Analyzing the 2010 Midterm Elections – the Illinois Senate Election

This is a part of a series of posts analyzing the 2010 midterm elections. This post will focus on the Illinois Senate election, in which Republican candidate Mark Kirk pulled out a close Republican victory in a strongly Democratic state.

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

Illinois’s Senatorial Election

Link to Map of Illinois, 2010 Senate Election

Senator Mark Kirk’s victory follows the contours of a previous post, titled Previewing Senate Elections: Illinois. This post argued:

So what does Mr. Kirk have to do? Say that he gets 35% of the vote in Cook County – propelled by inner-ring suburban strength and minority apathy – and wins a landslide everywhere else in the state (for instance, a 3:2 margin). This gives him 50.3% of the vote in the 2008 Illinois electorate. If white Republicans downstate turn out, and minorities in Chicago do not, Mr. Kirk may get bumped up to a 2-3% victory.

As it turns out, this is almost exactly what actually happened in the election.

The previous analysis divided Illinois into three sections: Chicago, the suburbs of Chicago, and downstate Illinois. Let’s take a look at what Mr. Kirk did in each part of Illinois.

Chicago

Illinois is generally a Democratic stronghold. Cook County, home to the city of Chicago, composes more than 40% of the state’s population, and Democrats always win by a landslide in the county. Republicans have to stretch themselves to the limit everywhere else in the state – winning even the areas that normally vote Democratic – to get close.

But Republicans also must dampen Democratic margins in Cook County. This happens if Republicans can do well in the parts of Cook County outside Chicago, which are whiter and more conservative. In the city of Chicago itself, most voters are so Democratic that they will prefer not voting to casting the ballot for a Republican. There, low turn-out is more important for Republicans than actually winning over voters.

In 2010, Democratic candidate Alexi Giannoulias won 64.3% of the vote in Cook County.

At first glance, this sounds quite good. Winning 64.3% of the vote is nothing to sniff at. No president has ever won that much of the popular vote in history.

But Senator John Kerry won 70.2% of the vote in Cook County. And President Barack Obama took 76.2% of the vote. In modern Illinois politics, a Democratic candidate who takes only 64.3% of the vote in Cook County is in deep trouble.

Chicago’s Suburbs

“Previewing Senate Elections, Illinois” stated that:

The true test of Mark Kirk’s candidacy will come in the Chicago suburbs…

He will not just have to win the suburbs, but turn the clock back two decades – back to the glory years in which Republicans won around 70% of the vote in DuPage County. (Mr. Kirk will probably not have to do that well, given rising Republican strength downstate.)

Is this doable? Given that Republicans seem to be winning suburbs everywhere this year, it is certainly possible. Mr. Kirk, moreover, has spent a decade representing a Chicago suburb congressional district; this is why Republicans have nominated him.

As it turned out, Mr. Kirk passed the test with flying colors. His moderate image and suburban origin led to double-digit victories in every one of the collar counties surrounding Cook County.

In the past, Republicans have won Illinois through massive support in the Chicago’s suburbs to offset the Democratic advantage in Chicago itself. Mr. Kirk was able to somewhat replicate this model in 2010:

Link to Table Comparing Dupage and Cook County Margins

This strength did not extend to all Republicans. Republican candidate Bill Brady, for instance, still won the Chicago suburbs. But his margins were just the slightest bit off – a high single-digit rather than double-digit victory here; a 15-point rather than 20-point margin there – and ultimately this led to Mr. Brady’s defeat.

Downstate Illinois

Imagine that the year is 1990, and Republican Mark Kirk pulls the exact same numbers in the Chicago metropolis.

Most analysts in that year would say that Mr. Kirk is on his way to a sure loss – after all, Democrats are quite competitive in downstate Illinois, and Mr. Kirk just hasn’t squeezed enough juice from the collar counties.

Today, however, downstate Illinois has trended firmly Republican. Without this trend Mr. Kirk would not have won.

Here is an illustration of Illinois in the 1992 presidential election:

Link to Map of Illinois, 1992 Presidential Election

President Bill Clinton is doing quite well, winning almost every single county downstate – many by double-digits. Compare this to President Barack Obama’s performance:

Link to Map of Illinois, 2008 Presidential Election

Mr. Obama is actually doing much better in Illinois than Mr. Clinton, and yet he loses a number of the downstate counties Mr. Clinton won.

This illustrates the shift in downstate Illinois to the Republican side, and in 2010 Mr. Kirk took full advantage of that trend to win re-election.

Conclusions

The post “Previewing Senate Elections: Illinois” concluded by mapping, somewhat light-heartedly, a hypothetical Republican victory:

Link to Map of Hypothetical Republican Victory in Illinois

Mr. Kirk’s victory ended up looking extremely similar:

Link to Map of Actual Republican Victory in Illinois

All in all, it is always exciting to see a Republican victory in a Democratic stronghold, or a Democratic victory in a Republican stronghold. Mr. Kirk’s victory is the first time a Republican has won Illinois in quite a while. It constitutes one of the Republican Party’s greatest triumphs in the 2010 midterm elections.

--Inoljt

 

Lessons from California

Just stumbled across this months old post by Raven Brooks, Top 5 Lessons at Netroots California, and the successes and failures of 2010.

Two key takeaways from his takeaways:

The first session of the day featured a great presentation by Seiji Carpenter at David Binder Research and Bryan Blum at the California Labor Federation filled in a lot of detail on some innovative things labor did this cycle. You can find Seiji’s presentation here and I’d encourage you to page through it. There’s a lot of meat to this presentation, but I wanted to highlight a few things.

[...]

* The campaign and IEs were able to focus on key demographics. They prevented Whitman from building a base among women. Undecideds moved toward Brown. Latinos came home to Brown and turned out in record numbers (a special shout out to SEIU’s Cambiando campaign here). Working class voters favored Brown. And in a historic shift Asian Americans overwhelmingly broke for Brown.

* Labor ran a program called Million More Voters that was intended to target voters with similar qualities to union members, and they identified 2.8 million people. Asian Americans were more than twice as likely to be targets so they invested a lot of time in researching those communities, something that hasn’t been done on a large scale in California before.

And

A wide spectrum of organizations put in a lot of voter contact work here, made some impressive new moves this cycle, and increased funding for these activities.

But this has been a debate that’s raged on for a while in California. Most of the money spent in campaigns is for TV time. Our consulting class makes big money pushing this tactic so it’s hard to advocate change and more effective uses of that money. I think this election began to show the effectiveness of field operations in California in ways other cycles haven’t. Some of the biggest wins here were won without large budgets for TV.

With Brown (and Reid in NV), mid-summer criticisms seemed warranted.  Both campaigns were getting rolled by opponents who repeatedly self-destructed and were allowed to regain footing.  But, as Brooks writes, we were wrong.  Reid's margin was ludicrously slim, considering the opposition, Browns much better.  But both went old school, and won.

California will be 2010's story of progressive organizing success.  A relative success?  Sure.  Flawed?  Brooks describes a lack of coalition between orgs, and the familiar clash of independent field organizing and the consulting culture permeating campaigns.  But there big wins in defeating Prop 23 and protecting redistricting reform.

There's no revelation here, but it's somewhat comforting to be reminded there's always a simple truth at play, regardless of the odds: Talk to more voters, and win.

 

Lessons from California

Just stumbled across this months old post by Raven Brooks, Top 5 Lessons at Netroots California, and the successes and failures of 2010.

Two key takeaways from his takeaways:

The first session of the day featured a great presentation by Seiji Carpenter at David Binder Research and Bryan Blum at the California Labor Federation filled in a lot of detail on some innovative things labor did this cycle. You can find Seiji’s presentation here and I’d encourage you to page through it. There’s a lot of meat to this presentation, but I wanted to highlight a few things.

[...]

* The campaign and IEs were able to focus on key demographics. They prevented Whitman from building a base among women. Undecideds moved toward Brown. Latinos came home to Brown and turned out in record numbers (a special shout out to SEIU’s Cambiando campaign here). Working class voters favored Brown. And in a historic shift Asian Americans overwhelmingly broke for Brown.

* Labor ran a program called Million More Voters that was intended to target voters with similar qualities to union members, and they identified 2.8 million people. Asian Americans were more than twice as likely to be targets so they invested a lot of time in researching those communities, something that hasn’t been done on a large scale in California before.

And

A wide spectrum of organizations put in a lot of voter contact work here, made some impressive new moves this cycle, and increased funding for these activities.

But this has been a debate that’s raged on for a while in California. Most of the money spent in campaigns is for TV time. Our consulting class makes big money pushing this tactic so it’s hard to advocate change and more effective uses of that money. I think this election began to show the effectiveness of field operations in California in ways other cycles haven’t. Some of the biggest wins here were won without large budgets for TV.

With Brown (and Reid in NV), mid-summer criticisms seemed warranted.  Both campaigns were getting rolled by opponents who repeatedly self-destructed and were allowed to regain footing.  But, as Brooks writes, we were wrong.  Reid's margin was ludicrously slim, considering the opposition, Browns much better.  But both went old school, and won.

California will be 2010's story of progressive organizing success.  A relative success?  Sure.  Flawed?  Brooks describes a lack of coalition between orgs, and the familiar clash of independent field organizing and the consulting culture permeating campaigns.  But there big wins in defeating Prop 23 and protecting redistricting reform.

There's no revelation here, but it's somewhat comforting to be reminded there's always a simple truth at play, regardless of the odds: Talk to more voters, and win.

 

Lessons from California

Just stumbled across this months old post by Raven Brooks, Top 5 Lessons at Netroots California, and the successes and failures of 2010.

Two key takeaways from his takeaways:

The first session of the day featured a great presentation by Seiji Carpenter at David Binder Research and Bryan Blum at the California Labor Federation filled in a lot of detail on some innovative things labor did this cycle. You can find Seiji’s presentation here and I’d encourage you to page through it. There’s a lot of meat to this presentation, but I wanted to highlight a few things.

[...]

* The campaign and IEs were able to focus on key demographics. They prevented Whitman from building a base among women. Undecideds moved toward Brown. Latinos came home to Brown and turned out in record numbers (a special shout out to SEIU’s Cambiando campaign here). Working class voters favored Brown. And in a historic shift Asian Americans overwhelmingly broke for Brown.

* Labor ran a program called Million More Voters that was intended to target voters with similar qualities to union members, and they identified 2.8 million people. Asian Americans were more than twice as likely to be targets so they invested a lot of time in researching those communities, something that hasn’t been done on a large scale in California before.

And

A wide spectrum of organizations put in a lot of voter contact work here, made some impressive new moves this cycle, and increased funding for these activities.

But this has been a debate that’s raged on for a while in California. Most of the money spent in campaigns is for TV time. Our consulting class makes big money pushing this tactic so it’s hard to advocate change and more effective uses of that money. I think this election began to show the effectiveness of field operations in California in ways other cycles haven’t. Some of the biggest wins here were won without large budgets for TV.

With Brown (and Reid in NV), mid-summer criticisms seemed warranted.  Both campaigns were getting rolled by opponents who repeatedly self-destructed and were allowed to regain footing.  But, as Brooks writes, we were wrong.  Reid's margin was ludicrously slim, considering the opposition, Browns much better.  But both went old school, and won.

California will be 2010's story of progressive organizing success.  A relative success?  Sure.  Flawed?  Brooks describes a lack of coalition between orgs, and the familiar clash of independent field organizing and the consulting culture permeating campaigns.  But there big wins in defeating Prop 23 and protecting redistricting reform.

There's no revelation here, but it's somewhat comforting to be reminded there's always a simple truth at play, regardless of the odds: Talk to more voters, and win.

 

Lessons from California

Just stumbled across this months old post by Raven Brooks, Top 5 Lessons at Netroots California, and the successes and failures of 2010.

Two key takeaways from his takeaways:

The first session of the day featured a great presentation by Seiji Carpenter at David Binder Research and Bryan Blum at the California Labor Federation filled in a lot of detail on some innovative things labor did this cycle. You can find Seiji’s presentation here and I’d encourage you to page through it. There’s a lot of meat to this presentation, but I wanted to highlight a few things.

[...]

* The campaign and IEs were able to focus on key demographics. They prevented Whitman from building a base among women. Undecideds moved toward Brown. Latinos came home to Brown and turned out in record numbers (a special shout out to SEIU’s Cambiando campaign here). Working class voters favored Brown. And in a historic shift Asian Americans overwhelmingly broke for Brown.

* Labor ran a program called Million More Voters that was intended to target voters with similar qualities to union members, and they identified 2.8 million people. Asian Americans were more than twice as likely to be targets so they invested a lot of time in researching those communities, something that hasn’t been done on a large scale in California before.

And

A wide spectrum of organizations put in a lot of voter contact work here, made some impressive new moves this cycle, and increased funding for these activities.

But this has been a debate that’s raged on for a while in California. Most of the money spent in campaigns is for TV time. Our consulting class makes big money pushing this tactic so it’s hard to advocate change and more effective uses of that money. I think this election began to show the effectiveness of field operations in California in ways other cycles haven’t. Some of the biggest wins here were won without large budgets for TV.

With Brown (and Reid in NV), mid-summer criticisms seemed warranted.  Both campaigns were getting rolled by opponents who repeatedly self-destructed and were allowed to regain footing.  But, as Brooks writes, we were wrong.  Reid's margin was ludicrously slim, considering the opposition, Browns much better.  But both went old school, and won.

California will be 2010's story of progressive organizing success.  A relative success?  Sure.  Flawed?  Brooks describes a lack of coalition between orgs, and the familiar clash of independent field organizing and the consulting culture permeating campaigns.  But there big wins in defeating Prop 23 and protecting redistricting reform.

There's no revelation here, but it's somewhat comforting to be reminded there's always a simple truth at play, regardless of the odds: Talk to more voters, and win.

 

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