Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Horner Effect, Part 2

While history suggests that the Independence Party candidate in Minnesota tends to have success at the expense of the DFL candidate, there is reason think this year might be different. Part of that has to do with Tom Horner and part of that has to do with other factors, like the relative positions of the candidates on the liberal/conservative spectrum.

This is the second part of a three part series on what effect we can expect Tom Horner to have on the Minnesota Gubernatorial election. In this installment I'm going to look at how the 2010 election is different from past Minnesota elections. Part one of the series was a look at those past Minnesota elections and part three will take a look at what the polling shows is actually happening.

With that then, here is Part 2...

This time it's the GOPs turn to get screwed

The following should be somewhat self explanatory.

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This is what I'm going to refer to as a partisan position graph (PPG), it's an estimation of where the candidates policy views fit into the liberal/conservative spectrum. I didn't use any kind of system to arrive at these estimations and the exact position of the candidate is not really that important. This is simply a means to illustrate, approximately, how the candidates are positioned relative to one another.

In 1998 the DFL nominated a fairly standard liberal, the GOP nominated a fairly standard moderate-conservative and they both got beat by the 800 pound gorilla that was Jesse Ventura. It didn't matter a whole lot in 1998 where the candidates were positioned because Ventura attracted voters from across the political spectrum who were dissatisfied with the major party candidates.

As we saw in part one of this series though, Norm Coleman had a higher floor than Skip Humphrey, the Kennedy 35 (named after the 35% vote share Mark Kennedy got in the 2006 Senate race). What I'm going to suggest in this post is that part of the reason for this higher floor is the relative moderateness of the Republican candidate in the race compared to the DFL candidate. That seems to have been the case in 1998 where Ventura had a lot more room on the center left to collect votes.

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In 2002 the DFL and GOP nominees were sort of similar, politically, to the nominees in 1998, Tim Pawlenty was more conservative than Coleman, but not by a whole bunch and the DFLers were roughly the same. What happened in 2002 though, is that Tim Penny siphoned a lot of Democratic votes from Roger Moe in southern Minnesota. While it's not clear that Moe would have won absent Penny, he sure didn't have much of a shot with him in the race.

Again, in 2002 the Republican candidate had a higher vote share floor than the DFLer, who's vote share reached as low as 10% in one county. But this is due to the fact that Penny was a former Democratic congressman who DFL voters from the first congressional district had a history of casting votes for. The counties that Roger Moe did bad in correlated with the counties that Tim Penny did well in and had little to do with how Tim Pawlenty faired.

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As this shows, in the counties that Tim Penny did not represent in congress the vote share between Moe and Pawlenty fell into a more normal looking linear distribution. So even though the partisan positioning was probably beneficial to Moe, the nature of the third party candidates support prevented him from having a chance.

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Although the IP candidates in the 2002 Governors race and the 2008 Senate race received about the same share of the overall vote, they got to 15% in completely different ways. Unlike Penny, Barkley didn't have areas of the state where he did really well and areas where he did really poorly, he did about the same throughout.

Rather than a former legislator from a specific region who had a large reservoir of prior voters to turn to, Dean Barkley wasn't that well known despite his brief stint as a Senator. Because of this he didn't have a severe effect on a specific candidate like Tim Penny did. It appears that he ate into Franken's vote share slightly more than Coleman's and this could be due to where the candidates fell on the PPG.

You can argue with where exactly I've placed people on these graphs, and as I said it was almost completely subjective. The point is not to be precise though, it's to show, visually, that while the GOP has nominated candidates in three-way races who were more moderate, the DFL has not. The point of this is not to critique who the DFL has nominated in the past, it's meant as an explanation of why the IP candidate has tended to have more effect on the DFL candidate than the Republican, there is usually more room on the moderate left to make inroads.

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This year doesn't quite fit into any of those past scenarios however, Tom Horner is not Jesse Ventura who was such a unique candidate in so many ways that it's difficult to make comparisons. Tom Horner is also not like Tim Penny in that he has never been elected to office in Minnesota and doesn't have that base of previous voters to turn to.

And because Tom Emmer is significantly more conservative than Norm Coleman or even Tim Pawlenty was, there is a lot more room on the right side of the center for Tom Horner to make inroads with Republican voters, an option Dean Barkley didn't really have. His roll out of 13 endorsements from former Republican lawmakers last week is an indication that his campaign agrees.

I think the best way you can describe Tom Horner would be a cross between Dean Barkley and the GOP version of Tim Penny. Like Penny he was a longtime member of a party that he lost touch with and ended up leaving for the IP, but like Barkley he doesn't have a base of past voters to turn to. I suspect that the vote distribution is likely to follow the 2008 Senate pattern, with the positions of the DFL and GOP candidates being flipped, Horner eating into Emmer's vote slightly more than Dayton's.

Unless things begin to improve dramatically for him it's doubtful that Horner will be able to break much into the Kennedy 35, and he'll need to do that to win. But if Horner keeps Emmer below 40%, Mark Dayton is almost guaranteed a victory and that's why MNGOP leadership is freaking out.

One thing we can do to test this hypothesis is to look at recent polling data and see where Tom Horner's votes are coming from, that then will be the subject of part three in this series.


  1. Just out of curiosity, why did you skip the 2006 Gubernatorial? Because Pawlenty was an incumbent?

    Leaving it out seems odd, especially when you include the 2008 Senate race.

  2. It's because Hutchinson only got less than 7% of the vote and didn't really play a part in the end result. The vote distribution graphs from that year look a lot like the 2006 Senate race.

    I should have mentioned it though, perhaps I'll do a follow-up post.

  3. Tom Horner is Jesse Ventura without the feather boa.