Archive for the ‘Electoral College’ Category

2012 (Not Quite) Final Results

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

Final 2012 Electoral College Map.

Obama managed the unlikely feat of winning 8 of the 9 swing states, losing only North Carolina. Not bad considering the challenges he faced.

The Democrats picked up of two seats in the Senate in an exceedingly difficult year, with the class of 2006 defending their seats. Scott Brown out in Massauchsetts, Claire McCaskill and John Tester re-elected, Tim Kaine takes the seat that Jim Webb won by less than 10,000 votes in 2006, an unlikely Democratic win in North Dakota,  the first openly lesbian Senator in Wisconsin…. No one would have predicted these results earlier in the year.

The House elections were less fruitful, in no small part a result of Republican gerrymandering that allowed Republicans to keep a 40 some seat majority even though they garnered less vote share than Democrats. One small ray of sunshine on this front is that some of the most annoying Tea Party candidates like Joe Walsh and Alan West are on their way to defeat (Michele Bachman managed to escape by about 400 votes).

All in all, not too shabby.

Reality Pierces Republican Bubble

Saturday, November 17th, 2012

Last week’s election was a big victory for President Obama and the Democrats.  But aside from a win for the Democrats, the election was also a win for the pollsters — you know, the trained statisticians who make their living surveying public opinion? These guys were under attack this year by Fox News and the conservative media. According to the perpetually paranoid over at Fox News, the pollsters who were showing Obama leading in the Electoral College for the entire year were just as liberally biased as the overwhelming number of scientists who believe in global warming and the statisticians in the Bureau of Labor Statistics who showed a decline in the unemployment rate in the run up to the election.

Even to the bitter end, Fox contributor and Harvey Fierstein impersonator Dick Morris was predicting an electoral college landslide for Romney, and the conservative media bought it hook line and sinker. I always try to keep Mark Twain’s maxim about statistics in mind, but when you have different polls with varied methodology all telling you something that’s at odds with your view of the world, that’s a pretty good indicator that your assumptions might be incorrect. Morris was contrite this week, explaining that he assumed a turnout more in line with 2004, but it’s not clear that there was any evidence to suggest this except the personal opinions of him and others on Fox.

I was having this debate months ago with my conservative uncle whose comeback for “the polls are showing you behind” was always “not according to Scott Rasmussen.” Rasumssen was was the king of the 500 person automated poll which assumed a strong Republican turnout based on responses to questions regarding party identification. Rasumussen’s polls consistently showed a Republican bias of a few points, which can make a real difference in a close election. But a little knowledge can be dangerous and Rasmussen’s polling bred a cottage industry of bloggers contesting the polling in the presidential race by adjusting the party identification mix the pollsters were predicting based on their interviews. The website was the most prominent of the naysayers and they “specialized” in taking other peoples polls and recasting the results by adding more Republicans to the mix.

Meanwhile, the conservative media shills needed to find a visible scapegoat and they found it in Nate Silver, a statistician who turned to election prediction in 2007. Silver had a great record in 2008, predicting every state except Indiana for Obama. In the wake of that election, he was hired by the New York Times as a blogger, where (in case you were wondering) he did well predicting the Republican Congressional landslide year of 2010 as well.

Silver’s model was projecting an Obama win for most of the year based on his narrow but steady lead in the Electoral College polls. Oftentimes, his percentage prediction of an Obama win seemed over-optimistic, so you could quibble with the confidence level, but it’s hard to look at a guy who leads for most of the year in enough electoral college states to win the presidency and argue that he’s not the favorite. Plus, this is a statistical model. One assumes that if Romney was showing the same swing state resiliency, then it would have shown the same result for him.

By the Monday before the election, Silver had Obama at an 85% chance of victory. Meanwhile, the folks at Fox were still telling their viewers that Romney had the momentum and was going to win this thing. Dick Morris, George Will and others predicted a Romney landslide. Perpetually smarmy Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan wrote a blog post that Monday in which she predicted Romney would win the election based almost completely on… a feeling she had. Business Insider called it “the most anti-Nate Silver column imaginable,” not because she spoke about or even alluded to Silver, but because her analysis was almost completely devoid of empirical facts. This seemed like bravado at the time — a way to embolden the troops before a big fight–but in the aftermath it looked like they spent so much time in their own bubble that they couldn’t imagine any other objective reality where a majority could vote for Obama. Last week James Fallows likened it to the dismay attributed to Pauline Kael in the wake of the 1968 election when she couldn’t imagine how Nixon could have won, since “no one I know voted for him.”

To a certain extent, this makes sense. If you spend all your time talking to white Republicans who think that Obama is leading this country on a dangerous slide to socialism, that’s going to color your analysis. To be sure, Romney did carry white voters by a big margin and if the electorate turned out to be as white as they all seemed to think it would be, then we would have been looking at President Romney. But with all of the evidence pointing the other way, these guys should have known better. I have to imagine that there’s more than a few Fox viewers this week who feel like they’ve been had.

Can Romney Swing Iowa?

Sunday, June 24th, 2012

John Dickerson’s profiles  Iowa in

Iowa was the emotional center of the 2008 Obama campaign. The state launched him when he beat Hillary Clinton in the caucuses. Obama went on to win the general election in Iowa by 10 percentage points, but that margin of victory was out of character for the state. President Bush narrowly won Iowa by 10,000 votes in 2004 after having lost it by less than 5,000 votes in 2000. Now, like the rest of the country, Iowa is reverting back to its normal condition—a 50/50 state with narrow electoral margins.

In the most recent NBC Electoral College analysis, they have Iowa as Lean Republican, which may be a stretch, but they feel that the avalanche of negative attacks on Obama in the months leading up to the Republican Caucuses and Republican takeovers of the Iowa legislature and Governorship in 2010 gives an edge to the Romney in a tight contest. Also, Dickerson cites the importance of the debt to Iowan’s and the fact that Romney has a significant advantage when asked who would do a better job on the issue. Among Obama’s advantages in Iowa are his ground game (which could be decisive in a close swing state) as well as (surprisingly) the economy. Unemployment is 5.2% in Iowa, which is well below the national average  (an advantage that Obama has in Virginia and New Hampshire as well). 

Current polls show a tossup in Iowa, and the stakes are high for the president. He can win without Iowa, but a loss in the state would mean that he would need to carry states like Virginia or Ohio, both of which went to Obama by smaller margins than Iowa in 2008.

Virginia, Virginia, Virginia?

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for President Obama, starting with the anemic jobs report, continuing with the Wisconsin recall, and culminating with the continuing coverage of his gaffe about the private sector. Along with the stumbles has come a tightening of an already tight race.

A close look at the polls shows an interesting trend. While Obama’s support seems to have slipped a little bit, Romney has been thus far unable to pickup those votes. It almost seems like the jobs numbers have caused a few people along the margins to reconsider their support for Obama, but not quite bring themselves to make the jump to Romney.

While Obama still maintains a lead in the Electoral College, the President has begun to see some swing state slippage. For the first time this year, Romney has pulled ahead of Obama in two Ohio polls and one poll even showed him winning in Michigan (which still seems very doubtful to me).

By contrast, the president seems to be maintaining his lead in Virginia, which could turn out to be key to his re-election. To understand why, let’s begin with the Al Gore’s 2004 map (you can follow along at, giving the president the Midwest states of Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan, Gore’s Northeastern states from DC to Maine, then throw in New Hampshire (which went for both Kerry and Obama) and New Mexico. This gives the president a base of 257 electoral votes. Now give him Colorado and Nevada (both of which show tight races,  but also bucked the national trend in 2010 mostly on the strength of Latino voters). This gets Obama to 272, and a win.

But let’s suppose that Romney makes inroads in one of the Midwestern states, or that Obama can’t pickup Colorado or Nevada. Virginia gives him the cushion to lose both Nevada and Colorado, Wisconsin, or some combination of Iowa, New Hampshire or the Southwest states. In short, Virginia could provide the insurance that Obama needs if he finds his easiest path blocked. Of course, if Obama wins either Ohio or Florida, it’s pretty much over for Romney and vice-versa for Obama in Michigan.

Scott Conroy breaks down the Virginia race in Real Clear Politics this week, noting that growth of Fairfax county as a suburb of Washington DC and a recent influx of immigrants that came with it has made Northern Virginia look more like a Northern state and proved fertile ground for Democrats (Obama beat McCain 61% to 39% in Fairfax County on the way to a 6 point victory in Virginia). Obama seems to have the early edge in organizing and ground game, but Republicans are hoping that the new turnout model that propelled Governor Bob “Trans-vaginal Ultrasound” McDonnell to victory in 2010. A tight Senate race between George Allen and Tim Kaine also promises to drive turnout and keep the focus on the state.

All reasons that, on election night, it could come down to Virginia, Virginia, Virginia.

Electoral College Math Time

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

It’s that time again, and both NBC and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball came out with their updated 2012 electoral map this week.

It’s still early on, but in a sign of just how uphill Romney’s battle is, if you start with Obama’s 2008 map, take away Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, Indiana and the one electoral vote Obama picked up in Nebraska, Obama would still win the election.

This seems like the easiest route to 270 for Obama: hold Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico in the West, New Hampshire in the East and the Al Gore 2000 Rust Belt states.

Of course all of the usual caveats apply: Obama would have to maintain Iowa, which (somewhat surprisingly) NBC rates as “Lean Republican,” as well as hold New Hampshire (one of Mitt Romney’s many “home” states). Plus, it’s very early in the campaign; the states have a tendency to move in a block and changes at the national level move polls at the state level accordingly. Still, Obama looks pretty good right now.

While NBC provides some of the best commentary on the electoral map, the best interactive election map I’ve found is at It allows you to start with their current projections and then add or subtract states from either candidate to come up with a total. 270 to Win also has a pretty good Elctoral College App which uses data from multiple sources. If you want a rollup of state polls, check out Real Clear Politics’ electoral map.