The Austin Chronicle

Conservative Blogger Needs Math Lessons

By Lee Nichols, October 5, 2010, 6:11pm, Newsdesk

Sigh … math is hard. Especially when done with partisan blinders on. claims to be “the most often cited right of center blog in the media” – and given that it averages more than 3 million hits per month, we can believe it. That doesn’t make them the most accurate.

An Austin correspondent for the blog who goes by “Facetwitch” recently wrote a post titled "Inside the Numbers: 10 Reasons Donna Campbell Can Beat [Lloyd] Doggett in TX-25." Unfortunately for Facetwitch, his main assumption is based on completely incorrect numbers for Travis County.

Please join us while we shoot fish in a barrel:

Facetwitch claims to have “looked inside the numbers, deeper than I care to look at numbers, and the congressional district Lloyd Doggett represents is a wildcard with all sorts of unpredictable factors at play. It’s far from a safe seat for Democrats in this election.”

Sorry, Facetwitch, you should have looked even deeper. Reprinted below in italics are Facetwitch’s 10 reasons, each with my rebuttal. The clincher is in point number three:

1) TX-25 has been redistricted and reconfigured a number of times, mostly as a Democratic stronghold, but the voter make-up in its current shape (which has only existed for four years due to a court decision in 2006) gives more influence to rural and suburban voters than traditional liberal Austinites.

Well, yes, that’s true – barely. If we define “traditional liberal Austinites” as Travis County voters who cast ballots for Doggett, the TLAs account for a huge 43% (2006) to 44% (2008) of the Dist. 25 vote – leaving Doggett the relatively easy task of scooping up just a few more points from rural Democratic loyalists (there’s more than you might think) to put him over the top.

2) Hays County, just south of Austin, is the second largest county in the district and voted for John McCain over Barack Obama in 2008, albeit closely. It is one of the fastest growing areas of Texas with 400% growth in the last four years. Most of this represents middle class families looking for affordable homes with good schools, which tends to make them more conservative.

Yes, but Hays also went for Doggett in 2006 (56%) and 2008 (55%).

Recent voting patterns in those suburbs don’t necessarily bear out your suggestion that it’s just conservatives looking for affordable homes. Liberals, too, are getting pushed out of the central city by housing costs.

Take a look at the other ridiculously fast-growing suburban county in the Austin area, Williamson (not part of Dist. 25): In 2008, the southernmost (closest to Austin) voters narrowly chose Democrat Diana Maldonado to Texas House Dist. 52.

Perhaps Maldonado can be written off to 2008’s Obama effect. Okay then, look at Bastrop County, which was a total mixed bag in 2006 – it chose Democrats in both of its congressional races (Districts 10 and 25), the governor’s race, ag commissioner, railroad commissioner, every court race where a Democrat was available save one, and state representative.

3) Statewide Republican candidates have carried the district. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison won the district as recent as the last midterm, winning seven of the eight counties by an average of almost 20 percentage points. The only county she lost was Travis County, but she still garnered 43% in what is considered a liberal stronghold. Republican Lt. Governor David Dewhurst achieved similar success in 2006, garnering 44% of the Travis County vote. If Donna Campbell can hit 40% in Travis County, she will most likely win.

This is where Facetwitch is just demonstrably wrong. I originally thought he got this notion that Campbell can beat Doggett because he was smoking something, but it turns out he just lacks basic precinct-by-precinct analysis skill.

Yes, Hutchison and Dewhurst did post those numbers in Travis, but not in the portion of the county that falls within Doggett’s district. You can thank your gerrymandering buddy Tom DeLay for that, Facetwitch – only the southern third of Travis is in Dist. 25. Within that portion of Travis, KBH only took 36%, and Double D took 35%.

And since the Travis vote controls Dist. 25, neither won the district as a whole: KBH garnered 47% overall, while Dewhurst took 45% – with a hell of a lot more name ID than political novice Campell.

You don’t get to count voters that aren’t in the district, Facetwitch.

Good luck hitting that 40%, Campbell – in both 2006 and 2008, Doggett took 74% in Travis. District-wide, he took 67% and 66%, respectively, so apparently that "seven of eight" in the other counties doesn’t go too far.

4) Lloyd Doggett won the 2008 election with 191,000 votes but Barack Obama was on the ticket (not to mention there was conservative backlash against Bush who couldn’t even speak at his own convention). However, Doggett only garnered 109,800 votes in the midterm election two years prior. Given the historic nature of the 2008 election and record turnout by minorities and first-time voters, I want to call Doggett’s showing in 2008 an outlier.

Yes, Doggett got less votes in 2006 than 2008 because midterm turnout is always considerably less than in presidential years. As I just said, Doggett took 67% in 2006 and then 66% in 2008. It’s hard to see how an election where Doggett drops a percentage point is an “outlier” in his favor.

5) Doggett’s opponent in 2008, Republican George Morovich, received nearly 90,000 votes in a losing effort without running any ads or spending more than $30,000. Assuming the enthusiasm gap for Republicans is accurate this year and taking into account Dr. Donna Campbell’s larger advertising budget and more effective campaigning, she should be able to surpass George Morovich’s numbers (and top 100,000 easily). That puts her within striking distance.

I offer an analogy: In neighboring Dist. 10 (another Tom DeLay creation) Democrat Larry Joe Doherty offered Democrats the same hope in 2008 – a huge budget and record turnout for Dems. He only got 43%. After his loss, Doherty said, “The monster that was created to produce the result that has occurred tonight has in fact produced the result that occurred tonight.” Sorry again, Facetwitch – the same Tom DeLay work that forced Michael McCaul on me has stuck you with Doggett. This is why Democrats and Republicans alike should oppose gerrymandering.

6) Donna Campbell is kicking Lloyd Doggett’s butt on facebook. Trailing him by 1500 facebook fans just a few months ago, she has not only surpassed him, her lead has grown to nearly 400 people, showing where the energy in this campaign lies.

Facebook? Seriously? I realize social media has become very important at connecting with voters, but FB friends don’t directly translate to votes. In fact, one of Campbell’s 3,522 fans is me, just so I can track her campaign – and I’m damn sure not voting for her. Do you also believe the results of web polls?

7) This is the worst political environment for incumbents since 1994, which is ironically the first year Lloyd Doggett was elected to Congress. It’s also a bad year to have a D next to your name, as so many Democrats’ political ads have demonstrated by omitting their affiliation. These factors will cost Doggett votes he used to take for granted.

Having watched Doggett for since 1994, I know he doesn’t take any votes for granted &ndash he’ll campaign hard for them. But even if he did, that 66% win two years ago shows it’ll take more than swing voters to bring him to a loss.

8) Gender counts for something. Hillary won Travis County over Obama in the Democratic primary. There appears to be a gender bias here (again, see Kay Bailey Hutchison) that will help give Donna Campbell a two to three point boost.

Yeah, well, party counts for something, too. As I’ve noted elsewhere, Travis County (especially Lloyd’s part) hates Republicans, and in the rare race that a Republican has only a Libertarian challenger on the Travis ballot, the Lib gets a huge number of protest votes (like around 45%), while in races with no Republican, the Dem stomps the Lib (usually about 80% vs. 20%).

Numbers 9 and 10 are just pure opinion, so I’ll leave them alone.

Red State, you may want to look for a more reliable Austin correspondent. Apparently, the Tea Partiers are not just spelling-challenged.

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