Francine Busby, running to replace Duke Cunningham (in the House of Representatives, of course, not in prison) came up short of the 50% of the vote she would have needed to clinch the seat on the first round. She will now face off against ex-Congressman Brian Bilbray in June. Busby came in just shy of 44%, which is by no means a terrible performance in a heavily Republican district where the multiple Republican candidates spent a total of $5 million (to Busby’s $1 million). It’s anybody’s guess how June will come out; that’s primary day, and the Democrats have a Gubernatorial primary while the Republicans don’t, and Bilbray is less than popular with social conservatives and not personally rich, so he may wind up short of money. On the other hand, it is a Republican district. Turnout was light, which makes me doubt the existence of a large body of Democratic and Independent voters who are as mad as I am about Republican corruption.
That said, this is as good a time as any to complain about one of my pet peeves. Last night when I went to bed, Busby was running at about 42%, with 20% of the precincts in. But of course that didn’t tell you much of anything about how the race was going to come out unless you knew WHICH precincts were in.
With a map of the precincts showing which were in, an a map of the party split in the vote last time, it would have been easy to project a final outcome. When I was a kid doing politics in Baltimore, that sort of thing went on at headquarters election night, and TV commentators did it all the time. And that was by hand and eyeball. With computers, it should be completely trivial.
So why is it no longer done? Presumably, the people behind the scenes doing state-level projects are using some such algorithm, but it’s been more than a decade since I’ve heard an explicit reference by someone on camera: “Smith, the Republican, is ahead in the raw vote, but all the suburbs are already counted and the urban precincts are still out, so we’re projecting Jones with 53% of the vote. Has TV gone so completely to pretty faces that there’s no one left who knows politics at the precinct level? Or are they just scared of making a mistake?