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Morning Jay: Electoral Review Part 2, The Northeast

6:30 AM, Nov 12, 2010 • By JAY COST
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This is good to see, especially in New York. A quick and easy “pulse check” for the GOP is to see how it does in Upstate New York, historically a bastion of Republicanism and an indicator of its nationwide appeal. And as you can see, it wasn’t doing very well the last two cycles! What is especially noteworthy about the GOP’s six-seat pickup (net) in New York is that the party did it despite getting crushed at the top of the ticket – Paladino, DioGuardi, and Townsend all carried less than 40 percent of the vote, and lost every geographical region. So, these Republican victories depended on a good number of ticket splitters.

Now, what about Pennsylvania? Again, what we see here is that the Republicans are snapping back to where they have long been, which is the dominant congressional faction in the state. This might sound peculiar as Pennsylvania typically votes Democratic for president, but that has a lot to do with Philadelphia County, which is where most of the Democrats’ margin comes from (in 2000 and 2004, the margin that GOre and Kerry beat Bush statewide was actually less than their net vote hauls from Philadelphia County). Yet it is gerrymandered in such a way that it only yields the Democrats three congressional seats. 

When the election results first came back last week, I noted that they did not appear to exhibit any ringing endorsement of the Republican Party. We can clearly see that by looking at the historical exit polls from Pennsylvania.

As you can see, the GOP is still at a 20 year low in terms of party identification. The reason they did so well last week is that the Democrats are also at a 20 year low. 

Pennsylvania is also a good indication of the need for the importance of a strong presidential candidate with broad appeal. The reality is that Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett won the governor’s race in a walk while senatorial candidate Pat Toomey won it in a squeaker because Corbett was less polarizing. The evidence for this is pretty straightforward.

This chart follows the same basic logic as the one from Monday on the Florida governor’s race. I’m measuring “breadth of appeal” by looking at what percentage of Obama approvers did a Republican win as well as what percentage of Obama disapprovers did he lose. The idea is that a Republican with broader appeal would attract more Obama approvers and lose fewer Obama disapprovers. I’m using the national House ballot as a baseline under the assumption that, on average, broad and narrow Republican House candidates will cancel each other out and we’ll get a good sense of how a “generic” Republican would perform.

We can conclude from this that Corbett was broader than the generic Republican while Toomey’s was narrower. Both of them did better with Obama disapprovers than House Republicans nationwide, but the real difference came with Obama approvers. Corbett was able to draw 16 percent of them into his voting coalition, while Toomey attracted just 10 percent. The average House Republican pulled in 14 percent.

Where was Toomey weaker? The evidence suggests that it was in metropolitan Pittsburgh where he had his largest drop-off.

“Steelers Fans” are voters who live in the six counties of metro Pittsburgh. “Eagles Fans” are those who live in the five counties of metro Philadelphia (plus Berks County, which can be counted either way).

As we can see, Corbett did best among all other Republicans, and the real difference was in Western Pennsylvania.  This is impressive because he was running against Dan Onorato, who is the Allegheny County chief executive.

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