Rating How Competitive New Jersey Congressional Districts Are: Nate Silver’s PPI Index

Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com has just introduced his new “Partisan Propensity Index” (PPI). If you’ve been following elections closely, you’re probably already familiar with the Partisan Voting Index (PVI) from Cook, and similar statistics from Swing State Project. Cook’s idea is to look at how each Congressional District voted for President compared to the nationwide average. So, for example, the NJ5 district (Garrett’s) is rated R+7, meaning it voted 7 points more Republican than nationwide, while NJ13 (Sire’s) is rated D+21. You can see why Democrats had such a hard time even with a good candidate against Garrett, and why Republicans didn’t seriously contest NJ13 when Menendez left it. Unlike Congressional races, where often one candidate is hardly covered in the news and has hardly any campaign budget, the two party’s Presidential candidates are well known. The PVI index is widely used to identify competitive districts.  

Here’s Silver’s idea:

Are there any systematic differences in the ways that votes tend to fall for the Congress, as opposed to the Presidency? Are certain districts better or worse for Democrats, or Republicans, than PVI alone would suggest?

It turns out that there’s one other factor which is fairly useful to look at, which is socioeconomic status. Relative to how they do for the Presidency, Democrats are somewhat more likely to win races for Congress in poorer districts, and somewhat more likely to lose them in wealthier ones. Another way to put this is that a split ticket of Republican for President, Democrat for Congress is more likely to occur in a poor district, whereas a split ticket of Democrat for President, Republican for Congress is more likely to occur in a wealthy one.

Click through for the statistical analysis he uses. Silver expresses his PPI index as the chance for Democrats to win an open seat in an average election cycle, based solely on two factors: the recent Presidential Vote and the percentage of the population with incomes under $25,000/yr.  Here are the results for New Jersey:

District Name PVI PPI
NJ11 Frelinhguysen R+7 2.5%
NJ5 Garrett R+7 3.2%
NJ4 Smith R+6 10.9%
NJ7 Lance R+3 13.9%
NJ3 Adler R+1 27.9%
NJ12 Holt D+5 62.9%
NJ2 LoBiondo D+1 66.0%
NJ6 Pallone D+8 85.2%
NJ9 Rothman D+9 88.8%
NJ8 Pascrell D+10 96.6%
NJ1 Andrews D+12 97.0%
NJ13 Sires D+21 99.95%
NJ10 Payne D+33 99.998%

The main lesson, if you take this ratings seriously, is that New Jersey’s wealth makes the battleground Congressional districts lean Republican compared to how they vote at the Presidential level. In many states, the R+3 and even the R+7 districts have a great chance of going Democratic at the Congressional level, but here NJ5 and NJ7 are actually quite unfavorable, and should vote for the House like R+14 districts in the rest of the country. When we evaluate how our candidates did, it’s worth keeping this effect in mind.

Frank LoBiondo’s district is the poorest in New Jersey, and by this measure is slightly better for Democrats than Holt’s district, but we are stuck with the echo of 1994. In case it’s not obvious, being an incumbent matters, scandals matter, and cycles can be more or less Republican than the average cycle, and you should always remember that the most likely outcome doesn’t always happen. All of our 2010 races have incumbents so the percentages definitely do not apply. Also, this is the last election in the current districts.

Health Care Action Alert – UPDATE

Late yesterday, Hopeful posted a diary asking that you contact Rep. Adler’s office with respect to the House “robust public option/Medicare+5” bill that Speaker Pelosi was hoping to bring for a vote.

We also found out that Reps. Steve Rothman (NJ-9) and Albio Sires (NJ-13) may also be on the fence, so we are asking that if at all possible, can you call all three of their offices and urge them to support the Speaker and 70% of Americans for REAL healthcare reform.

Here are their numbers, both in DC and here in NJ:

Albio Sires:




John Adler:




Steve Rothman:




I’m told we may have until around 2PM today, so anything you can do this morning is extremely helpful.  And as Rosi said last night:

If you live in their congressional district be sure to tell the staffer.

If you don’t live there, but work there, or spend vacation time or money there, tell them that. And of course, be brief and polite to the staffer who takes your call.

If you know somebody in the district, please shoot them an email with the phone number – you can make a difference this morning.  

Also, if you could tweet this and post to your Facebook status, that would be great too.  After all, elections have consequences, right?


Unprecedented Campaign Begins in New Brunwick

DEMOCRATS FOR CHANGE is  a bold innovative new campaign against the powerful Democratic Party machinery here in New Brunswick…

PolitickerNJ: http://www.politickernj.com/ma…

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ? Launching a bold grassroots electoral campaign of a magnitude not seen in decades, a diverse coalition of 50 New Brunswick residents hailing from all corners of the city filed petitions yesterday afternoon (Monday 4/6) to run for seats on the Middlesex County Democratic Committee in the upcoming June 2 election.

The candidates, running under the common slogan ?Democrats for Change,” represent the full range of city neighborhoods in all five New Brunswick wards and include such notable residents as Thomas Peoples, leader of the Fourth Ward Crime Watch and Angela Salazar, 2002 New Brunswick High School valedictorian.

?Democrats for Change? candidates want each neighborhood to have representatives that will put the real-life concerns of their neighbors first on the city?s agenda.

Noting that current city leaders have grown aloof to the needs of residents and are unknown to most of the city, Thomas Peoples, candidate for committeeman in Ward 4, District 5 said: “There is no communication with the Councilpeople. They never come to the neighborhoods. The only way we can have change is if real people step up to represent that actually LIVE in all neighborhoods.?

Adam Gold, a Rutgers graduate and candidate for committeeman in Ward 6, District 6 added: ?I just want people to be able to answer a simple question: Who is representing you??

?Democrats for Change? slate plan to address citywide issues that impact all residents such as the lack of representation for many constituencies in the city (by supporting ward-based elections) and the need to improve the city?s schools and to make them more accountable (with an elected school board).  Additionally, candidates plan to tackle specific issues impacting their neighborhoods such as improving street cleaning, alleviating parking and transportation problems, offering greater access to affordable and safe housing, expanding and improving city parks, and providing activities and programs for local youth.

Third Quarter Cash on Hand for Democrats

Cash on Hand from the FEC quarterly filings:

Rob Andrews (NJ1) $2,429,899
Rush Holt (NJ12) $623,200
Frank Pallone (NJ6) $3,105,223
Bill Pascrell (NJ8) $1,031,440
Don Payne (NJ10) $751,399
Steve Rothman (NJ9) $1,838,631
Albio Sires (NJ13) $132,605

Your politics 101 quiz:  Which of these Congressmen is thinking of running for the U.S. Senate?

Pascrell gets Ways & Means & another reason to lament Holt’s not getting Intell.

The Star Ledger is reporting that Pelosi appointed Pascrell to the Ways & Means committee. 

And Albio Sires went for financial services.  Big surprise.

And here’s what the chair of Intell, Sylvestre Reyes, border agent from Texas knows about Al-Qaeda, from CQ. Why couldn’t it have been Rush Holt???

Reyes stumbled when I asked him a simple question about al Qaeda at the end of a 40-minute interview in his office last week. Members of the Intelligence Committee, mind you, are paid $165,200 a year to know more than basic facts about our foes in the Middle East.

We warmed up with a long discussion about intelligence issues and Iraq. And then we veered into terrorism’s major players.

To me, it’s like asking about Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland: Who’s on what side?

The dialogue went like this:

Al Qaeda is what, I asked, Sunni or Shia?

“Al Qaeda, they have both,” Reyes said. “You’re talking about predominately?”

“Sure,” I said, not knowing what else to say.

“Predominantly – probably Shiite,” he ventured.

He couldn’t have been more wrong.

Al Qaeda is profoundly Sunni. If a Shiite showed up at an al Qaeda club house, they’d slice off his head and use it for a soccer ball.

That’s because the extremist Sunnis who make up a l Qaeda consider all Shiites to be heretics.

Al Qaeda’s Sunni roots account for its very existence. Osama bin Laden and his followers believe the Saudi Royal family besmirched the true faith through their corruption and alliance with the United States, particularly allowing U.S. troops on Saudi soil.

It’s been five years since these Muslim extremists flew hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center.

Is it too much to ask that our intelligence overseers know who they are?

Civil War
And Hezbollah? I asked him. What are they?

“Hezbollah. Uh, Hezbollah…”

He laughed again, shifting in his seat.

“Why do you ask me these questions at five o’clock? Can I answer in Spanish? Do you speak Spanish?”

“Poquito,” I said-a little.

“Poquito?! ” He laughed again.

“Go ahead,” I said, talk to me about Sunnis and Shia in Spanish.

Reyes: “Well, I, uh….”

I apologized for putting him “on the spot a little.” But I reminded him that the people who have killed thousands of Americans on U.S. soil and in the Middle East have been front page news for a long time now.

It’s been 23 years since a Hezbollah suicide bomber killed over 200 U.S. military personnel in Beirut, mostly Marines.

Hezbollah, a creature of Iran, is close to taking over in Lebanon. Reports say they are helping train Iraqi Shiites to kill Sunnis in the spiralling civil war.

“Yeah,” Reyes said, rightly observing, “but . . . it’s not like the Hatfields and the McCoys. It’s a heck of a lot more complex.

“And I agree with you – we ought to expend some effort into understanding them. But speaking only for myself, it’s hard to keep things in perspective and in the categories.”

Reyes is not alone…

Chris Bowers wonders why progressives didn’t play a bigger role in NJ13, among others

Beginning of Bower’s diary from yesterday:

The Fifty-State Strategy Means Blue Districts, Too

Here are eleven House seats where the progressive movement should have played more of a role this year:

OH-06, IL-17, OH-13, MD-03, HI-02, FL-11, TN-09, MN-05, GA-04, NJ-13, and NY-11

What do these eleven House seats have in common, you might ask? All eleven were held by Democrats before the election, but all eleven are now held by different Democrats after the election. These were our eleven open seats, at least eight of which can be considered safe blue districts (OH-06 is a swing district, and IL-17 and OH-13 are both about the same as CT-04, the district held by Republican Chris Shays). For people who are interested in helping to build a Democratic majority that is responsive to the interests of the people-powered progressive movement, these are exactly the type of seats where you should be directing your resources. Beyond Republican-held seats, beyond primary challenges to safe Democratic incumbents, the open, safe Democratic seat is exactly the sort of district we need to pay more attention to in 2008. Unfortunately, in the 2006 cycle, this was a type of district the online component of the progressive movement, the netroots, virtually ignored…

ahf8 responded:

This was a total failure on our part. Albio Sires is a corrupt machine hack, and is a former Republican. He’s not as liberal as Bob Menendez was for this seat, and Joe Vas, Mayor of Perth Amboy, who ran in the primary, was much more of a grassroots progressive. If the netroots had gotten involved in this race, we could have made a difference.

and teferi:

You’ve got to be kidding me (none / 0)

Vas may have been more liberal than Sires, but he made so many missteps and blunders during his primary campaign that I shudder to think of what he would have done in the House.

We’ll get another chance in 2008 with a better candidate. In the meantime, things could be a lot worse than having Sires in that seat.

Any thoughts?

Gannett, PoliticsNJ.com to 13th CD race: yawn

In the weeks preceding a relatively quiet primary election day, arguably the only Congressional race that excited anyone was the mudfest between Perth Amboy Mayor Joe Vas and West New York Assemblyman Albio Sires.

In the end, Sires thumped Vas, 3-1.  The story was big news in Hudson County, garnering the lead story in today’s Jersey Journal plus some election night coverage from Vas HQ by Journal reporter Jarrett Renshaw.

How about Vas’s hometown paper, the Gannett-owned Bob Ingle penned a generic “staff and wire report” (read: we were too cheap to send a reporter to Hudson County so we tried to do it by telephone) story that doesn’t even include a comment from the local candidate.

PoliticsNJ.com once again failed to link to any of today’s Jersey Journal coverage of the race (wow, there really is a paper in this state called Today’s Sunbeam). 

Maybe the site has an anti-Hudson bias.  Despite my constant nagging dating back a few years, PoliticsNJ.com has consistently ignored my e-mails asking when it will start linking to Al Sullivan’s fantastic ‘Between the Lines’ political column in the Hudson Reporter weekly newspaper.  Sullivan has been covering Hudson politics since the late 1990s and has inherited the esteemed mantle as the county’s best political writer since the 2003 passing of longtime Jersey Journal columnist Peter Weiss.

The Vas Incompetency Train Keeps Chugging Along

The Home News Tribune has an editorial today criticizing Mayor/Assemblyman/Congressional Candidate Joe Vas’ mismanagement of the Perth Amboy budget this year:

Perth Amboy property owners have every reason to feel squeamish about their city’s yet-to-be-finalized budget and the bite it will take out of their hides. For starters, the spending plan is months behind schedule for presentation to the state, a sure sign of trouble. Add to that the fact that the Department of Community Affairs has ordered City Hall to slice $8 million in anticipated revenues from the tab and the outlook is even more grim. While Mayor Joseph Vas has told residents to expect an increase in their property taxes of about $126 for a home assessed at the city’s average, the real figure could climb as high as $700, according to other estimates, made worse by the knowledge the city has been so lax in prepping for this year’s financial plan.

“It’s not good,” Councilman David Szilagyi said last week. “I think the best-case scenario is we’re looking at a $3 (million) to $4 million gap.”

I’m no economist, but $3-4 million seems like a lot of money to me.

And why are they lacking these funds?  Turns out to be laziness on the part of Vas and his administration:

Perth Amboy failed to document to the state how certain revenues would be generated, according to the Department of Community Affairs. That means the city might not be able to claim certain income for budget purposes. Two items have already been dropped: $3 million from an extention of its water/wastewater utility lease and $1 million in emergency medical service billing reimbursements. Still up in the air are $2 million in revenue from the Middlesex County Recreation Grant Pool and $2 million from the YMCA Public Safety Complex Recreation Pool.

City officials have pledged to properly document these revenue streams in the future, but what of now? Vas has yet to explain these oversights to any degree of satisfaction, let alone move forcefully to rectify them. The sloppy planning could cost city residents dearly.

Isn’t this the sort of sort of weak, sloppy budgeting and fiscal policy that we’re trying to get rid of in Washington?  This is not the type of record I expect to see on a Republican candidate for Congress, not a Democrat.

But let’s hope this is simply incompetence and not a political maneuver to avoid releasing an ugly budget before the primary:

More sinister, it is legitimate to wonder whether the tardy unveiling of Perth Amboy’s budget wasn’t planned. Vas is a candidate in the June 6 Democratic Party primary for New Jersey’s 13th District seat in Congress. To delay bad budget news suits the mayor’s political aspirations.

After all of the scandals and missteps revealed about Vas in this primary – the support of drug dealers and sex offenders, the poor attendence at Committee meetings, and this budget mess – you have to wonder if he’ll face a stiff challenge for his Assembly seat next June.  I’ve already heard of people beginning to get their ducks in a row to give it a shot.