November 5th will get here in a blink, and the big question now is: Will the Democrats of Lehigh County show up in enough numbers to elect Tom Mueller executive?
I answer that with a tentative yes. I believe Tom Mueller will win with between 50.5 to 52% of the vote. There are many variables in considering voter turnout in municipal elections. In my personal algorithm, the variable with the most value in the equation is past voter performance. The second variable is whether that performance is trending upwards or downwards, and the third variable is volatility in the political arena, where I assign values based on perception of how strongly, positively or negatively, voters feel about a candidate. I also have a distinct variable that makes up 5% of my formula. I call it the "Mood Swing." I also take into account dramatic changes in registration, but despite the growth in Lehigh County over the last 5 years, the total number of voters has actually stayed almost static, and even dropped since 2008.
Now lets take a look at my turnout projections. Overall, I predict 26 to 26.5% of the approximately 209,000 registered voters in Lehigh County will go to the polls. That means approximately 54,500 to 55,500 voters will go to the polls. By party, I break it down like this: 24.9 to 25.1% of the 108,000 registered Democrats, or about 27,000 will participate. On the Republican side, 32 to 32.2% of the 74,000 registered voters will show, about 23,680. Of the 35,000 registered voters who are neither D nor R, I expect 12% or 4200 to vote November 5th.
From precinct results from previous elections countywide, it appears non D or R voters go at least 80% for the R candidate.
So if you play the game of all D's voting for Mueller and all R's voting for Ott, it plays out like this:
Mueller: 27,000 D + 840 Other equals 27,840
Ott: 23,680 R + 3360 Other equals 27,040.
That's right folks, we are talking about Mueller winning by less than a thousand votes.
Now lets be real. We all know that there are Democrats who won't vote for Mueller, as well as Republicans who won't vote for Ott. There will also be less than a percent that won't cast a vote in the exec race at all. I have run different turnout scenarios, and what really contrasts this election from the last one is not that there is no incumbent running, but that unlike 2009, average folks are ticked off at the Republicans for the shutdown, where in 2009, people were ticked at the Democrats. The Mood Swing variable is small, but in a precarious and close race, it makes all the difference.
It doesn't matter that Congress is the morons they are mad at, what matters is there is a percentage of voters who are fed up, and they want to take it out on somebody. It is not an overwhelming number, but it is enough.
Also The Independent Vote could swing a couple of hundred votes either way, slightly narrowing or widening the gap, but all things considered, I think Tom Mueller puts Scott Ott in his place.
Many of the other intangible variables cancel each other out. Usually I see Party voter loyalty at the polls to be 92% for Republicans, and 88% for Democrats. But this time I see that being inconsequential. I believe that Democrat party loyalty rises above 90% this year, because Ott has been vocal about his tea party leanings, mobilizing the Democrat base, while simultaneously angering a prominent group in his own party.
Mueller, on the other hand, has successfully portrayed himself as a voice of reason in contrast to Ott, giving those R's disenchanted with Ott a reason to either vote for Mueller, or not vote for Ott at all out of protest.
Now where did I come up with this projection of total votes?
Lets take a look at previous municipal elections. in 2011, when the reform slate of Republicans took over. In that year, 46,115 out of 214,881 registered voters showed up in November.
In 2009, Don Cunningham won a narrow reelection. when only 44,481 of a then record 223,051 of registered voters showed up.
Contrast that with 2005, when Cunningham initially ran, and crushed Republican incumbent Jane Ervin. There were just over 200,000 registered voters in Lehigh County. 28% of them voted, giving Don Cunningham a large victory, 33,263 to Ervin's 20,721. That was also the last year that Allentown had a truly contested Mayor's race, and Democratic turnout in the city was over 25%. In 2009 Allentown Turnout by Democrats barely cracked 16%. That was just one reason the Executive race was closer than it should have been.
The Executive race has cracked 50,000 votes before, and it will again this year.
Next Question: Could Democrats get control of the board of Commissioners?