Thursday, March 23, 2006


Real Analysis: Can Patty Wetterling Win CD6?

Powered by the recent success of The Analyst and my recent lack of substantive analysis on the various races this year, here's my answer: All things being equal, probably not.

[UPDATE]: DK from The Analyst has commented, and does have better numbers. Turns out pre-reg turnout was 77.3%. Replace anything you see from here down with that number, and the logic in the analysis still stands. I thought 90% sounded a bit ridiculous. Anyway....on with the post

It was no secret heading into 2004 that Ms. Wetterling was and is a bit more progressive than her district, solely on the basis of issues and positions. Her candidacy rested heavily on positive name recognition, strong out-of-district financial support, and Teflon-coated armor protecting her from family issue-related attacks. Turnout in 2004 was extraordinarily high - if the Secretary of State's numbers are to be believed, over 92% of CD6's pre-registered voters made it to the polls on 11/2/2004 See comment above. It's closer to 77%.

Below are the county-by-county breakdowns of where votes came from, followed by corresponding base percentages (a commonly used campaign tool used to determine where a candidate's support comes from, the formula is {candidate's votes in this sub-unit} / {candidate's total votes} )

Raw Votes
Sherburne.. 23242.... 17754
Stearns.... 36937.... 30589
Wright..... 34451.... 24475
Anoka...... 58851.... 52563
Washington. 39993.... 39455
Benton...... 9907..... 8251

Base Percentage (%)
Sherburne.. 11.4..... 10.2
Stearns.... 18.1..... 17.6
Wright..... 16.9..... 14.1
Anoka...... 28.9..... 30.3
Washington. 19.6..... 22.8
Benton...... 4.9...... 4.8

Neither candidate could claim a solid base in any part of the Sixth. Instead, each candidate's support was spread very evenly over the entire district.

Of course, there are mitigating factors to be seen here. President Bush's approval rating since November '04 has gone from the toilet into the septic tank and further downward, and Rep. Kennedy has voted with the President on more than 95% of his votes. In addition, higher support for generic Democrats running for Congress could move some votes into Wetterling's column. Add to this Kennedy's absence in this race, and Wetterling might have a chance.

But remember that turnout number. 92%. Yow. Depending on increased DFL turnout will not be a successful tactic. Turnout will not be that high in a non-presidential year, but in order to win this race, Patty Wetterling will have to do ALL of the following:
  • Beat El Tinklenberg in an endorsement fight/primary, by no means a done deal.
  • Get past criticism of having dropped from the US Senate race into what might be perceived as her "second choice."
  • Face a Republican opponent who will almost certainly run strongly on an anti-choice, anti-privacy, anti-gay-civil-rights platform, inspiring the base that turned out for Kennedy in '04 to do the same for him/her in '06.
  • Suppress Republican votes who know that their Congressman will be on the ballot in the Senate Race, and will turn out solely to support him.
  • Keep her '04 voting base at least as intact as her opposition's, AND turn approximately 17,000 '04 Kennedy votes into '06 Wetterling votes.
Not an easy path to tread. If there are factors I'm missing, and someone (perhaps from the Wetterling camp?) would care to rectify them, by all means. I've met Ms. Wetterling on a couple occasions, and I have great respect for all she has accomplished and wishes to continue accomplishing in Congress. But the numbers don't lie. I'm sure there is a strategy afoot to accomplish each of these bullet points, it's just difficult to realistically see it happening.

But if we've seen nothing else in Minnesota's political history, it's that nothing is impossible.

Blogger Askinstoo said:
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Blogger DK said:
Hmmm... I think I'll have to post a longer response on my site (thanks for the link!) in the next couple of days. But let me briefly point out that the 92% turnout figure is incorrect -- you're forgetting about same-day registrations. If you go to this page and download the excel spreadsheet of the full election results by precinct, you can make the appropriate calculations:

Congressional District 6
Total votes: 384,365 (incl absentee)
Pre-election registrants: 384,589
Same day registrants: 86,905

Thus, the percentage of previously registered CD 6 voters who turned out in 2004 was 77.3% -- still impressive, but not quite in the 90th percentile.

David Kirchner
The Analyst
Blogger MN Campaign Report said:
Hi DK, thanks for the catch. I thought it sounded slightly out-of-whack. I was going by another document on the SoS's website that indicated approximately 7% day-of registration in 2004, extrapolated that on to the CD6 numbers, and worked backward. So, I stand corrected by your superior research skills.
Blogger mike said:
I think the 6th is winnable for the Democrats. If she could take everything she learned from 2 years ago while at the same time the voters forget everything from two years ago she would be the favorite.

But the right leaning voters of the 6th won't allow het to alter a position or two so she will probably be forced to run the same race and fall about 5% short.

If she would have know Kennedy was going try to take the step up I bet she would have waited 2004 out.
Blogger lapis said:
Lately, I've been coming up against bills from Bachmann. Today, I was looking at her website. She is running for Congress for CD 6. She is claiming to have the majority at 30%.

I've either missed something or am incredibly confused. Isn't this the seat that Kennedy & Wetterling are running for? Aren't those two the front runners?
Blogger lloydletta said:
I talked to a DFL campaign strategist who had worked for both Wetterling and Robert - polling has been done in that district on both abortion and gay marriage - folks in that district are much less opposed to gay marriage (by about 10 points if I recall correctly) than they are to abortion.

The question is whether Tinklenberg will be able to get base democrats. Janet Robert lost base democrats - and she did considerably worse than Wetterling. Tinklenberg now says he favors civil unions - but still hasn't made clear whether the press misquoted him when they reported he supported the Federal Marriage Amendment. He's also backing down on abortion - now that the South Dakota law has put the issue in sharper focus - saying now he doesn't want to criminalize abortion. He needs to be asked about stem cell research, family planning, abstinence only - condoms don't work sex ed - just to see where he stands on these issues.

Wetterling has some real weaknesses as a candidate - but I do not consider her position on specific issues her weaknesses - but rather her answers to all questions being "it's for the children". She also lost support when she chickened out on appearing on Almanac with Tinklenberg.
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