Sunday, December 18, 2005

Ten Keys Revisited

The Sunday before the election, I wrote my analysis of how I thought Sabato's "Ten Keys to the Governor's Mansion" were playing out in the 2005 election cycle.

We haven't yet had the benefit of Sabato's thinking, but I thought I should keep myself honest by looking back at what I said and seeing whether it makes sense viewed in hindsight.

Here's what I see:

On turnout, I was wrong that lower turnout would deliver the election to Kilgore. Kaine won despite the fact that turnout was lower than 2001's 46%. The conventional wisdom (R's do better when turnout is low)was wrong in Kaine's election. The turnout among black voters turns out to have been close to the 15% that Warner did, so the makeup of the lower turnout looks like it was unchanged or tending D compared to 2001.

The "prevailing conditions" (Warner/Virginia heading in the right direction) factor looks to have had a stronger influence on the election that I thought it did. I said it favored Kaine, clearly it was very favorable.

As to the rest of the 10 keys:

1) Economy (Then, neutral; Now, neutral to advantage D)
Dissatisfaction with the economy in some rural parts of the state (like Henry County) helped Kaine, not Kilgore. Overall, though, I still think it was a Neutral factor overall in the election. I do think voters thought that Kaine could do a better job delivering on the issue since more jobs and the economy voters voted for him.

2)Party Unity (then, advantage D; now advantage D)
Turned out to be the advantage for Kaine that I thought it would be.

3) Scandal (then, advantage D; now advantage D)
Turned out to undercut Kilgore as I projected.

4) Campaign Operations (then advantage R; now neutral to advantage D)
Kaine's folks ran a great and technically advanced campaign. The vaunted R machine wasn't. I called this an advantage for R's. Looks like this should have been neutral at best, perhaps even advantage D's.

5) Campaign Money (then advantage R; now advantage R)
Kilgore had the advantage. It didn't end up helping him.

6) Candidate Personality (then neutral; now advantage D)
I called this neutral, probably because I know both guys and think both are genuinely likeable people. However, the Kilgore his campaign presented was not likeable, and the Kaine his campaign ultimately presented was authentic and likeable.
This should have been advantage Kaine.

7) Prior Office Experience (then advantage R; now neutral)
Kilgore did little with his experience, and he wasn't able to get traction on the negatives associated with Kaine's tenure as mayor. I gave the advantage to Kilgore, turned out to be neutral at best.

8) Retrospective Judgment of Previous Governor (then advantage D; now advantage D)
Warner's high positives made this a very strong advantage for Kaine. I got this one right.

9) Presidential popularity (then, advantage D; now advantage D)
I called this one right, too. Bush was a drag on Kilgore's candidacy.

10) Special issues and dominant circumstances (then advantage R; now neutral to advantage D)
Immigration turned out not to have the intensity Kilgore clearly hoped it would. Transportation, which Kilgore should have been able to work to advantage, didn't help him. Kaine's decision to focus on growth and transportation late in the campaign clearly boosted turnout and his vote totals in the exurbs. I called this advantage R. I might have been right in the abstract, but Kaine's team clearly turned this negative into a positive.

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