Saturday, January 8, 2011

How Harry Reid Won

 Yes, I have seen many articles describing how Harry Reid won because his ground game and campaign were superior to Sharron Angle's (R) but I will actually look at the map here and see exactly what demographics carried Reid to victory. First, I will start at the beginning: the economic downturn affected people across the United States and Nevada was no exception. Unemployment here was at 14% so many Nevadans blamed the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid for the high unemployment rate. Reid appeared to be in danger and polls showed him losing to Sue Lowden (R) who was the frontrunner in the Republican primaries. Then after saying people should trade healthcare for chickens, she lost and Sharron Angle (R) won the primary. Immediately, Harry Reid introduced Angle's extreme beliefs to the public such as how she wants Social Security Eliminated, she suggested people should use "2nd Amendment remedies" against the Government while saying rape victims should not be allowed to choose whether to have an abortion. Angle tried to keep herself quiet by staying away from reporters not from Fox News. Angle's campaign had a poor ground game compared to Reid's which was extremely organized. Due to all these factors, Reid beat the Republican wind and won by 41,000 votes. Here is a map of the 2010 election results:

Here is a map of the 2008 election results


Here is a map representing the shift from 2008 to 2010:



light blue is Democratic 0%-5%
light red is Republican 0%-5%
Red is Republican 6%-10%
Dark Red is Republican 11%+

 Nevada is an interesting state in terms of the bases. The Democratic base is Clark County which contains Las Vegas. Clark County usually does not vote overwhelmingly Democratic but since it has so many people, Democrats can win Nevada by winning Clark County with a 10% or higher margin. The Republican base is the cow counties which are the rural counties outside of Clark. These counties generally have small populations but cast large Republican margins to offset Clark County. The big bellwether in Nevada is Washoe County (Reno.) It usually votes with the statewide average and represents the state as a whole. It has an urban area with casinos that leans Democratic and some conservative rural areas. While looking at the 2008 and 2010 map, it appears that Reid performed better than Obama because there is more blue on that map. When looking at the map showing the shifts though, it reveals that Obama performed better because the shifts toward Reid where in counties with smaller populations.

As the map shows, Obama performed much better than Reid but the shift toward Angle was not uniform across the state. The shift toward Angle was most apparent in the Reno area in counties such as Douglas County.  McCain won it 56%-41% but it shifted ten points toward Angle who won it by 59%-34%. The reason for the shift here is that Angle is from the Reno area so her presence here probably gave her a few points. It was not enough to give her Washoe County (Reno) which she lost by 5 points. In Clark County, the shift was -6 for the Democrats, one point below the -7 shift statewide. It is not surprising the Republican shift in Clark County was not as strong as the rest of the state because as many news articles have mentioned, Reid turned out the Democratic base in order to win.

Surprisingly, some of the conservative "Cow Counties" which vote more Republican than the rest of the state shifted toward Reid. An example is Humboldt County on the Oregon border near Elko County. It voted 63%-33% for McCain, giving him a 30 point win. Angle though won it 57%-32% by 25 points, 5 points less than McCain while she overperfomed him by 7 points statewide. Humboldt County does not have a strong Democratic base so that would not explain the shift toward Reid. One possible explanation is that a Harry Reid endorsement by Elko County's main newspaper caused a few voters to shift to Reid and since the newspaper had a strong presence in the area. Although the endorsement probably did not influence many voters, it seemed to influence enough voters to cause Reid to perform better than Obama did. This example suggests that Reid won by not only turning out the base voters but swaying independents as well due to the inroads he made in a few conservative counties.

Overall, the real reason for Reid winning was not that he turned out the base voters but he succeeded in winning over independents too. His campaign was so strong that he even overperformed in areas with conservative leaning independents when one may expect Angle to dominate among those voters due to the independents countrywide swinging to the Republicans. Angle had enough presence in her home area to overperform there but Reid's overperformance in the northern part of the state demonstrates how Reid's support among the large groups in Nevada was so strong that it helped him even there.