If Anthony Brown can convince Democrat voters to stay loyal to the nominee, the game is over, and that’s why Brown’s going negative.

In fact, Hogan’s campaign added that:

If the MD Democratic Party – with their two-to-one registration advantage over Republicans – honestly thought Brown was ahead, they wouldn’t need O’Malley’s Democratic Governors Association to spend $750,000 in special interest money on attack ads to bail out his campaign.

So I think the reality is somewhere between the 14 points this poll has Brown leading by and the 3 points Hogan claims he is behind. It just proves there’s a lot of work to do in explaining the real record of Anthony Brown and the damage his policies would do to Maryland if he’s elected.

Polls begin to make primary more clear

June 10, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, Polling, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Polls begin to make primary more clear 

Depending on how you slice the data, the June 24 primary would be a Larry Hogan victory, with the only question being the margin.

The two major Maryland media outlets polled the race earlier this month, and a summary of the results had the same approximate order of Larry Hogan, David Craig, Charles Lollar, and Ron George. But it’s worth also pointing out that the sample size between polls conducted by the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun varied widely.

The Post‘s polling data split into two parts: registered voters and likely voters. And while Hogan had a statistically sizable lead among likely voters, it practically melted away among simply registered voters. Likely voters (with a previous Post poll in February as comparison):

  • Larry Hogan – 35% (up from 22%)
  • David Craig – 19% (up from 13%)
  • Charles Lollar – 13% (up from 6%)
  • Ron George – 5% (stayed in place)

Among them, Larry Hogan finally climbed ahead of Mr. Undecided, who’s now at 20%. Out of simply registered voters, though:

  • Larry Hogan – 23% (up from 17%)
  • David Craig – 18% (up from 13%)
  • Charles Lollar – 12% (up from 10%)
  • Ron George – 8% (up from 4%)

Mr. Undecided still leads there with 25%.

What this tells me is that, for anyone but Larry Hogan to win, the campaigns need to push their GOTV effort among supporters. The Post’s sample sizes are exceedingly small – 228 registered Republicans and just 110 likely ones – leading to very high margins of error of 7.5 and 11 points, respectively. And perhaps it’s not coincidental that both Post-endorsed candidates are leading their respective races.

You may also recall that awhile back Larry Hogan touted a poll where he trailed Anthony Brown by single-digits. Unfortunately, the Post did a projected Hogan vs. Brown matchup and it came out 51-33 Brown. It’s a counter-intuitive result when you look deeper into the poll’s questions to find that Democrats want the next governor to lead the state in a different direction from Martin O’Malley by a 58-34 margin. Yet they have given Anthony Brown a significant primary lead and would presumably back him in the general election.

A few days earlier, the Baltimore Sun came out with their poll, which also showed Larry Hogan out in front. They did a similar poll in February as well.

  • Larry Hogan – 27% (up from 13%)
  • David Craig – 12% (up from 7%)
  • Charles Lollar – 12% (up from 5%)
  • Ron George – 6% (stayed in place)

Again, Mr. Undecided was the clear winner with 37%, and in the Sun‘s case both polls are of likely voters with a much more significant sample size of about 500 voters – it makes the margin of error 4.4%. Except for Ron George, who basically had to disappear from the campaign trail while the General Assembly was in session, every one of the contenders essentially doubled their support in three-plus months.

If you take the most recent polls and combine them using the sample sizes, which gives higher weight to the larger Sun poll, you come up with these figures, which I also compare to a post I did in February:

  • Larry Hogan – 26.9% (14.4%)
  • David Craig – 14.5% (9.3%) (-12.4)
  • Charles Lollar – 12.0% (7.5%) (-14.9)
  • Ron George – 6.3% (5.1%) (-20.3)

If the undecideds fall along that line, the results would be:

  • Larry Hogan – 45.1%
  • David Craig – 24.3%
  • Charles Lollar – 20.1%
  • Ron George – 10.6%

I would say there’s a 50-50 chance that Hogan makes it to 50%, given that some who were thinking of voting for one of the bottom-tier candidates (particularly George) may decide to go with the guy leading the most-touted polls. Because Hogan’s already above the 40% mark I think that’s now a prospect, which may help the MDGOP rally behind Hogan as a nominee. Obviously that support wouldn’t be universal, but getting over 50% would be better than just a plurality for unity’s sake.

So it’s apparent that the message of “change,” no matter how vague and shallow – combined with a lot of money out of the candidate’s pocket and a dose of public financing – seems to appeal with Maryland Republicans who, at this juncture, believe Hogan is the best candidate. In order for second-place contender (based on poll average) David Craig to win, supporters of the Charles Lollar and Ron George campaigns would have to abandon that choice to throw their support behind Craig, and that’s a dubious prospect.

Coming from behind?

May 13, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Education, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, Polling, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Coming from behind? 

Hey, what do you know? After saying my piece yesterday I got an internal poll. (Well, actually Jeff Quinton got it, but I can use it to make my point.) I did receive the presser which alerted me to the fact that Larry Hogan was polled to be within striking distance of Anthony Brown.

One other aspect of the Wilson Perkins Allen internal poll that I thought interesting was the “blind ballot test” question (page 2 here), where an ersatz candidate with Hogan’s background leads a Brown stand-in by a 45-44 margin. Yet, as Quinton points out, we don’t have the crosstabs or other information to correlate with the actual electorate. Using a 2010 turnout model – which may well be overstating Democrat turnout this time around and underestimating the GOP’s – and cross-referencing it to current partisan registration gives a model reflected below:

  • Democrats – 2,055.678 (55.2%) x 54.84% = 1,127,334, or 56.1% of electorate
  • Republicans – 952,320 (25.6%) x 62.45% = 594,724, or 29.6% of electorate
  • unaffiliated/others – 716,830 (19.2%) x ~ 40% = 286,732, or 14.3% of electorate

2,008,790 voters means first to a million wins. But the polling should reflect these numbers on a partisan basis; in fact I would be inclined to add a couple points to the GOP column so we really are punching a little beyond our weight. O’Malley fatigue may keep some Democrats home and motivate the Republicans.

Also remember that the rerun of Bob Ehrlich for a third time may have kept a few GOP stalwarts home, just as the 1998 rematch between Ellen Sauerbrey and Parris Glendening was far less exciting than the 1994 version. 1994 was a wave year for the GOP, and there are some signs 2014 may be the same if the GOP doesn’t snatch defeat from the jaws of victory as it has done before. Certainly turnout was better on all fronts in 1994: that year 64.93% of Republicans, 60.98% of Democrats, and 46.34% of “declines” turned out. Democratic turnout has slumped 8.37% from its 1998 peak, while Republicans have dropped 4.99% from their 2002 high-water mark in gubernatorial elections. Strictly unaffiliated voters have dropped off 8.35% from their 1994 high point.

For Republicans, turning out at 2002 levels could mean an extra 50,000 votes and perhaps that would swing some local races.

While playing with the numbers is fun for any candidate, there is that minor detail of getting past the GOP primary, and the poll doesn’t indicate whether Hogan remains in the GOP lead. Reputable polls so far have shown that Mr. Undecided is the clear favorite, but it’s impossible for him to win here in Maryland so someone else will have to prevail. It’s likely that whoever wins will not have a majority in the race, so he will have a lot of fences to mend.

But while Hogan and his cohorts have been speaking on the economy – and rightfully so – a close second in importance to many voters is education. This is why what David Craig had to say yesterday at Townhall.com was important. An excerpt:

If (former GM executive turned author) Bob Lutz is a car guy, then you can call me an “education guy.” I spent 34 years in Maryland’s public schools as a teacher and an assistant principal. My career started as our nation was on top, coming off an age when we sent men to the moon and returned them safely to the earth. There were no waivers, no Common Core, no ‘No Child Left Behind,’ and no U.S. Department of Education.

What I had back then, and what Governor Pence needs now, and what my home state of Maryland urgently needs, is to give control to teachers in the classroom. Maryland has rushed head first to adopt every federal program in the last several years including Obamacare, Common Core and EPA stormwater regulations, to name a few. The results are always the same – poor execution, millions of dollars wasted and excessive regulation and taxes.

Here is a simple message to anyone concerned about making education work for students and not education bureaucrats. Let teacher’s (sic) teach, let them do their job.

Nobody will ever capture a child’s imagination in the classroom from Washington D.C. Common Core is bean counters and bureaucrats run amok. They will destroy our education system. No amount of tinkering or re-branding will ever fix it. End it and return control of the classroom to teachers and local school boards.

Craig is perceptive enough to sense the concern that Indiana is adopting Common Core under another name. Yet the question sure to come up in any debate is how we would do without the federal grant money. I can also guarantee Craig will be painted as heartless and out-of-touch if he questions the wisdom of expanding pre-kindergarten, even with its dubious benefits.

Try as some might, education is not a one-size-fits-all commodity. What works well for Dylan in Maryland may not do the trick for Amy in California. And while I’ve had some thoughts in the past about education I still think are worth pursuing, we have to backtrack from where we’re at in order to get pointed in that right direction. The next generation is all we have at stake.

2014 Maryland GOP Spring Convention in pictures and text (part 2)

In case you missed part 1, which dealt with Friday night, you can catch up here.

I was in bed reasonably early for a convention, in part because there weren’t a whole lot of hospitality suites to be found and in part because I wanted to cover breakfast with this immediately recognizable guy.

The former GOP national chair is always a welcome guest at MDGOP proceedings, and as a breakfast speaker he set a good mood for the day by predicting “we’re going to be back in our winning ways this year.”

But his message went back a few years, to when Michael took over the national party, which had become too “comfortable and cozy.” He saw his mission as one “to rebrand a party which had become moribund,” one where the gap between rhetoric and principles had become so large it snapped. “I’m so sick and tired of people blaming our principles for their failure to lead,” said Michael. “What we believe in is time-honored and true.”

Similarly, Steele noted that the state party had gone through its share of “definitional moments” and was ready to do so again. We needed to avoid being a party defined by what we are against and not what we are for, as we’ve “often found ourselves at odds with the very people that we want to represent.” We need to “talk about freedom but connect it to life.”

Taking that to a more local level, he noted that people are expecting leadership from the Central Committee members in the effort to “turn the elephant.”

“We’re not looking back, we’re looking forward,” said Michael. “Revolutionizing the (Maryland Republican) Party is our number one priority.” People are hungry for authenticity, leadership, and vision, he added. He got a token of our appreciation, too.

The wine is a Maryland red wine from Linganore called Black Raven. Diana thought it was a “providence” that she was thinking about how to thank our speakers as she drove by the winery. I had a shot of the bottle but, alas, I was too close and it came out way too bleached out. After breakfast, I had to gather my things and check out as well as make one other stop.

Instead of having a Friday evening suite, Larry chose to host a breakfast suite with Chick-fil-A items. Of course, all I was hungry for was information, so I spoke to Hogan about his experience on the Eastern Shore with our farmers. I found he has a fairly good idea about what they stand to lose should phosphorus regulations go through, so that was a plus. And I added to my weekend collection, a shot which included Larry’s wife Yumi.

It’s a bit askew because I was looking at two cameras at once. So I grabbed a Hogan-labeled bottle of water as I walked out and headed back down. With the stops, I missed much of what – from the part I did hear – was an interesting panel discussion by conservative black Maryland Republicans.

After that finished, I checked out some of the displays in the lobby. This one was new that morning.

As I understood it, my Worcester County cohort was selling “Benghazi bracelets,” which will be gray and black. Obviously that’s still on the minds of many people to whom it does make a difference. I also spied a more modest display that morning from the Lollar team.

I was remiss in not getting a photo of Ron George’s table, although I think it’s visible in the lobby photo in part 1. Of the four candidates, though, Ron had the least presence with just the table. Craig had a table and suite, as did Lollar, while Hogan had his breakfast suite, a folder at each table place, and hallways festooned with these.

In due course, you’ll understand why I thought it was important to make that comparison. Once that mini-tour was complete and I was checked out, it was time to begin the convention proper.

The first report was a legislative report from Delegate Gail Bates, who’s now running to become a Senator. She pointed out we don’t get our way much, but did achieve some good things: recoupling the estate tax to federal law, pieces of election reform – particularly on voter rolls – and straightening out the pit bull mess to place responsibility on dog owners regardless of breed. These, however, were outweighed by a litany of bad: a budget which continues a pattern of overspending revenues, increasing the minimum wage despite outcry from small business, decriminalization of marijuana, the “bathroom bill”, and the health exchange, said Bates.

We next received the bad news of the treasurer’s report from Executive Director Joe Cluster. The one positive note was that we were “right on course to meet our goals this year” after a slow start. This wasn’t her convention podium, but I wanted to show a shot of Party Chair Diana Waterman to signify her Chairman’s report.

She had one key announcement:

She also recounted recent events like the Reagan Ball and Johns Hopkins gubernatorial forum, but her message stressed the needs for turnout on Election Day and unity after the primary.

In an extension of the forum he moderated, Tony Campbell decried the lack of credibility the party had built in the 16 years he had been involved, and stressed that we needed to find issues that people connected with. This election was the combination of time and opportunity we had been waiting for, though.

Brian Griffiths gave a brief Young Republican report mainly focused on upcoming events, while the College Republicans gave no report because their incoming president, Christine McEvoy of Johns Hopkins, was studying for exams. Thus, the morning continued with National Committeewoman Nicolee Ambrose and her visual aids.

While Ambrose talked briefly about what the national party is doing, her focus has been on grassroots work in Maryland, particularly the Super Saturday program. Next Saturday, May 3rd, that program comes to Ocean City just in time for Springfest. A second one is in the works for June 21 in Montgomery County. Further ones for the fall will be determined over the summer, as there is an application process. She also stressed that every county should be looking into an absentee ballot program, particularly the larger ones.

But I thought this slide of upcoming events was cool.

It’s not just on the Eastern Shore, though, it’s right here in Salisbury. Do we need a better excuse to have a Super Saturday for Wicomico County? After all, the good Lt. Col. West shouldn’t arrive until the afternoon.

Louis Pope piled on to what Ambrose said as he gave his National Committeeman report, but also believed the June primary was an advantage to Central Committee members – those who win have a four-month period to learn the ropes, while the returning/retiring members could mentor the newbies.

Turning to the 2014 election, Pope quipped, “if you liked 2010, you’ll really like 2014.” The national GOP’s goal was to take the Senate, and with the recent Florida special election showing “it’s all about turnout,” coupled with the McCutcheon decision by the Supreme Court, the potential was there for a great year.

On a state level, Pope believed Wisconsin is a “model” for us – similar size, and a state controlled by Democrats until the last cycle. It all comes down to turning out Republicans.

Finally, we were through most of the reports, and we found out we had a quorum of 236 of 303 members present. But it was troubling that several counties were well short of their allocation. We’re used to this from Baltimore City, which, try as they might, has a hard time getting people to serve. But there were over half the members absent from Allegany, Calvert, Caroline, Dorchester, and Talbot counties as well. Granted, it was the last convention of the term and not much was on the docket but that’s still a concern to me.

The last item we dealt with before lunch was a resolution condemning the introduction of House Bill 1513, sponsored by both the Harford and Baltimore County Central Committees. Thanks to a parliamentary maneuver, the resolution passed by unanimous consent in a voice vote.

We were actually well ahead of schedule, even with lunch, so Diana Waterman added two speakers to the agenda: Attorney General candidate Jeffrey Pritzker and Comptroller hopeful Bill Campbell.

Pritzker was blunt: “Maryland is in trouble.” He reminded us he was the first to call for a special prosecutor in the health exchange debacle – a position Doug Gansler would prefer to do away with. “The people need a lawyer,” Jeff said. He promised to create a task force to address the laws, seeking to prune away the unnecessary and redundant.

Campbell made the case that we needed to go to places where we were uncomfortable in order to win. For example, he addressed the Maryland State Education Association – not expecting their endorsement, but to make his case nonetheless. Reportedly he got 40% of the teachers’ votes, which Bill considered to be very good impact.

We also had the Executive Director’s report from Joe Cluster, who told us to focus on four numbers: 6, 19, 48, and 16. These weren’t for Powerball, they were 6 of 10 County Executive seats, 19 of 24 county councils or commissions, 48 Delegates, and 16 Senators. “It would make us relevant in this state” if we achieved all these milestones, said Cluster. Joe continued by pointing out both Barack Obama and Martin O’Malley had approval numbers under 50 percent. “People are tired of what they’ve done to taxpayers,” Cluster said. “I don’t see any incumbent Republican losing.”

He also announced there were plans for Victory Centers in Towson for District 42, and in the District 38 area – Salisbury is in District 38, as is Ocean City. We then got to new business.

The Tweet tells you the result, but how we got there was interesting. I was one of perhaps four who spoke in favor of moving it to the floor, but by the crowd reaction to myself and other speakers I knew the effort was doomed. By the time the roll call got to Baltimore County (only fourth in) the result was obvious: just Caroline County (and its one representative), Dorchester, Howard, Kent, and Queen Anne’s favored it (Wicomico was 6-3 against) and the motion died by a weighted vote of 385-91. (In terms of bodies, it was 192-42, with one abstention.) Ten counties were unanimously against it. I thought it would get between 1/3 and 1/2 of the vote, so less than 20% was shockingly low.

But it is typical of the party’s “we’ve always done it this way” mindset.

Before adjourning, we heard yet another plea for unity and turnout from Diana Waterman, who was stalling a little bit because there was a full hour before the afternoon seminars were scheduled. But we finally received the results of the straw poll conducted at the convention.

Brian Griffiths, a confirmed Hogan supporter, came over to Jackie Wellfonder and I and huffily said, “that’s the last thing (Lollar’s) going to win.” He chalked up the loss to proxies who were in the Lollar camp.

Here are the actual vote numbers:

  • Lollar – 68 votes (29.8%)
  • Hogan – 62 votes (27.2%)
  • Craig – 60 votes (26.3%)
  • George – 29 votes (12.7%)
  • undecided – 9 votes (3.9%)

I remember looking quickly at Wicomico’s ballots before I handed them over and we split among the four candidates. I think it was 3 Hogan, 3 Craig, 2 Lollar, and 1 George.

But look at what was put into the convention by the candidates. Granted, Charles Lollar had a large and very visible party and David Craig had a lively suite of his own. All but Larry Hogan had lobby tables, with Ron George having very little other presence. I didn’t even see him there, although I did see Shelley Aloi frequently making the rounds.

Yet Larry Hogan spent a lot of money for sponsoring the programs, the folders at each seat, the breakfast suite, and the multitude of signs only to come in second by just two votes. (I have it on good authority that one Hogan supporter I know may be switching to Craig – had that person came to that conclusion a little sooner, there would have been a second-place tie.) I would have expected Hogan to get 35 or 40 percent based on the hype.

Unfortunately, my traveling companion needed to get back to Salisbury so I couldn’t stay for the seminars. It never fails – had we started at lunchtime, we would have argued the bylaws change clear through dinner. But out of the seventeen conventions I’ve now attended, this was one of the more quiet and non-controversial. I guess we’re fairly united despite the straw poll vote.

It was definitely time to go home and get to work.

No foolin’ – really?

I know a fair number of people will consider this a cheap shot, but is this something a legitimate candidate would cite?

As I pointed out yesterday, I get a lot of e-mail from candidates asking me for money. But in building his case for his campaign, Larry Hogan made the following statement:

My campaign for Governor has a commanding lead in the Republican primary. In fact, a recent poll shows that we garner more support than all the other candidates combined, with over 50 percent of voters supporting us. We can win this race!

Really? You’re citing the Red Maryland poll, which even the authors admit isn’t scientific and is backed by a website which endorsed you before you even formally entered the race? How low of information voters do you think you’ll reach?

Granted, I’ve made news before from a Larry Hogan poll of my own but at least at the time I fessed up to the fact it wasn’t a scientific poll.

And maybe it’s not Larry’s fault, since the e-mail itself traces back to a firm called SalientMG. But it is a little deceptive to say you already have over 50 percent primary support when no reputable poll puts you over 20 percent at the moment.

In many respects Hogan’s statement is like bragging about winning a straw poll, which a fellow candidate has done on a couple occasions only to be mocked for doing so. Then again, we can be far more certain those running the straw polls probably weren’t in the tank for the winner. The Red Maryland poll wasn’t quite like the Crimean referendum, but it was sort of close.

I’ll be more interested to see the fundraising reports in a couple weeks. If Larry Hogan has raised over 50% of the Republican money then maybe I’ll see him as a more legitimate front runner – right now I think it’s still anyone’s race. Some have a lot more work to do than others, but we still have almost three months.

WaPo poll: Hogan lead cut to 4

February 19, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, Polling · Comments Off on WaPo poll: Hogan lead cut to 4 

Just a couple days after its Baltimore competitor unveiled an OpinionWorks poll which showed Larry Hogan with a six-point lead over David Craig and the others in the quest for the Republcan nomination for governor, the Washington Post put out its own survey which captured the views of 290 randomly selected GOP voters and leaners. In their survey, undecided was again the clear winner with 56%, with Hogan at 17%, David Craig at 13%, Charles Lollar in third at 10%, and Ron George pulling 5%. As I did the other day, extrapolating results leaves me with this breakdown:

  • Larry Hogan – 38%
  • David Craig – 29%
  • Charles Lollar – 22%
  • Ron George – 11%

The survey, though, has a large margin of error of 7% for Republicans, compared to 5.5% for Democrats. On their side, Anthony Brown has a 19-point lead over Doug Gansler, who in turn leads Heather Mizeur by seven points. The survey was conducted Thursday through Sunday.

Unlike the Sun poll, there are a wide variety of crosstabs available in the WaPo survey. Most of them favor Hogan, but the independents surveyed backed Craig by a 16-14 margin. David also scored well with Baltimore-area voters and with college graduates, both categories where he ran even with Hogan.

Another interesting facet of this poll was favorability ratings for each candidate. I’ll go from highest among all candidates to the lowest.

  • Anthomy Brown – 30% (16% unfavorable, +14)
  • Doug Gansler – 22% (17% unfavorable, +5)
  • Larry Hogan – 15% (8% unfavorable, +7)
  • Heather Mizeur – 13% (9% unfavorable, +4)
  • David Craig – 11% (10% unfavorable, +1)
  • Ron George – 8% (7% unfavorable, +1)
  • Charles Lollar – 6% (9% unfavorable, -3)

So it appears Hogan’s very non-specific campaign has attracted notice without driving up unfavorables. Note this was done before David Craig put out a program to eventually phase out the state’s income tax.

Making a RealClearPolitics-style average of the results so far, we get the following on the GOP side:

  1. Larry Hogan – 14.4%
  2. David Craig – 9.3% (-5.1)
  3. Charles Lollar – 7.5% (-6.9)
  4. Ron George – 5.1% (-9.3)

Doing the same for Democrats:

  1. Anthony Brown – 34.5%
  2. Doug Gansler – 14.4% (-20.1)
  3. Heather Mizeur – 9.1% (-25.4)

While it appears that George is slipping just beyond the margin of error, the other two are still within striking distance. On the Democratic side, it’s Anthony Brown’s race to lose. Note that the foibles of Maryland’s health exchange aren’t affecting Brown among the base.

Larry Hogan is spinning this, using an unreleased “internal poll” to note:

(I)nternal polling by a respected national pollster gives Hogan an excellent chance to win in November. Hogan has a 30% better chance of beating Brown than Gansler has, and the polling also shows Hogan has a 36% better chance of winning than Bob Ehrlich had when he was elected governor in 2002.

Obviously without context it sounds great, but one has to ask if Brown would be as weak of a candidate as Kathleen Kennedy Townsend was in 2002.

There is generally one more poll which comes out around this time of year, but I have no word on whether a new Maryland Poll will come from Gonzales Research anytime soon. Back in October, Brown had a 41-21 advantage over Doug Gansler, with 5% preferring Heather Mizeur.

Hogan leads in first inning

At last we have a scientific poll to determine who is the top dog among Republican voters, and the big winner is…undecided.

I know that belies my headline, but an OpinionWorks poll for the Baltimore Sun found 68% of Republican voters hadn’t made their mind up yet. Of those expressing a preference, the poll looks like this:

  • Larry Hogan – 13%
  • David Craig – 7%
  • Ron George – 6%
  • Charles Lollar – 5%

Doing some quick math and extrapolating the numbers, the primary would come out like this:

  • Larry Hogan – 42%
  • David Craig – 23%
  • Ron George – 19%
  • Charles Lollar – 16%

In other words, I would be pretty close to my 60 percent statement from the other night.

According to the Sun, the poll was taken from 1,199 likely Maryland voters over last week (Saturday through Wednesday.) 499 of them were likely Republican primary voters, with 500 likely Democratic primary voters backing Anthony Brown by a significant 21 point margin over Doug Gansler, with Heather Mizeur just 4 points back from Gansler. (40% are still undecided, though.) Margin of error on both polls is 4.4 points, so in actual terms all four GOP candidates are within the margin of error at this point.

OpinionWorks is the Sun‘s resident pollster, and they recently did a poll suggesting an additional $1 per pack tobacco tax would be acceptable to state voters. (They didn’t call me, or the “no” would have been larger.) Based on their body of work, they would seem to be a more left-leaning pollster, sort of in the same vein as Public Policy Polling. At this point, though, there’s no real reason to suspect they would have their finger on the scale of the Republican race.

Of course, we didn’t get any direct polling of possible matchups, such as Brown vs. Hogan, which is unfortunate because there’s no way to find out whether Larry’s more or less populist, anti-establishment message is selling. He’s been good at criticizing the current lieutenant governor for both actions and inaction, but Hogan hasn’t completely spelled out an agenda on key issues like education and the environment. Does he tack to the center and risk alienating a large portion of his base like his former employer did?

There’s also the aspect of name recognition. Back in November I wrote about a Goucher College poll measuring how well-known the various candidates were. It still seems to track well, given that the Democrats were more well-known at the time and now have far fewer undecided voters. Indeed, a current 28-point difference in undecideds matches up well with November’s 31.7 point name recognition gap between Anthony Brown and David Craig. (Larry Hogan was not part of the November poll.) Once people begin to pay attention to who the players are, the polls will start moving up for the various candidates.

My last observation is wondering whether Hogan’s success is akin to a “convention bump” because he’s announced so recently. A poll taken in March or April will help to determine this. I think Larry is indeed the leading contender, but I don’t think he’s really getting nearly twice as many votes as any of the others in the field – this is why I compared the results to giving up a 3-run homer in the top of the first. As people begin to get to know Larry Hogan on the campaign trail, he will either break the game open or allow the opposition to catch up.

The push for polls

On several occasions I’ve bemoaned the fact there are no polls in the Republican race, aside perhaps from internal polls not released to the public. It has given somewhat outsized importance to website-based polls such as the Red Maryland poll or the Red White Blue poll, neither of which are scientific. The same goes for a poll sponsored by the Gazette newspaper, which as I write this has Larry Hogan with a slight lead over Charles Lollar, with David Craig and Ron George trailing significantly; on the other hand, George has won the last two Red Maryland polls. The proof that the internet-based polling may be overblown is the amount of cajoling the candidates (or supporters) have done to solicit support, particularly in the Gazette poll since it’s a “reputable” news site.

  • David Craig on Facebook Monday: “Please take a moment to show your support by casting your vote for me in this online poll.”
  • Ron George on Facebook Monday: “Please take a moment to vote in today’s Capital Gazette online poll, ‘If the Republican primary were today, who would you vote for as the nominee for governor?'”
  • Larry Hogan on Facebook Monday (via Change Maryland): “First online poll since our Harvest Party with Change Maryland‘s founder and Chairman Larry Hogan in it. Please click on this link to cast your votes.”
  • Charles Lollar on Facebook Tuesday: “Good Morning Lollar Supporters! We are only a few points away from taking 1st place in this poll. Please vote for Chares Lollar, the only candidate that can win in the General Election. Vote from your computer, your work computer, your phone. Together WE can do this!”

That’s just one of several appeals, mainly from the Lollar and Hogan camps. But Larry is going one better, based on a newsletter I received yesterday:

Earn points by helping us Change Maryland by sharing our posts, by getting your friends involved, and by engaging in the conversation. Use your Change Maryland points towards getting Change Maryland stickers, T-shirts, hats and awesome polos!

I was thinking I already have the sticker, and as much as I’ve pimped the group over two years I could qualify for being clad head to toe. The group continues to add followers and may have 70,000 before the week is out. But the political world isn’t based on Facebook likes or easily-manipulated internet polls; the question is how real voters will really react when the ballots are cast in June.

As I have often pointed out, a poll such as the Red Maryland poll or Gazette poll simply is a basis of knowing how many people are in the devoted 1% of followers – consider that if you believed a number of internet polls, we would be talking about President Ron Paul right now. But in real life he rarely cracked double digits in any primary.

Regardless, this all means the gubernatorial race isn’t taking much of a holiday break.

Update: Steve Crim of Change Maryland alerted me to the fact this Change Maryland point promotion has been underway since June – I already have 116 points!

The perception of reality

When you think about it, the number of people represented by the Red Maryland poll is generally about 1/10 of 1 percent of the potential Republican electorate in the state. So why do I see e-mails and Facebook messages from the three candidates encouraging me to vote in their poll?

Well, before I answer that question, let me state that as a blogger I understand the reason behind the poll. Truth be told, it’s not necessarily to provide an accurate barometer of the race – it’s to bring eyes and ears to the Red Maryland blog and network, respectively. It’s the reason I’ve done polls, and often I see a bump in the numbers if I put up an interesting horserace. It might even attract a little notice for me outside the blogosphere.

But Lord knows none of us have the scratch to come up with a scientific method of gauging the true snapshot of the electorate – not that it can’t get blown out of the water by potential events anyway – so we do the next best thing. If they have 500 or 600 responses to their poll, well, that means 500 or 600 people read their website over the period in question. (Obviously some read the site without responding to the poll, so in reality they have hundreds more who stop by during the week they have it up.) Same goes for the radio show where the results are revealed. I may be a dumb country hick from the Black Swamp of northwest Ohio, but I can figure out that much about marketing.

So let’s take this e-mail Ron George sent out as one example:

The November Red Maryland Poll is open for the next two days, so please cast your vote for Ron George for Governor. With your help, Ron came in 1st place in the October Poll, and we look forward to winning back to back months.

Not to be outdone, David Craig mentioned via Facebook:

Maryland deserves a leadership team with vast experience and a real record of accomplishments. Please take a moment to show your support for that team by voting for “David Craig” in this month’s Red Maryland Poll.

I haven’t seen anything from Charles Lollar yet, but he and the Red Maryland crew probably aren’t the best of pals right now anyway. Last month he came in just south of “undecided” but he had otherwise polled relatively well there. (Along with “undecided” all three polled in a narrow range between 20 and 30 percent.)

Of course, these aren’t scientific polls so we have no clue how these candidates would do with a “real” electorate. I guess the real value of the poll – as I have said on occasions before, which holds true in this case as well – lies in the poll providing a gauge of passionate supporters. So, at least in October, Ron George had the largest number of passionate supporters, although no one was really short on them overall. Insofar as that polling has shown, it’s been a solid three-way race throughout.

Winning an internet poll may not give you a boost in the real polls but it provides some good press for the winning campaign, so there is that.

Now, speaking of polls, for the fourth time in five years I’ve found myself nominated for a Mobbie Award. (Actually, two.)

I harbor no illusions of winning an award, seeing that it’s essentially a popularity contest and my website is probably not nearly as well-read as some of the others nominated. Let’s face it: a blog discussing Ravens football is going to cream mine in readership and probably voting as well. Even among the nominees in the News Blog and Political Blog categories, I’m sure other contenders have higher traffic (although I enjoyed a somewhat better than average week last week, with nice consistency. Thanks, folks.)

Knowing that, I don’t figure on winning the Reader’s Choice Award. But I don’t want to finish last, either. So if you feel inclined to do so, I would appreciate the support. If you can’t bring yourself to support me, vote for Raging Against the Rhetoric (Jackie Wellfonder’s site) because I nominated her in the political category.

Someone might get the perception I have a halfway-decent website if I happen to win, and who knows? It may attract a couple dozen advertisers and other major sponsors. You can beat the rush, though, and get in on the ground floor – just go here for details.

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