So, I took the 20-some early voting locations, and I assigned a specific percentage of the vote to each one of them…a percentage, based on my opinion of how the vote in that early voting location would break down, Republican vs. Democratic. It was a“SWAG.” Obviously, for more traditionally Republican areas, the percentages favored the Republicans more. Vice versa for more traditionally Democratic parts of town. For those areas where it’s not so clear, I made some additional assumptions. (I’m not going to tell you my exact formula. Would Colonel Sanders tell you the “Original Recipe?”)
When I took the early vote count total for all these voting locations, ran it through my little quick-and-dirty formula, then figured the percentage of votes, I determined that the early vote, party-wise, was breaking out something like this:
Republicans: 52 percent
Democrats: 48 percent
Interestingly, this was also my analysis of what the straight party vote would come out for this election, based on watching the trends in the past three elections. (For more on this, see my complete election analysishere)
If that sounds like bad news for Democrats, it’s not. Republicansalways win the early vote. Always. They probably always will. They excel in encouraging their straight ticket voters to get out and vote early. And –in ways I am in awe of– they are magicians at producing large numbers of absentee and mail-in ballots that benefit their side.
Point is: to be down four percentage points, at the end of early voting, is not bad. It’s great.Early Vote Math
In 2002, when Sally Montgomery was elected, she won 45 percent of the early vote. In other words she was down when the early returns came in. But by the time the night was over, she had won as the first elected Democrat in 10 years. In 2004, Dennise’s own math assumed that she (and any other Democrat) would need to be tracking at about 46 percent of the early vote to win that night. She actually got about 47 percent.
(By the way, that’s when we knew she had a chance of winning. When those early returns in 2004 came back at 7 pm, and showed her down by just three points, we knew she really might win…)
So, my analysis showed this year’s early vote coming out at 52-48, which was beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. In fact, it was so optimistic that, despite the fact that I was pretty sure it was accurate (from a “forest” point of view…), I shared it with almost no one. I did share it withJeff Dalton, and he told me that someone else in the Democratic Party had also done a “real” analysis that showed about the same numbers.
Still, though, this seemed wildly optimistic. After all, if the Democrats started the evening just two percentage points down in the early vote, that would mean they would probably sweep. All of them.
Sure enough, when the early returns came out on election night, the actual stats for the straight party vote?
We knew right then: not only would Dennise win, but a lot of other people would too.Sorry We Worried You
BTW, sincere apologies to all our friends and family for not explaining this strange, electoral math of Dallas County. Many of you have described your tortured thoughts (on both election nights…) as you went to bed assuming that Dennise had gone down to defeat both times, only to wake the next morning to her two victories. It’s just the way the vote comes in here in the county. Based on the assumptions you can make about when people vote and why, Democrats will always get more election-day turnout; Republicans, more early vote turnout.
I went downstairs to the ballroom just after the early vote, to see if anyone else was as optimistic as I was becoming. I don’t think it had fully sunk in with anyone yet. Most folks were dazed that the Dems were behind, and assumed we’d all lost again.
By the end of the night, however, it was the exact opposite…a complete sweep by the Dallas County Democrats of every single county-wide race. And, as I said in my other blog entry, Dennise led the pack…
…winning by 31,000 votes.
…winning by the largest margin (54-45) of any race in the last four elections.
She also won the early “in person” vote too. That’s unheard of, really…a Democrat winningany part of the early vote. But Dennise did. Dennise’s opponent won the overall early vote because she had a 1,100 vote margin in “mail in” votes. But we knew –when we saw Dennise was only down 1,100 in the early vote, that she had won the “in person” early vote, and that the straight ticket vote was 52-48– that Dennise would win big.
So, after what was a truly grueling campaign (described for youhere) election night was truly fun. It was the win we’d been waiting for for two years. It was a relief to have so many other Democrats win, and be able to celebrate with them. The truth is that while the 2004 election was great for Dennise personally, it was somewhat surreal otherwise. We were thrilled, but many of the other Democrats at the victory party that year were like zombies, having lost the Presidency, and just about every other major office.
Not so this time. Election night was a blast.