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Big Ben Goes Bust

Let's go to the tape!

By Mike Clark-Madison, Fri., Jan. 27, 2006

GOP candidate Ben Bentzin limps into the District 48 run-off after garnering only 38% of the vote in a district designed to elect a Republican.
GOP candidate Ben Bentzin limps into the District 48 run-off after garnering only 38% of the vote in a district designed to elect a Republican.
Photo By John Anderson

Well, $40 a vote, or however much Ben Bentzin's spent so far, doesn't go as far as it used to. Especially when you don't spend it on effective get-out-the-vote efforts, as Big Ben certainly did not. The tale of the tape:


TURNOUT

Total turnout: 13.7%

In boxes with Howard over 50%: 16.1%

In boxes won by Howard: 15.6%

In boxes won by Bentzin: 9.6%

In boxes with Democatic vote (Rider+Howard) over 50%: 14.7%

Everyone got that?Boxes where Howard did well = above-average turnout. Boxes where Bentzin did well = below-average turnout. Any questions? Did you give money to Big Ben? Do you want a refund?

But wait, you say! Turnout was so low overall that these differences may be products of random chance, not of a breakdown of the, uh, fearsome Travis County GOP machine. Well, through the miracle of fancy math (we'll spare you the details), even when compared to the relative high/low turnout distribution in November 2004 (the Todd Baxter/Kelly White throwdown), Howard and Rider's combined GOTV slightly overperformed, and Bentzin's went the other way.


OVERALL Results:

Donna Howard: 49.5%

Ben Bentzin: 37.8%

Kathy Rider: 10.2%

Ben Easton: 2.3%


THE RUNNERS-UP:

Howard's % in Rider's best boxes: 51.8%

Bentzin's % in Easton's best boxes: 44.7%

Howard's % in other boxes: 47.3%

Bentzin's % in other boxes: 33.4%

Yes, Kathy Rider took votes from Howard and Ben Easton from Bentzin, but while this may be theoretically a swing district, it doesn't have that many swing boxes. In the boxes where Rider did better than her 10.2% overall total, Howard won an outright majority – these would be the solid Dem boxes. In boxes where the Libertarian did better than his puny 2.3% overall total, Bentzin did better than average – though, it must be noted, did not win outright.


Ben and Donna, Todd and Kelly:

In boxes won by Kelly White in 2004:

White: 58.8%

Howard: 55.2%

Baxter: 41.2%

Bentzin: 30.5%

In boxes won by Todd Baxter in 2004:

White: 40.3%

Howard: 43.2%

Baxter: 59.7%

Bentzin: 45.8%

In other words, Howard did pretty well compared to Kelly White (Howard and Rider combined, of course, outperformed White handily), and Bentzin did a lot worse than Todd Baxter. The map shows the geographic extent of Bentzin's choke-itude. Big Ben only outperformed Baxter in one box (218, in the far northeast corner of the district). He managed to keep his losses to a minimum in Northwest Hills, Tarrytown, and Lake Travis, but in Howard's stomping grounds in the Eanes ISD, and in Jonestown and Lago Vista, Bentzin seems to have actively repelled Baxter's 2004 voters – or otherwise fallen victim to their buyers' remorse regarding the GOP.

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