Swing State Project Glossary

This is something I’ve been meaning to do for long time, but with our pending move to Daily Kos, I figured now was definitely the right time. I’m putting together a list of terms and abbreviations that are commonly used at SSP but may not be super-familiar to newcomers. (They range from pretty common ones like DNC to home-grown specials like NWOTSOTB.) I think this will be a handy reference list (and one you can readily link to when explaining things to new people), but I’m sure I’ve left things off. So I’d really like your help in adding new terms (and improving any of the definitions below). Thanks!


1Q (or Q1), 2Q, etc.: First Quarter, Second Quarter, etc. Refers to the quarterly periods at the end of which campaigns must submit fundraising reports to the FEC. Note: Some organizations must file reports more frequently. Also, campaigns usually have to file additional reports around election time, including primaries.

CD: Congressional District.

DCCC: Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

DGA: Democratic Governors Association.

DLCC: Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. Not to be confused with the defunct DLC (the Democratic Leadership Council).

DNC: Democratic National Committee.

DSCC: Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

FEC: Federal Elections Commission. Tasked with ensuring compliance with our nation’s election laws.

GOP: Grand Old Party – i.e., the Republicans.

IE: Independent Expenditure. An expenditure “expressly advocating the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate” made by an outside group. IEs may be made in unlimited amounts. (Though groups making them have to comply with the relevant laws that govern their fundraising.) Groups which make IEs are generally prohibited by law from coordinating with the campaign they are supporting. IE reports can be found here.

MoE: Margin of Error. A statistic expressing the amount of random sampling error in a survey’s results, usually given in the form of plus-or-minus a particular percentage. Used in describing polls. The larger the margin of error, the less confidence one should have that the poll’s reported results are close to the “true” figures. See also “N.”

N: Mathematical notation used to denote sample size, i.e., the number of respondents contacted for a particular poll. The greater the n, the lower the margin of error. See also “MoE.”

NRCC: National Republican Congressional Committee.

NRSC: National Republican Senatorial Committee.

NWOTSOTB: No Word On The Size Of The Buy. Many television and radio ads are released online without any information about just how much is being spent to put them on the air. This is because campaigns and political organizations often try to get media coverage for new ads that are backed with only very small buys. (In other words, very few actual voters will see them.) If there’s no word on the size of the buy, it will often (but not always) mean that the buy is small. This happens so often we had to create our own acronym for it, because typing the whole phrase out every time was starting to cause our hands to fall off.

PVI: Partisan Voting Index. A measure created by the Cook Political Report that compares the presidential vote in each congressional district to the presidential vote nationwide. A PVI of D+5, for instance, means the district voted five points more Democratic than the nation as a whole; R+5 means it voted five points more Republican. More information is available here.

RNC: Republican National Committee.

RGA: Republican Governors Association.

Schrödinger’s Seat: A district which has borders that, due to reapportionment and/or redistricting, are not yet known, but which candidates nonetheless are considering running for. Once the district lines are known, such candidates might find themselves in a very sweet spot – or they might find themselves without a district to run in.

Some Dude: Some candidates start out with certain built-in advantages: They already hold office, they have personal wealth, or they have a prominent public profile. Some Dude has none of these. If you Google Some Dude’s name, you’ll find very little information-probably just the news article or blog post where they were first mentioned as a possible candidate. A good hint you’re dealing with a Some Dude is that they’re described as an “activist” or “Tea Party member” in press accounts. Note: Some Dudes sometimes win!

122 thoughts on “Swing State Project Glossary”

    1. But Webb was very arguably a flawed has been by the time he upset a rich dude as an activist in a low turnout primary.  

      1. I think there are a few categories of “macaca moments:”

        Stupid Positions: Lowden

        Failed “Hail Mary” Ads: Dole (maybe Alan Grayson, not sure he fits)

        Racism/Slurs/Other Regrettable Behavior: Allen, Ethridge

  1. For the record, “Some dude” sometimes wins. Chip Cravaack was a Some Dude, FWIW.

    Also a couple state parties have their own names.

    DFL = Democratic Farmer-Labor Party. This is the Minnesota branch of the Democratic Party (long history, but interesting to research)

    Dem-NPL = Democratic Non-Partisan League Party. This is the North Dakota branch of the Democratic Party. Also an interesting read on the history of it.

  2. Dummymander: A gerrymander drawn by one party for its own advantage that ends up delivering for the other party.

    Web Ad: An ad with no buy. It often has low production values, a non-broadcast complaint length, and is intended to be seen only by the media and internet political activists.  

    1. It’s frequently (though not always) an example of a gerrymander designed purely for hyper-partisan ends, that is to say, an impressive technical accomplishment but one that’s unlikely to ever actually be debated, much less used as an actual redistricting proposal.  

  3. Secretary of State, Attorney General (here usually referring to state-level officials, not to Hillary Clinton or Eric Holder’s current jobs), Senate District, House District (not to be confused with congressional district).

    1. also seem commonplace in Maryland as well.  Baltimore City and Montgomery County, in particular, seem to have a long time to get high on primary and general election nights (sometimes aided by snafus by election officials, especially in Montgomery.)

    2. I believe the senior Senator from Tennessee also has that honor, dating back to his 1995-96 presidential run.  You know, Lamar!.

    3. Such as Rand Paul not being in the normal ophthalmologists’ professional association and starting up his own.

  4. Because sadly, there are still people out there that haven’t gotten to play with Dave’s App yet.

  5. Everyone knows what a teabagger is. But what does it mean to get teabagged? It’s when an incumbent Republican loses their primary to a more extreme Republican challenger.

  6. A “sure thing” candidate is captured in an embarrassing gaffe sufficiently damaging to allow some dude to beat him.

  7. Pulling a Dan Burton: The survival of an unpopular incumbent through a primary due to the presence of multiple other candidates splitting the opposition vote. See also Judean People’s Front/People’s Front of Judea

    Maybe a little obscure, but it’s one of my favorite offhanded political expressions. Also, JPF/PFoJ definitely should be in here somewhere.  

  8. Circle of Ignorance: The disgustingly Republican counties of suburban Milwaukee, Wisconsin. By far the #1 source of Republican strength in Wisconsin. Consists of Ozaukee, Washington, and Waukesha counties.

  9. Mamma Grizzly: A Palin-endorsed candidate

    Young Gun: NRCC Republican “leaders of the future”

    Red to BlueDCCC program for top of the line candidates in swing seats

  10. SSP Labs: The resident math gurus who can accurately call elections well before the AP can, and often predict the results of close elections within 10 votes.

    Rogue__: Insert the title of a profession that is an unusual springboard for a Congressional run. E.g. Rouge Dentist Paul Gosar, Rogue Roofer Reid Ribble

    Babka: The highest honor that can be bestowed upon an SSPer.

    Bob Dold!: Congressman from IL-10, his name is never to be written without the exclamation point.

    Ganja Break: Long period of time on election night during which the state or county reports no votes. Happens often in Vermont, Oregon, and with primaries occurring on April 20th.

  11. Biden alert!: the appearance of Joe Biden at a fund raising event

    Joementumcampaign momentum for anyone named Joe, named after Joe Lieberman’s 2000 election campaign

  12. VRA: Voting Rights Act

    VAP: Voting Age Population

    Vote Sink: a district designed to pack in as many voters from one political party as much as possible

    Leg: state legislature

    DoJ: US Department of Justice

  13. Susan Bitter Smith Award for laughably ridiculous backbiting in a primary.  Criteria: if the cat fud doesn’t make you laugh out loud at its ridiculous ineptitude and gall, it doesn’t qualify for an SBS award.  Named for Susan Bitter Smith, who in 2000 attempted to torpedo the entire Republican field in AZ CD-1 by digging up dirt on one candidate and giving it to another candidate, then blaming both of them.

    To date, the SBS Award (invented in 2009) has been given out exactly once: to PA-06 Democratic candidate Doug Pike, for lobbing personal attacks at primary opponent Manan Trivedi, then expressing outrage that Trivedi wouldn’t sign a civility pledge.  I’m always on the lookout for other candidates to give it to, but I haven’t seen any since then; the criteria for the award are really stringent.

  14. Special mention should be made to SSP’s all-time enemy Nancy Johnson. “Pulling a Nancy Johnson” should have entered the lexicon for a veteran elected official so desperate that she’ll run amazingly outrageous ads, like, I don’t know, running a commercial showing someone meant to be her opponent going house to house not to talk about issues but to smoke weed with your kids.

    SSP’s fine nicknames, like Panic at Tedisco or Crazy Jack Davis, who must always be referred to as Crazy, could fill a whole appendix to the glossary.

  15. … but it didn’t really: the only acronyms that show up are GOP, Q1, EDT and AP. (Wait, what’s EDT?)

    Anyway, it looks cool: http://www.wordle.net/show/wrd… . That’s based on the first three “next” pages of the SSP site now, skipping the current front page. David looms large.

  16. Trifecta: Refers to the trifecta of State Senate, State House, and the governorship. In many states, if one political party controls the trifecta, they have total control over redistricting.

  17. I’m not clear on the etymology of the term.

    I presume it’s related to the “uncertainty principle” associated with Quantum Mechanics. And that principle is more closely associated with Werner Heisenberg.

  18. You might note a couple other resources for this stuff in your glossary. (remember the old saying about teach a man to fish…)

    1 Political Wire has an excellent ongoing project: Taegan Goddard’s Political Dictionary


    It covers many if not most of the terms that folks have been suggesting above. No need in completely re-inventing the wheel for common political terms which aren’t sort of SSP-centric.

    2 Also, Google. Good for figuring out acronyms as well as word definitions.

    For example, the first commenter in this thread could have googled: ‘acronym WATN’ and quickly determined the answer from the top links returned and the context of the usage.

  19. you should probably mention the confidence interval, too. I hate it when people seem to think that the margin of error is a “sure thing,” as opposed to the usual 95%

  20. Republican Jesus. I once described Republican Jesus as “personally wealthy, holds elective office, has 99-1 favorables and is loved by Wall Street and teabaggers alike.” I think I can do better, though.

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