Tuesday, June 06, 2006


Tea-leaf reading for Busby-Bilbray race in California (updated)

Since today is 6-6-6 I thought I'd dust off my well-worn copy of Black Arts for the 21st Century to see if I could determine who is going to win today's special election in California's 50th District (San Diego county) for the seat of Republican crook "Duke" Cunningham.

This is a hugely Republican district in terms of voter registration: 44% Republican vs. 29% Democratic, for a 14% Republican advantage at the starting gate. But despite that, Francine Busby has been able to stay even in the polls with Republican Brian Bilbray. Yet according to political scientist Gary Jacobson, "since 1966, Democratic takeovers of House seats in California have happened only in districts where the Republican registration advantage was 3.7 percentage points or lower."

If past were truly prologue, we could call this one for the Republicans and go to lunch. But with the Duke Cunningham scandal and the George Bush debacle, there is some question whether Republican voters want to be seen in public. After all, they're the ones who are ultimately responsible.

From the polls there's very little to go on. The latest poll was conducted on June 2 by SurveyUSA, and (as is frequently the case) they would have been better off hiring me to read my tea leaves. The greatest fault of the poll is the size of the sample: only 448 "likely voters," which leaves them with a margin of error of ±4.7%. Since their results show Bilbray the Republican winning by 47% over Busby the Democrat with 45% (there's a third-party candidate picking up the difference), all we really know are the political fantasies of the 448 people sampled.

That said, there are some interesting findings. The biggest differentiating factors other than political party and ideology (Conservative, Moderate, Liberal) are age and education: the 18-34 crowd is going for the Democrat by 55% while the over-65 group wants the Republican by 52%. By education there's a direct relationship between level of education and level of support for the Democrat. Put another way, the less you know the more likely you are to vote Republican.

But where the poll is really interesting is in the racial breakdown. Here we have Whites going Republican 44%, Democrat 42%; Blacks going Republican 55% to Democrat 38%; Hispanics going Republican 53% to 45% Democrat. Only the Asians go for the Democrat 52% to 34%. Here's where the small sample size is showing its effect.

The Republican is running an anti-immigrant campaign. Unless California is as strange as the right-wingers think, surely Hispanics aren't going anti-immigrant by a 10% margin and surely Blacks aren't going Republican by a 17% margin! You see, there were only 31 Hispanics and 13 Blacks sampled.

My tea leaves are telling me that there's a severe error in the racial sampling. The margin of error for each racial category was not calculated, but for such small samples it would be enormous.

So I'm going to call this race for the Democrat. Here's why:

  1. Contrary to the poll, Blacks and Hispanics are going to vote Democratic by a large margin as will the Asians. I just hope for a huge minority turn-out.
  2. This is a strange ballot. Voters are not only voting to fill Cunningham's seat until November, they're also voting in a primary to select the candidates for the November regular election, which includes Republican Bilbray. If that doesn't confuse 'em I don't know what will. Since the less educated support Bilbray, many of them may not be able to negotiate the ballot—a plus for Busby.
  3. The Democrats are motivated. Busby had 300 volunteers and was asking for 100 more. I have no doubt she got them.

Now let's just hope that when all's said and done we'll actually know the outcome. This bit in the San Diego Union-Tribune wasn't comforting—

Problems have also surfaced in San Diego County's South Bay where more than 1,000 Chula Vista voters from one precinct received an incomplete and potentially confusing address for their polling place. Those voters were instructed to vote at Olivewood Elementary School at 2505 F Ave. The address is in National City, not Chula Vista as the notice read.

The San Diego County Registrar of Voters will post a map at the precinct's former polling location in the Chula Vista Mobile Home Park, directing voters to the new polling place.

Say it isn't so!

6/7/06 — 6:00 am

With 90% of the vote counted, Republican Bilbray was winning 49.49% to Busby's 45.24%.


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