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April 15, 2006

Strategic Voting 2006

By Neil the Ethical Werewolf

Mischievous consequentialist that I am, nothing gets me excited like a chance to advance the liberal agenda through devious acts of strategic voting. (Okay, other things do get me more excited, but you can't do them in a voting booth.) The coolest strategic voting opportunities in this country arise in states with open primaries, where independents and sometimes Democrats can vote in the Republican primary and cast their votes for unelectable Republicans.  When the Republicans lose in the general election, you get to cackle with glee at being the superintelligent architect of liberal victory.   This strategy is sensible if the Republican primary is more competitive or more ideologically significant than the Democratic primary.

The biggest strategic voting opportunity of the 2006 primary season might be in Rhode Island. It’ll be a tough race if Lincoln Chafee wins his primary – while he’s one of the top five endangered Republican Senators this year, he tends to lead Democrats by a little in polls. But if right-wing goofball Steven Laffey wins, it’ll be an easy victory for Democrats. This is why Bush is supporting Chafee. The only problem with strategic voting here is that you can only vote in one party’s primary, so you won’t get to vote in the Brown-Whitehouse race for the Democratic nomination. But it looks to me like the Republican side is more important – a Laffey victory would basically guarantee us a Senate seat. If I were a liberal with Independent registration in Rhode Island, I’d cast my vote for Laffey. If I were a registered Democrat there, I’d consider changing my party affiliation to put Laffey over the top, especially if Brown-Whitehouse was decided already.  Looking at this questionnaire, both Democrats support abortion rights, the freedom to marry, and universal health care.  So we'll be happy whoever wins. 

While it'd be awful if Laffey actually won the general election, I wouldn't worry too much about that.  He's down by over 20 points in liberal Rhode Island.  I'll take a 5% chance of losing a lot over a 50% chance of losing half as much, and given how important party affiliation is in determining committee control and other strategically important issues, that looks like the stakes.

Tennessee has Harold Ford running against one of three Republicans. Maybe some strategic voting situation will develop, since only the Republican primary is seriously contested, though I’m not really seeing it now. I don’t see big differences between the Republican candidates as far as electability goes, but perhaps some Tennessee readers will have something to say about this. Tennessee, as far as I can tell, has a completely open primary, so Democrats can pick the Republican candidate of their dreams.

The Texas general election will be an interesting one for strategic voters. I may end up telling my friends to vote for Strayhorn, the Independent, who lags Republican Rick Perry by a 40-31 margin, but I'll have to figure out how separate Strayhorn and Perry are on the issues first.  The field also includes Democrat Chris Bell at 13 and musician Kinky Friedman at 9.  (Update: Other polls have Bell a little ahead of Strayhorn, so it's likely that voting for Bell will in fact be the thing to do.)

If your state allows independents but not Democrats to vote in either primary, it might be worthwhile to become an independent for that purpose. It’s not like party registration means that much, anyway. And if you’re moving to a new state with an open primary, initially registering as an independent makes a lot of sense.

April 15, 2006 in Elections | Permalink

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Comments

"I don’t see big differences between the Republican candidates as far as electability goes"

As far as the conventional wisdom goes, Bob Corker is the 'electable' candidate, while Ed Bryant and Van Hilleary are the wingnut candidates. But lacking a good sense of the nuances going on in that race, I wouldn't feel comfortable advising which way to strategic vote there.

Ford's primary opponent has dropped out of the race, so not voting in the Dem primary isn't a problem.

FWIW, I want to win the Tennessee race the way most Democrats want to win the Pennsylvania race.

-----

BTW, Neil, dunno if you caught it when Yglesias pointed to some interesting religion maps of America.

This map especially seems like an excellent Rosetta stone for understanding the tribal boundaries of American politics.

Posted by: Petey | Apr 15, 2006 6:08:22 AM

The Texas general election will be an interesting one for strategic voters. I may end up telling my friends to vote for Strayhorn, the Independent, who lags Republican Rick Perry by a 40-31 margin, but I'll have to figure out how separate Strayhorn and Perry are on the issues first. (The field also includes Democrat Chris Bell at 13 and musician Kinky Friedman at 9.)

Neil,

Please, please, please do not tell your friends to vote for Strayhorn, at least not based on one poll that was taken before the March primary. For one thing, there are two other polls out there (Dallas Morning News in February, WSJ-Zogby Interactive in late March) that show Bell ahead of Strayhorn. For another, there's been a considerable amount written lately to support the notion that Bell has the easier path to victory. See here, here, and here for some relevant information.

The Democrats are going to do better than anyone expects in Texas this year. The last thing we need is to counsel defeatism seven months out from the election.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner | Apr 15, 2006 10:15:58 AM

In Tennessee, I am pretty sure Corker is significantly less popular than the other two. I forget why.

Posted by: Nicholas Beaudrot | Apr 15, 2006 11:52:00 AM

We'd all be better off if states did away with open primaries. All this game-playing sullies the democratic process, and there's always a risk of the strategy backfiring. People should vote for candidates they believe in and think should win, not for ones they're hoping will lose.

Posted by: Rebecca Allen,PhD,ARNP | Apr 15, 2006 12:48:24 PM

The other thing about the RI seat is that what matters in the senate is the marginal vote, not how crazy the crazy wing of a party is. I suppose the median vote of each caucus matters as well.

Posted by: dan | Apr 15, 2006 1:56:32 PM

It turns out that in most cases tactical primary voting simply doesn't happen in large enough numbers to matter. If both sides of the aisle are contested, you have little incentive to play on the other side. It's just that in several races this year there's no contest in the Democratic primary.

Posted by: Nicholas Beaudrot | Apr 15, 2006 2:08:24 PM

Although an unlikely Strayhorn victory would be better for the state it would be crushing for the already messed up TX DEM party.

Posted by: rtaycher1987 | Apr 15, 2006 6:58:54 PM

(Okay, other things do get me more excited, but you can't do them in a voting booth.)

Or can you?

Posted by: Christopher M | Apr 17, 2006 1:18:32 AM

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