Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Nigel Jacquiss wishes he'd listened to TJ

We may never win a Pulitzer for uncovering a sex scandal with a big time Oregon politician, but Oregon's top reporter has nothing on TJ.

This summer, Willy Week's Nigel Jacquiss wrote a scalp burning piece on the imminent takeover of Oregon politics and government by a red tide of Republicanism. TJ rightly scoffed at this notion, using his big statistical analytical brain to suss out the reasons.

In their 06 retrospective, Jacquiss essentially floats a mea culpa

Four months after that July cover story cited GOP-friendly trends in demographics and voter registration, Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski easily won re-election despite some of the country's lowest approval ratings, and D's retained control of the state Senate and won back power in the state House for the first time since 1989.

Maybe WW was a decade or two early. Then again, it's also possible that the story was, in the words of the state's best-known pollster, "flat-assed wrong."

Pollster Tim Hibbitts took that flat-assed wrong tack before the election in the August edition of Brainstorm NW magazine. He wrote then that "cutting the Democratic registration edge from 4 to 3 percent over an eight-year period, while losing virtually every statewide election, hardly qualifies as evidence of an incipient Republican takeover.

In the wake of November's election results, Hibbitts argues now that the evidence is clear: "Oregon is a hell of a lot more blue than red, and is getting more blue," he says.

But political strategist Kevin Looper and analyst Josh Berezin at the union-backed political advocacy group Our Oregon say it's dangerous to confuse a snapshot with a long-term trend.

"It's like people who walk outside on a winter day and say, 'If it's this cold, global warming must be nonsense,'" Berezin adds.

Looper, who coordinated get-out-the-vote efforts in 2004 and 2006, says the Democratic sweep this fall was a combination of backlash against Republicans and a precisely targeted Democratic effort that may be difficult to replicate. Hibbitts' "analysis is based on endpoints, i.e., how many Democrats voted," says Looper. "He totally ignores the huge registration effort it took to get there."

He and Berezin point to newly released population statistics that show Deschutes County gaining more population from July 2004 to July 2006 than Multnomah County. "The growth patterns will continue to erode Democrats' registration advantage," he says.

Nonsense, Hibbitts responds. The pollster argues that even though Republican-leaning counties such as Deschutes and Jackson are growing fast, their absolute populations are insignificant compared to overwhelmingly Democratic Multnomah County and increasingly blue Washington County.

"You can say all you want about registration trends,'' counters Hibbitts. "But D's have won something like 19 of the past 22 statewide races."

Dear Nigel:

You can reach TJ at loadedorygun at gmail dot com. I'm betting he'd be willing to work with you on that piece when you write it up next cycle--especially if you ply him with a good beer.