St. Louis Oracle

St. Louis-based political forecasting plus commentary on politics and events from a grassroots veteran with a mature, progressive anti-establishment perspective.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ignore party base at your peril

Unprincipled "win at any cost" advocates received a bipartisan jolt of reality this week in Maryland. Two incumbent congressmen, one Democrat and one Republican, who strayed from their parties' ideological principles by staking out "moderate" voting records, were overwhelmingly defeated for reelection. Neither could draw more than a third of the vote in their own primaries.

Congressional Quarterly rates both seats as "safe" for their respective parties.

Democrat Albert Wynn, an 8-term incumbent, lost his D.C. suburban seat to non-profit executive Donna Edwards, 60%-33%. Edwards, who lost her challenge to Wynn last election, received substantial financial backing from ideologically progressive groups like the SEIU and the League of Conservation Voters, whom Wynn publicly derided as a "left wing conspiracy." In 2004, a Green Party challenger had drawn 4.5% of the vote against Wynn, a very respectable performance in a contest with both Democrat and Republican contenders. Both Wynn and Edwards are African Americans, and both had endorsed Barack Obama for President.

Republican Wayne Gilchrest, a 9-term incumbent, lost his eastern Chesapeake seat to conservative State Sen. Andrew Harris, 44%-33%, even though the anti-Gilchrest vote was split among four challengers. Gilchrest had annoyed conservatives by voting to require the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, as well as with his support for gay rights and the environment. Harris was backed by the conservative Club for Growth, while Gilchrest had backing from the same League of Conservation Voters that helped the liberal Edwards pull her upset.

The lesson: Principles matter.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Black Republicans favored Huckabee

In what may be the only analysis of voting patterns of perhaps the smallest minority -- African Americans voting in a Republican primary, the Oracle has concluded that Mike Huckabee was the big winner Tuesday in this small group. Ron Paul, the GOP's only anti-war candidate, also fared more than twice as well with blacks as with other Republican voters.

In the six remaining totally segregated black wards in the City of St. Louis (Wards 1, 3, 4, 21, 22 and 27), Huckabee won 44% of the Republican primary vote, more than double that of runner-up (and statewide winner) John McCain, who got 18%. 16% of black Republicans voted for an uncommitted delegation (compared to a mere 0.4% statewide). Paul polled relatively well with blacks, winning 12% (compared to 4.5% statewide), ahead of Mitt Romney, who won only 11% of the votes of these black Republicans.

Black support for Huckabee contrasts with Republicans in the rest of the city. Huckabee carried 8 wards (the six segregated wards mentioned above, plus the south side 20th (by just one vote) and the north side 26th (by just two votes), both black majority wards), but finished a distant third in the rest of the city, behind both McCain (who carried the other 20 wards) and second-place Romney.

In the rest of Missouri and the nation, Huckabee, a Baptist minister, has run very well with evangelical Christians, and much larger percentages of city blacks than city whites are evangelical Christians. Prior data haven't reflected whether voting behavior among black evangelicals has any similarity with white evangelicals. These particular black voters are not typical of black voters for the simple reason that they voted in a Republican primary, which represented less than 1% of black voters in those wards. Nevertheless, for those blacks who were inclined to vote Republican in an election in which most of their colleagues had been inspired to vote for Barack Obama in the Democratic primary, Huckabee's evangelical appeal trumped what caused white city Republicans to favor McCain or Romney. Another factor favoring Huckabee may have been his social consciousness and willingness to offer more compassionate government solutions to people's economic problems.

Results in other black majority wards were more similar to those in white wards, with McCain beating Huckabee. In the two black majority wards with the largest white minorities (6 and 19), Romney also finished ahead of Huckabee, just like in all of the white majority wards. These results can be explained by the fact that whites, even those in heavily Democratic neighborhoods in similar economic circumstances as most city blacks, are much more likely than blacks to vote in Republican primaries. 21% of voters took Republican primary ballots in the largely white (and highly Democratic) 24th Ward just south of Forest Park, but less than 1% took Republican ballots in the six segregated black wards. Given such disparity, a black majority ward having a white minority as small as 5% could nevertheless produce a white voting majority in the Republican primary. That is why results in the other black majority wards and all black majority townships in St. Louis County are not fairly indicative of black Republican voting behavior.

Polls, including exit polls, tend not to measure the choices of African American Republicans, because their numbers were too small to form a large enough base from which to draw statistically significant conclusions. The selected wards produced 124 Republican votes, which is a smaller overall sample but many more black Republicans than typical poll samples. Untold is whether the voting behavior of black Republicans living in segregated city neighborhoods differs from black Republicans in integrated city neighborhoods or in suburban or rural settings.