Nate Cohn Profile picture
19 Nov, 12 tweets, 2 min read
One thing that's fairly unique about election analysis--and that rubs people the wrong way, I think--is the emphasis on the components of change from one election to the next
Take a football game. If a few weeks ago, Seattle loses to football game, 42-35, and then a few weeks later, Seattle beats the same team 35-28, with Wilson throwing 5 TDs, the headline is probably about Wilson throwing 5 TDs and the offense winning them the game
In electoral analysis, that's definitely not how we'd cover it. We'd say that the Seattle defense made huge strides and/or that the opponent's offense fared worse. Wilson would almost be taken as a given
There's a fairly straightforward reason for that: partisanship. Candidates inherit the loyalties of voters. If there's a demographic that contributes the equiv of 5 TDs for a party one year, you can pencil it in for the next in a way you can't with Wilson performance
This winds up leading to some takes that seem odd. In Georgia, it's quite clear that shifts among white voters are the most significant reason the state shifted from red to light blue. But Biden lost white voters there by 40 points!
You can frame the same thing two very different ways. If you're writing the story of how did Biden win Georgia, maybe you'd frame it as 'he won just enough white voters.' If you're writing about how Georgia flipped, maybe you'd emphasis 'huge gains among white suburbanites'
In my coverage, I almost always focus on change--and there are good reasons why, at least good to my satisfaction. But based on my replies about GA or tweets about Latino voters, the tension here definitely leaves a lot of people feeling cold--and that makes sense to me too
After all, Russell Wilson would be pretty miffed if he could only make headlines when he stepped up to throw a sixth touchdown in a game (and if that sixth touchdown represented the margin of victory)
But although Mr. Wilson might not like it, change is the most important consideration when we talk about strategy--and strategy matters a lot more in a democracy than it does to a football fan.
A fan can basically choose to ignore the fact that the Seahawks GM can pencil in Wilson at QB and work to improve on everything else.
A political observer absolutely cannot do that.
Trying to figure out how to create or undo change is the basically the whole goal of electoral strategy. It determines the messages of candidates, the policies they support, and ultimately the actions pursued by our government
So while you're entitled to be a SEA fan who ignores boring defensive personnel moves and basks in Wilson, you absolutely cannot do the same in politics. Those boring defensive personnel moves effect millions of lives and are, ultimately, the real consequences of elections

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More from @Nate_Cohn

21 Nov
Biden now leads by 3.86 points nationwide, per @Redistrict popular vote tracker, matching Obama's 3.86 pt win in 2012. He'll exceed it soon.
They won by similar amounts in very different ways. Here's the shift in presidential results between 2012 and 2020 Image
Most of this swing occurs from 2012-2016, with relative stability between 2016 and 2020 ImageImage
The 2016-2020 swing is barely even worth mention on the 2012-2016 scale, at least outside of heavily Latino areas and ATL/DAL.
If we narrow the scale to tease out this cycle's subtler shifts, suburban movement stands out a bit more but still isn't always overwhelming Image
Read 4 tweets
20 Nov
One interesting thing about this election is the extent that the 2016 post-mortems and subsequent arguments for how Democrats should win--by basically everyone!--don't necessarily look great in retrospect.
There were basically two major diagnoses for Clinton's win--and two main arguments for how Dems should win going forward. Neither is how Biden pulled it off
One theory was that Trump won by flipping white, working class Obama voters, and therefore Dems needed to lure them back--maybe with a populist economic pitch.
I think that explanation for Trump's win was accurate,
but Biden had very, very limited success with Obama-Trump vote
Read 11 tweets
20 Nov
The thing that's most dispiriting about the 'vote dump' charts (which purport to show irregularities, but just show large Dem. cities reporting), is that it's in such complete bad faith that there's no way the electoral process could be reformed to guard against it going forward
Take mail voting, for instance. If you wanted to restore the credibility of the electoral process, you could eliminate no-excuse mail voting on the grounds that it's no longer credible to a wide swath of the electorate, even if you thought their concerns were completely wrong
The 'vote dumps,' OTOH, are an inevitable artifact of how jurisdiction reports their votes in batches, rather than updating their tally vote by vote. There's really nothing you can do to avoid this. Taking issue with it just means you don't believe election results, period
Read 5 tweets
20 Nov
It was clear by 3AM or so on Election Night that we were probably headed to Biden at 306, and the 2020 gods have pulled out every stop to keep things even vaguely interesting for as long as possible
At the time, yes, I thought Biden was pretty clear favored. In retrospect, I was wrong about that—and I was against/rejected the AP call. At the time, I thought Biden would win by 40-50k in the end
Read 4 tweets
18 Nov
One election looms over the Georgia runoff: the 2008 runoff, when the GOP won a runoff election by 15 points after leading by just 3 points on Election Day.
I really don't think this should, well, loom over our analysis
For starters, some of the mythologizing about the 2008 runoff is wrong. Many analysts have blamed a precipitous decline in black turnout, but I don't think that's what happened
By my estimate (since for whatever reason the GA SOS didn't publish it, as they usually do), the Black share of the electorate in the GA special was 27.7 percent Black--it was down a bit from the general (29.9 IIRC), but still quite healthy (and indeed, higher than 2020!)
Read 18 tweets
18 Nov
This is a good question, so let's take a look
As an initial definitional question, we do have to define what we're calling the 'suburbs' here--and for simplicity I'm basically going to include the whole Democratic-trending part of the Atlanta area, including all of DeKalb and Fulton Counties--even though it includes Atlanta
There are plenty of suburbs in DeKalb and Fulton, and Biden made huge gains there. Unfortunately, I don't have the ability to exclude Atlanta-proper from the historical data. But we can go back at the end and take out DeKalb and Fulton and see if it's a different story
Read 20 tweets

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