Sunday, November 09, 2008

Nick Lampson’s Miscalculation Revealed in the Numbers

Now when Harry S Truman uttered this memorable quote, “When given a choice between a Democrat who votes like a Republican, and a Republican, voters will vote for the Republican every time,” he really did not have Nick Lampson in mind at all.

But he might as well have.

Because Nick Lampson, who ran against a write-in candidate in 2006, found himself between a rock and a hard place when he took office.

He was a centrist Democrat elected by a bare majority in a decidedly right wing-dominated congressional district.

How do you get yourself re-elected in a congressional district whose boundaries were personally redrawn in 2003 by Tom DeLay himself? You can hope for the demographics to shift in two years, or you can do what Nick Lampson finally calculated: bring money into the district, excel in constituent services, and vote with the Republicans whenever you can.

Whenever you can. If a bill is doomed to failure, vote with the Republicans. This, in combination with the other two was a calculation that could produce a winning year for Nick Lampson.

And then along came the FISA bill. The bill that not only extended the extreme measures that the Bush regime granted itself to spy on American citizens, but also made it impossible for these citizens to redress colluding telecommunications companies in its courts. Nick Lampson voted with a majority of Republicans to pass this heinous bill, and we Americans collectively lost some of our 4th Amendment rights.

In that vote, Nick Lampson enraged the left wing voters of his party.

But in Nick’s calculation was this: who are the left wing going to vote for if not for Nick? Nick was unopposed in the March primary. He was the Democratic Party nominee, and the only alternative would be to vote for Pete Olson, a Phil Gramm acolyte.

So we had no choice, and anyone who simply fails to cast their vote either way is simply howling into the wind.

Apparently that is not how some of those of us in the left wing of the party felt.

Looking today at the Fort Bend County portion of CD 22 (because Harris County has yet to post their precinct canvass reports), I arrived at the not so startling conclusion that Nick Lampson just may have miscalculated on two fronts.

The Republican votes he hoped to attract were few and far between, and the Democratic votes that he hoped to retain may have been less numerous than his vote totals could withstand.

I put it on an Excel spreadsheet. I listed all Fort Bend County precincts that fall within CD 22, and recorded the votes for Lampson, Olson, Obama, and the total ballots cast in each precinct.

To get an idea of the number of Republican voters who voted for Lampson, I subtracted the number of votes that Obama got in each precinct from the number of votes that Lampson received. A positive number resulted in 81% of the precincts, but this vote total was only 1,984 voters, or 1.4% of the total votes cast.

Now in many countywide races, 1.4% would have been enough to put the candidate over the top. Fort Bend county is a 51:49 Republican to Democrat county right now. But this didn’t happen in Nick’s case.

And I think the reason it didn’t happen was the left wing undervote.

Now I vote a straight unadulterated Democratic ticket. I do. But I am acquainted with others in my party who did not. I heard more than just a few confess that they voted a straight Democratic ticket when they went to the polls, but then deselected Nick Lampson when presented with the next eSlate screen.

Rather than vote for his opponent, Pete Olson, they simply did not vote in this race.

Now that’s called an undervote with authority.

To find out the total number of Fort Bend County voters who did not vote in the CD 22 race, I added the vote totals of Olson and Lampson in each precinct and subtracted that from the total votes cast.

And the total Fort Bend undervotes for the CD 22 race was 7046, or 5% of the total votes cast.

Now does this number reflect a 100% left wing Democratic voter participation (or non-participation in this case)? Who knows? But even if half of the undervotes reflect voter disaffection with Nick Lampson, this undervote represents a nuclear explosion in a wind storm. An explosion that undoes any effect that the wind has on anything.

So is this the story? Nick’s failure to garner more Republican votes was exacerbated by left wing voters who withheld their votes from him?

Maybe so.

All I know is that in Fort Bend County Nick Lampson lost to Pete Olson by exactly 6000 votes. He improved on this number by 1,984 Republicans, but may have suffered the loss of 7000 or so votes that were cast in neither direction.

That, and a 1% difference in voter party preference cost him re-election.

Now here’s the question: who will we see coming up to the CD 22 plate in 2010? Will it be a sadder but wiser Nick Lampson?

Or am I just dreaming this whole thing up?


texas ATTY said...

no matter how mad you are at lampson for that one vote, to not vote for him is idiotic. now we have pete olson....pete "i'm a puppet for the GOP" olson...pete "i don't think for myself" olson...pete "i will only represent the far right in my district" olson.

by being petty, you all cost this district millions in funding...I hope you enjoy a do nothing congressman. idiots.

Hal said...

Harsh words, Texas ATTY. Hopefully, not directed at me. I did not alter my straight ticket vote.

But I completely understood why those who chose to do so, did.

CD 22 is still a Republican district, one that was wrested from the GOP in a one-off election. Lampson was in a very tight spot. He had two choices to keep his seat: switch parties or show Republicans how they are going to suffer should he not be re-elected. He did neither, and along the way managed to alienate the left wing.

To the minds of those of us on the left there were no idealogical differences between the two.

And Texas ATTY, I think you are placing blame on the wrong voters. Republicans who voted for the R after the name are the idiots. Yes, NASA is going to get a big hit now that there is no one to look after their interests. Now that we have an economic fiasco to take care of, I don't think NASA will have a big a piece of the pie as it would have had Lampson won.

That ought to shake up more than a few of those Clear Lake engineers and support staff that voted for the R.