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Tim Penny

The convention hall as seen from visitor and alternate seating.

The convention hall as seen from visitor and alternate seating.

I’m writing this prior to the August 14th primary, and you might wonder why I’m writing this now, in the heat of the primary campaign when DFLer-on-DFLer campaigning is at it’s thickest (though just how negative depends a great deal on which specific race is the subject). There are two answers: one, passions about whether the endorsements made this cycle and regarding the process actually spikes right after the primary; two, this is in my mind because of recent conversations with DFLers in the last week or two with a couple connected points: the DFL has not had an endorsed non-incumbent win the gubernatorial election since Wendell Anderson, and a consensus is forming that Erin Murphy is toast. That latter opinion is based on a couple polls that are at least two weeks old by now and have other issues — not to go into a tangent, but I refer for example to the huge number of undecideds and the polling of registered voters instead of likely voters — so that opinion is premature. Not wrong, but premature, and many Murphy supporters seem in denial about the big trouble the Murphy campaign is in. By no means all, but plenty haven’t come to terms with Murphy’s situation yet.

Erin Murphy is the DFL endorsee, and if she doesn’t pull it out, we’re going to have our usual, and usually heated, discussions/arguments about how we endorse and who we endorse and whether to endorse. So I suppose I’m getting a jump on that.


When our non-incumbent gubernatorial endorsees keep losing, that begs several questions:


The Horner Effect, Part 3

by TonyAngelo on October 22, 2010 · 1 comment

As the Independence Party candidate in the Minnesota Governor’s race, Tom Horner faces an uphill battle to get elected. Because of this the question that everyone ends up asking is; who will he take more votes from, Mark Dayton or Tom Emmer? History suggests that the success of Independence party candidates in Minnesota comes more at the expense of Democrats than Republicans, but the dynamics this year are different. Tom Horner is himself a former Republican and the GOP candidate, Tom Emmer, hails from the fringes of Republican extremism. Given those factors, the conventional wisdom has become that if Tom Horner hurts anyone it was going to be Tom Emmer.

This is the final chapter of a three part series on what effect we can expect Tom Horner to have on the Minnesota Gubernatorial election. In this installment I’m going to look at the polling and who it shows Tom Horner is having more of an adverse effect on. Part one of the series was a look at past Minnesota elections and part two was a look at how the 2010 election is different from those past Minnesota elections.

With that then, here is Part 3…
The Horner Effect in action

Let’s get right to it, here is a chart of the partisan support for Tom Horner from the cross-tabs of the public polls which release such information.

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Except for in the most recent MPR/Humphrey poll Horner’s getting only slightly more self identified Republicans than Democrats. In fact the only two polls that show any significant gap in support for Horner between partisans are both MPR/Humphrey polls. Just looking at this supports the theory that Tom Horner will pull more Republicans than Democrats, if only slightly, but there are other factors to consider as well.

In the StarTribune poll they expicitly asked voters who they would vote for if Tom Horner was not in the race, those results:

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In this scenario Mark Dayton’s lead expands, with almost half of Horner voters moving to his column while Tom Emmer is getting less than a third of those voters. Tom Horner’s partisan share in the StarTribune poll is 9D/11R/38I, so if we assume that all the D’s and R’s go home than Mark Dayton is winning the remaining independents 38% to 21%. This tendency for independents to go for Dayton more than Emmer is supported by the favorable/unfavorable numbers in the same poll.

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This would seem to be the reason why independents are moving to Dayton more than Emmer when Horner’s name is removed from the poll. So while Tom Horner may be getting slightly more GOP support than DFL support, he’s apparently also keeping a lot of Dayton leaning independents in his column. To much shouldn’t be drawn from just one poll of course, but this is the only poll so far that has explicitly asked for voters preferences without Tom Horner in the race, so it will have do.

What happens on election day

The conventional wisdom around third party candidates is that come election day their support collapses as some of their supporters decide to vote for someone with a shot of winning. Let’s take a look at some recent Minnesota history to see if that theory holds up. Here are graphs of the polls released in the last month of the election for 2002 & 2006 Gov and 2008 Senate (I’m using 2006 Gov instead of 1998 because their wasn’t enough polling in 1998 for any kind of analysis):

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Final Polling Average: 23%
Election Day Total: 16%
Difference: -7

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Final Polling Average: 7%
Election Day Total: 6%
Difference: -1

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Final Polling Average: 16%
Election Day Total: 15%
Difference: -1

In Tim Penny’s case, as you can see from the graph, his support eroded rather quickly leading up to the election. If we instead just use the last four polls in the average he ends up with 17%, for a difference of -1, just like the other two races. In recent Minnesota elections than, the third party collapse theory hasn’t held up, instead what we see is an across the board 1 point decline between what the candidate was polling and what they received on election day.

In fact Rasumussen pointed this out in the polling memo of their most recent poll of the Governor’s race:

In the Minnesota governor’s race, Rasmussen Reports has made a decision not to use our traditional leaners model. Normally, that model shows support falling off for a third-party candidate. However, in Minnesota, third-party candidates often defy that trend, and a look at the initial preference data suggests that may be happening this year.

Based on this I think it’s hard to argue for any kind of Horner collapse and it’s safe to assume that Tom Horner’s final vote share won’t be more than a couple points less than his final polling average, which right now looks like this:

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Current Polling Average: 15%

It certainly appears as though any momentum he may have had is gone and he’s settling into the Dean Barkley zone of 15%. It’s possible that this year is not like past years in Minnesota and Horner’s support will collapse to a greater degree on election day than it has for past candidates, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Minnesota independents have shown in the past that they are perfectly happy sticking with their guy to the bitter end.

The Wrap up

Can Tom Horner actually win? At this point that seems doubtful, rather than continuing to climb into the twenties when he was at 18% in the polls, he instead has fallen back into the mid-teens. At this point he would need something dramatic to happen to have a shot. So what is The Horner Effect, what has been the point of this whole three part series?

Tom Horner appears to be masking what would otherwise be a more substantial Dayton lead under two candidate conditions. It’s unlikely that he ends up costing Mark Dayton the race because he’s getting the support of enough Republicans for the independents not to matter as much, but without Horner it’s not inconceivable that Mark Dayton would be staked to a larger lead in the polls than he currently has, say 8-10 points rather than 4-5.

There is a flip side though, unlike past IP candidates it appears that Tom Horner is soaking up enough Republican votes that Tom Emmer is hitting a lower ceiling than past GOP candidates have. We won’t know how any of this plays out until election day of course, but the GOP this year is in a position they’re not used to being in, having members of their party defecting to the IP candidate. So while Tom Horner may be having a somewhat adverse effect on Mark Dayton, what he has really done is make this race very difficult for Tom Emmer, who is having to fight to keep his base together.

In a certain sense this entire line of thought is irrelevant though. The presence of a third party candidate in major statewide races in Minnesota doesn’t appear likely to end anytime soon, so asking the question of who would have benefited from that candidate not being in the race becomes an exercise in after the fact finger pointing.

It’s hard to argue that the biggest factor at play here is not luck. Roger Moe got unlucky that a former Democratic congressman ran as the third-party candidate, and while the dynamics of that race were volatile and many feel Moe was a less than good candidate, any shot he might have had of winning was probably lost the moment Tim Penny entered the race. In retrospect the same might be said of the 2010 election, Tom Emmer was going to have a tough time getting elected in Minnesota because of who Tom Emmer is, but when you add Tom Horner to the mix, his road becomes that much tougher.

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The Horner Effect, Part 2

by TonyAngelo on October 13, 2010 · 4 comments

While history suggests that the Independence Party candidate in Minnesota tends to have success at the expense of the DFL candidate, there is reason think this year might be different. Part of that has to do with Tom Horner and part of that has to do with other factors, like the relative positions of the candidates on the liberal/conservative spectrum.

This is the second part of a three part series on what effect we can expect Tom Horner to have on the Minnesota Gubernatorial election. In this installment I’m going to look at how the 2010 election is different from past Minnesota elections. Part one of the series was a look at those past Minnesota elections and part three will take a look at what the polling shows is actually happening.

With that then, here is Part 2…
This time it’s the GOPs turn to get screwed

The following should be somewhat self explanatory.

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This is what I’m going to refer to as a partisan position graph (PPG), it’s an estimation of where the candidates policy views fit into the liberal/conservative spectrum. I didn’t use any kind of system to arrive at these estimations and the exact position of the candidate is not really that important. This is simply a means to illustrate, approximately, how the candidates are positioned relative to one another.

In 1998 the DFL nominated a fairly standard liberal, the GOP nominated a fairly standard moderate-conservative and they both got beat by the 800 pound gorilla that was Jesse Ventura. It didn’t matter a whole lot in 1998 where the candidates were positioned because Ventura attracted voters from across the political spectrum who were dissatisfied with the major party candidates.

As we saw in part one of this series though, Norm Coleman had a higher floor than Skip Humphrey,  the Kennedy 35 (named after the 35% vote share Mark Kennedy got in the 2006 Senate race). What I’m going to suggest in this post is that part of the reason for this higher floor is the relative moderateness of the Republican candidate in the race compared to the DFL candidate. That seems to have been the case in 1998 where Ventura had a lot more room on the center left to collect votes.

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In 2002 the DFL and GOP nominees were sort of similar, politically, to the nominees in 1998, Tim Pawlenty was more conservative than Coleman, but not by a whole bunch and the DFLers were roughly the same. What happened in 2002 though, is that Tim Penny siphoned a lot of Democratic votes from Roger Moe in southern Minnesota. While it’s not clear that Moe would have won absent Penny, he sure didn’t have much of a shot with him in the race.

Again, in 2002 the Republican candidate had a higher vote share floor than the DFLer, who’s vote share reached as low as 10% in one county. But this is due to the fact that Penny was a former Democratic congressman who DFL voters from the first congressional district had a history of casting votes for. The counties that Roger Moe did bad in correlated with the counties that Tim Penny did well in and had little to do with how Tim Pawlenty faired.

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As this shows, in the counties that Tim Penny did not represent in congress the vote share between Moe and Pawlenty fell into a more normal looking linear distribution. So even though the partisan positioning was probably beneficial to Moe, the nature of the third party candidates support prevented him from having a chance.

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Although the IP candidates in the 2002 Governors race and the 2008 Senate race received about the same share of the overall vote, they got to 15% in completely different ways. Unlike Penny, Barkley didn’t have areas of the state where he did really well and areas where he did really poorly, he did about the same throughout.

Rather than a former legislator from a specific region who had a large reservoir of prior voters to turn to, Dean Barkley wasn’t that well known despite his brief stint as a Senator. Because of this he didn’t have a severe effect on a specific candidate like Tim Penny did. It appears that he ate into Franken’s vote share slightly more than Coleman’s and this could be due to where the candidates fell on the PPG.

You can argue with where exactly I’ve placed people on these graphs, and as I said it was almost completely subjective. The point is not to be precise though, it’s to show, visually, that while the GOP has nominated candidates in three-way races who were more moderate, the DFL has not. The point of this is not to critique who the DFL has nominated in the past, it’s meant as an explanation of why the IP candidate has tended to have more effect on the DFL candidate than the Republican, there is usually more room on the moderate left to make inroads.

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This year doesn’t quite fit into any of those past scenarios however, Tom Horner is not Jesse Ventura who was such a unique candidate in so many ways that it’s difficult to make comparisons. Tom Horner is also not like Tim Penny in that he has never been elected to office in Minnesota and doesn’t have that base of previous voters to turn to.

And because Tom Emmer is significantly more conservative than Norm Coleman or even Tim Pawlenty was, there is a lot more room on the right side of the center for Tom Horner to make inroads with Republican voters, an option Dean Barkley didn’t really have. His roll out of 13 endorsements from former Republican lawmakers last week is an indication that his campaign agrees.  

I think the best way you can describe Tom Horner would be a cross between Dean Barkley and the GOP version of Tim Penny. Like Penny he was a longtime member of a party that he lost touch with and ended up leaving for the IP, but like Barkley he doesn’t have a base of past voters to turn to. I suspect that the vote distribution is likely to follow the 2008 Senate pattern, with the positions of the DFL and GOP candidates being flipped, Horner eating into Emmer’s vote slightly more than Dayton’s.

Unless things begin to improve dramatically for him it’s doubtful that Horner will be able to break much into the Kennedy 35, and he’ll need to do that to win. But if Horner keeps Emmer below 40%, Mark Dayton is almost guaranteed a victory and that’s why MNGOP leadership is freaking out.

One thing we can do to test this hypothesis is to look at recent polling data and see where Tom Horner’s votes are coming from, that then will be the subject of part three in this series.


The Horner Effect, Part 1

by TonyAngelo on October 11, 2010 · 0 comments

While Minnesota has a rich history of third party successes, the recent era began in 1998 with the election of Jesse Ventura as Governor. Since then there have been two additional statewide elections in which the Independence Party candidate received a significant share of the vote, Tim Penny in the 2002 Governors race and Dean Barkley in the 2008 Senate race. This year certainly looks like it will be another as Tom Horner is over 16% in the current GPI.

This is the first part of a three part series on what effect we can expect Tom Horner to have on the Minnesota Gubernatorial election. In this installment I’m going to look at past statewide elections and the effect the Independence Party candidate had. Part two will attempt to show why 2010 is different than these past elections and part three will take a look at what the current polling shows is happening.

With that then, here is Part 1…
In a three-way, someone always gets screwed

What follows is a chart of the correlations between election results for each candidate by county, so where it says “Dem v IP”, that is the correlation between the Democratic candidate and the Independence Party candidate for the corresponding race. The closer to 1 (or -1) the number is the stronger the correlation (or negative correlation) is.

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Exciting stuff right? What you see though, is that in the four races without a strong IP candidate (not in bold) the DFL-GOP vote share had a strong negative correlation, meaning when one candidate did well in a county the other candidate did poorly and as one candidate did even better the other candidate did even worse. In a race with only two competitive candidates this is what happens, you can’t have a situation where both candidates do well in a county after all as there are a finite number of votes available, so as one candidate does well, the other candidate is going to do worse.

This high level of correlation is best illustrated in a graph, what follows then is a scatter plot of Amy Klobuchar and Mark Kennedy’s vote share by county in the 2006 Senate race (the R-squared value is equal to correlation squared).

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The trend is unmistakable, a very tight and linear distribution, when one candidates vote share increases the others decreases by about the same amount. Now let’s look at the scatterplots of the IP candidate that year, Robert Fitzgerald and the other two candidates.

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His vote share fell in a narrow range of between 2% and 5% and had no effect on the results of the other candidates. In a three way race with a strong third party challenger however, this dynamic changes and you can end up with divergent results as seen in the chart above and the graphs that follow.

1998 Governor

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In 1998 Skip Humphrey and Norm Coleman had a very small positive correlation, meaning they didn’t really have an effect on each others results, it’s just a seemingly random distribution of points. This is largely due to the distribution of Ventura’s votes, as he did either exceedingly well in a county, which came at the expense of both the DFL and GOP candidates or he did rather poorly, in which case the other two candidates did much better.

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The scatterplot of Ventura with both of the other candidates is somewhat similar to the graph from the 2006 Senate race, certainly not as tight, but somewhat linear nonetheless. What you see though is that Humphrey’s floor extended further down than Coleman’s; Humphrey has results as low as 15% while Coleman didn’t go below 27%.

Jesse Ventura was a unique candidate in that he was able to attract voters from the center of the electorate as well as from both of his opponents flanks, libertarians from Coleman and liberals from Humphrey, in short, a populist. I don’t think it can be underestimated how unique he was as a candidate and how difficult it is to make comparisons between him and other IP candidates. His performance though can provide us with a best case scenario for a third party candidate in Minnesota.

2002 Governor

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In the 2002 Governors race you see a different dynamic, the correlation between the Democratic candidate and the Republican candidate is virtually the same as between the Republican and IP candidate. In the above graph there are a large number of data points that fall into a somewhat tight linear distribution, but then there are a bunch that don’t seem to correlate at all, these were the counties that Tim Penny did well in.

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Tim Penny ended up with 16.2% of the vote, but he did disproportionately well in the southern Minnesota counties he represented as a congressman for six terms and not so well everywhere else. What you can see from the graphs is that Pawlenty’s vote share floor was far higher than Moe’s and while Pawlenty lost some vote share as Penny gained, there reached a level at which Pawlenty’s support didn’t fall below, 27%. Roger Moe however fell into the teens and even 10% at his low point.

2008 Senate

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The 2008 Senate race also featured a strong IP candidate in the form of former Senator Dean Barkley. This is the only one of the three races with a strong DFL-GOP correlation and this is somewhat related to Barkley’s vote distribution, which was much broader, geographically, than Tim Penny’s.

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Barkley didn’t win any counties like Penny did, but he didn’t get routed in any either, his vote share fell within a consistent range statewide not dropping below %10 much and not going above 25%.

Looking at all of the races though, what appears to be happening is that IP candidates have more impact on the Democratic candidates vote share than Republican candidates, even discounting the 2002 race which featured an ex-Democrat as the IP candidate, this relationship is present in 1998 and 2008. In all three races the GOP candidate hit the floor at around 27% while the DFL candidate fell down into the teens occasionally.

Now, of course, correlation is not causation, so we can’t say, for instance, that those IP voters, had the IP candidate not been in the race, would have voted for the DFL candidate more so than for the GOP candidate. What we can say though is that in statewide races when an Independence Party candidate does well in a county it tends to be more strongly correlated with the Democratic candidate not doing well than the Republican candidate.

An argument can be made however that the reason IP candidate have tended to hurt the DFL more than the GOP is because of who the candidates themselves are. While the DFL has tended to nominate more candidates who were more liberal than moderate, the GOP has nominated candidates who were more moderate than conservative. The effect of this is that the partisan space available for the IP candidate tends to be more tilted left.

This then will be the starting point for analyzing what effect Tom Horner will have on the 2010 Minnesota Governors race, which will be the subject of part two of The Horner Effect.