No, David Trone Did Not Play Spoiler in CD8: Raskin Just Won

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A couple of weeks ago, I said the one thing I have learned throughout the 2016 primary season is to not overreact to the results of a single poll or a particular primary contest. The more I think about it, in addition to not overreacting, the main thing I would say I learned this year is that conventional wisdom is anything but.

Donald Trump had no chance at the Republican nomination; until he won it. Hillary Clinton was going to win the Democratic nomination easily; until Bernie Sanders gave her a much tougher fight than many expected.

Conventional wisdom has been swatted away in terms of statistics as well. Remember when Donald Trump had a ceiling of around 35%? Turns out that wasn’t true.

I am sure people still believe Bernie Sanders wins more often than he loses when Independents are allowed to vote in primaries. This has also been disproven.

This does not only pertain to the presidential level. It happens on the state and local level as well.

In the Maryland Senate race, many were of the impression that high African American turnout would help Donna Edwards defeat Chris Van Hollen in their primary.

Well, African Americans made up 46% of the electorate, a plurality, and Van Hollen still won by 14%; aided in large part by garnering 37% of the African American vote.

And in the wake of Jamie Raskin’s victory in the primary to replace Van Hollen in the 8th Congressional District, many are of the belief that David Trone’s entry into the race split the vote between he and Kathleen Matthews; giving Raskin the victory.

This is what I want to focus on in this post. Remember, this is the year where conventional wisdom has been blown up so many times. The CD8 example is no different.

What I did was reallocate David Trone’s votes, giving some to Raskin and Matthews. Obviously there would be a few more variables at play had Trone not gotten in the race; with other candidates receiving some share of his votes. But I thought simply dividing them up proportionally between the two top tier candidates would still tell the story.

I ran through six different scenarios to find out how many of Trone’s votes would have had to go to Matthews in order for her to overtake Raskin and win the primary.

Turns out, it is more than people think.

Here are the results of the actual primary.

CD8 Result

The four charts below shows what happens to the vote totals when I give Matthews between 60% and 80% of Trone’s votes in Carroll and Frederick Counties; which is not inconceivable since these were Raskin’s weakest areas. They also show Matthews getting between 20% and 40% of Trone’s votes in Montgomery County.

The yellow shaded sections show what percent of Trone’s votes each candidate would get, and also the additional number of raw votes they would receive. The unshaded sections show how the additional votes would affect a hypothetical race.

Raskin Matthews CD8 1

Raskin Matthews CD8 2

Raskin Matthews CD8 3

Raskin Matthews CD8 4
As you can see, it takes Matthews receiving 80% of Trone’s votes in Carroll and Frederick, and 40% of his votes in Montgomery before she even starts to gain votes on Raskin. In the other scenarios, Raskin actually increased his margin over Matthews.

Then I played out a hypothetical where Matthews received 90% of Trone’s votes in Carroll and Frederick. In the primary, Raskin only received around 12% of the vote in each county, so that number is not inconceivable either. I also gave Matthews half of Trone’s votes in Montgomery. Take a look:

Raskin Matthews CD8 5

Even in this situation, Raskin still wins by over 3,500 votes.

My quest came to an end when I finally plugged in the numbers that put Matthews over the top. She still gets 90% of Trone’s votes in Carroll and Frederick, but this time she gets 60% of Trone’s votes in Montgomery.
Raskin Matthews CD8 6

First things first; Matthews getting 60% of Trone’s votes in Montgomery County is highly unlikely. Raskin has pretty strong roots here so it is hard to see that many of the county’s voters not having him as their second choice.

Second thing, even in this highly unlikely scenario, Matthews only wins by a little under 1,200 votes.

The bottom line is Raskin won this race by running up the score in Montgomery County. Considering how strong he was in the county, it is nearly impossible to see Matthews, or Trone if for some reason he were in the race instead of Matthews, overtaking him in a two way race.

Again, it is not quite as simple as what I laid out. But at the same time, it is also not as simple as saying Matthews lost because of David Trone. He certainly didn’t help her, but he didn’t cost her the election outright either. And yet, this line of thinking has prevailed among many. Including me until I looked into it.

Conventional wisdom. It is always right until it’s not.

One thought on “No, David Trone Did Not Play Spoiler in CD8: Raskin Just Won

  1. Daniel Meyer

    Here are my thoughts on the race. First, if you discount Trone and Matthews, Will Jawando and Kumar Barve probably pulled most of their votes from Jamie. Joel Rubin probably pulled away most of his votes from Jamie, although some of them probably would have gone to Kathleen. I don’t know who exactly Ana Sol Gutierrez pulled votes from, but my guess is she probably pulled more from Trone and Matthews than she did from Jamie — and may have overall helped Jamie.

    Trone won Carroll and Frederick counties in a land slide because of the amount of money he spent up there compared to the other candidates. The per capita vote cost up there was almost certainly much higher than in near Southern MoCo, which meant Trone was the only one who could afford to go nuts up there since he was effectively not resource constrained. Kathleen probably outspent Jamie 2:1 up there, and her numbers reflect that. It’s reasonable to assume that if Trone hadn’t been in the race she would have picked up roughly 1/4th to 1/3rd more of Trone’s voters than Jamie would if Trone hadn’t been in the race. No way would she have gotten 90% of Trone’s votes, probably more like 60-70%.

    But I spent all of my time canvassing in MoCo, and never went north of Rockville. The dynamics of the race changed in the last month. To me, it was actually a terrifying shift. It was quite clear that Trone was gaining serious momentum — there was a proliferation of legal Trone yard signs which weren’t there even a few weeks prior. The change was especially noticeable among disaffected voters and low information voters. Many Trone voters admitted that their “reasons” for support of Trone were based more on emotion than reason. I could often flip someone’s decision if they allowed me to talk to them. This was less true of Kathleen, but unless the person liked Kathleen because they personally knew her or because they felt that a woman should win (this is a hideously slippery slope argument, since even Kathleen endorsed Chris over Donna for the Senate) they were still easy to flip compared to people who supported someone like Will Jawando.

    But it got more interesting as to what voters were saying about the race. If you ignore a small number of people who said (or implied they’d never vote for Jamie): “I’d never vote for him because he supports death with dignity” (she used different words), “He’s too hawkish on Israel, they’re going to start a war with Iran and Jamie’s going to back them” (this person actually listened to me, and I may have convinced her its not true), others while not saying they wouldn’t vote for him implied he wasn’t adequately supportive of Israel (the Washington Jewish Week endorsement wasn’t persuasive to them) — but this was literally a handful of people. Most people who were willing to talk appeared open to considering Jamie, even people who were supporting other candidates (I will confess that there is clearly some selection bias present in this, but only some). The same can’t be said for Trone or Matthews. Most people I talked to asked me to differentiate Jamie from Trone or Matthews, but not both. A lot of people said: “I’d never vote for her”, or “I’d never vote for Trone.” I don’t think most people thought of Matthews as a successful business leader the way they thought of Trone. The arguments for Kathleen were increased diversity, or that they felt she could relate to them, or that they knew her from the news — and that only works on a certain percentage of the population. If the conversation could be steered toward their record and away from rhetoric or identity, it was an easy task to win them over. Some people you can, and some people you can’t. Trone presented the image of a self made man who had great rhetoric, but of course he makes hollow promises of doubling spending at NIH (something that some people, without any actual analysis would buy into). The image was actually full of holes if you consider all the facts. But the point here is that Trone and Matthews while both appealing to relatively low information voters, appealed to a different base of low information voters. Trone had a Trump like appeal, whereas Matthews had a more polished appeal, primarily to women. The bottom line is, I think its likely in MoCo, Jamie would have picked up more of Trone’s votes than Kathleen would have. But even if not, I don’t think she could have picked up enough votes to win. This was always Jamie’s race to win.

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