Nate Silver: GOP Has 60% Chance of Taking Control of Senate

Nate Silver has built a brand as a successful prognosticator of U.S. elections — and fantasy baseball projections, for the record. So Democrats are understandably concerned about his prediction that Republicans will regain the U.S. Senate in 2014. The Huffington Post writes:

Cue the hand-wringing in Democratic circles everywhere: Nate Silver says the GOP will probably re-take the Senate in November’s elections.

After he ran the table in 2012, correctly predicting the electoral outcomes in every single state, Silver has become something of a modern-day oracle to political junkies.

On Sunday, Silver took to his new FiveThirtyEight website—and his new TV home on ABC—to deliver one of his breathlessly awaited prognostications.

Republicans need six seats to regain control of the Senate chamber. How many seats did Silver think the GOP would win? “Exactly six,” he told ABC’s Jonathan Karl.

Silver gave Republicans a 60 percent chance of wresting the Senate out of Harry Reid’s hands—a big blow to the final two years of the Obama presidency. In Silver’s words, that only makes the GOP “slightly favored” to win, and there are still very many months to go until November.

Way Too Early for 2016 Hype, But…

It’s way too early for this, but I can’t help myself. Hillary Clinton and Chris Christie appear to be favorites as nominees for the 2016 election, and NBC News reports on a recent poll showing Clinton had the edge thus far. She also appears to benefit from more cohesive support from her party than Christie, as Tea Partiers don’t seem to be enthusiastic about the Springsteen-loving East Coaster.

Christie vs. Clinton

Christie’s challenges extend beyond his own party: The poll finds Clinton getting the support of 44 percent of all adults in a hypothetical match up against the New Jersey governor, who gets 34 percent. The rest of respondents either preferred another candidate, said they would not vote, or were undecided.

And while Election Day 2016 is still more than 1,000 days away, the survey shows Clinton benefiting from the same demographic trends that helped propel President Barack Obama to win the election in 2008 and re-election in 2012.

Clinton leads Christie among African Americans (83 percent to 4 percent), respondents ages 18 to 29 (45 percent to 31 percent) and Latinos (44 percent to 33 percent).

Clinton also holds the advantage with residents from the Northeast (52 percent to 35 percent), West (43 percent to 30 percent), the South (43 percent to 35 percent) and Midwest (41 percent to 37 percent). And she has a narrow edge among independents (39 percent to 35 percent).

Christie, meanwhile, leads among whites (41 percent to 37 percent), seniors (44 percent to 41 percent) and respondents with an annual income of $75,000 or more (46 percent to 34 percent).

Throwback Thursday: Old School Governance

Our annual Legislative Directory remains the most in-demand product from our legislative services department. (And stay tuned, because this year it will be offered as a fancy new app for your mobile device!)

The directory features pictures and bios of the members of Indiana's House and Senate, and is a handy tool for lobbyists and politicos to know their reps. So imagine our delight when we found a Legislative Directory from 1945!

Here are some fun facts:

Governor Ralph Gates: Gates, a Republican, hailed from Columbia City. He was Indiana's sixth wartime governor, and attended the University of Michigan. He was also an ensign in the U.S. Navy in World War I, and made his living as an attorney. (I later read that Gates died in 1978 of natural causes, and is best known for helping to rebuild the GOP after it came close to collapsing following the KKK scandal of the late 1920s.)

Lt. Governor Richard James: Also an attorney, James was from Portland. He attended Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

Party breakdown: The Senate consisted of 37 Republicans and 13 Democrats. The House held 69 Republicans and 31 Democrats. Oddly enough, the exact same splits exist today in both houses in 2013!

Women: There were eight women in the legislature at the time (one senator; seven reps). Contrast that with 2013, as 31 women (eight senators; 23 reps) help shape legislation in the Indiana Statehouse. Our Lt. Governor, of course, is also a woman now (Sue Ellspermann) — as was the last person to hold that position (Becky Skillman).

The Political Brain: Can Brain Scans Predict Your Affiliations?

Found this interesting article on Huffington Post about how brain scans can predict political affiliation. This does make sense; my experience is that after interacting with someone only for a brief period of time, I can accurately guess which way they lean. Not always, of course — and some turn out to be centrists or libertarians, who wouldn't necessarily fit into the left/right model. But it's an intriguing scientific approach to the madness.

Comparing the Democrat and Republican participants turned up differences in two brain regions: the right amygdala and the left posterior insula. Republicans showed more activity than Democrats in the right amygdala when making a risky decision. This brain region is important for processing fear, risk and reward.

Meanwhile, Democrats showed more activity in the left posterior insula, a portion of the brain responsible for processing emotions, particularly visceral emotional cues from the body. The particular region of the insula that showed the heightened activity has also been linked with "theory of mind," or the ability to understand what others might be thinking.

While their brain activity differed, the two groups' behaviors were identical, the study found.

Schreiber and his colleagues can't say whether the functional brain differences nudge people toward a particular ideology or not. The brain changes based on how it is used, so it is possible that acting in a partisan way prompts the differences.

The functional differences did mesh well with political beliefs, however. The researchers were able to predict a person's political party by looking at their brain function 82.9 percent of the time. In comparison, knowing the structure of these regions predicts party correctly 71 percent of the time, and knowing someone's parents' political affiliation can tell you theirs 69.5 percent of the time, the researchers wrote.

Some Legislators Pushing to End U.S. Senate Elections

For politicos, Indiana's 2012 U.S. Senate primary and election had it all: Drama. Faction rivalries. Gaffes. But if it was up to some legislators, the ultimate victor would not be left up to the general voting public.

Some Georgia Republicans are seeking a repeal of the 17th Amendment, and want state legislators to start appointing Senators in order to bring more power back to the states. The Huffington Post writes:

The resolution calls on Congress to begin the process of repealing the 17th Amendment, passed in 1913, which provided for the direct election of senators. State Rep. Kevin Cooke (R-Carrollton), the main sponsor of the resolution, told the Douglas County Sentinel that moving the power back to state legislatures would allow for the original intent of the Constitution.

“It’s a way we would again have our voice heard in the federal government, a way that doesn’t exist now,” Cooke told the paper. “This isn’t an idea of mine. This was what James Madison was writing. This would be a restoration of the Constitution, about how government is supposed to work.”

In the text of the resolution, Cooke cites Madison's writing in the Federalist Papers, specifying that members of the Senate would be "elected absolutely and exclusively by state legislatures."

The resolution says the 17th Amendment has prevented state governments from having a say in federal government and that repealing the amendment would hold U.S. senators accountable to the states. The federal government has grown in "size and scope," it says, in the century since the amendment was adopted.

The 17th Amendment was adopted out of concern for state-level corruption influencing Senate elections, which Cooke said would not be the case now.

“It’s the responsibility of each and every citizen to make sure of who gets elected to office, that they’re principled people,” Cooke told the Douglas County Sentinel. “You can look at the current state of ethics and transparency. Anybody has the ability to look at money being donated to campaigns. It would keep anything from being done out of the public eye.”

Chamber Statement on the Fiscal Cliff Deal

President Obama and a divided Congress have come to an agreement on the so-called fiscal cliff. Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kevin Brinegar reacts:

"The Indiana Chamber applauds the President and Congress for their ability to compromise in the eleventh hour. However, the measures agreed to are inadequate, some potentially counter-productive, and fall far short of addressing the long-term fiscal challenges facing our federal government.

"Despite tax increases, long-term spending remains unsustainable and a threat to our economic and national security. We must rigorously reform entitlement and social welfare programs and look for real, lasting savings across all federal activities. We can no longer borrow and spend as if there were no consequences, because the day of reckoning fast approaches. We look forward to working with our congressional delegation in the weeks and months ahead to fashion workable and responsible reforms."

In early December, the Indiana Chamber released the results of a federal tax survey, done in in partnership with Congressman Todd Young (R-9th District), who is a new appointee to the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee. The survey of Hoosier businesses revealed a willingness to share the tax burden, provided there is real and significant reduction in federal spending and substantive reform to simplify the tax code. The press release and charts detailing the results can be found online at www.indianachamber.com/federal.
 

Pennsylvania Grapples with Transportation Solutions

How to pay for future transportation infrastructure needs and what to do about mass transit options. While these are issues Indiana legislators will soon be debating, the battle in Pennsylvania is slightly different. Mass transit involves alternatives already in place and the question is whether funding for both topics should be considered together or separately. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports:

Faced with critical needs in Pennsylvania’s transportation networks, the Republicans controlling both legislative chambers are divided on whether to uncouple the issues of infrastructure and mass transit.

Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, has said he is considering all recommendations of an advisory commission that issued a report in August 2011 about how to fund improvements to the state’s roads, bridges and mass transit.

During an appearance Monday in McCandless, the governor said he expects to lay out a proposal when the new Legislature begins work in mid-January.

House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, said in an interview at the event that his members want to address transportation infrastructure and separately deal with public transit systems.

"We want it focused on roads and bridges," he said. "So many reforms have to be brought to mass transit that it needs to be disentangled. They need to be separate pieces."

House Republicans want to bring checks and balances to spending on mass transportation, said Steve Miskin, a spokesman for the caucus.

But Erik Arneson, a spokesman for Senate Republicans, said he believed legislation addressing only one component of transportation would have an uncertain path through the chamber.

"Our read of the Senate is that it will be very difficult to move funding for one part of that — either roads and bridges or mass transit — without the other part," Mr. Arneson said. "But whether that is one bill or two bills or three bills, we’re not concerned about that as much as we are the timing."

He said he believed the Senate could pass separate bills if they were moved together.

Asked about disconnecting the components of a transportation plan, Steve Chizmar, a spokesman for the Department of Transportation, said Mr. Corbett has kept his options open.

"At this point the governor said that everything is on the table," Mr. Chizmar said. "He’s really dedicated to finding a long-term solution that’s going to move through the Legislature."

Democrats, meanwhile, denounced the idea of extracting mass transit from a funding plan. Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Squirrel Hill, said that while funding plans could be presented in separate bills, lawmakers from cities would not support legislation aimed at roads and bridges without an accompanying proposal for the transit systems serving their communities.

Report: Facebook Worked to Get Out the Vote — Possibly Helped Dems

The Atlantic offers an interesting article about Facebook’s Election Day activities, and how the social media giant’s non-partisan efforts possibly helped Democrats by turning out more young and female voters.

Assuming you are over the age of 18 and were using a computer in the United States, you probably saw at the top of your Facebook page advising you that, surprise, it was Election Day. There was a link where you could find your polling place, a button that said either "I’m voting" or I’m a voter," and pictures of the faces of friends who had already declared they had voted, which also appeared in your News Feed. If you saw something like that, you were in good company: 96 percent of 18-and-older U.S. Facebook users got that treatment, assigned randomly, of course. Though it’s not yet known how many people that is, in a similar experiment performed in 2010, the number was *60 million*. Presumably it was even more on Tuesday, as Facebook has grown substantially in the past two years.

But here’s the catch: four percent of people didn’t get the intervention. Two percent saw nothing — no message, no button, no news stories. One percent saw the message but no stories of friends’ voting behavior populated their feeds, and one percent saw only the social content but no message at the top. By splitting up the population into these experimental and control groups, researchers will be able to see if the messages had any effect on voting behavior when they begin matching the Facebook users to the voter rolls (whom a person voted for is private information, but whether they voted is public). If those who got the experimental treatment voted in greater numbers, as is expected, Fowler and his team will be able to have a pretty good sense of just how many votes in the 2012 election came directly as a result of Facebook.

In a country where elections can turn on just a couple hundred votes, it’s not far-fetched to say that Facebook’s efforts to improve voter participation could swing an election, if they haven’t already. They’ve done a very similar experiment before, and the results were significant. In a paper published earlier this year in Nature, Fowler and his colleagues announced that a Facebook message and behavior-sharing communication increased the probability that a person votes by slightly more than 2 percent. That may not seem like a huge effect, but when you have a huge population, as Facebook does, a small uptick in probability means substantial changes in voting behavior.

"Our results suggest," the team wrote, "that the Facebook social message increased turnout directly by about 60,000 voters and indirectly through social contagion by another 280,000 voters, for a total of 340,000 additional votes." This finding — remarkable and novel as it may be — is in concert with earlier research that has shown that voting is strongly influenced by social pressure, such as in this 2008 study which found that people were significantly more likely to vote if they received mailings promising to later report neighborhood-wide who had voted and who had stayed at home.

Although months of door knocking, phone calls, and other traditional campaign tactics surely bring more people to the polls, those measures are expensive labor-intensive. Nothing seems to come even close a Facebook message’s efficacy in increasing voter turnout. "When we were trying to get published," Fowler told me, "We had reviewers who said, ‘These results are so small that they’re meaningless,’ and other reviewers who said, ‘These results are implausibly large. There’s no way this can be true.’ " In a country where elections can turn on just a couple hundred votes, it’s not far-fetched to say that, down the road, Facebook’s efforts to improve voter participation could swing an election, if they haven’t already.

Now it must be said that of course Facebook is not trying to elect Democrats. Facebook has an admirable civic virtue and has long tried to increase democratic participation in a strictly nonpartisan way. "Facebook," Fowler said to me, "wants everyone to be more likely to vote. Facebook wants everyone to participate in the fact of democracy."

But that doesn’t mean the effects of Facebook’s efforts are not lopsided. Outside of Facebook’s demographic particularities, there are reasons to believe that improved voter turnout in general helps Democrats, though there is a debate about this within political science.

In practice, though, there is no such thing as pure a get-out-the-vote, one whose tide raises all votes, and Facebook is no exception. It skews toward both women and younger voters, two groups which tended to prefer Democrats on Tuesday. Eighteen-to-29-year-olds voted 60 percent for Obama, compared with 37 percent for Romney. The next-older age group, 30-44-year-olds, gave Obama 52 percent of their support. Among Americans older than 45, Romney won. The implication is clear: If Facebook provides a cheap and effective way to get more people to the polls, and it seems that it does, that is good news for Democrats. For Republicans, well, it’s an uncomfortable situation when increasing voter participation is a losing strategy.
 

A Look at the 2012 Election

An election of historic proportions has just taken place in our nation and right here in Indiana. There were some big surprises, big changes, and a lot of "status quo" outcomes.  Read all the results in the Indiana Chamber/IBRG’s 2012 General Elections Report.

The things that didn’t surprise political analysts:

  • Joe Donnelly defeated Richard Mourdock for the U.S. Senate
  • Mike Pence won the Governor’s race
  • Indiana House Republicans won 69 seats, achieving a quorum-proof (or walkout-proof) majority
  • In the Indiana Senate, not a single incumbent of either party was defeated

The things that did surprise political analysts:

  • Mike Pence won the governor’s race by an unexpectedly tight 3.2 percentage points
  • Dr. Tony Bennett was defeated for re-election as Superintendent of Public Instruction
  • 23 freshmen legislators were elected to the House; 42% of the new House roster will include legislators with two or less years of experience in office

The Indiana Chamber’s non-partisan political action program, Indiana Business for Responsive Government (IBRG), had a good election: 61 of 77 IBRG-endorsed candidates facing opponents won their races; 8 of 9 candidates endorsed for the U.S. Congress were victorious.

The Elections Report will be updated as final results and additional analysis are assembled in the hours and days following the election. Check back at www.ibrg.biz or www.indianachamber.com for updates. For more information or questions, please contact Jeff Brantley (jbrantley@indianachamber.com), vice president of political affairs and PAC.

Indiana Business for Responsive Government (IBRG), the non-partisan political action program of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, was heavily involved in support of pro-jobs, pro-prosperity candidates.
 

Still Not Sure Who You’re Supporting for President? Try This Quiz

Because my political affiliation would best be described as "clustermess," I always get a kick out of taking these "Who Is Your Closest Match?" surveys of presidential candidates.

Independent educational site ProCon.org has a pretty good one with 68 questions. Would love for folks to discuss their results in our comments section, but unfortunately our comments section is down at the moment as our web guys are having trouble figuring out a major spam issue. So I’ll post this blog on our Facebook page and you can comment there if you like.

Happy matching!