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Connecticut's 5th Congressional District 2012 Election Recap

by: RockRibbedR

Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 13:09:17 PM EST

Welcome, CT Capitol Report and New England Political Journal readers! Thanks for the reference!

This is the third installment of an ongoing series on Connecticut's 5th Congressional district. For part one, see here:
For part two, see here:
For my thoughts on the 2014 race for Connecticut's 5th Congressional district, see here:
For my other two pieces on New England politics...
Massachusetts' 6th Congressional district, 2012 election recap:
Massachusetts' political regions: breaking down the 2012 US Senate election in Massachusetts:


The race for Connecticut's 5th Congressional district was one of the most hotly contested open seat Congressional races in the country during the 2012 election season. Republicans and Democrats both elected their strongest possible candidates in their respective primaries, Andrew Roraback (R-Goshen) and Elizabeth Esty (D-Cheshire). Millions of dollars were spent on each candidate by outside groups, and both candidates fundraised strongly. On election day, Elizabeth Esty, a one-term defeated former State Representative, defeated Andrew Roraback, a 9-term Senator from the Litchfield Hills, by a margin of 7,461 votes, or 2.62 percent. At the same time, Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney by a margin of 8.32%. Roraback ran 2.89% ahead of Mitt Romney but needed to run 4.16% ahead and therefore narrowly lost.

What lessons and strategies can we take away from this race? Find out below the fold.

RockRibbedR :: Connecticut's 5th Congressional District 2012 Election Recap


Below is a picture of Andrew Roraback's Senate district. It will come in handy when analyzing election result maps later in this article.


The only part of Liz Esty's old State House seat in this seat is the town of Cheshire.

Election Results

Below is a map of how each of the towns in CT-05 voted for President in 2012. Waterbury and Torrington's being split have been accounted for.

Color Key:
Navy: 65+% Obama
Sky blue: 50-52% Obama
Dodger blue: 52-57 Obama
Blue: 57-63% Obama
Salmon: 50-53% Romney
Red: 53-57% Romney
Crimson: 57-60% Romney
Reddish Brown: 60+% Romney

Below is a results map of Andrew Roraback and Elizabeth Esty's 2012 race by town.

Color Key:
Navy: 63+ Esty
Sky blue: 50-54% Esty
Dodger blue: 54-58 Esty
Blue (only Plainville): 58-63% Esty
Salmon: 50-53% Roraback
Red: 53-57% Roraback
Crimson: 57-60% Roraback
Reddish Brown: 60+% Roraback


Finally, below is a map that shows Andrew Roraback's performance in comparison to Mitt Romney's performance.

Color Key:
Dodger blue: -3+
Blue: -0 through 3
Salmon: 0-5
Red: 5-10
Crimson: 10-15
Reddish Brown: 15+


Electoral Analysis

Andrew Roraback performed excellently in his old Senate district, especially in the northern portions of the Litchfield Hills. Roraback tended to run ~15 points ahead of Mitt Romney in the Northwest Corner's deep blue towns and ran an astounding 18 points ahead of Romney in his Republican hometown of Goshen. Roraback likely nearly reached the GOP ceiling in the Litchfield County porions of the 5th district.

Hartford County's slice of CT-05 worried Connecticut Republicans. Strategists were concened that Roraback would run behind Mitt Romney in the dying industrial city of New Britain, the same city that was likely the downfall of then-GOP Representative Nancy Johnson in 2006. Connecticut Republicans also worried about Roraback's appeal in the wealthy Farmington Valley, containing the affluent towns of Avon, Simsbury, and Farmington. However, considering Esty's profile as a pro-choice, fiscally moderate female seemed perfect for the Farmington Valley. Nevertheless, Roraback ran ahead of Esty in each of the district's towns. However, Roraback only ran ~2 points ahead of Romney in these towns, although it's worth noting that the Farmington Valley swung hard towards Romney from John McCain's dismal 2008 performance, with each town moving about 7 points to the right (signifying a ~5 point PVI shift to the right for the Farmington Valley). Roraback also ran 1.9 points ahead of Romney in New Britain, but New Britain shifted dramatically leftward Presidentially, seeing as Romney underperformed John McCain in New Britain by 1.6 points.

Roraback also put in a strong performance in Fairfield County, although his performance again was not as strong as it needed to be districtwide. Again, Romney ran about ~2 points ahead on average in Brookfield, Sherman, Danbury, and Bethel. Roraback registered a strong performance in New Milford, running about 7 points ahead of Mitt Romney.

While Roraback's performance wasn't on average as strong as he would have needed to win in Hartford and Fairfield Counties, his strong Litchfield County performance was more than enough to make up for this slight underperformance from his baseline. The area of the 5th district that took down Andrew Roraback was the Waterbury area of New Haven County.

In Waterbury proper, which consists of about a tenth of CT-05, Mitt Romney underperformed John McCain by 1.4 points. To make matters worse, Andrew Roraback underperformed Mitt Romney by .7 points. Esty's margin in Waterbury itself was 8,117- 656 more votes than her districtwide margin- meaning that Roraback would have been victorious without Waterbury in the district. Republicans used to be able to perform strongly in traditionally heavily Catholic, working class, and socially conservative Waterbury. Unfortunately, most of those conservative Democrats have either passed away and the ones that haven't or their now adult children have moved to surrounding towns like Wolcott, Middlebury, and Prospect. Hispanics moved in when those culturally conservative Catholics moved out, providing a tough constituency for Roraback to appeal to. Roraback knew he had to make inroads with Hispanics and even ran radio ads on Waterbury radio stations to no avail. Roraback's pro-choice position on abortion and his country club Republican perception did not play well amongst those remaining conservative Democrats in Waterbury, and he did not perform strongly there.

More alarmingly was the heavily conservative town of Wolcott, which is the residence of many of the children of those conservative Democratic Waterbury voters that used to help Waterbury swing for the right Republican. Republicans only hold a slight registration edge over Democrats in Wolcott at 97 voters, with independents being the largest group of Wolcott voters at just under 49.8%. Republicans and Democrats each register in at around 24% off Wolcott's registered population. As a comparison, a slightly less Republican performing town like Goshen, which gave 58% of its vote to Mitt Romney as compared to the 62% Wolcott gave Romney, is 36% Republican and 24% Democratic by registration. Roraback underperformed Romney by 3.3 points in Waterbury. While his two-way vote share in Wolcott was impressive without context at 58.49%, it was a steep underperformance. Wolcott's identity as the occasional landing spot for Waterbury's conservative Democrats and, more frequently, their now-adult Children shone through with Roraback's country club Republican persona not playing well there. Wolcott's weak showing for Roraback can also be partially explained by its proximity to Cheshire, Esty's hometown, where she overperformed Obama by 2.7 points. The city of Meriden, to the east of Cheshire, was one of Roraback's relative bright spots in New Haven County, seeing as he overperformed Mitt Romney there by over a point (although lost Meriden, which trended leftward presidentially, handily). The Waterbury suburb of Middlebury also was disappointing for Roraback, seeing as he underperformed Romney by .6 points there. Roraback slightly overperformed Romney by .4 points in Southbury, but this was again a disappointing underperformance.

Conclusion and 2014

Andrew Roraback's being the political favorite son of Litchfield County meant that his fairly strong, but not comparatively as strong, performances in Hartford and Fairfield Counties were enough for him to win. Without the New Haven County portion of CT-05, Roraback would have won by around 2.2 percent. Taking out either Waterbury or New Britain itself would have won the district for Roraback. While Danbury and Waterbury should be in the 5th district, there's no reason for Meriden or New Britain to be in the 5th, seeing as New Britain is a natural fit for the Hartford based 1st district and Meriden should be in the New Haven County based 3rd district. Trading out New Britain and Meriden for Bristol, Southington, and the 1st district's rural arm into northern Torrington and surrounding areas, as a court map would have done, would have resulted in soon-to-be forer State Senator Andrew Roraback in being Congressman-elect Andrew Roraback. Simply put, we lost CT-05 on the mapping table.

As for 2014, the GOP is in a relatively strong position to win CT-05. While Elizabeth Esty will have some strength in incumbency, CT-05's Democratic strength is largely based in the cities of the district, which turn out abysmally in midterms. Had urban turnout not have been abnormally high for even a Presidential election year, Roraback likely would have won the 2012 version of CT-05. With depressed urban turnout in 2014, a potential "six year itch" hindering Democratic performance, and a governor deeply unpopular in Northwest Connecticut (and suburban Connecticut in general) on top of the ballot, the GOP could win the 5th district in 2014 with a well funded challenger. Andrew Roraback has hinted that he will run again, and if he can run nearly as strongly as he did in Litchfield County in 2014, which will be a higher percentage of the CT-05 electorate in a midterm year, he can defeat Elizabeth Esty. The other option would be running a Wolcott, Waterbury, Cheshire, or Middlebury Republican who could neutralize Esty's home field advantage in the New Haven County portion of the district and who would be a better fit for that part of the district, but that nominee would also need to focus heavily on performing well in the Litchfield Hills. The GOP needs a nominee who can unite all of the winnable factions of the CT-05 electorate, and hopefully Andrew Roraback can do that in 2014 when urban turnout is depressed and he can spend more time as the presumptive nominee campaigning in areas he underperformed in.

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This is excellent
This makes me feel much, much better about a rematch 2014.

Lifelong Republican, TX-17

Super nice diary
I disagree on our chances. WE can get close in D+3s. We rarely win them outside of PA.

26, Male, R, NY-10

Scott Walker for President!

Dave Reichert
Sheriff Dave might beg to differ on that point.

Lifelong Republican, TX-17

[ Parent ]
You know
That he's an exception and because of the Green River Killer.

26, Male, R, NY-10

Scott Walker for President!

[ Parent ]
Jennifer Dunn held it down before him. Additionally, Mark Kirk would disagree with your assertion too, and before you say 2008, IL-10 was D+4 (2000/2004) in 2006 when Kirk was reelected with 53% of the vote in a terrible year for Republicans both nationally and in Illinois.

Lifelong Republican, TX-17

[ Parent ]
Usually agree
However, CT-05's Democratic areas are nearly exclusively urban. It would have been a strongly Romney-won district without Waterbury, New Britain, Meriden, and Danbury. While these areas don't disappear in a midterm, they turn out at far lower rates than the Republican parts of the district do. I'd generally agree with you in a largely suburban seat, but a seat that's Democratic nature depends almost solely on urban turnout can be won in a midterm.

Oh, and thanks!

From IL-09, familial roots in MI-14, college in PA-02/07, and working for the summer in DC-AL.

Andy Hill for WA-Governor!

[ Parent ]
We've been there in 2010
We didn't have a bad candidate.

26, Male, R, NY-10

Scott Walker for President!

[ Parent ]
Our 2010 candidate was too conservative for the district.

Lifelong Republican, TX-17

[ Parent ]
Lots of reasons Sam lost
But being attacked as too conservative for the district wasn't one of them. CT's press cocoon around Murphy would've been working against the biggest RINO

[ Parent ]
Given the demographic changes that have taken place in the last 20 years in the towns in CT-05, I'm not sure that the Rowland model of running strongly in the culturally conservative industrial towns works anymore. Since Caligiuri was fairly conservative, I'm assuming that was his strategy. Well, in 2010, a great Republican year, he didn't win. Why? He likely didn't perform strongly enough in the Farmington Valley to compensate for the demographic changes that have occurred in the dying industrial towns in the district. Had Roraback ran in 2010, he probably would have won, given his almost absurd performance in much of his State Senate district. In the words of Bob Dylan, the times they are a'changing, and I don't think that Caligiuri is the right candidate for us in this day and age.

Lifelong Republican, TX-17

[ Parent ]
Ok, what happened in 2010 was
1. Caligiuri was badly damaged by a primary against a self funding tea party rich dude; who spent a $M on Sam's votes on minimum wage & Wtby budgets to call him a "bad conservative" . This hurt Sam badly cause..

2. Sam didn't have great FRing; he's from a blue collar area and CT's right $ are Greenwich Fi cons; this limited him to a very plain vanilla campaign. NRCC didn't play here & one SuperPac ran a controversial & mediocre Obamacare ads

3. The CT press had Murphy in a cocoon and never ran negative pieces; even Sam's right wing hometown paper which went onto a quixotic anti Blumenthal jihad. Murphy OTOH had constant consistuent press coverage. Given the Courant didn't endorse even Roraback in '10 the CT MSM are useless; and only can be overcome via paid media

4. A Waterbury Italian is a hard cultural sell in the WASP legacied NW corner & Farmington Valley. The converse is true as well as we saw in '12  

So it wasn't "Sam was too conservative"; a far more conservative AG candidate won 5 in '10.  

[ Parent ]
eh its a 2 year rental
I don't see much reason to spend a whole lot of time on this seat.

28, R, PA-07.

[ Parent ]
Obviously early to judge
But the political impact of the Sandy Hook massacre is probably going to help CT Dems here as they are NRA haters & will pitch the GOP as uncaring as to preventing future school bloodbaths. And this is an obstacle to grinding out more votes in the Hartford/Fairfield Co suburbs  

[ Parent ]
I have a hard time seeing how Etsy does not benefit from the Sandy Hook events unless Etsy votes against some sort of mental health bill that is proposed.  Connecticut is favorable to gun control anyway and Sandy Hook pushes the issue to the forefront.

29, Republican, PA-6

[ Parent ]
*Esty, not Etsy
S before the t. If they delay the debt ceiling vote and she helps hose the rich and upper middle class business owners, I'm fairly sure the Farmington Valley and the Fairfield County portion of the district will not be pleased.

From IL-09, familial roots in MI-14, college in PA-02/07, and working for the summer in DC-AL.

Andy Hill for WA-Governor!

[ Parent ]
Honestly I don't think they'll care
Voters vote culturally; rarely fiscally.

Saint Paul (MN-4)  

[ Parent ]
You know...
except for the bulk of upper middle income suburban voters.

From IL-09, familial roots in MI-14, college in PA-02/07, and working for the summer in DC-AL.

Andy Hill for WA-Governor!

[ Parent ]
The bulk
The problem is that bulk is not nearly as large as before.  In addition, minority upper-middle voters tend to vote like minorities in general.

This is one of the biggest Republican failures of the last half century.  Minorities probably used to vote more based on income and less on race.  Now regardless if you are a rich or poor minority, you have been sucked into the racial identity politics, which is sad for the country.  Even if Republicans win whites 60 to 40 in such areas, it is very difficult to get a larger share of the vote when minorities are going 90 to 10 for the Democrats even though they are socio-economically similar to their white counterparts.

29, Republican, PA-6

[ Parent ]
Not really an issue here yet
This is a very "white" district outside the 4 large cities; even the few Latino/Asian voters in places like Cheshire & Simsbury are highly assimilated  

[ Parent ]
The bulk of upper income suburban voters that are white and religious vote Republican.  The GOP is culturally aligned with white, religious, suburbanites. Income has little to do with it.

If income is what drove voting patterns, you would see little difference between white suburbanites making 100K a year and minority suburbanites making 100K a year. You would see little difference between religious suburbanites and non-religious suburbanites that make similar income. That is obviously not the case.

Because the bulk of "upper middle income suburban voters" are religious whites that vote Republican does not mean people vote GOP because they are upper middle income. It means they vote Republican because they are white and religious. They vote for the party that is culturally aligned with them.

A middle income family outside Cincinnati and a middle income family in outside San Francisco that live the exact same lifestyle will vote for completely opposite candidates. Why? Not certainly not because of income.  

Simply put, there is a much stronger correlation between race and religion with voting patterns than there is with income and voting patterns. Hell, age and gender are a better predictor of how someone is going to vote than income.  And this is a good thing. The last thing anyone should want is for Americans to begin subdividing along class and income based lines.

Saint Paul (MN-4)  

[ Parent ]
Cincy & the Bay Area aren't the same community
The point therein is all voters in California lean left regardless of ethnicity
Which doesn't explain why a Latino in Simsbury CT making $150K/yr would view the world differently than his WASP or Irish neighbor who all travel in the same circles  

[ Parent ]
"2 year rental"
Yeah, one that Nancy Johnson held for over a decade. Plus, how many great targets do we have? It's a foolish strategy to nearly exclusively play defense.

From IL-09, familial roots in MI-14, college in PA-02/07, and working for the summer in DC-AL.

Andy Hill for WA-Governor!

[ Parent ]
Johnson held the northern half of CT 5 for 24 years
She served from 1982 to 2006.

The "Old 5th" along I-84 changed hands a bit, but was in GOP hands for 18 of the 30 years prior to the 2002 remap.    

[ Parent ]
New England Political Journal
The New England Political Journal linked to this on its front page. Neat!

From IL-09, familial roots in MI-14, college in PA-02/07, and working for the summer in DC-AL.

Andy Hill for WA-Governor!

CT Capitol Report
The CT Capitol Report just linked to this piece, so we'll be getting some visitors from over there. Welcome!

From IL-09, familial roots in MI-14, college in PA-02/07, and working for the summer in DC-AL.

Andy Hill for WA-Governor!

[ Parent ]
Great piece
I disagree on how much of a shot Roraback has going forward, but well done regardless.

34/M/D/NY-01 DKE:Socks The Cat


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