Sunday, November 5, 2017

And the Winners of the Minneapolis and St. Paul Mayoral Elections Are...

I don’t know.  But I think it is still Betsy Hodges and Pat Harris, but it is still too close to call.
For two major elections in Minnesota it is odd that there is very little data upon which to make decisions.  Perhaps that is good–not letting pollsters drive an election.  But for those of us wishing to make sense out of elections, the absence of any polling or survey data on Minneapolis and St. Paul makes predictions and analysis difficult. Not only do we not have polling data on who is likely to vote, which candidates are the first choice of voters, and which candidates are the second and subsequent choices of voters, but will also do not have some other basic data about the electorate. 
By that, even though both cities are overwhelming Democratic, we do not know what the real percentages of the electorate are in terms of Republican, Democrat, and Independent.  Even among Democrats, how they break down into how liberal, or whether they are pro-business, environment, or civil rights orientated, or how race factors into voting preference, we do not know.  Largely, unless the campaigns have data they are not sharing, there is little in terms of good research available to make meaningful predictions.  Even more–as someone who worked on or managed more than 50 campaigns in the past–having good data is critical to strategy and get-out-the-vote plans.  Without such data campaigns are simply guessing to what will happen or what to do.  In an era of big data and political micro targeting, on the surface it looks as if the mayoral campaigns in the two cities are largely operating in the dark.
In St. Paul it is a two-person race between Harris and Carter.  For weeks I thought there would be no first round winner and that RCV would be decisive.  At one point I thought Carter wins the first round but Harris takes it subsequently.  The Building Better St. Paul attack on Carter explicitly injected race into the campaign and it perhaps looked to be game changer to give the election to Carter.  That may still happen, but more than a political week of eternity has passed and I am not sure that the racial attack will be as big a game changer as thought.   Race will still be a factor in the election, but in different ways.  Will Dai Thao’s voters come out and only cast a first choice for him?  Will the old White Irish Catholic vote come out strong for the safe white guy Harris?  How motivated is the party base to make Carter their version of Obama?  With a possible 20-25% turnout, the logic of small numbers kicks in and slight shifts in turnout will decide the outcome.
In Minneapolis Hodges is unpopular and has run an inept campaign but she probably remains the favorite to win.  She does so because the DFL machine, if there is one still, favors her, and because still no candidate has emerged as the clear anti-Hodges alternative.  As I said several weeks  ago, Hodges can poll in the low to mid 20 percent in the first round of voting and still win if she is the preferred second choice of most voters. That assumes that among other voters they do not know the other candidates will and prefer Hodges as the devil  they know as opposed to the devil they do not know.  But there is also a chance that Hodges is so disliked that “anyone but her” is the option of most voters, again in an electorate that may be in the 30% range.
We also do not know what the voter ID bell curve looks like in Minneapolis.  Among those who will vote, how liberal and what type of liberals will they be?  For those who are not DFL, pro-business,  or more centrist, if they turn out to vote, Tom Hoch is the likely choice.  If the voters are  looking for the Hodges alternative with name recognition, then Frey is the likely choice and winner.  Minneapolis’s liberalism and voting patterns are much more difficult to predict than St. Paul this election, in part because there are three to maybe four candidates that have a real chance of winning,  and with a total of five who could possibly top 10% in the first round voting.  Perhaps for the first time since RCV was adopted in Minneapolis, it may actually make a real difference in who becomes mayor.
Given the above factors and the lack of real data, predicting who will win on Tuesday is complicated.

No comments:

Post a Comment