The Tar Pit

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

John Campbell's troubled victory

Newly minted Congressman John Campbell won the special election for Califronia's 48th Congressional District seat vacated by new SEC Chairman Chris Cox yesterday, but beneath the results the numbers reveal just how weak a campaign Campbell ran in the two months since the primary:

John Campbell picked up only an additional 30 votes between the primary and special elections, out of over 90,000 cast and with 16,000 GOP swing votes looking for a home.

Hugh Hewitt is valiantly spinning the numbers, but Campbell won with just 44.7% of the vote in a three-way race with Democrat Steve Young and Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist, who ran as the nominee of the American Independent Party. Hugh neglected to mention in his analysis that on the air Monday he projected Campbell would take 65% of the vote. Then Hugh moved onto this:

...look at the general election from 2004, where Chris Cox rolled up 189,004 votes, and his opponent John Graham (a friend of mine and a very smart guy whom the Dems would have been wise to run again this time) tallied 93,525 votes.

What to conclude? Despite massive media attention and around-the-clock boosterism from local radio flaks and know-nothings John & Ken, the candidacy of anti-illegal immigration single issue candidate Jim Gilchrist could only muster 23,237 votes --less than one third of the Graham vote in November of 2004.

Notice how Hugh is trying to paint the GOP nominee in a GOP disctrict as an underdog?

Republican Campbell, by the way, got less than half of the votes yesterday that Democrat Graham got in November of 2004.

Then there's this from Hugh...

Gilchrist tallied less than 10% of the 2004 general election total vote of more than 290,000

Yeah: so? John Campbell tallied less than 15% of the 2004 general election total vote of more than 290,000.

And then Hugh reaches, I mean rrrealy rrrrrrreaches for his "key conclusion:"

John Campbell will be a Congressman for as long as he chooses to be (30 years?), and other GOP incumbents will study these results very closely and recognize that while there is a 5-to-10% that must be reassured on the security of the border, there is no national tide running that demands an exclusive and relentless focus on illegal immigration.

Presumably, Hugh based his conclusion on his post-election analysis of the numbers he offered as evidence to support his conclusion, though I'll leave him the option of claiming that his evidence had little to do with his conclusion, which he'd reached weeks before the votes were cast.

Anyway, several times Hugh compares Gilchrist's 2005 special election numbers to the regular results of the 2004 election, but never does the same for Campbell, who drew only 2/3 of the support Hugh predicted on his radio show the day before the special election.

Given that Hewitt's election eve prediction for Campbell was so badly flawed, one would think Hugh's intellectual curiosity wouldn't lapse so badly in analyzing Campbell's performance. Maybe there's a reason?

In the October 4 Special Election Primary, Campbell got 41420 votes, or 45.5% of the 91,711 ballots cast:

Vote CountPercentage
JOHN CAMPBELL (REP) 41420 45.5%
MARILYN C. BREWER (REP) 15595 17.1%
JIM GILCHRIST (AI) 13423 14.8%
STEVE YOUNG (DEM) 7941 8.7%

Another Republican, Marilyn Brewer, took 15,995 votes for 17.1% of the vote. Having lost the primary, Brewer's thousands of GOP votes would be John Campbell's to lose.

How did he do?

In yesterday's election, Campbell managed to garner a grand total of 30 additional votes over his primary results. Those thirty additional votes came out of an additional 1427 ballots cast for a total of 93,138 , and with almost 16,000 GOP primary votes for Brewer there for the taking, John Campbell spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in the last two months to get enough additional votes to fill the seats of a fourth grade classroom. Campbell's percentage of the total votes cast fell from 45.5% to 44.7%. Nearly nobody broke for Campbell. This is as underwhelming a show of electoral strength in victory as can be imagined.

Vote CountPercentage
JOHN CAMPBELL (REP) 41450 44.7%
STEVE YOUNG (DEM) 25926 28.0%
JIM GILCHRIST (AI) 23237 25.1%

Yet Hugh Hewitt omits this information from his analysis in order to interpret yesterday's results as some sort of key indicator about national sentiments regarding illegal aliens?

Pay no attention to the numbers behind the curtain!

Gilchrist, who ran an abysmal campaign, managed to increase his total from 13,423 votes in the primary to 23,237 yesterday, an increase of almost 10,000 votes, and his percentage from 14.8% to 25.1%. Democrat Steve Young did even better, jumping from 7,941 votes to 25,926, and boosting his percentage of the vote from 8.7% to 28%. Yet instead of comparing apples to apples, Hewitt tips over the OC cart to note that Gilchrist. took less than a third of the vote that Democrat John Graham took in 2004.

Fair enough, but as we've seen, John Campbell's votes yesterday were less than half of Graham's in 2004 and less than 22% the total of Chris Cox' score from November of 2004:

Vote CountPercentage
CHRISTOPHER COX (REP) 189004 65.0%
JOHN GRAHAM (DEM) 93525 32.2%
BRUCE COHEN (LIB) 8343 2.9%

Campbell's 44.7% of the vote yesterday was a 20.3% drop from the percentage Chris Cox got for the GOP in 2004. Steve Young's 28% was a 4.2% drop from what John Graham got for the Dems in 2004. That's a combined drop of 24.5% for the two major parties and it's not hard to see where those percentages went: Gilchrist picked up 25.1% for the nowheresville American Independent Party.

How nowhere is the AIP in Orange County? According to the Los Angeles Times, Orange County had "among its 406,000 registered voters are 203,000 Republicans, 110,000 Democrats, and fewer than 8,000 American Independents.

Gilchrist got 15,000 more votes than his party has members. Gilchrist got three times as many votes as his party has members.

Here's the key psephological question for John Campbell, Hugh Hewitt, and Karl Rove to answer:

If John Campbell wasn't advocating plans to legalize millions of illegal aliens, would he have lost all of those GOP votes to a weak, third party candidate in Jim Gilchrist, or would Campbell's percentages have maintained the 65% level attained by Chris Cox in 2004?

Gilchrist ran an amateurish campaign, yet 44.7% was the best John Campbell, fave son of the GOP establishment, could manage. Hewitt creamed Gilchrist so badly in an on-air interview that Gilchrist broke promises to debate Campbell on Hugh's show. Even with that, Campbell couldn't buy any of Marilyn Brewer's GOP votes between the primary and the special election yesterday, and the simple reason is that Campbell is an advocate of the Bush guest worker amnesty.

Hugh knows very well that single issue third party candidates who take 25% of the vote, most of it from the GOP, are not harbingers of great electoral fortune for the status quo. Ross Perot peaked at 20% in 1992 and the GOP didn't get his votes back until they embraced his balanced budget message in 1994. Like Perot, Gilchrist is not well-suited for public office, but that reality doesn't necessarily diminish the resonance of Gilchrist's main issue, just as it didn't for Perot's.

Notice, btw, that last year Cox got the 65% that Hugh inaccurately predicted Campbell would get yesterday. Most of the difference went to Gilchrist.

I should add here that on Monday Hugh generously gave me about five minutes to talk to John Campbell on the air.

Campbell had dismissed the McCain-Kennedy guest worker bill as "full blown amnesty," but the Bush bill, now that was something he could support. Apparently Campbell didn't pay attention to the President's speech in Tucson last week, where Bush praised McCain, along with Senator John Kyl, as two who have "taken the lead" in toughening interior enforcement and creating a temporary worker program

I was able to get on, and said I didn't understand the distinction he was making about "full-blown" amnesty. Then I asked if we all could agree that the Reagan Amnesty was an amnesty. Hugh and Campbell agreed, and we were off to the races. I guess neither is aware that the Bush Administration is now redefining the Reagan Amnesty. Nevertheless, I pointed out that the Reagan Amnesty didn't provide any "automatic path to citizenship," didn't grant automatic green cards, and had residence requirements, criminal background checks and health screening before illegals could qualify.

I then challenged Campbell, however he defined amnesty, to promise not to vote for any plan that legalized illegal aliens in any way, whether temporarily or permanently.

Campbell declined, saying he needed to keep open some option for dealing with the illegals that were already here. Then Campbell went over to hide behind the Cornyn-Kyl Comprehensive Enforcement and Immigration Reform Act of 2005. I pointed out that Cornyn-Kyl had some good ideas, but that it was deeply flawed because it would have illegals register for a new "W" status (you couldn't make this up) and then gave them five (!) years to get out of the country, and that Cornyn-Kyl would give illegals who did leave the country priority over law-abiding applicants for the jobs the illegals had taken illegally.

Anyone who was under the mistaken impression that Texas Senator and Bush protege John Cornyn is tough on illegals ought to know that he excused his Border Security and Immigration Reform Act of 2003, which granted "absolution for past illegal behavior" to both illegals and their employers, as as a moderate approach that would bring undocumented workers "out of the shadows" and give them jobs without granting blanket amnesty. These pro-illegal alien Republicans have as much shame as a hooker during Mardis Gras.

Legalizing illegals to "W" status and giving them five years to leave, and giving them priority for the jobs they've taken illegally is Cornyn's--and Campbell's--alternative to the Bush Amnesty.

The W Amnesty vs. the Bush Amnesty. Such a range of choices. Decisions, decisions....

Back to Campbell: he agreed with me that the Bush plan was to match "willing workers with willing employers," so I pointed out that in order to legalize illegals by virtue of the jobs they'd taken illegally, the Bush plan would prevent law-abiding potential guest-workers from competing for those jobs the illegals had taken. Campbell didn't have much of a response. No one who makes excuses for legalizing illegals ever does.

It was a rout. With nowhere else to go, Hugh asked "what do you think of a fence?" Overemphasizing the importance of a fence is one of his usual tactics to appear as though he's a serious student of border security. I began by replying that "fences are band-aids, and we've had band-aids." I'd intended to follow up by pointing out that Bill Clinton was a big proponent of border band aids, solving nothing, but we were coming to the end of the hour.

Hugh and Campbell said "well, we really like fences," and it was over. Good fun was had by all. Well, by me.

Kinda funny hearing Campbell say "hello, Sabertooth." I appreciate that he was a good sport but unfortunately, he and Hugh both appear to be committed to propagating the party line on the Bush Amnesty, which is filled with inaccuracies and hides the profound injustice that would transpire if President Bush succeeded in getting Congress to legalize illegal aliens at the expense of blue collar Americans and law-abiding guest worker candidates from abroad.