Posts Tagged ‘Electoral College’

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 unskewedpolls.com 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.

It’s Demographics, Dummies

Sunday, November 11th, 2012


Today’s Meet the Press panel on the demographic bomb that helped to decide this election.

I joked this week that the good news for Mitt Romney is that he won the white vote decisively. The bad news is that it’s not 1952…

As Chuck Todd wrote the day after the election:

Yes, the auto bailout mattered in Ohio. Sure, Hurricane Sandy helped the president. And, yes, the economy was the No. 1 issue. But make no mistake: What happened last night was a demographic time bomb that had been ticking and that blew up in GOP faces.

Steve Schmidt points out that the last Republican to win 60% of the white vote was George H.W. Bush and he won 400 electoral votes as a result. This week, Mitt Romney won 206 with a similar percentage. Not only did Obama benefit from increased numbers of Hispanics in the electorate,  his get out the vote efforts brought out a higher percentage of African Americans in 2012 than in 2008, as well as (contrary to most predictions) increasing youth turnout, with 60% of 18-29 year olds voting for him. Romney also took a beating at the hands of single women, losing that demographic by a whopping 36%.

This trend was a long time coming for the Republicans, with George Bush winning 44% of Latino’s in 2004, John McCain winning 31% in 2008 and Romney winning only 27% this time around. If you want to understand the reason for this change, just watch some Republican debates from earlier this year. If you want to understand the single women margin, just watch Todd Akin’s infamous “Legitimate Rape” interview or Richard Mourdock’s “God’s Plan” comment, or read Virginia’s forced ultrasound bill.  As Matthew Dowd noted last week, the Republican party is “a Mad Men Party in a Modern Family world.”

Don’t get me wrong, I love watching Mad Men. I’d just rather live in the modern world, and apparently neither would most Americans.

 

Romney Doesn’t Have The Mojo

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

Well, here we are.

After all of the blood, sweat, tears and trash talk, the election is one and a half days away. I don’t think a day has gone by in the last four months in which I didn’t check the polls for the day. Real Clear Politics is the biggest aggregator of polls in the country, and I’m on that website every day despite their obvious Republican bias. One thing you do get from Real Clear Politics, is a sense of how different news sources provide alternate realities. The Republican flacks have all come out to predict their candidate’s victory on Tuesday. To read Michael Barone and Dick Morris, we are headed to a Mitt Romney Electoral College landslide. Even George Will, an Obama hater to be sure, but at least someone who has been intellectually honest in the past, predicted a Romney Electoral College victory of 321 to 217 (including Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Nevada, and New Hampshire). 

I do find that the Left is more intellectually honest in their analyses of the situation, but then again, they have had the numbers in their favor for the last year. Statistician and election prognosticator Nate Silver has been a target of the Right lately because his model has consistently been predicting an Electoral College win for President Obama. Currently, his model is forecasting an 85% chance of President Obama winning the Electoral College. Do I think that Barack Obama is an 85% favorite in this race? I’d say that’s aggressive, but it’s very difficult to argue that he is not the favorite.

When you are winning an argument, you don’t need to jump up and down to mke your points. You usually just need to calmly recite the facts. Silver has done exactly that over the past few days and in the process has made a very convincing case for an upcoming Obama victory. The key to the Obama victory is what has been called his “Electoral College Firewall,” comprised of Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa and/or Nevada. The theory in a few sentences: in the week and a half after the first debate, Mitt Romney caught up in Colorado and Virginia and took a narrow lead in Florida, but his gains were not enough to overtake Obama in enough states to win the Electoral College. The easiest path for Mitt Romney to flip this result are winning either Ohio or Wisconsin, and Iowa or Nevada. Even with a win in Ohio or Minnesota, he’s not guaranteed victory unless he can hold Virginia and Florida (and in some scenarios Colorado). 

Looking at Ohio specifically, Real Clear Politics currently has Obama up by 2.9%. Republicans pundits argue that this result is within the margin of error of most individual polls, and that makes it a tossup, but this ignores the fact that across 12 Ohio polls in the last week and a half, Romney has not led in one.  One pollster had him down by only one and Rassmussen (a notoriously Republican biased pollster) has it a tie. This is not what a tied race looks like. If you want to see an actual tie, look at Virginia, where Obama and Romney often switch leads by a point or two, depending on the pollster and date of the polls.

Silver looks at Romney’s momentum in the swing states over the past few weeks and concludes that, if anything, Obama’s firewall is solidifying in these states:

There were 12 polls published on Wednesday among Iowa, Nevada, Ohio and Wisconsin. Mr. Obama held the lead in 11 of the 12 surveys… On average, Mr. Obama led in the polls of these states by 3.9 percentage points.    

In a more broad based look at the race from Thursday, Silver takes on the pundits that argue Romney is ahead or that the race is a tossup. He basically demolishes the arguments that Mitt Romney has been showing any momentum since his post-Denver debate bounce, as well as the idea that undecideds usually break for the challenger (they have in some elections, but not in the past 3 presidential elections). This really only leaves two options: either the state polls are getting it completely wrong, or Obama is a very big favorite to win. It’s not impossible that the polls are wrong, but it seems exceedingly unlikely that so many polls showing the same thing can be that far off.   

My take on this? In order to unseat an incumbent, you need to make the case for two main things:  1) the incumbent needs to be fired, and 2) you’re a better alternative. There’s certainly an argument that Romney and Co have been successful at the first. Although Obama is close to 50% approval, the popular vote is too close to call, and I get the sense that most of the country would be at least open to a change in leadership. But while Mitt Romney may have done a good job of convincing the country that Barack Obama might not be a great leader, most people look at Romney and don’t believe that he is a credible alternative. The reasons for this are myriad, but they include the complete demolishing of Romney’s business record by the Obama campaign, the ideological contortions that we all witnessed him go through in order to get the Republican nomination and the fact that he just doesn’t seem like a guy that most Americans will want to see on their TVs for the next four years.

I don’t take anything for granted and an upset is still possible, but it’s looking less and less likely that Romney has the mojo to turn this around in the next 40 hours.

Obama’s Firewall

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Sometimes I lag a little and someone writes the article I wanted to write. This Sunday was one of those days, when I awoke to John Cassidy’s article in the New Yorker. So I am writing the original post I wanted to write and stealing Cassidy’s graphic (above). Without any further ado…

It’s hard to overstate the damage Barack Obama sustained in the aftermath of his no show debate performance a few weeks ago. He basically ceded all of his post convention bounce and then some. Romney now has narrow but real leads in North Carolina, Florida and Virginia and has pulled even in Colorado. There is some evidence that the race has begun to stabilize, but it’s too early to speculate on whether Obama will be able to roll back those gains.

Still, amidst the bad news is a ray of sunshine for the president: For now at least, he has been able to maintain what amounts t0 a firewall in three to four states that give him a lead in the the Electoral College. Let’s assume that the President can’t count on North Carolina, Florida, Virginia or Colorado, but give him Pennslyvania. In this scenario, the most likely path to 270 for the President is through the states of Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa and/or Nevada.

The lynchpin of this firewall is Ohio, where President Obama has maintained a solid lead over Mitt Romney for the last year. In the few weeks after the first debate, Mitt Romney has made inroads on the seven point deficit he faced, but President Obama still holds a 2% lead in the Real Clear Politics average.

In traditionally Democratic Wisconsin, Obama holds a lead that is closer to 3%.  If Obama can win both Ohio and Wisconsin, he needs 6 more Electoral College votes, which he can get from either Nevada or Iowa, two states in which he currently leads by 3% and 2.5% respectively. In this scenario, New Hampshire is gravy for Obama, but if Romney is somehow able to swing Wisconsin, the president needs Nevada, Iowa and New Hampshire (which is currently a dead heat).

I think my electoral map looks pretty close to Cassidy’s. I had previously assumed that Nevada and Colorado would end up in Obama’s column. Both states polled extremely close in 2010′s Senate races, but both bucked the national tide and re-elected Democratic incumbents mostly on the strength of Latino and women voters.  Colorado has leaned more toward Romney in recent polling, but can still go either way. Assuming that it does go Romney’s way, I’d feel more confident in Nevada than in Iowa to provide Obama’s winning advantage. This is, after all, the state where Harry Reid greatly outperformed his final poll results in 2010 after he was all but left for dead. Iowa’s record has been more mixed, voting for Gore in 2000, for Bush in 2004 and for Obama by a large margin in 2008, but I feel pretty good about Iowa as well.

If Ohio is breached, Obama’s math gets much more difficult, but he can still pull it off if he sweeps Colorado and Nevada in the West, keeps Iowa in his column and adds New Hampshire.

Bottom line: Obama still has more paths to 270 than Romney does, but he can’t afford any further erosion.

So Far So Good for Obama’s 2004 Model

Monday, August 6th, 2012

A few months ago, I wrote about how I thought that David Axelxrod’s model for this election was George W. Bush’s 2004 victory against John Kerry.

If that’s true (which I think it is), then so far so good.

In 2004 Bush ran a mostly negative campaign against John Kerry, the theme of which was basically: you may not be crazy about me, but this guy is much worse. In the period after Kerry was the inevitable nominee, but before the convention, Bush surrogates absolutely hammered Kerry with their disgraceful “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” ads.  They went after Kerry’s biggest biographical strength (his military service), and tried to denigrate it, suggesting that Kerry may not have earned the accolades he received in the military and therefore could not be trusted.

Similarly, Mitt Romney has staked the positive rationale for his candidacy on being the economy’s “Mr Fix it.” According to this biographical thread, his experience at Bain Capital makes him uniquely qualified to diagnose the issues with the US economy and provide the necessary fixes. But over the past month and a half, Obama and his surrogates have hit Romney hard on the Bain issue, effectively making the argument that Bain’s profits came mostly at the expense of outsourcing jobs in the United States and demolishing his claim to be a job creator. Romney’s rejection of calls to release his taxes have added to the negative perceptions of his business record, leading to suspicions that the Cayman Island and Swiss Bank Accounts detailed in his past two years of returns may be just the tip of the iceberg for Romney.

Romney allies initially gloated the the Bain attacks had not been successful, pointing to the fact that Obama’s margins have been steady throughout this period, while his campaign coffers were drained. But Mitt Romney’s increasingly negative ratings and Obama’s consistent lead in the swing states where these ads have been airing belies that assertion.  The 45% that Romney has been garnering in polls represents a kind of low-water mark for the Republican candidate since it is close to John McCain’s 2008 totals, so don’t expect him to go much lower. The question is whether he can get a large majority of the undecided voters given their negative feelings about him. For an alternate measure of how effective the Obama campaign has neutralized Bain as a positive issue for Romney, look how infrequently Romney mentions his job creating record at Bain during his campaign events.

A few weeks ago, at the height of the Bain controversy, Republican strategist Mark Murray pointed out that the sheer volume of negative campaign ads makes running on biography impossible in modern presidential campaigns and that — the Bain experience effectively demolished — Romney should shift a campaign about the issues. The problem with that advice is that Romney’s not positioned well for that strategy either. While President Obama spent the last four years positioning himself in the center of the electorate in order to win the general election, Romney has spent the last nine positioning himself to win the Republican nomination against people like Texas gun enthusiast and mental midget Rick Perry, paranoid social conservative Rick Santorum and all around demagogue, Newt Gingrich. Independent analysts have determined that Romney’s economic plan which is intended to lower taxes on the rich, will either need to be funded by exploding the national debt, or by eliminating tax breaks that the vast majority if the middle class depend on. The “Right-Wing Social Engineering” of The Ryan Plan has become almost a Republican litmus test and it relies on cutting the second most popular government program in order to (surprise!) lower taxes on the rich.   

Meanwhile, Obama continues to outperform Romney where it matters: in the swing states. Nate Silver, the EF Hutton of election prediction, now gives Obama a 71% chance of winning the Electoral College and Dan Balz points out that, 

nationally and in the battleground states, the consistency of Obama’s lead is striking. More than two dozen national polls have been conducted since the beginning of June. Obama has led in the overwhelming number of them.

Polls in the most contested states show a similar pattern. In three of the most important — Ohio, Florida and Virginia — there have been roughly three dozen polls total since April, about the time that Romney’s GOP rivals were exiting the nomination race. In Ohio and Virginia, Obama has led in all but a few. In Florida, Romney has done better, but overall, Obama has led about twice as often.

If Mitt Romney can’t make inroads in all three of these states, the election is basically over.

In summary, the 2004 model is looking good for the Obama camp. Obama’s job approval still lingers just below 50%, but the attacks on Romney have gone a long way towards diminishing him as a viable alternative. Last weeks jobs report was anemic by any standards, but it dashed Republican hopes to be able to claim that the economy has completely sputtered. The private sector has now had positive job creation for twenty nine consecutive months. Republicans counter that the economy should be bouncing back much more robustly, but this ignores the fact that this is an unprecedented global recession and that the United States’ economy is growing more than any other industrial country in the world. President Obama’s approval ratings by themselves show some evidence that Americans understand the extraordinary situation that the president was handed in 2008 and don’t hold him as responsible for economic conditions as the Republicans would like. 

To be sure, there is still an opportunity for Romney to turn things around, but he faces a limited number of opportunities to do this: namely,  the VP pick, the conventions and the debates. So far, Romney has provided the public a lot of reasons to vote against Barack Obama, but not very many to vote for Mitt Romney. The Romney camp hopes to start filling those details in with the upcoming convention…but has to be worried that Obama’s campaign has already started doing that for them.

Can Romney Swing Iowa?

Sunday, June 24th, 2012

John Dickerson’s profiles  Iowa in Salon.com.

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 270towin.com), 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 270towin.com. 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.