Open Left is closing

I have some sad news. After nearly four years in operation, today will be the final day Open Left publishes new content.

The site will not disappear, and all published content will remain online, but after today we will cease producing new content.

As the people who founded the site, myself included, moved on to other projects, we have gradually run out of money to maintain operations. It is a difficult decision, but we kept going for as long as we could.

I am, and always will be proud of the work we did here. I am, and will always be grateful to everyone who supported, visited, and participated in the site.

No matter what, the inside-outside fight we engaged for progressive change at Open Left will continue in other venues, even though this blog is about to close. The movement is much bigger than one blog.

Farewell posts will run throughout the day. Thank you, so much, to everyone.

Every new beginning

As you may have already seen at Daily Kos, I have been hired to run their new email action list.  I will be blogging at Daily Kos now, too.  It is a full-time job, and will take me away from Open Left.

First, let me be clear that Open Left will continue on in my absence. There will be other announcements about the future of the site in the coming weeks, but the site is not shutting down.  We knew this was coming, and it is why I have had a reduced role in the front page for the past few weeks.

Second, while I am often a very dry writer, it is difficult to write this post without real emotion.  Working with everyone here at Open Left–from the community members, to the other writers, to many people behind the scenes–has been a life changing experience for me in many ways.  Leaving is not something that I do lightly, or without a huge amount of soul searching.

But, the time has come for me to do something new.  Being able to continue the inside-outside work we have done here at Open Left on Daily Kos is incredibly exciting to me.  I live in D.C., now, and I have been reading Daily Kos for eight years.  Along with MyDD, it was actually the first blog I ever read.  Both sites came to my attention as a result of a Google search for info on the 2002 midterms back in August of 2002.

It will be an honor to work at Daily Kos, just as it has been an honor to work with all of you for the past three years.  I only hope that in making this transition I can help your desire for progressive change be more broadly manifested.  This is about building an effective progressive movement that can deliver real change, and it is larger than any one person or any one blog.

Thank you to everyone who has joined me here at Open Left over the past three years. Please, continue to visit.

…and one more quick note. If you want to keep following me on Twitter, please follow @ThisBowers

Senate forecast, August 11th: Only a 0.54% chance of GOP takeover

Most likely outcome, with Rasmussen: 52 Dems, 47 GOP, 1 Charlie Crist

Most likely outcome, without Rasmussen: 54 Dems, 45 GOP, 1 Charlie Crist

Of the 100 Senate seats, 87 are either not up for re-election, or have a polling average where one party has a 100% chance of victory (if the election were held today).  Among those 87 seats, there are 48 Democrats, and 39 Republicans.  Here is a chart featuring the other 13 campaigns:

Senate competitive campaigns chart, August 11th


With Rasmussen polls included in the 25-day averages, Dems are projected to win 4.29, or 4, seats, if the election were held today.  Without Rasmussen polls included, Democrats are projected to win 5.83, or 6, seats if the election were held today.  Charlie Crist wins one seat in both projections.

Notably, even though the projected number of seats has changed little over the past six months, Republican chances of taking over the Senate have dropped sharply over the past three weeks.  Given the polling averages above, Republican chances of taking over the Senate would be only 0.54%.  And that is including Rasmussen polls, and if Charlie Crist caucuses with Republicans.

Carly Fiorina’s drop in California is almost single-handedly responsible for this decline in GOP chances to win the Senate.  With Barbara Boxer pushing her lead out to 7.0%, both with and without Rasmussen polls, there is only a 3% chance of a Fiorina victory if the election were held today.  This means Republicans would have to sweep the remaining 11 campaigns, and get Crist to caucus with them, in order to take a 51-49 majority in the Senate.  The odds of that happening are very low.

So, if nothing else, Democratic chances of retaining a Senate majority are not only looking very good, but still improving.

Notes:

  • Methodology here
  • All polls taken from Pollster.com
  • * = Has primary challenger, but heavy favorite
  • The “current Dem winning %” column projects the chance of Democratic victory if the election were held today.  It is not meant to predict the chance of the Democratic candidate winning in November.
  • Every Senate seat not listed here currently has either a 0% or a 100% chance of a Democratic victory.
  • Knedrick Meek is projected as the winner of the Florida primary because he leads in 3 of 4 polls, even though Jeff Greene narrowly leads the average.

Gibbs as pure outreach fail

Today, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has stood by his remarks about lefties criticizing the Obama administration:

Taking the podium after a day off to tend to a sore throat, Gibbs said he has not reached out to any Democrats to discuss his remarks, in which he chastised liberals for wanting to “eliminate the Pentagon” and pursue Canadian-style health care reform. Nor, he added, has he talked to the president about the matter.

Does he stand by the comments? “Yes,” he replied.

Standing by his remarks is one thing.  Really, it is to be expected.  Robert Gibbs has a long history of trying to take down the left-wing of the party.  Remember when Gibbs was the spokesperson for the anti-Howard Dean 527 back in 2003?

On November 7, 2003, a strange new group no one had ever heard of called “Americans for Jobs & Healthcare” was quietly formed and soon thereafter began running a million dollar operation including political ads against then-frontrunner Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean. The commercials ripped Dean over his positions or past record on gun rights, trade and Medicare growth. But the most inflammatory ad used the visual image of Osama bin Laden as a way to raise questions about Dean’s foreign policy credibility. While the spots ran, Americans for Jobs-through its then- spokesman, Robert Gibbs, a former Kerry campaign employee-refused to disclose its donors.

I don’t expect someone with such a past to apologize for slagging the left-wing of the party.  Or, if they do apologize, I don’t expect them to mean it.

However, it is stunning to me that the most prominent staffer responsible for outreach from the White House “said he has not reached out to any Democrats to discuss his remarks.”  Really?  Gibbs didn’t talk to a single Democrat about saying something that pissed off a lot of Democrats?  And he is in charge of maintaining the White House’s message?

As Mike wrote earlier today (and I encourage you to read his article if you have not already done so), this is pure outreach fail.  Even if you are a huge Obama supporter who thinks that the lefties criticizing Obama are just a bunch of na

A reality check on the reality checks about Obama’s approval among liberals

Greg Sargent, Political Wire, and others have cited numbers from Public Policy Polling to argue that President Obama’s approval ratings among self-identified liberals remain quite high.  According to PPP, President Obama’s job performance among self-identified liberals is still a robust 85%.

However, there is a serious flaw in citing these numbers: they are only based on a subsample of between 125-130, which gives them a margin of error of plus or minus 8.9%.  That is, they are only based on a subsample of 125-130 registered voters if PPP’s new national survey is anything like their national survey from last month, when 19% of their overall sample of 667 voters self-identified as liberal.

By way of comparison, across the last four Gallup weekly approval polls, which have a combined sample of 14,346 respondents, President Obama’s job performance among self-identified liberals has only averaged 74%.  With Gallup identifying 20% of the electorate as liberal so far in 2010, that would mean a liberal subsample of 2,869, that would mean a margin of error of only 1.8%.  That makes the Gallup numbers far, far more reliable than the PPP numbers.

Looking across all other job performance polls taken over the past month, only one organization, YouGov, produced crosstabs based strictly on ideological self-identification.  There are literally no other polls that released such crosstabs-only PPP, Gallup and YouGov.

Across 899 self-identified liberals surveyed in their last four polls, YouGov’s does show President Obama’s approval rating at 84%.  That number is much closer to PPP’s result than to Gallup’s.  Also, the subsample only has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3%, which means that random error alone cannot account for the difference between the Gallup and YouGov numbers.  Further, both Gallup and YouGov are sampling “all adults,” and cell-phone onlys, so the difference cannot be found there either.  That YouGov is conducted over the Internet might be causing problems, but Polimetrix, which actually conducts the YouGov polls, actually has a decent track record.

So, where does Obama’s approval actually stand among self-identified liberals?  While PPP’s sample size is too small to be taken seriously, it would be unwise to look for “The One, True Poll,” and completely ignore either YouGov or Gallup, both of which have good sample sizes.  Personally, I am a big believer in simple poll averaging as a way of providing an accurate snapshot of electoral preference, and the numbers back me up on that belief.  I see no reason why simple poll averaging can’t be applied in this situation as well, which would peg President Obama’s approval rating among self-identified liberals at around 79-80%.

Those are not very good numbers for President Obama among self-identified liberals.  However, they are too be expected given his overall approval rating of 44.6%, which is itself not a very good rating. Also, until the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats start passing public policy that has a more immediate, positive impact on the lives of most Americans, it is unlikely that this rating will improve.  That is the case no matter the “political reality,” and no matter much anyone sneers, or does not sneer, at progressives.

Dear swing voters, you suck. Love, The White House

In an interview with The Hill, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs goes after the left:

The press secretary dismissed the “professional left” in terms very similar to those used by their opponents on the ideological right, saying, “They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality.”

Of those who complain that Obama caved to centrists on issues such as healthcare reform, Gibbs said: “They wouldn’t be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president.”(…)

Progressives, Gibbs said, are the liberals outside of Washington “in America,” and they are grateful for what Obama has accomplished in a shattered economy with uniform Republican opposition and a short amount of time.

Oy, on many levels.

If the White House really doesn’t think it has any problems among self-identified liberals or progressives, and that all the complaints are coming from a grasstop elite, it needs to look at the data again.  From 2008 to 2010, President Obama has suffered far more erosion of support among self-identified liberals than among self-identified moderates or conservatives:

  • In 2008, according to exit polls, 89% self-identified liberals voted for President Obama.  Over the past four weeks, according to Gallup, President Obama’s approval rating among self-identified liberals has averaged 74%. That is a decline of 15 points.
  • In 2008, according to exit polls, 60% of self-identified moderates voted for President Obama.  Over the past four weeks, according to Gallup, President Obama’s approval rating among self-identified moderates has averaged 54%.  That is a decline of 6 points.
  • In 2008, according to exit polls, 20% of self-identified conservatives voted for President Obama. Over the past four weeks, according to Gallup, President Obama’s approval rating has averaged 24% among self-identified conservatives.  That is an increase of 4 points.

So, according to Gallup, disapproval among self-identified liberals accounts for the majority of President Obama’s approval rating underperformance compared to his 2008 vote share (from the perspective that the smaller decline among moderates is partially canceled out by the small gain among conservatives).  If it were not for President Obama’s decline among liberals, there would be virtually no difference between his 2010 approval rating and 2008 voter performance.

Maybe the White House knows that its problem among self-identified liberals is not confined to the grasstops.  Maybe it is “reaching out” to liberals in this insulting manner because it figures that while it has lost more support among liberals than among any other group, those liberals are still going to vote Democratic anyway.

If that is what Gibbs is thinking here, he is quite foolish.  Self-identified liberals are a large swing voter group, and their vote for Democrats is neither static nor guaranteed: (more in the extended entry)

[F]rom 2004 to 2008, Democrats appear to have gained more votes from self-identified liberals than from any other ideological group.

  • In 2004, according to exit polls, 17.85% of the electorate were self-identified liberals who voted for Kerry
  • In 2008, according to exit polls, 19.58% of the electorate were self-identified liberals who voted for Obama.
  • From 2004 to 2008, exit polls estimate that the Democratic Presidential nominee improved his overall vote percentage by 1.73% entirely through self-identified liberals.

By way of comparison:

  • In 2004, according to exit polls, 24.84% of the electorate were self-identified moderates who voted for Kerry.
  • In 2008, according to exit polls, 26.40% of the electorate were self-identified moderates who voted for Obama.
  • From 2004 to 2008, the Democratic Presidential nominee improved his overall vote percentage by 1.56% entirely among self-identified moderates.

So, according to exit polls, Democrats actually gained more from 2004 to 2008 among self-identified liberals than among self-identified moderates. Conservatives were not far behind, either:

  • In 2004, according to exit polls, 5.44% of the electorate were self-identified conservatives who voted for Kerry.
  • In 2008, according to exit polls, 6.80% of the electorate were self-identified conservatives who voted for Obama.
  • From 2004 to 2008, the Democratic Presidential nominee improved his overall vote percentage by 1.36% entirely among self-identified conservatives.

Swing voters from 2004 to 2008 were spread fairly evenly across the ideological spectrum, with liberals, moderates and conservatives all making up significant portions. Although it is within the margin for rounding error, exit polling actually suggests that liberals were the largest swing voting block of all.

The size of the liberal vote for Democrats is not static. It never was static. Why anyone ever thought that the exact same number of self-identified liberals turn out to vote for Democrats in every single election is pretty mystifying.  Of course the percentage of self-identified liberals within the electorate changes from election to election, and of course the percentage of self-identified liberals voting for Democrats changes from election to election.  Liberals are swing voters, too.  If you want to perform well among these swing voters, you need to tend to them.  If high-level Democratic operatives don’t understand this, then their ignorance is a massive disservice to the Democratic cause.

Still, the insulting and dismissive attitude that Robert Gibbs takes in this interview is hardly surprising.  For one thing, many establishment media types go fishing for caricatured “left vs Obama” stories like this. The story in today’s The Hill was a perfect example. Check out this crazy paragraph:

In late July, Obama made a surprise video appearance, with an assist from Maddow, at the NetRoots  Nation convention in Las Vegas, where the professional left had gathered to grouse about its disappointment in the president.

Wow. The Hill defines the purpose of a convention where 84% of the attendees approved of President Obama’s job performance as the gathering “to grouse about its disappointment in the president.”  Facts be damned.  The intentions of this story are obvious.

It is not just The Hill, either. Personally, I have been on MSNBC three times since the 2008 election.  On every occasion, during the pre-interview, the first question I was asked was to list the many ways I am disappointed with Obama.  They wanted me to be a left-wing caricature hating on the administration.  When I actually appear, and cite facts like the ones above, they find it so boring and far from what they wanted that they didn’t even post my last two appearances on their website.

Secondly, and more sadly, reaching out to the left by hating on it has a long, established tradition in Democratic politics.  Many Democratic elected officials feel that reaching out to moderates and conservatives means bending over backward to show those voters that they share their views.  However, many of those same elected officials consider left-wing outreach to be telling progressives to shut the fuck up and get in line.  With outreach like that, it is probably no wonder that President Obama’s main problem with his approval rating right now is among self-identified liberals.

Update: PPP’s polling showing Obama with a higher approval among self-identified liberals is irrelevant. Gallup’s four-week sample is based on over 14,000 registered voters, producing a self-identified liberal subsample of 2,500 to 3,000, with a margin of error of less than plus or minus 2.  By contrast, PPP’s last monthly survey was based on 667 registered voters, thus producing a liberal subsample of about 100-140, with a margin of error of plus or minus 9.

The PPP numbers are irrelevant given their astronomical margin of error.  

Senate Forecast Update, August 9th

Senate Picture, August 9th, with Rasmussen

Most likely outcome: Democrats 52 seats, Republicans 47 seats, Charlie Crist 1 seat

Of the 100 Senate seats, 86 are either not up for re-election, or have a polling average where one party has a 100% chance of victory (if the election were held today).  Among those 86 seats, there are 48 Democrats, and 38 Republicans.  Here is a chart featuring the other 14 campaigns:

Senate picture, competitive campaigns chart, August 9th, with Rasmussen

The 48 currently safe Democrats, plus the 4.20 wins projected in these 14 campaigns, comes out to 52.20 Democrats, or 52 seats.  Charlie Crist is also projected to win one seat.

Senate Picture, August 9th, without Rasmussen

Most likely outcome: Democrats 54 seats, Republicans 45 seats, Charlie Crist 1 seat

Senate picture, competitive campaigns chart, August 9th, without Rasmussen

The 48 currently safe Democrats, plus the 6.00 wins projected in these 14 campaigns, comes out to 54.00 Democrats. Charlie Crist is also projected to win one seat.

Notes:

  • Methodology here
  • All polls taken from Pollster.com
  • * = Has primary challenger, but heavy favorite
  • The “current Dem winning %” column projects the chance of Democratic victory if the election were held today.  It is not meant to predict the chance of the Democratic candidate winning in November.
  • Every Senate seat not listed here currently has either a 0% or a 100% chance of a Democratic victory.
  • Knedrick Meek is projected as the winner of the Florida primary because he leads in 3 of 4 polls, even though Jeff Greene narrowly leads the average.

Very little overall change in the numbers from last week, but that really isn’t surprising for August.  Outside of the states which still have primaries, the major ad buys will not begin until after Labor Day.  Still, it won’t be long before I am posting an update to the forecast every evening.

Also, I ran the 25-day simple mean methodology against another forecasting giant, Real Clear Politics.  Across the 48 Presidential, Senatorial, and Gubernatorial general election campaigns with the closest final polling averages since 2008 where Real Clear Politics made a final projection, the 25-day simple mean was much more accurate:

Real Clear Politics

Mean Error: 2.91

Median Error: 2.14

25-day simple mean

Mean error: 2.39

Median error: 1.65

That’s a big gap in accuracy between the two methodologies.

The error being measured is final projected margin to final actual margin. Dave Leip’s Atlas of Elections is used as the source for the final margin.  You can see all of the work backing up these claims here.

Senate rules reform whip count, August 5th: Your help is needed

As the federal legislative session slowly whimpers to an end, the campaign to reform Senate rules will only heat up.  As such, today, I have a new Senate rules reform whip count.

For the first time, the whip count lists every potential and returning Senator for 2011 (see definitions of potential and returning in the note at the end of this post). This includes Senators for whom I have not found any statements on filibuster reform during 2009-2010.

I need your help to flesh out this whip count as much as possible.  Which Senators with unknown positions can you find statements for?  Which Senators who have made statements can you find more clarity on? If we are going to get anywhere in this campaign, we need an accurate picture of where every returning and potential Senator stands.

Please, post whatever additions or edits you can find in the extended entry.  There is going to be a lot more on this during the rest of August, and the rest of the year.  Any information you can provide will be helpful to that effort.

****

Senate Rules Reform Whip Count, August 5th

Among Returning Senators (48 plus Biden)

Potential Senators in 2011 (15 or 16)

  • Favor 51-vote Senate (2): Fisher (OH); Giannoulias (IL)
  • Favor / considering some sort of reform (7): Bennet (CO); Carnahan (MO); Conway (KY); Feingold (WI); Hodes (NH) Marshall (NC); Reid (NV)
  • Wary or lean opposed to 51 vote Senate, but not necessarily to other reforms (1): Sestak (PA)
  • Unknown (3-4): Boxer (CA); Melancon (LA); Murray (WA);  (Crist?)

Note: “Returning Senators” includes incoming Senators currently pegged with a 100% chance of victory, according to the latest Senate Forecast.  “Potential Senators” is a category restricted to Senators with between a 1% and 99% of being in the Senate next year, according to the latest Senate forecast.