Monday, September 08, 2008

Electoral College Math - Part 1 - New England

I thought about the electoral college math when the latest Gallup poll out has McCain leaning by 4% and 3%. Rasmussen has a lot of polls out, and that one was a tie. Those are the two most recent polls, before that Hotline had Obama up by 6, CBS was tied, and CNN had Obama up by one. The translation? It's anybody's game. A good site for poll checking is Real Clear Politics. It shows a lot of different pollsters.

One of my professors back in a political science class I took at MSU said this best. Polls are a snapshot in time. That means they are not the election. Sometimes they get them right, oftentimes they are slightly off but relatively close to the actual results. Sometimes they are way off. That does not mean that the polls are wrong. It could mean that, and it could also mean that the people had a different opinion the next day, or two months from now on election day.

National polls and the popular vote are important, but it is the states that matter most. I haven't had a lot of strong original material here since my 2nd Amendment Supreme Court preview close to a year ago, so I'll start something here.

The goal of each campaign is to get 270 Electoral votes from 50 states, Washington DC, and five seperate electoral districts. All the states except two, along with Washington DC, have a winner take all format. All the states have two (senate) electoral votes plus one vote for every congressional district. DC has 3 votes. The two states that do not have winner take all formats are Maine and Nebraska. Those two states award two votes for the winner of the state, plus one vote for winning each congressional district. It has not mattered much recently. Maine's 2nd district is sometimes close, but leans democrat. Gore won it by 3% and Kerry by 6%. Maine's first district is more democrat and I expect will easily go that way again in 2008. All three Nebraska district are solidly Republican. Even in the democrat congressional tide in 2006, none of those districts, even Omaha or Lincoln, were within 10%, and local democrats do much better in the plains than national democrats.

Taking first past federal election history, secondly polls, and lastly the candidates themselves, this is how I currently have the states.

New England:
Solid Obama - 29 votes
Lean Obama - 1 vote
Tossup - 4 votes

I don't think there is a lot of doubt here. Some people have Connecticut or Maine going for McCain over Obama, but that's a pipe dream unless there is a Dukakis blunder of momumental proportions. If either of those two states go for McCain, it's over and it will be a landslide, at least compared with the last two elections.

Solid Obama states in New England:
Vermont (3 votes) - Kerry won with 59% Gore won with only 51%, but that was due to 7% going for Nader. Bush got 41% in 2000 and 39% in 2004. There hasn't been a poll since February, but one had Obama up 57-36 (Survey USA) and the other 63-29 (Research 2000). This is one of the safest states in the country for Obama, if not the safest. I except Vermont to be Obama's top state in the country. It culturally fits the white base of Obama.

Massachusetts (12 votes) - A name that starts with Mc may help McCain, but it won't be enough. Even if he wins the blue collar whote vote, there's still the very strong university vote and sizable minority populations in Boston and Springfield. Kerry won 62-37 and Gore won 60-33-6. The polls show some weakness for Obama here compared to previous democrats, with the latest August poll (Rasmussen) showing a 51-39 Obama lead. I expect most of the undecideds to come home in the end based on previous showings.

Rhode Island (4 votes) - Massachusetts South, a little more blue collar. Kerry on 59-39% Gore won 61-32% Obama will struggle with the Catholic vote to a degree, but not as much here as elsewhere. The last poll (Brown Univeristy) and only August poll has Obama 51-McCain 30.

Connecticut (7 votes) - A mixture of New York influence, Boston influence, and two democrat strongholds of Hartford and New Haven. The last two elections had Kerry win 54-44% and Gore win 56-38% The last poll was in July by Rasmussen and had a 53-40% Obama lead. I'm hearing some talk about Connecticut and Maine being dark horses to flip McCain now. This was before a lot of the national momentum, but the last two election results can not be overlooked, nor can Hartford and New Haven's major bases, combined with the growth of the New York influence. I'd love to see a 50 state strategy, preferably long term, but I think this is a big reach. If I'm wrong, it'll be a landslide.

Solid/Lean Obama:
Maine (2 votes, 1 vote, and 1 vote) - I have Maine overall as solid for Obama as well as Maine 1. Maine 2 I have has a leaner. Under the Maine/Nebraska system, there are three presidential races in Maine. First is at statewide for two votes with the other two being for that district. In order of difficulty for Republicans is Maine 2, state wide, and Maine 1. District 1 went 55-43% Kerry and 50-43-7% Gore. It contains Portland, a democrat stronghold. Maine 2 went 52-46% Kerry and 48-45-7% Gore. It is more socially moderate and blue collar compared to District 1, although it has the democrat stronghold of Lewiston. I can possibly see a competition in District 2, but District 1 is a stretch, and Maine as a whole has moved more towards the democrats.

Toss up:
New Hampshire (4 votes) - One of the few states that flipped in 2000/2004. The myth is that Massachusetts transplants turned this once solidly Republican state to a swing state. The reality is that according to exit polls in 2004, Massachusetts transplants voted for Bush. Native New Hampshire residents and other state transplants did not. Western New Hampshire did him in in 04 along the Vermont border, along with Concord. Manchester, the major city near Massachusetts went for Bush along with that border. The transplants there voted against Taxachusetts. It was the rest of the state that voted against him. The races here were close. Kerry won 50-49% in 2004, and Bush won 48-47% in 2000. Bush is very unpopular there today though, much like the rest of New England. There is still a strong libertarian streak in New Hampshire, and if McCain can tap it based on his spending, he's got a chance to flip the state. If its isolationist streak comes back like it did in 2006, big trouble. The latest poll (Rasmussen) from August has it 47-46 Obama. I think this could be another close race typical of New Hampshire.


mvymvy said...

The real issue is not how well Obama or McCain might do state-by-state, but that we shouldn't have battleground states and spectator states in the first place. Every vote in every state should be politically relevant in a presidential election. And, every vote should be equal. We should have a national popular vote for President in which the White House goes to the candidate who gets the most popular votes in all 50 states.

The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC). The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral vote -- that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

Because of state-by-state enacted rules for winner-take-all awarding of their electoral votes, recent candidates with limited funds have concentrated their attention on a handful of closely divided "battleground" states. In 2004 two-thirds of the visits and money were focused in just six states; 88% on 9 states, and 99% of the money went to just 16 states. Two-thirds of the states and people have been merely spectators to the presidential election.

Another shortcoming of the current system is that a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide.

The National Popular Vote bill has passed 21 state legislative chambers, including one house in Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, North Carolina, and Washington, and both houses in California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and Maryland. These four states possess 50 electoral votes-- 19% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.



Adam said...

In my opinion, this is when you are at your best.

Please do more posts like this one

Dan said...

Susan, here's the problem with popular vote measures. If the race is within 100,000 or so, which is certainly fesible, how do you recount 100 million votes? What standards? I don't ever want to see hanging chads again, and I even less want to see it on a national scale.

It also encourages more shenanigans from big cities Chicago Style. Lastly it addresses a problem that rarely occures. Only four times, and once in the past 100 years, has the popular vote winner (by plurality) not won the election. It's not broke, and does not favor one party.