October 28, 2002
IT'S ALWAYS DARKEST BEFORE THE DAWN:New Hampshire by the Numbers: Heartbreak Hill, or Queen of the Mountain? (Dante J. Scala, October 28, 2002, Politics NH)
Six years ago, a moderate, well-funded Democrat faced off against an incumbent conservative Republican. Dick Swett managed to defeat Bob Smith among undeclareds, but by only three points, 46 percent to 43 percent. Swett lost that election by three points, 49 percent to 46 percent. (Libertarian Ken Blevens took 5 percent of the vote.)
Two years ago, a moderate Democrat faced off against a conservative Republican for the presidency. Al Gore defeated George W. Bush among undeclareds, 47 percent to 43 percent ? a carbon copy, more or less, of the 1996 results. Gore lost New Hampshire by one percentage point, 48-47.
What is Shaheen’s past performance among undeclareds? In the final UNH poll prior to the 2000 election, Shaheen led Gordon Humphrey, 49 percent to 24 percent, among undeclared voters ? a gap that likely closed somewhat on Election Day, given that 9 percent of undeclared voters were still undecided in that final poll, and undecideds rarely break toward the incumbent at the end of a campaign. Assuming Shaheen carried roughly 50 percent of undeclareds on Election Day 2000, scoring 55 percent or above next week would be a remarkably good performance.
For the sake of argument, let’s assume such a swing happens over the next week: Shaheen far surpasses Swett’s and Gore’s performances among undeclareds, carrying 56 percent of their vote on Election Day. And let’s assume that a number of other things break Shaheen’s way on November 5:
1) No undecided undeclareds break Sununu’s way in the last days of the campaign, and he only manages to win 40 percent of their vote ? 3 percent worse than Smith did in 1996, or Bush in 2000.
2) Three-fifths of the remaining 5 percent of Republican undecideds decide to write in Bob Smith’s name on Election Day. Sununu only manages to win two-fifths of the remaining GOP undecideds, for a total of 85 percent. (Shaheen keeps her 12 percent of Republicans.) One percent of undeclared voters also write in Smith’s name, for a total of roughly 5,500 votes for Smith, or about 1.5 percent of the total vote.
3) All remaining undecided Democrats vote for Shaheen, raising her total to 90 percent of all Democrats.
4) Last but not least, turnout percentages among Republicans, Democrats, and undeclareds match voter registration percentages. In other words, voter turnout rates are identical among these three groups. (Typically, partisans turn out in greater numbers than unaffiliated voters in off-year elections.)
Assuming all this comes to pass, would this lead to a Shaheen victory? Not quite.
There have been nearly as many obituaries written for John Sununu as for Paul Wellstone in the past week, but this outstanding essay shows just how hard--though not impossible--a task Ms Shaheen faces in trying to defeat him. This best case scenario does not provide a sure-fire win and the more likely scenarios preclude one. Several media outlets infamously declared that Bob Smith had lost in 1996 before later returns showed him to have won. Mr. Sununu may face just as uncomfortable an election evening this year, but you'd have to say it's still his race to lose. Posted by Orrin Judd at October 28, 2002 4:32 PM