This is a continuation of the glossary started by our fearless leader David Nir at Swing State Project, brought to SSP's new home at Daily Kos Elections so that it can forevermore be updated and accessed on Big Orange.
Note: Some of these definitions were written by David Nir, some of them were written by me, and some of them were written by fellow Daily Kos Electioneers.
Note #2: I also encourage newcomers to Daily Kos Elections to check out the living guide to memes, which is maintained in perpetuity by Daily Kos Electioneer kurykh. There is some overlap between this glossary and that guide, but for the full lowdown on the meme-speak often used on this subsite, kurykh's diary is your bible.
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.
527: Named for 26 U.S.C. § 527, the section of the tax code interpreted as allowing this type of group. A tax-exempt group that advocates for or against certain candidates. These groups can be very powerful because any contributor can donate as much money as they want to them. However, it is illegal for them to support individual candidates either materially or vocally. As a result, during election cycles, many of these groups mostly run attack ads against candidates whom they oppose.
AD: Assembly District. The equivalent of "HD" in the states of California, New Jersey, New York, Wisconsin, and Nevada, which call their lower legislative chamber "the Assembly" instead of "the House".
AG: Attorney General. This abbreviation is more often used for state-level elected officials rather than the likes of Janet Reno or Eric Holder, but that is not a hard-and-fast rule.
AL: At-Large. Refers to a representative elected by popular vote of the entire body he or she represents, and most commonly here to a member of Congress elected to represent an entire state, or the district that member officially represents. Alaska, Vermont, Delaware, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, and South Dakota are the only states to have at-large congressional districts, due to their relatively small populations.
Babka: A delicious reward for the most accurate election prediction in certain contests closely watched by DKE. This traditionally Jewish pastry, loaded with chocolate or cinnamon, is baked by Green's Bakery in Brooklyn and shipped far and wide as a tasty incentive for good election forecasting.
Baconmander: An implausible gerrymander that creates a number of long, thin districts designed to maximize a particular party's electoral prospects. So called because when graphically represented side-by-side on a map, the pattern of districts can be said to resemble streaky bacon. Originally applied to abgin's famous gerrymander of New York, which can be seen here.
Bellwether: A state or district wherein an election result is said to predict what will happen in elections elsewhere, especially nationwide. These can change from year to year, and they may be over-hyped by prognosticators and media reports. Missouri, a traditional presidential bellwether state, went for Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the Republican nominee, in 2008; McCain, it goes without saying, was not elected president.
Biden Alert!: A term indicating an appearance by Vice President Joseph Biden to campaign or fundraise for a Democratic candidate. Can be modified to "Clinton Alert!" (usually referring to former President Bill Clinton), "FLOTUS Alert!" (referring to an appearance by first lady Michelle Obama), or occasionally "Obama Alert!" (referring to President Obama), among other variants.
Big Dog: Bill Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States and still a major player in Democratic politics.
Blue Dog: A Democratic member of the House of Representatives who is a member of the Blue Dog Caucus. These Democrats are typically more conservative than their colleagues, though they range from those who voted against healthcare reform, DADT repeal, and financial regulation to those who support virtually all of the major Democratic agenda items but stake out more moderate positions on other issues, such as gun control, nuclear energy, or defense spending.
Bob Dold!: Bob Dold, a one-term Republican congressman for Illinois' 10th congressional district from 2011 to 2013. A reference to the way in which then-Sen. Bob Dole said his own name as depicted on "The Simpsons" in the 1990s. Bob Dold!
Cat fud: A colloquial term for some good old fashioned friendly fire, the likes of which stomp all over President Reagan's so-called "Eleventh Commandment". Absolutely never rendered as "cat food" or "cat feud".
Caught napping: A term for an incumbent officeholder who doesn't fundraise or campaign much in an election cycle, but ends up losing or nearly losing to a challenger. Former Reps. Jim Oberstar and Solomon Ortiz, who lost in the Tea Party wave of 2010 to opponents no one expected to win until shortly before Election Day, are prime examples of incumbents who were caught napping. This term is typically, but not always, associated with incumbents who lose in a wave election that takes shape late in the cycle.
CD: Congressional District. A part of a state represented in the United States House of Representatives by a single member of Congress. Every state's got 'em. Some states have 53. Some states have one. Most states have somewhere in between. In all but the states with just one at-large congressional district, these get redrawn every ten years, and sometimes removed or added, depending on population totals given by the U.S. Census. The congressional districts of a state are ideally supposed to be of equal population, though some states allow varying degrees of deviancy from the target population.
CfG: Club for Growth. One of our favorite right-wing groups for its propensity for staking out positions wildly far to the right of the political mainstream and supporting Republican candidates who are less likely to win a general election than a more orthodox, establishment-backed Republican.
Chairman Bill DeBlaisovich: Mayor Bill de Blasio, the Democratic mayor of New York City. A mocking reference to the way de Blasio's 2013 rival Joe Lhota and elements of the New York media have treated de Blasio, an ardent progressive, as if he is about to Sovietize the largest city in the United States. Best used with a heaping dose of Sovietese: Comrades! With the joining together of the workers in the five municipal okrugs, the succession of the administrator of Novoyork autonomous oblast is at hand! We are pleased to report production has increased by 18 percent, testament to the brilliance of General Party Chairman Bill DeBlaisovich's leadership. Chairman DeBlaisovich will crush the czarist Lhota and defy the propaganda presses of the bourgeoisie oligarchic elite, sweeping to victory by acclamation of the people. Long live Chairman DeBlaisovich!
Chip Cravaaaaaaaaaaack: Chip Cravaack, the one-term Republican congressman for Minnesota's eighth congressional district from 2011 to 2013. The number of "As" used is variable.
Circle of ignorance: A grouping of extremely conservative suburbs or exurbs encircling, or nearly encircling, a major city. Often refers to the disgustingly Republican suburbs of Milwaukee, namely Waukesha, Washington, and Ozaukee counties. They have our undying enmity for voting almost three-to-one against such Democrats as Sen. John Kerry (in 2004), Sen. Russ Feingold (in 2010), and JoAnne Kloppenburg (in 2011).
Closed primary: A primary election in which only members of the party in question are allowed to vote.
Clown car: The result of a bunch of candidates from the same party, or in a top-two primary, scrambling for its nomination in the same primary contest. Candidates typically pile into one of these when a general election race appears particularly enticing, but the result can be messy and unpredictable, and people who might have been shoo-ins for the nomination in a contest with fewer candidates can end up getting roadburn courtesy of vote-splitting. The clown car effect has resulted in all-Republican general elections in Democratic-leaning and swing districts, such as CA-31 in 2012 and CA-25 in 2014, and has helped generally unpopular incumbents, like former Rep. Dan Burton of Indiana and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, win renomination despite not being well-loved by members of their own party.
CoH: Cash on Hand. The amount of moolah a candidate has available to spend at any given type. This figure must be disclosed in quarterly fundraising reports.
Community of interest: An affiliation of voters with common values and interests, particularly in terms of political tendencies.
Conservadem: A Democrat who takes political positions generally to the right of others in his or her party. May or may not be a member of the Blue Dog Caucus. A portmanteau of "conservative" and "Democrat". Can also be rendered "conservaDem". Not considered to be as grave an insult as "DINO" or "Lieberdem".
Conventional wisdom: A term for the general consensus of commentators and insiders, typically as espoused by the political press (e.g. POLITICO, The Hill, Roll Call, Crystal Ball, FiveThirtyEight, etc.). It can be right, and it can be wrong. It certainly drives a narrative.
Cow counties: Collectively refers to the sparsely populated rural counties of Western states, especially Oregon and Nevada. These are almost monolithic in their Republican slant, but contain a very small portion of the state population, especially considering their estimable size.
Crack (verb): The act of splitting a concentration of a certain type of voter, such as voters that strongly prefer a certain party, between multiple districts, ideally in order to prevent them from electing a member of that party.
DCCC: Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. This group, run by a Democratic member of the House of Representatives, coordinates campaigns for Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives and makes targeted expenditures to run campaign ads and such.
Deathmatch (verb): A term to describe the act of drawing two or more elected legislators from the same party into the same legislative district, forcing one or more to either retire or seek election elsewhere, or else setting up a primary battle from which only one will emerge with his or her party's nomination.
Del.: Delegate. Unhelpfully, also the Associated Press' abbreviation for Delaware, but that usage is uncommon on Daily Kos Elections.
Democratic-NPL: Democratic Non-Partisan League Party. This party is the North Dakota affiliate of the United States Democratic Party, to which all North Dakota Democrats belong by definition.
Demosaur: A traditionally Democratic-registered voter or area with a Democratic registration advantage that holds socially conservative views and has tended to vote Republican over the last couple of decades, especially in the absence of a conservative Democrat in the race. Most Demosaurs are in the South (see also "Dixiecrat"), but a fair number are in Republican-trending parts of other states, like southern Oregon, western Pennsylvania, and the Eastern Shore of Maryland, as well. The portmanteau reflects the Democratic identity as well as the ancestral nature of the affiliation; these are the Democrats of a bygone era.
DFL: Democratic–Farmer–Labor. This party is the Minnesota affiliate of the United States Democratic Party, to which all Minnesota Democrats belong by definition.
DGA: Democratic Governors Association. This group, run by a Democratic governor, is basically the equivalent of the DCCC for Democratic candidates for governorships across the country.
DINO: Democrat In Name Only. This isn't an appellation we like to toss around a lot here, but it refers to a Democrat who isn't just a Conservadem, isn't just a Blue Dog, but votes like a conservative Republican for virtually all intents and purposes. Even still, we generally root for these guys in general elections if they get the Democratic nomination, unless there's an independent or third-party candidate on the ballot who we like better.
Dixiecrat: Similar to "DINO" and a subset of "Demosaur", this is a (typically white) Democrat from the South, especially the Deep South, who holds racially regressive views and votes Republican unless there is a very conservative Democrat for which he can vote. Dixiecrats first split off from the Democratic coalition in 1948, protesting President Harry Truman's desegregation of the armed forces by supporting the third-party candidacy of then-Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina for president, and broke away more permanently in 1968 by supporting the presidential campaign of George Wallace.
DKE: Daily Kos Elections. A sub-site of Daily Kos on which electoral politics take precedent over policy preferences, and the successor to the Swing State Project. All diaries tagged with "DK Elections" are part of this sub-site and subject to the guidelines of our community. Our Mission Statement can be found here.
Daily Kos Electioneer: A DKE user and poster who is familiar with and follows the guidelines of our community. "Swingnut" remains in much more common usage but may not be applicable to Kossacks who have joined DKE since the move from SSP.
DLCC: Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. This group works to elect Democratic candidates to state assemblies and senates, including by running ads. Not to be confused with the defunct DLC (the Democratic Leadership Council).
DNC: Democratic National Committee. This group is the nominal organizational head of the Democratic Party, often serving as a liaison between a Democratic White House (when one exists) and the more specialized committees and associations. It is this organization's main job to make Democrats look good and get Democrats elected to office.
DNV: Did Not Vote. That segment of registered voters who just did not vote in the most recent election.
Dog whistle: Just as in the non-political world, one of these makes a high-pitched sound that only dogs can hear, in politics, this term refers to the use of a coded phrase that gets a segment of the electorate really interested while ideally being quite unnoticeable and inoffensive to everyone else. A classic example of this is the phrase "states' rights", invoked by conservative politicians from Gov. George C. Wallace to President Ronald Reagan. (Though it sounds innocuous enough, it was interpreted by certain white supremacists as suggesting that Southern states should be able to segregate and disenfranchise African Americans to their hearts' content.) A more recent example might be Republicans saying they "take the president at his word" that he was born in the United States or that he is a Christian. It sounds magnanimous to most, but to others, it signals that they believe there is no convincing proof of either. Republicans and Democrats both use these coded phrases to some extent, but they really seem to have a special relationship with social conservatives.
DoJ: Department of Justice. A division of the federal government entrusted with interpreting and upholding federal laws, including election law.
DRA: Dave's Redistricting App. A Web-based application created and maintained by Dave Bradlee that allows common, ordinary yokels to draw their own congressional districts, or even districts of state legislatures. The app is mostly used for fun, but several members of our community have gotten coverage from news outlets including The Wall Street Journal and The Oregonian for drawing redistricting proposals, and several more community members have actually submitted redistricting proposals created with the app for consideration by state legislators. The app requires the latest version of Microsoft Silverlight to work and can be accessed for free here.
Draw (verb): Most frequently refers to the way district lines are set during redistricting. If the home of a candidate or officeholder is placed outside of the district in which he or she seeks to run, or the district he or she represents, the unlucky individual can be said to have been "drawn out" or "redistricted out" of the district. That candidate or officeholder can then be said to have been "drawn into" or "redistricted into" whatever district his or her place of residence ends up in.
DSCC: Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. This group, run by a Democratic senator, works to elect Democratic candidates to the Senate, including by buying space and airtime for campaign ads.
Dummymander: An extreme gerrymander for partisan purposes that may initially look like an effective way to get lots of members of a particular party elected, but turns out to backfire and work to the advantage of the other party instead. The congressional map Republicans drew in Pennsylvania in 2001 is a good example of this.
Empty precinct: A voting precinct that contains no voters, and thus adds nothing to vote totals when tabulated. There is often no way to know how many of these a county or other subdivision has, or whether they have been accounted for, until the votes for that subdivision are fully tabulated and all precincts are declared reporting.
Enthusiasm gap: Any difference in how motivated registered voters of a certain party are to vote in the next election compared to registered voters of the other party. The more enthusiastic they are, the likelier they are to vote.
Exploratory committee: In many cases, the first step a potential candidate makes toward officially contesting an election. Theoretically, its purpose is to convene a group of people to assess whether a potential candidate should formally enter the race, often by conducting polls, talking to key figures, and otherwise trying to get a sense of how viable the potential candidate would be in seeking the office in which he or she is interested. Its formation is a requirement in many elections for a candidate or potential candidate to be invited to appear at a moderated debate.
Fair fight: A district designed to be competitive, theoretically giving both major parties an equal or near-equal chance of winning control of the district.
FEC: Federal Elections Commission. Tasked with ensuring compliance with our nation's election laws.
FPTP: First Past The Post. A system of counting votes whereby the candidate who collects the most votes wins the race, or advances to the next round if there's a runoff. The most simple method of assessing election winners imaginable. The vast majority of elections in the United States operate under this system.
Ganja break: A colloquial term for an inexplicable pause in the vote tabulation process; a long wait between X and Y percent of precincts reporting in election returns, during which elections officials may or may not have lit up a doobie, passed it around the office, and ordered twenty pizzas instead of doing their job. For races in particularly socially conservative parts of the country, the more innocuous "Jenga break" may be preferred.
General election: What the average person thinks of when they think of an election. These are usually held in November, and the winner is elected to the office the candidates are vying for. Note: Most of the time, especially in races for federal office and major offices in state government, a Democrat and a Republican appear on the ballot as the main candidates. But sometimes, independent and third-party candidates can get a significant amount of the vote or even win.
Gerrymander (verb): The act of drawing a district for grossly partisan purposes. A portmanteau of "Elbridge Gerry", the fifth Vice President of the United States and the ninth governor of Massachusetts, and "salamander", for the often snaky, serpentine appearance of such districts as depicted on a map. Can also be used as a noun, but is often used as a verb (unlike its cheeky derivatives "baconmander" and "dummymander").
Gingles criteria: Refers to the judicial precedent set by the case of Thornburg v. Gingles, requiring states to create a minority-majority district if: 1) the minority group's community is sufficiently large and geographically compact, 2) the minority group is politically cohesive, and 3) a white majority would vote as a bloc sufficient to defeat the minority's preferred candidate.
Good news! For John McCain!!!: Bad news for John McCain, the Republican senator from Arizona and the unsuccessful Republican nominee for the presidency in 2008. Can also be used to connote bad news for other Republicans. This meme has its origins on Nate Silver's blog FiveThirtyEight, which can be seen here, during the 2008 presidential campaign.
GOP: Grand Old Party - i.e., the Republicans.
Great Mentioner: A mythical being whose sole purpose is to float the names of potential candidates for office. Actually, whenever anyone is spitballing the idea of So-and-So running for Such-and-Such, especially when the rumor seems to have no definite original source, we usually just chalk it up to the Great Mentioner.
Hail Mary: A desperate attempt by a candidate to resurrect his or her flagging electoral chances, or by a campaign committee or advocacy group to put its message across to the voters in the face of impending defeat. The vast majority of the time, these attempts are unsuccessful, but sometimes they are perceived as being worth the risk.
HD: House District. A part of a state that sends at least one representative to represent it in the lower house of the state legislature, or in Nebraska, the only chamber of the unicameral state legislature. Most states only have single-member districts, but some states have House districts that elect multiple members at a time. Not to be confused with "CD".
House effect: A statistically significant mean digression from the polling average. Polling firms that have house effects are not necessarily inaccurate, as the polling average does not always nail the final result. For example, during the 2010 election cycle, SurveyUSA and Public Policy Polling had an observable house effect that favored Republicans by a couple points more on average than the polling average, collating the results of all polls reported, but they were the most accurate polling firms of that election cycle.
IDC: Independent Democratic Caucus. A group of New York state senators who are ostensibly members of the Democratic Party, but have organized a separate caucus allied with Senate Republicans. The caucus controls the balance of power in the New York State Senate and enjoys a close working relationship with Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Its members may sometimes be referred to pejoratively as Corruptocrats.
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.
In the weeds: The kind of political happening that takes place on an extremely local scale, e.g. school board elections, wasteful spending in a watershed restoration project, town council elections, etc. We probably have no legitimate reason to talk about this or be interested in it at all, but we sometimes do anyway. Sometimes also rendered "down in the weeds".
IOKIYAR: It's O.K. If You're A Republican. Because let's face it, there are some things they can get away with that Democrats just can't. Trash-talked his home state out of his mouth and had an illustrious lobbying career? Welcome back to the Senate, Dan Coats of
North Carolina (oh, did he move back? I thought he said North Carolina was "a better place" than his home state and he preferred living there) Indiana. Cheated on and left his wife while she was debilitated by a medical condition outside of her control? That sounds like Sen. John McCain, Republican of Arizona, and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Republican of Georgia! Repeatedly raised the debt ceiling and expressed complete indifference as to the ballooning federal deficit as president? That's okay, as long as he's Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, or George W. Bush! Note: In this community, we're all terribly bitter about these gaping double standards, but we generally try to restrict our discussion of them to how media coverage will affect a candidate's chances of winning.
IRV: Instant Runoff Voting. A system of voting whereby instead of a voter simply marking which candidate he or she wants to win, he or she ranks the candidates by order of preference. If the voter's first-choice candidate is eliminated, his or her vote is automatically cast for the second-choice candidate; if that candidate is eliminated, the vote goes to his or her third-choice candidate; and so on. Exceedingly few elections in the United States are conducted using this model. It is also sometimes referred to as "AV" or "alternative vote".
Joementum: Growing potency on the part of the campaign of any candidate named "Joe". A portmanteau of "Joe" and "momentum" dating back to former Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman's unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 2004.
JPF/PFoJ: Judean People's Front/People's Front of Judea. A reference to the 1979 comedy film Monty Python's Life of Brian, a way to describe the vote-splitting, back-biting, and often very public feuding and other nonsense that goes on between rival Tea Party groups. Many of these are groups that more or less believe exactly the same thing, but for whatever reason bitterly hate each other. As with the Judean People's Front/People's Front of Judea in Life of Brian, they often have almost the exact same name (e.g. Tea Party Express vs. Tea Party Patriots). This term is less often used to describe similar shenanigans among groups on the left.
Jungle primary: A type of election in which all eligible candidates appear on the same ballot without being selected as the nominees of their respective political parties. There may be no single party line as a result. Not to be confused with the "top-two primary".
Kabuki cartography: A byproduct of divided government that happens once every decade or so in many states. This occurs when, knowing full well that the governor or perhaps the other chamber of the legislature will never agree to a partisan redistricting proposal, legislators of the party in control of at least one legislative chamber submit a proposal anyway. This often leads to a lot of work being done needlessly by interns, which may or may not even be considered once the competing proposals inevitably go to adjudication. Note: Legislative interns are paid exactly as much as DKE mapmakers to draw up redistricting maps!
Kossack: A Daily Kos user, especially one active across multiple groups of the website including the front page.
Lamar! Alexander: Lamar Alexander, senior senator from Tennessee and stalwart Republican with a really enjoyably Southern first name. Can be shortened to "Lamar!" and applied to Republican Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas as well.
Lenar! Whitner: Lenar Whitney, Louisiana state representative and 2014 Republican candidate for Congress in LA-06. A variation on Lamar! It's just too fun a name.
LaTourette's Syndrome: A chronic condition shared by districts that are swingy or Democratic on the presidential level, but seem to be impossible for Democrats to win. In some cases, this is attributable to a particularly strong, entrenched Republican incumbent. In other cases, it is due to a weak local Democratic Party, a poor Democratic bench, or simply a string of bad luck. Named for former Republican Rep. Steve LaTourette of Ohio.
LD: Legislative District. This term can be used generically for a district, especially in a state or territorial legislature, or specifically for a district of the Nebraska Legislature, the only unicameral state legislature in the United States.
Leading questions: Questions, such as those posed by a pollster, asked in such a way as to encourage respondents to give a particular response. Not to be confused with "house effect" or "push poll".
Leg: A state or territorial legislature. The equivalent of Congress, but for a state or self-governing territory.
Lieberdem: A Democrat, especially one in a safe legislative or congressional seat, with a reputation for backstabbing his or her party, such as by making frequent media appearances to criticize party leadership or major agenda items, endorsing Republicans in contested races, or withholding support from critical pieces of legislation for no apparent reason beyond obtaining political leverage. Refers to former Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, whose name -- together with that of Zell Miller, the former governor and senator from Georgia who infamously addressed the Republican National Convention in 2004 and endorsed then-President George W. Bush instead of Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts -- has become a virtual byword for betrayal of fellow Democrats. Considering how reviled Lieberman (and Miller) became among Democratic Party leaders, this term should not be overapplied and is best used sparingly, as the appellation is a pretty serious insult. Often used alongside "DINO", "Conservadem", or "Blue Dog", but typically not alongside "Demosaur", which usually refers to a more conservative Democrat in a traditionally conservative part of the country.
Loserspeak: Language and phrasing used by losers. Loserspeak tends to signify impending defeat. Examples of loserspeak include: "The only poll that matters is on Election Day;" "Our supporters don't care how much money we raise;" and "D.C. insiders are trying to handpick our opponent." Taken together, these three gems form the mythical "loserspeak trifecta". According to ancient Mayan prophecy, if the trifecta is ever completed in a single speech or press release, it will signify the sudden end of the Age of Aquarius and plunge the world into a second, extremely whiny darkness.
LV: Likely Voter. A registered voter expected to vote in the next election. Different pollsters have different ways of counting who is a likely voter. Sometimes, a likely voter is simply a registered voter who has expressed the expectation that he or she will vote in the next election. Other times, only voters who have participated in the previous election are considered likely voters. Likely voter screens are among the pieces of polling methodology most frequently scrutinized at Daily Kos Elections, even when mainstream media outlets choose not to foray into the technical details of how a survey was conducted.
Media market: An area sharing common local television programming or local newspaper circulation (often coterminous or reasonably close). They are most commonly associated with one or more cities and can span multiple states. For example, the Omaha media market not only covers most of Nebraska, but extends into South Dakota and Iowa as well.
Mendoza line: Named for former MLB shortshop Mario Mendoza, famed for his sub-par (but not terrible enough to merit his removal from the batting order) batting average, this imaginary cutoff in politics generally refers to approval ratings and is usually around 45 percent approving and in positive territory, i.e. no more than 44 percent disapproving. In practice, most incumbents who manage to keep their approval ratings above this largely arbitrary line do win reelection, though it may not save some reasonably popular incumbents, such as former Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich or former Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith, against strong opponents in wave elections; similarly, not all incumbents who cannot consistently stay above the line lose reelection, as proven by Nevada Sen. Harry Reid and North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr.
Millstone: An unpopular stance taken by a candidate for office that can be "hung" around his or her neck by a rival, potentially driving that candidate's approval ratings down and weakening his or her electoral position. Lambasting farm subsidies while trying to win election in an agriculture-heavy district, supporting oil drilling in a sensitive habitat while trying to win election in a strongly environmentalist district, and having a close relationship with a person in a district in which that person is very unpopular can all be seen as millstone issues. It may be effective in certain races where a particularly heavy millstone can be hung around a candidate's neck for a rival to go on the offense and drag out the adamantine chains to tie the unpopular issue and the candidate together. In many other cases, though, these issues are not individually potent enough to destroy a candidate's chances of winning if the election is made out to be all about a single one of them.
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".
NB: New Brunswick. Not Nebraska. Nebraska's two-digit postal code changed from "NB" to "NE" in 1969. There are no U.S. Senate, U.S. House, gubernatorial, or presidential races in New Brunswick, because it's a province of Canada.
Noise: Meaningless deviation from an expected average. For instance, polls might consistently show a four-point race, but one poll from a generally reputable pollster shows an eight-point race or a statistical tie. Statistical noise is just part of polling, in which surveys conducted under a sound methodology that usually works will occasionally provide numbers that are just not right. Polls that demonstrate this noise are also called "outliers".
NRCC: National Republican Congressional Committee. The Republican equivalent of the DCCC.
NRSC: National Republican Senatorial Committee. The Republican equivalent of the DSCC
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.
Open primary: A primary election in which voters can legally cast a ballot irrespective of their party affiliation.
Outlier: A particular poll that doesn't reflect the polling consensus, e.g. a result showing Candidate X with a two-point lead in a race where polling has indicated Candidate Y is ahead by about five points. Watch out for loserspeak here. Many times, especially after an event that might be seen as shifting the momentum in the race, campaigns that get a worse-than-expected polling result will claim that poll is an outlier. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn't. Note: Sometimes outliers are actually right!
PAC: Political Action Committee. A group that can advocate and make expenditures to promote specific candidates for office. Corporations and other organizations are not allowed to donate directly to these groups.
Pack (verb): The act of putting as many of a certain type of voter as possible into one district.
Party convention: A meeting of members, officials, and often candidates from a particular party, usually a state or territorial affiliate of that party (such as the Connecticut Republican Party, or the Delaware Democratic Party, or the Republican Party of Texas, or the Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party). Most of the time, these are held to formally nominate the winner of that party's primary to advance to the general election, but in some states, they are held before the primary and give the candidates an opportunity to vie for the formal endorsement of the party before the primary. In some states, like Utah, candidates must win a certain amount of support from their party's delegates to even appear on the primary ballot as a member of that party.
PIP: Puerto Rican Independence Party. The main pro-independence party in the self-governing territory of Puerto Rico. Generally considered a minor party.
PNP: New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico. The main pro-statehood party in the self-governing territory of Puerto Rico, including liberals, moderates, and conservatives. Abbreviation comes from the Spanish version of the party's name; can also be rendered "NPP" to abbreviate the English version.
Polling consensus: The state of the race, as indicated by the bulk of pollsters, at any particular time. Some people prefer to discard results from pollsters they consider unreliable or untrustworthy in considering what the polling consensus is, while others prefer to rely on the "totality of polling", which is a related term. The polling consensus can change, and in some races, especially those that are difficult to poll (like special elections, low-turnout municipal elections, or elections in states like Hawaii, Alaska, or Nevada), there is no consensus.
PPD: Popular Democratic Party of Puerto Rico. The main pro-commonwealth party in the self-governing territory of Puerto Rico and the territory's Democratic affiliate. Abbreviation comes from the Spanish name; can also be rendered "PDP".
PPP: Public Policy Polling. One of the best polling firms of the 2008, 2010, and 2012 election cycles, based in North Carolina and run by Tom Jensen. Considered by some to be a Democratic polling firm, due to Jensen's open disclosure of his party affiliation and pro-Democratic opinions in some of his political analysis, but officially nonpartisan. Its website can be seen here.
PPP Derangement Syndrome: A medical disorder afflicting many Republicans who do not want to believe Public Policy Polling's poll numbers whenever they show them behind. This disorder manifests as wild accusations that PPP is "Democrat (sic) propaganda" and that its polling results are "skewed", as well as occasionally in spurious accusations that PPP has not historically been an accurate pollster. (It has been.) Sufferers of this syndrome include Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, Virginia Atty. Gen. Ken Cuccinelli, and National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brad Dayspring, among others.
Preclearance: The consent of the United States Department of Justice to a change in election law or, more commonly, a proposal for redistricting. Required in several states and parts of states, mostly in the South, under the Voting Rights Act.
Primary election: An election that narrows down the field. Conventionally, Republicans and Democrats each hold their own primary and the winner receives his or her party's nomination to go on to the general election.
Push poll: A campaign tactic, not a scientific survey, in which a "pollster" spreads negative information -- or even slander -- against a particular candidate under the guise of conducting a poll. This tactic is not technically illegal in most jurisdictions, but it is considered highly unethical, and candidates are sometimes tripped up in the late stages of a campaign by unamused recipients of push polling posting an audio file of their experience on the internet.
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.
Ratfuck (verb): The act of propping up or even engineering a third-party or independent bid in a general election, or a less electable challenger in a competitive primary, to siphon votes from a rival candidate. Ideally leads to vote-splitting sufficient to allow the ratfucker, or the ratfucker's preferred candidate (if conducted by an outside group), to win. May be rendered as "rat-screw" or even "ratkiss" if the user (or audience) is profanity-averse.
Recall election: An election held midway through an elected official's term of office to determine whether he or she will be allowed to finish out his or her term. They are typically contested between the official and at least one other candidate, often selected by his or her party, who will take over the seat and finish out the unexpired term of office if elected. Only a few states allow these, and they are usually triggered by submission of a petition with a certain number of valid signatures on it.
Recanvass (verb): The act of checking and evaluating the way votes were counted in order to correct inaccuracies in the original tally. This is generally only done in close races, often at taxpayer expense, and rarely changes the outcome of an election. Not to be confused with "recount".
Recount: A process by which cast ballots, whether paper or electronic, are individually double-checked and counted again, the new count being cross-checked against the original reported vote totals for any discrepancies. It is generally only done in very close races when a losing candidate wishes to contest the result, and in cases where a particularly small number of votes separates the winner from the loser, it may be conducted at taxpayer expense. Note: Recounts sometimes reveal that the apparent winner on Election Night in fact is not the top vote-getter!
Redistricted out of existence: A status conferred upon districts that have been eliminated as a result of redistricting, with constituent parts being reapportioned to surrounding districts. Less often refers to the fate of that district's representative. Note: Representatives of districts that suffer this fate can run in another district instead, and historically, many of them do.
Redistricting: A process that usually happens every decade, after the release of Census data and according to the changes in population reported in that data. These changes mean that congressional districts in some slow-growing states may be eliminated so that congressional districts in fast-growing states may be added. Different states have different ways of conducting this process, with most allowing the state legislature to draw the map as subject to gubernatorial veto but a growing number delegating the task to a bipartisan or nonpartisan commission of some sort. In cases where the appropriate officials cannot agree on a redistricting proposal, courts may appoint a special master to submit a proposal instead. Redistricting in every state is subject to the Voting Rights Act, among other federal laws, but most states are not subject to preclearance.
Republican Jesus: A candidate or potential candidate on the Republican side with approval numbers that can only be described as godly, zero visible electoral liabilities or institutional weaknesses, policy positions exactly in line with the Republican orthodoxy of the moment, and untouchable popularity among all major segments of the Republican Party. Has not yet emerged as a candidate for president in any election.
Retrogression: The significant dilution of the voting share of a minority group in a district via redistricting. Used most frequently to describe the transformation of a minority-majority or minority-plurality district into a white-majority or white-plurality district. Generally illegal under the Voting Rights Act unless minority population has decreased to the point where it cannot sustain a minority-majority or minority-plurality district.
Riding: The equivalent of a district under a parliamentary system. Don't worry, we don't have any of these in the United States.
RINO: Republican In Name Only. A Republican who is perceived as not toeing the conservative party line of the Republican Party, be it his or her state's affiliate of the Republican Party or the national Republican Party, and is thus considered an asset to the Democrats. The great thing about these guys is the more extinct they get, the more unreasonable ultraconservatives get about who fits the definition - so they never really die, they just get further to the right.
Rising star: A term used for politicians on both the right and the left, this appellation is usually reserved for those who seem to have the je ne sais quoi to rise above their current station, whether they are destined for a lengthy career as a talk show mainstay or a seat behind the desk in the Oval Office. Charismatic conservatives of color, like Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Mayor Mia Love of Saratoga Springs, Utah, are often tagged as rising stars, while particularly young and telegenic progressives, like Reps. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts, may have the same label applied to them as well. Note: "Rising stars" don't always rise!
RNC: Republican National Committee. The Republican equivalent of the DNC.
RGA: Republican Governors Association. The Republican equivalent of the DGA.
Runoff election: A type of election that follows a first round of voting, which serves to eliminate all but the top two vote-getters, and pits those top two vote-getting candidates against one another with no other names on the ballot. These elections are most common in Southern states, as well as in many municipal elections.
Rush Holt!: Rush Holt, the Democratic congressman for New Jersey's 12th congressional district since January 1999. A reference to the character Steve Holt and his eponymous catchphrase from "Arrested Development". Rush Holt!
RV: Registered Voter. An eligible adult who is registered to vote.
Ryan's Curse: A budget plan released by Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican congressman for Wisconsin's 1st congressional district and 2012 nominee for vice president, that would purportedly balance the budget in the medium- to long-term through draconian cuts to spending on social services and entitlement programs, most infamously through gutting Medicare in favor of a piddly annual healthcare voucher and a friendly "you're on your own, now get lost" for seniors. This plan polled about as well as you would expect it to, being particularly unpopular with seniors, yet to our delight, Republicans lined up to fête it and demand every candidate pledge allegiance to it like it was an American flag made out of assault rifles, excerpts from the Book of Revelation, and other smaller American flags, and unsuccessful Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney liked it so much, he
put a ring on it made Ryan his running mate.
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.
SCOTUS: Supreme Court of the United States. The highest court of appeals in the land. This acronym is often used to distinguish the court in question from state and territorial Supreme Courts.
SD: Senate District. A part of a state that sends one senator to represent it in the upper house of the state legislature. Nebraska is the only state that does not have these, as its state legislature is unicameral.
Sharrrrrrrrrrrron Angle: Sharron Angle, the unsuccessful Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Nevada in 2010. The number of "Rs" used is variable.
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!
Some Rich Dude: A variation on "Some Dude". Remember how Some Dude doesn't have a lot of personal wealth? Some Rich Dude does. Other than that, he's pretty much a Some Dude. Examples of Some Rich Dudes might include people described in media reports as "business executives", "developers", or "hedge fund managers". People who hold office or have a significant public profile while also having money typically are not considered Some Rich Dudes. The term is generally reserved for people who come out of seemingly nowhere into politics, often self-funding campaigns for office.
SoS: Secretary of State. This abbreviation is typically used for state-level officials rather than the likes of Condoleezza Rice or Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Special election: An election held to fill a vacancy or select a person to fill an unexpired term of office. They are sometimes, but not always, held concurrently with regularly scheduled general elections.
Special master: For our purposes, a person appointed by a court to draw new lines for legislative districts without consideration for political party, incumbency, or electoral "fairness", when the legislative and executive branches of a state or territorial government just can't agree on a map in the allotted period of time. These guys keep a low profile and typically have much more to do with the law than they have to do with politics. They do, however, have to comply with federal elections law, including the Voting Rights Act.
SSP: Swing State Project. Our old home for going on seven years. We miss it, but we've rounded up most of the old gang over here, plus some fresh faces.
SSP Labs: A division of DKE dedicated to crunching numbers and doing all the complex math, spreadsheet-making, and number-tallying that make the rest of us collapse with brain aneurysms. This division, run by members of DKE staff, is active on a part-time basis and has churned out new partisan numbers for redistricting maps, population numbers for old districts by Census numbers, and other calculations in the past.
Statistical tie: A term for when polling does not show a clear leader in a race. There is considerable disagreement in the polling community over when it is appropriate to use this term or if it is appropriate to use it at all. Some consider a race to be statistically tied if candidates are inside the margin of error on most polling. Here at Daily Kos Elections, a race is generally considered to be statistically tied only if the body of polling does not indicate any sort of a lead (beyond maybe a one- or two-point edge) for a candidate. For instance, Candidate X might lead by around four points in most polls, which is inside the margin of error for each of those polls individually. But because the polling consensus is about a four-point lead for Candidate X, the race is not considered to be statistically tied, as it would be for Candidate Y, where some polling shows Candidate Y leads by two or three points, some polling shows a similar lead for Candidate Z, and some polling shows a one-point or dead even race.
Super PAC: A PAC to which corporations, unions, and other organizations can donate freely. These did not exist prior to the Citizens United decision, in which the Supreme Court ruled that corporations must be treated as individuals in terms of having "protected speech", including the right to spend money on political causes; and SpeechNow.org v. FEC, a D.C. Circuit Court decision holding that contribution limits could not apply to political committees that do not make direct contributions to or coordinate their activities with federal candidates. Therefore, unlike regular PACs, they cannot coordinate with individual candidates, and unlike 527 organizations, all contributions to and expenditures by these groups must be disclosed publicly just as federal PAC spending is.
SUSA: SurveyUSA. The most accurate major polling firm of the 2010 election cycle. Its website can be seen here.
Swing district: A district that may be reasonably considered winnable for a candidate from either party. Unlike a "fair fight" district, not always specially drawn to give both parties an even chance at winning it. Some of these change hands every other election; some have been held by one party or the another for years and years continuously.
Swing state: The equivalent of a swing district for a state. Usually refers to a state that is up for grabs in a presidential election, but can also refer to a state that is winnable for either party on the gubernatorial, senatorial, at-large congressional, or state legislative level in a particular election cycle.
Swingnut: A (former) denizen of Swing State Project. Many of us are now quite active on this site.
Teabag (verb): A crude term to describe the act of challenging a Republican elected official in a primary from the right, criticizing him or her for not being "conservative enough" and aligning oneself with one or more Tea Party group to bolster one's own conservative bona fides. When this challenge results in that unlucky Republican losing his or her bid for the Republican nomination, the modifier "to death" may be appended.
Ticket-splitting: The act of voting for candidates of different parties on the same ballot, especially for major offices. Not to be confused with "vote-splitting".
Top-two primary: A type of primary election in which all candidates appear on the same ballot, irrespective of party affiliation, and the top two vote-getters advance to a runoff election, which doubles as the general election. Washington and California use this type of primary.
Totality of polling: A rule that suggests all polling results, even those from sources that are not considered to be reliable or trustworthy, should be taken into account. Many prognosticators, including The New York Times statistician Nate Silver, rely on this rule or some variation thereof. Silver's vaunted model at FiveThirtyEight considers results from even disgraced pollsters like Rasmussen and Zogby, but applies a weighting model that takes past performance into account, meaning numbers from historically accurate pollsters like SurveyUSA and Public Policy Polling are assigned a higher value by the model than numbers from unproven pollsters or those with a poor track record.
TPX: Tea Party Express. Think Club for Growth, but on ardently homophobic, anti-tax, government-hating crack cocaine. We love these guys because whichever candidate they endorse is almost guaranteed to be a frothing-at-the-mouth far-rightist who is vulnerable at worst against any decent Democrat in all but the safest Republican districts or states.
Tracking poll: A type of poll that usually emerges after the party conventions in presidential election years which produces new horse race numbers every single day and usually includes an average, weighted or otherwise, of numbers for the past several days to minimize noise. Also known as a "tracker", not to be confused with the campaign operatives who follow around rival candidates and record what they do and say in case they get any material that can be used against them.
Trifecta: Refers to simultaneous control by one party of the governorship and both houses of the legislature. Nebraska is the only state in which it is impossible for one party to "hold the trifecta" because its legislature is unicameral and officially nonpartisan. Less often used to refer to the simultaneous control by one party of the presidency and both houses of Congress.
UnSkewed Polls: A website set up by noted conservative brainiac Dean Chambers during the 2012 election cycle to aggregate poll numbers and "unskew" them, i.e. tilt them heavily toward Republicans for no apparent reason beyond Chambers' own unwillingness to accept Mitt Romney and many Republican congressional candidates' impending doom. After President Barack Obama thumped Romney, despite Karl Rove's insistence that Ohio should not be called for the president on Election Night, Chambers had no choice but to admit he was wrong. His website has since been taken down.
VAP: Voting Age Population. The number of people 18 years or older within a certain district, subdivision, or state.
Veto (verb): An executive's rejection of proposed legislation that has passed the legislature and must receive his or her approval to become law. These can typically be overridden by a two-thirds vote of one or both legislative chambers.
Vote-by-mail: A system of voting in which all ballots are cast by being mailed to the appropriate elections authority. Oregon and Washington have instituted this system, which tends to drive up voter turnout because lazy people don't have to physically go to a polling place in order to receive, fill out, and cast a ballot. Also sometimes called "mail-in voting", "mail-only voting", or "postal voting".
Vote sink: A district designed to contain as many voters favoring a certain party as possible, ideally making the surrounding districts more likely to elect members of the opposite party.
Vote-splitting: Refers to votes against an unpopular candidate being divided among multiple other candidates, potentially allowing that unpopular candidate to "break through" and win the election. This is the only reason the likes of the widely loathed former Rep. Dan Burton, Republican of Indiana, survived as long as they did. (If you hear a reference to "pulling a Dan Burton" or "pulling a Charles Djou", this is the phenomenon in question.) Also an artifact of the FPTP vote-counting system. Not to be confused with "ticket-splitting". See also "clown car".
Voter suppression: Often euphemistically labeled as "voter ID", this is a tactic beloved by Republicans that involves imposing increasingly arduous burdens designed to discourage poor people, college students, and people of color from voting. So-called "voter ID" laws, which have been passed in several states controlled by Republican trifectas in recent years, require elections officials to turn away or disqualify registered voters who cannot produce a photo identification, and in some cases other identifying documents, at their polling station. This effectively serves to either discourage or disenfranchise would-be voters who were unaware of the requirement, cannot afford to purchase photo identification, or do not have certain documents readily available to them. This group of registered voters is typically Democratic. Republicans have defended these voter suppression tactics by claiming they are trying to prevent voter fraud, despite said criminal behavior being extremely uncommon in the United States. Several of these laws have been struck down in court, but Democrats must constantly beware of Republican efforts to prevent or discourage their supporters from exercising their legal right to vote.
VRA: Voting Rights Act. A law, or more properly a series of laws, passed in the 1960s to protect the rights of minority voters. VRA is often cited to compel states to draw districts that will elect the preferred candidate of a particular minority group. A guide to this legislation and its implications for redistricting, written by our very own roguemapper, can be found here.
WATN?: Where Are They Now? Occasionally a story comes to our attention about a politician or candidate we used to know who has taken a new job lobbying, or flown to Syria to meet with Bashar al-Assad, or appeared on "Dancing With the Stars". We like to keep track of the politicos we used to love, hate, or feel fairly ambivalent toward.
Wave: An election, especially a general election, in which one party dominates. So named because candidates who might be seen as weak under normal circumstances can be swept into office by the force of prevailing political sentiments that override feelings about specific personalities, such as goodwill toward an incumbent of the "wrong" party. 2006 is a recent example of a Democratic wave, in which Democrats took both the House of Representatives and the Senate, as well as a majority of governors' mansions and state legislatures, amid popular mistrust and anger toward President George W. Bush and congressional Republicans. Four years later, Republicans romped in the 2010 wave election, retaking the House with the largest seat change since the 1940s (63 seats picked up by the GOP) and capturing a majority of governors' mansions and state legislatures. Waves can develop late in an election cycle, which may result in supposedly safe or entrenched incumbents being caught napping.
Wyoming Rule: A reapportionment scheme by which the target population for each congressional district would be as close to the population of the country's smallest state (Wyoming) as possible. This scheme would increase the size of the House of Representatives and remove any cap on the House's maximum size. It is eminently unlikely to ever become the law of the land, but some of our amateur mapmakers like to play around with such scenarios.