Friday, September 12, 2014

The home county effect in Nebraska

Pete Ricketts, the Republican gubernatorial candidate in Nebraska, was allowed to replace his lieutenant governor/running mate on the November election after his initial choice resigned.  Because it will be a fairly close election, if you look at the polls, people assume that the choice will have a tremendous impact on the election.  I am not sure what the impact of a lieutenant governor would be in a gubernatorial election.

Ricketts named former state auditor, Mike Foley, as his running mate for the November general election.  Foley ran against Ricketts in the primary to be the gubernatorial nominee.  Foley finished 4th in the Republican primary drawing 19.22% of the votes compared to Ricketts’s 26.48%.  Foley had previously represented Lincoln in the Nebraska state legislature and won the corresponding county in the Republican primary.  Foley won 40% of the votes in Lancaster County.  Ricketts finished third with 20.66% of the vote.  Foley’s vote totals in Lancaster County represented nearly 30% of his total vote in the state.  Lancaster County was a relative weak spot for Republicans in 2010.  While Dave Heineman trounced the competition in the general election winning with 73.9% of the vote statewide, he only received 61.6% of the vote in Lancaster County.  The Democratic nominee outperformed the statewide results by 12 points.  If the lieutenant governor makes a difference in the election, it would most likely be in his home county.  With Lancaster County being a spot where the Democratic Governor Chuck Hassebrook could improve, it’s understandable that the Democratic Party might be upset at Ricketts’s nomination.

Not many people know what a lieutenant governor does.  Essentially, the lieutenant governor is the vice-president of the state.  If the governor does not die or does not resign, the lieutenant governor does not do a whole lot.  This is probably pretty comparable to the impact of a vice-president on the presidential ticket.  When the wizard, Nate Silver, ran the numbers on the impact of a vice-presidential nominee, they found that on average the vice-president gave a 2.2 point bump to the vice-president’s home state.  He noted that the impact on a smaller state could be a little higher as the state is more politically cohesive.  He also lists a number of caveats to his analysis.  Since I am nothing but unoriginal, I wanted to know what the impact would be for the lieutenant governor. 

So, in the table below I did my own similar analysis.  I found the candidates for lieutenant governor and their home counties.  I then compared how the party of the lieutenant governor did during the election with the lieutenant governor compared to the rest of the state.  Finally, I compared to how the county performed in the election prior to having a lieutenant governor candidate and in the election after.  In instances where the gubernatorial candidate was from the same county as the lieutenant governor candidate, I ignored it for this analysis.  If the lieutenant governor or someone from the same county was running in one of the other elections I was comparing it to, I skipped that election and went to the next one in its respective order.  For example, Rick Sheehy ran for lieutenant governor in 2006 and 2010, so the 2010 election results would need to be compared to the 2002 election results.   To provide some explanation to the numbers found below: for Rick Sheehy, we found that Adams County voted for the Republican nominee for governor 3.7 points above what the state did.  That’s pretty good but we want to see how the county performed on the previous election without Sheehy.  Unfortunately, we have to go back to 2002 and in that election the Republican Governor underperformed by 3.5 points relative to the rest of the state.  We then take the difference between the two so 3.7 - -3.5, we get 7.2.  So on and so forth for the rest of the table.  I then took an average of the differences to find the total impact.


Year
Name
Home County
Party
D
PD
ND
2010
Rick Sheehy
Adams
R
3.7
-3.5
N/A
2006
Rick Sheehy
Adams
R
5.2
-3.5
N/A
2010
Anne Boyle
Douglas
D
7.2
7.3
N/A
2006
Steve Loschen
Kearney
D
-8.3
-6.7
-9
2002
Dave Heineman
Dodge
R
0.6
0
N/A
1998
David Maurstad
Gage
R
-9.1
-6.9
-3.9

That table was kind of a disaster.  It’s surprisingly difficult to locate the nominees for lieutenant governors in a given election, much less be able to locate the county that the nominee was from.  We’re dealing with a very small sample size so there is bound to be some error.  Even with all of that, I found the difference to be +3.1%.  In a given election, the lieutenant governor probably has a +3.1% increase in his or her home county. 

I did the same thing for the gubernatorial candidate in the next table. Please note that the 1994 and 1998 elections are omitted from the analysis as both elections pitted candidates from the same county running against each other in the gubernatorial election. 


2010
Dave Heineman
Dodge
R
8.2
0.6
N/A
2010
Mike Meister
Scott's Bluff
D
-4.1
-5.5
N/A
2006
Dave Heineman
Dodge
R
7.9
0.6
N/A
2006
David Hahn
Lancaster
D
10.4
3
11.9
2002
Mike Johanns
Lancaster
R
-7.3
-4.5
-12.3
2002
Stormy Dean
Douglas
D
5.5
0.6
7.3
1990
Ben Nelson
Douglas
D
-0.4
N/A
0.6
1990
Kay Orr
Lancaster
R
-6.6
N/A
-4.5

For gubernatorial candidates, I found that the average difference was +2.2.  Why are we seeing that the gubernatorial candidates have less of an impact than lieutenant governors?  My initial thought is that Douglas and Lancaster counties are having a disproportionate impact on the results. Douglas County was fairly liberal (at least compared to recent Nebraska results) by 2008, even voting for Barack Obama. This has nothing to do with the gubernatorial candidates.  Obviously, this will need to be updated after the 2014 election and this will impact the two tables considerably.  A fun fact is that Dave Heineman is the only governor since the 1970s in Nebraska (perhaps longer I only looked at the gubernatorial elections going back to 1978) that is not from either Douglas or Lancaster County. 

It shouldn’t be taken as gospel that these numbers are correct.  It’s an interesting way to try to quantify the impact on running in your home county.  If the numbers are accurate (which I am assuming that they are relatively accurate) we would expect the Foley nomination to help Ricketts in Lancaster by about 3 points.  In a close election that would make a substantial impact but it’s certainly not as big of an impact as some probably think. 

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