Parsing Election Results

I had already been looking at the numbers after the Virginia Election to see how VCDL did. After Uncle and Sebastian started talking about Brady’s crowing about their “success” I decided to look a little deeper and see if all the hubbub was warranted.

I didn’t just look at wins vs losses, I took a good look at who they were endorsing.

First the raw numbers:

NRA endorsed 89 Candidates and had 80 wins for a 90% success rate.
Brady endorsed 34 candidates and had 30 wins for an 88% success rate.
VCDL endorsed 29 candidates and had 19 wins for a 66% success rate.

It looks like the NRA has the most influence and VCDL has the least.

But wait a minute: As I look through the endorsements, it seems that both the NRA and Brady have a penchant for endorsing candidates that are running unopposed.

Of the 89 NRA endorsements, 41 of them had no opponents. Of the 34 Brady candidates, 18 were unopposed. What about VCDL? of their 29 endorsed candidates, only two had no opponents.

Looking even deeper, of the opposed candidates, The Brady Campaign endorsed 5 candidates that were opposed only be either anti-gun Independents or Green Party candidates. The NRA endorsed candidates in three races where the opponents were pro-gun Libertarian or Independent candidates. As far as the VCDL goes, they endorsed no candidates that were only opposed by pro-gun Independents or Libertarians.

So, if you eliminate the non-competitive races we get a very different story:

NRA Endorsed 45 candidates with 35 wins for a 78% success rate.
Brady Endorsed only 11 candidates with 7 wins for a 64% success rate.
VCDL Endorsed 27 candidates with 17 wins for a 63% success rate.

The Brady campaign seems to have a tendency to stick with “safe” endorsements. They don’t expect their endorsement to actually gain any votes for the candidates (except in certain, very specific areas) so they only make endorsements in races where they have a reasonable expectation to win.

Even with that, they don’t have a great success rate and they lost both of the races that were being touted by all involved as being “referendums on gun control”…Devolites-Davis lost her District 34 senate seat and Cuccinelli held onto his (by the skin of his teeth) in district 37.

The strange thing is that the NRA seems to have the same tendency as the Brady Campaign. The NRA absolutely CAN have an impact on the election results but in many cases they seem to worry more about getting the “W” than supporting the superior candidates.

For example: In Senate district 14, the NRA supported “B” rated Henry Blevins against extremely Pro-gun (and VCDL endorsed) libertarian candidate Donald Tabor. There was no anti-gun candidate in the race so there was no danger of splitting the pro-gun vote…so why not support the superior candidate? Unless, of course, the “W” is more important than upholding principles.

Example 2: House district 51 pitted “F” rated Paul Nickols against “A” Rated Faisal Gill.

The NRA declined to endorse Faisal Gill even though VCDL did so. Why would the NRA refuse to endorse a candidate that they themselves rated as an “A”? Especially when the opponent in that race was rated an “F”? Did Gill specifically decline NRA endorsement? I find that hard to believe if he accepted the VCDL’s. The only plausible explanation I can think of is that the NRA didn’t like the way the poll numbers were going and didn’t want to endorse Gill if he was “destined” to lose. Better to not take the chance and risk getting another one in the “L” column right? But what if an NRA endorsement could have made the difference?

But you know what. All those numbers above really only show how good each of those organizations are at choosing winning candidates. The real test is how much success did the organizations have against each other?

The NRA endorsed 5 candidates who’s opponents were endorsed by Brady.
The VCDL endorsed 6 candidates who’s opponents were endorsed by Brady
The VCDL endorsed 3 candidates who’s opponents were endorsed by the NRA.

Of the NRA/Brady matchup, Brady won 3 of the 5 races and bested the NRA 60% to 40%

Of the VCDL/Brady matchup, VCDL won 4 of the 6 races taking Brady down to the tune of 67% to 33%

Of the races where the NRA and VCDL were at loggerheads…the NRA won every one.

What conclusions do I draw from all of this?

1. The VCDL is more apt to go out on a limb and stand on principle in their endorsements than either the NRA or Brady. The VCDL also makes public the surveys and reasoning for their endorsements, the NRA does not.

2. Both the NRA and Brady seem to be more concerned about padding their numbers with useless endorsements of unopposed candidates than with actually affecting the outcomes of elections.

3. The VCDL is better at defeating anti-gun candidates and the Brady Center.

4. The NRA is better at defeating pro-gun candidates and the VCDL.

For What It’s Worth.

Now I’m going to carry the reams of election results, endorsement lists, notes and calculations that I’ve got all over my desk to the family room and burn them in the fireplace. That was not fun. I’d hate to be a statistician.


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