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!

Something I might diary at DK on the merger

Update — I have decided to go through with this.

The intent of this diary will be to test reactions from the DK community.

I will wait a few days to post this on DK. My target date will be the day it is discussed on the FP there, probably when DavidNYC returns from his vacation. My username is the same there. If you’re free at that time, your support will be appreciated.

Title: Will Daily Kos welcome the full range of Swing State Project users?

Subtext: Can a not so liberal Democrat feel Welcome at Daily Kos?

SubSubtext: Can a poster who feels lost in a huge fast moving community feel comfortable in a big city environment like Daily Kos?

I am a Democrat. I mostly left Daily Kos (DK) a while back in ’07, in part because it had grown a bit too large for me. In addition, I was starting to feel out of place, given the tenor of some of the comments. But I am currently a regular poster at Swing State Project (SSP). I felt like I had a home there, because of the focus on more Democrats, because they welcomed more conservative Democrats, and even have a significant population of “respectful” moderate and conservative Republican posters. Now that they are being merged under the DK umbrella, I feel like I’m being pushed back. I feel like I’m about to lose my community.

Susan Gardner, DK executive editor, has tried to make us feel welcome. http://www.swingstateproject.c… She has tried to reassure us that SSP will be able to retain its culture, post-merger. In context, her welcome reminds me of the promises from China just before they took Hong Kong back from the UK. One liberal blogsphere, two systems?

First, I’m not implying any similarity between DK and Communism, Maoism, or any sort of authoritarianism.

With that in mind, here’s a little background on my analogy: There was considerable fear in the first half of 1997, as the UK was preparing to return Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty. The fear came from the differences, not only in size, but in systems. The principle used to reassure the people of Hong Kong was “one country, two systems”.

By two systems, I’m referring to how SSP works differently from DK, and how I hope its culture is preserved after the merger.

One important difference is that SSP has welcomed Republican posters as guests. We’ve had several prized posters who’ve clearly identified themselves as R, who’ve provided excellent data and analysis — and overall have participated with honor. (We also have our share of New Democrats and Blue Dogs.)

It is important to me for the SSP section of DK (known as Daily Kos Elections [DKE]) to retain that same welcome. IMO, SSP works because that welcome extends to Democrats and Republicans of all ideologies, as long as they follow the standards of the SSP community.

I am one SSP user. I might be near the middle of the spectrum there. I support more Democrats. I believed it was important to support those Democrats who are less popular here on DK, such as Bart Stupak, Bobby Bright, and Gene Taylor, because they’re the best Ds we can realistically hope for from their districts. I think the move to primary Democrats like Scott Matheson was foolish, but wish someone would take out Dan Lipinski. I love those Democrats who represent me here in Oregon, as they represent me well. I believe we are a big party, better because we represent so many different points of view.

I want to be able to root for Democrats like Jon Tester, Ben Nelson, Heath Shuler, Joe Manchin, and Dan Boren here on DK without fear. I do not know if that is possible. Bluntly, one thing that unified many of us as SSP users is that common fear, based on our experiences at DK.

In general, SSP users don’t discuss policies, except in the context of how it affects election prospects. I believe some policies unpopular among DK users were the reason Democrats were able to hold the line against the R wave in ’10 here on the west coast. I support the fastest possible increases immigration consistent with our security, and want to move up that emerging Democratic majority.

I was discouraged by diaries like this http://www.dailykos.com/story/… where so many Democrats here at DK declared that they would vote for a Republican against the Democratic majority leader.

It’s not like I run every time I hear a bit of criticism. I’ve participated in and even helped moderate mixed forums before. By mixed, I mean a group which ranged from Kucinich Democrats through Michelle Malkin Republicans. Frankly, I was not sad when I needed to sanction R users. But I found it necessary at times to criticize people who are politically more like myself, when their behavior went over the line.

However, I’m not the fastest person to react. I try to take time to formulate the my responses. By the time I’ve reacted in the past Daily Kos, I feel like most posters have moved on to the next issue — and have stopped listening.

So I went looking for a smaller community. I tried OpenLeft for a while. I appreciated the quality of the work from the main diarists. But the language and actions from some of the main diarists towards commenters was discouraging.

I eventually found a home of sorts at Swing State Project (SSP), and started to post there regularly in mid-’09.  But now, SSP is being incorporated under the Daily Kos umbrella. Despite the reassurances being given by great moderators like DavidNYC, JamesL, Crisitunity, and Jeffmd, I feel fear.

Perhaps this diary is a passive-aggressive reaction, and I am sorry for that. But given my experiences here at DK, I am gun shy about the coming merger. I do not know if I’ll come along for the ride. Back to my Hong Kong analogy, there have been and still are significant problems. However, many have been surprised by the autonomy retained by the Hong Kong “Special Administrative Region,” over a decade after the merger.

The current SSP welcomed Republican users, as long as they didn’t push issues. They kicked off a number of disruptive Democratic users, when they pushed issues. It is a Democratic site, with a clear bias towards more Democrats. I fear this is about to change. I know some of the Republicans on SSP do not feel comfortable coming along as SSP is brought under the DK umbrella in the coming weeks. I know that some excellent Democrats also do not feel comfortable coming along as well. Some are more, others are less liberal than I. I do not want to come into an echo chamber. While I understand that DK prides itself on being “reality-based,” there’s a peer pressure in numbers that’s often inescapable.

Nevertheless, I am thankful and grateful to DavidNYC, JamesL, Crisiunity, and JeffMD for the great site they created, and the welcome they’ve given to users like myself. I am glad for the opportunities they now have as part of the DK community. I wish them well in their new ventures.

Exciting News for the Swing State Project

I have some exciting news about the future of the Swing State Project that I’m very pleased to share with our community here. As many of you know, I got my start blogging at Daily Kos, and I still serve as a front-page contributing editor there. SSP has always had a close relationship with “the mothership,” with a lot of cross-pollination of users and content. So I’m thrilled to announce that SSP will soon get “beamed up” to DK – that is to say, the entire site will soon have a new home at Daily Kos, likely to be named “Daily Kos Elections,” with a new URL as well. (The old address will re-direct there.)

In practical, day-to-day terms, I can assure you that not much will change. It will still be the same great community – and you’ll still be seeing the same great content – that you’ve grown accustomed to. Our hallmark qualities will remain exactly the same: We will stay laser-focused on the electoral horserace, and we’ll steer clear of policy debates, just as ever before. I recognize that the communities at DK and SSP operate differently, but DK Elections will be its own sub-site, and we’ll retain our distinctive flavor. The comment boards will be friendly, on-topic, and free of personal attacks, just as they are now.

For the moment, we’re staying put. In a week, Daily Kos will undertake a major transition to a new software platform (which you can play with here). As you might imagine, the DK tech team has their hands full, so we won’t get ported over for a little while after that. (We’ll make sure our archives make the jump, too.) In the meantime, if you don’t have one already, I encourage you to create an account at the actual Daily Kos site (not the beta site linked to just above) so that you can hit the ground running when SSP makes its move.

One thing that will change is that I will be working for Daily Kos full-time, which will allow us to amp up our coverage. The rest of the crew will be staying on board – James, Crisitunity, and Jeff – and will continue to contribute as well. DK’s current horserace specialists, Arjun Jaikumar and Steve Singiser, will also join the squad. We’ll expand out our coverage a bit to include presidential primary polls – I think the GOP primary is just too fun not to cover. And when the time is right, we’ll also start looking at presidential polling – but, again, we’re going to stay an issue-free zone.

My official title at DK will be “Political Director,” and in addition to running DK Elections, my responsibilities will include, among other things, managing our polling operations and our Orange to Blue fundraising list on ActBlue. I look forward to getting your input in both areas – for instance, I definitely plan to do some “Where should we poll?” site polls, just like Tom Jensen does now over at PPP. (As you may know, Public Policy Polling is DK’s pollster, and we’ll continue to work with them.)

I do have one request to make of the community: Stick with us. Give it a shot – there will be some changes, but nothing too dramatic. And help us out. We’ll need you over at the new site. While, as I said, we’ll have our own sub-site, it’ll be fairly easy for other Daily Kos users who aren’t familiar with the SSP ethos to migrate over to DK Elections – and we’ll need you, all the longtime, experienced, and chill SSP users, to take newcomers by the hand and explain how things work. The mods will still be there in comments to regulate as needed, but it’s a big world out there, I will be grateful beyond words for your patience and assistance in helping new people adjust. As I’ve said many a time, this community is what makes me keep coming back every day, and regardless of what our web address is, or whether our color scheme is puke green or in-your-face orange, I really hope we can all stay together.

And not like I really need to say this, but if you have any questions, please fire away in comments!

UPDATE: Thank you for all the support in the comments. I also understand the reservations that have been expressed by many of you. I share some of those concerns myself, but I want to re-iterate: We’re going to do everything we can to preserve the SSP community, rules, ethos, and comment moderation policy. And we aren’t going to be swallowed up by Daily Kos – we’ll be our own sub-site, which you’ll probably access by going to http://elections.dailykos.com. That address will feature only horserace content posted by the SSP writers (plus Arjun and Steve) – in other words, it’ll look almost exactly like what the site looks like right now. So I really urge you to give us a shot.

UPDATE 2: I’d like to encourage everyone to read this comment from Susan Gardner, the executive editor at Daily Kos, about what we can expect as we make the transition.

The Swing State Project Endorses Scott McAdams

Every so often, people have asked us: Is the Swing State Project going to endorse anyone this cycle? Our answer has never changed: If we think there’s a special opportunity where a small blog like ours can make a real difference, we’ll seize on it. This cycle, though, we haven’t spotted any candidacies that fit the bill.

Until now.

If you read SSP on a daily basis, you probably won’t be surprised by our choice – but we hope you are pleased, and that you’ll join us in springing in to action. By now, you are of course familiar with Scott McAdams, the Democratic nominee for senate in the state of Alaska, and it is our pleasure to endorse him. We’re setting a goal of raising the equivalent of one maximum federal donation – $2,400 – for his campaign.

So why do we like this race?

  • McAdams is a bona fide Alaskan with an authentic pedigree as a commercial fishing deckhand and a small-town mayor. I’m not sure you can get more genuinely Alaskan than that.
  • Joe Miller, his opponent, is a teabagger’s teabagger, with views that are pretty crazy even by red-state Republican standards. He wants to eliminate Social Security – as in, get rid of it completely. No exaggeration.
  • Lisa Murkowski, the incumbent Miller beat to make this race go topsy-turvy, has been notably mum on any endorsement. There’s definitely bad blood here, and it could linger.
  • McAdams is being backed to the hilt by Alaska’s senior Dem, Sen. Mark Begich, a true mensch who knows how to win in a very difficult state.
  • Finally, Alaska is a cheap state – damn cheap – and a little money can go a long way here. SSP may not have Chuck Schumer’s rolodex, but $2,400 can do a lot in the Land of the Midnight Sun.

We know this has been a tough and in many ways dispiriting cycle. There haven’t been a whole lot of bright spots on the horizon. But this race is definitely one of them. We can make a real difference. Help us get started – now.

Subscribe to SSP by Email

Did you know? You can sign up to get SSP delivered to your email inbox once a day, for free. You get all the prior day’s posts in a single email – perfect for scanning on your Blackberry or iPhone. You can either sign up using the form in our right-hand sidebar (under “About the Site”), or just follow this link.

Again, it’s only one email a day (sent in the morning, Eastern time) – nothing spammy. And we promise we won’t share your email address with anyone. So go ahead and sign up!


In recent days, several folks have asked for a clearer description of the kind of discourse that’s acceptable at the Swing State Project, and what’s off-limits. Before I get into that, let me explain my personal feelings on the matter. In my not at all humble opinion, I think SSP is one of the best political sites on the Internet, and has been for a long time. A big part of the reason is the comments section – it’s intelligent, civil, thoughtful, and almost entirely free of fights and flamewars. There are good reasons why it is that way, and there are good reasons why it ought to stay that way.

So why are the comments here so great? Well, for one, just based on the general topic of this blog, we attract a lot of very knowledgeable people. But there are plenty of sites out there with super-smart userbases but comment boards that are a total morass. What makes SSP different is focus. We stay relentlessly focused on one subject and one subject only: political horserace analysis. The discussion is always on-point, and you are bound to learn something from reading the comments to every post. What’s more, I think that precisely because it’s not a free-for-all, people are inclined to be more thoughtful in what they say. And it’s a virtuous circle – good comments foster a good site which attracts more good people to visit.

The other thing that makes SSP so excellent – and this something that is both somewhat subconscious and also the thing that people sometimes have the greatest struggles with – is that we strive to be bloodless. What do I mean by that? I think the best analyses tend to avoid a discussion of personal feelings and emotions. We’re trying to describe the political world as it exists – not as what we wish or hope or fear. When we set aside our own emotions, I think we are at are most accurate and astute. On the flipside, when things become heated and emotional, that is when the conversation is most likely to derail.

Now, I am not at all suggesting we never express a personal preference – that would be ridiculous. But it’s important not to let those personal preferences get in the way of clear-eyed analysis. If you like Candidate A more than Candidate B, it’s crucial to be able to step back and acknowledge that Candidate B has a better shot of winning the primary, if that is in fact the case. The same is true for legislation. We don’t debate legislation on the merits here – there are plenty of other sites for that. But to the extent legislation affects the horserace, we need to be able to stand aside from our own feelings and let the cold hard facts take center stage.

I want to be clear: As far as “bloodlessness” goes, I’m not trying to lay out hard-and-fast rules here. Yes, we do have some rules: stick to the horserace; no insults or ad hominems; support your arguments with facts and links. Those are pretty straightforward. The intersection of analysis and emotion is a lot trickier, and we aren’t robots. And we’re also a partisan site, which means it’s generally going to be okay to bash Republicans (though even there, lines can be crossed). It’s usually on our own side of the fence that we run into trouble – primaries or intramural legislative battles.

Keeping SSP SSP

A few days ago, I wrote a post about the Swing State Project’s mission. I was heartened by the comments, which were very supportive. Nonetheless, certain users have persisted in derailing discussions on this site in exactly the ways I made clear were unacceptable.

To preserve the way virtually all of us want the site to function, we are temporarily suspending the posting privileges of several users who were the worst abusers in the recent NY-Sen-B and UT-Gov posts. If you find yourself unable to comment or post diaries on the site, you are one of the affected users.

If you participated in these derailments but can still post, that does not mean you have our approval. We could have suspended far more people than we chose to. All participants should consider themselves on notice and take care to avoid abusing the site in the future.

If your privileges were suspended, you can request reinstatement after Memorial Day by sending me an email. Reinstatement will not be automatic, and contrition is advised. Note: We will remain exceptionally vigilant should anyone attempt to create a sock-puppet account. Doing so will be grounds for permanent banning.

It gives me no pleasure to do this. We’ve never had to do anything like this before, and I hope we never do again. And to be clear, the vast majority of site users have remained true to the spirit of the site. For this we are very grateful. Yet often the actions of a few can disrupt things for the many, and so we feel compelled to take action. Thank you all for your understanding.

What the Swing State Project Is All About

I’m putting this in the diaries because it’s a “meta” topic – but it’s still a very important one. I love the Swing State Project. I really do. I’ve been maintaining this site (often with all kinds of help, but sometimes on my own) for over five years. That’s an eternity in blog time.

I love this site because it’s focused – sharply focused – on a niche I find endlessly interesting and entertaining. For partisan political junkies, the horserace is the sine qua non of political change. Unless you elect the right guys and keep them there, you’ll never pass the bills you want passed, issue the regulations you want issued, appoint the judges you want appointed. It’s the alpha of whatever omega we’re all hoping for.

I also love this site because it’s a calm, civil place free from almost all of the incessant holy wars that almost any site with decent traffic regularly experiences. People here tend to keep their eyes on the prize. They analyze the horserace dispassionately and with good humor. They avoid the hot-button issues that produce a lot of heat and precious little light. They make this the kind of place that makes you feel smarter after you’ve finished reading.

We’ve worked really hard over the years to set the tone and keep things this way. Almost all the members of this community appreciate this, respect this, and maintain the calmness and civility this blog is known for.

But lately, we’ve seen conversations derail far too often. And it’s really disappointing to me. This is the Swing State Project. We talk about the horse race. Don’t get me wrong – there are a ton of issues that are important to me, whether it’s healthcare, the environment, gay marriage, or Employee Free Choice. There are also a ton of places I can discuss them to my heart’s content.

Just. Not. Here.

The main reason why people come to this site is to geek out about polls. The reason people keep coming back is because of the friendly, welcoming atmosphere. They know that there are a zillion-and-one other blogs out there for discussing any topic under the sun. SSP is for just one of them.

So, enough. Do not be this guy. Don’t take the bait. Don’t get sidetracked. This site is for one topic only. We like it that way, and so do you.

Celebrating Five Years of the Swing State Project

It’s hard to believe, but today is the Swing State Project’s fifth birthday. I started the site all those years ago to focus (as you’d expect) on the swing states in the 2004 presidential election. At the time, we were in the midst of Primary Wars I (only then, of course, it was just the Great Primary War), but I was very eager to discuss the real fight that lay ahead – how we were gonna beat George Bush.

It was in that spirit that I created SSP, truly as a “project” for all those interested in educating themselves about the presidential battleground. I count myself among that number – I was largely a neophyte. Sadly, the 2004 election didn’t turn out the way we wanted, but I learned a great deal along that journey nonetheless, and I think a lot of readers did as well.

After the election, I imagined I would shutter the site, but Tim Tagaris convinced me to keep it running and to shift the focus to downballot races. We left the site’s name unchanged (leading to much confusion in subsequent years), but focused like a laser on House, Senate and gubernatorial races. The site really found its voice at that time, particularly in the run-up to the OH-02 special election in August of 2005. I certainly felt like I found my blogospheric calling, and it’s a niche I’ve truly grown to love.

Along the way, many people have been vitally important to this site’s success. Tim of course was the inspiration and main force behind SSP’s transformation into its present form. It goes without saying that James L.’s tremendous hard work, brilliant writing, and wicked sense of humor sustain this site every day. And undoubtedly I’m very grateful to Trent and Crisitunity for joining the team and devoting their time and effort to make this site so excellent.

But most importantly, I have to thank you, the readers. You truly have turned this into more than just a site but a flourishing community of intelligent, inquisitive, and committed Democrats always eager to learn more – and to keep each other on our toes. When people ask me for advice about starting up a new blog, I always say, “Write for yourself – don’t expect an audience.” But the fact is, there is nothing like the feedback and validation that a thriving community can provide. You guys make it all worthwhile.

So please join me in wishing the Swing State Project a very happy fifth birthday, and to many more to come. To victory in November!