Saturday, November 01, 2008

NUmbers and Notes: Obama-McCain Predictions

I haven’t done much analysis of the numbers during the campaign because, frankly, others have done the job better than I could have, If you aren’t reading, you’ve missed a lot in this election season. But I figure I should toss in my two cents worth on the elections, so here goes.
Unlike two years ago and four years ago, this election lacks a lot to analyze deeply. It’s not going to be close on the Presidential level, and the Senate races are, for the most part, pretty easy to peg as well. Still, the question of how big the Obama victory will be is still interesting. The magnitude of this victory has been amplified by the economic crisis, the abysmal McCain campaign, the horrid choice of Palin, and the money differential between the campaigns, which is huge. The Obama campaign has also made the victory larger by running the best campaign in modern history, designed to take advantage of every break, creating organizations of volunteers in nearly every state, much to the consternation of the Clintonite wing of the party (as opposed to the Dean wing), which believes in focusing all your efforts on the states you need to win. That failed them in the primaries and the biggest story of this election may ultimately be the rebirth of the party in regions where Democrats had been buried recently. We have Dean and Obama to thank for that and one has to hope Howard Dean gets the respect and praise he deserves in the wake of this huge win.
Obama starts with the 252 electoral votes Kerry won – all of them are safely his. He has sizable leads in Iowa, Colorado, and New Mexico, which total 21 EV among them, which for those of you who are arithmetically challenged, makes for a total of 273 – sufficient for the balloon drop and hundreds of cars to be overturned in Detroit.
So now the question is how big will this be? Let’s travel around the map:
Highly Likely Wins:
VA (13 EV): This state seems to be tightening a bit, but even in the closest of polls (4 points), Obama is over 50%.
NC (15 EV): The polling data has it very close, but Obama is way ahead in early voting. This is one of the states where the immense black vote turnout has made things difficult for pollsters – exactly how big will it be? I think as big as possible and it’s why I put this state in this group. I also think NC is a state where the nauseating campaign run by McCain-Palin, with talk of “pro-American” voters and guilt by association has worn very poorly among independent voters.
FL (27): Of the last ten polls in FL, Obama was ahead in 9, with the tenth tied. There is no reason to believe McCain is about to win here.
OH (20): The last 12 polls here have Obama ahead, with margins from +4 to +10. It took a while, but Ohio finally came in line with PA. In fact, due to all the effort the McCain campaign spent in PA, he may actually come closer there than in OH. He ain’t winning either.
NV (5): The last poll to show McCain ahead here was in September. There have been 16 polls since that time, only one of which has the margin less than 4 points. This is also one of the states in which Republican votes may be depressed by early voting results, as the loss of VA, NC, PA, and OH will not leave the marginal McCain voters much reason to leave their homes, rather than sedating themselves.
If you’ve been counting, that leaves us at 353. I would be surprised if Obama goes under this number. On to the real toss-up states:
IN (11): This state is too close to call, but it’s starting to look like it’s drifting toward McCain. On the other hand, of the four most recent polls, two are tied, one has Obama up one, and the fourth has McCain up 3. The fly in the McCain ointment here is that Obama has a far superior ground game in this state and that could overcome a slight McCain advantage.
MO (11): Like the 2006 Senate race, this is a flat out guess. This is a tough state for the Dems to win, but MO is never wrong and since we know who is going to win, why would they land on the wrong side of this? Polls seem to be giving McCain a slight edge recently, but too small to really withstand the ground game.
ND (3): Another toss-up and the late burst of advertising by Obama tells you it’s close enough for them to win. And, like NV, GOP voters could decide to stay home after early results depress them.
NE (1): Nebraska, like Maine, awards its EV by Congressional district, as well as overall. The CD which includes Omaha is very much in play. This has never happened before, so it’s hard to believe it will now, but this is a unique election and the wave could roll over Nebraska.
The “Super-Duper Landslide” States:
GA (15): In the immortal words of Deep Throat “follow the money” – along with ND and AZ, the Obama campaign has tossed a late bucket of money into GA. It’s a long shot, but there are those two Insider Advantage polls, the first had Obama up by 1, the second had McCain up by 1. A huge black vote here could provide the upset. Add Bob Barr to the mix and disgruntled Republicans could vote for him and give it to Obama.
AZ (10): Anyone else surprised at how many EV Arizona has? This time it’s not just late Obama money we get to follow, it’s late McCain money too. Losing is one thing, being humiliated is another. I will be surprised at this happening, but like GA, it’s possible. Again, it could be over early enough to depress the vote here.
MT (3): Sort of like ND, with a little less favorable polling data. McCain has a 4 point lead here, but again, enthusiasm may wane late and the Dems will turn out the vote for Gov. Schweitzer in any case, so there is a surprise possible here.
If Obama wins all of these votes, he’s at 407. I’m going to say he wins one of IN and MO, ND, and, just for laughs, the NE EV. That leaves him at 368.
I’ve been wavering on a popular vote prediction. I keep expecting it to be in the five point range, with a little traditional tightening leaving it there. I’m starting to drift upwards a bit, thinking that the polls have been underestimating the black vote and that there will be some small loss of GOP voters in the western states. I would be more confident of the latter if there weren’t two right-wing propositions here in CA to pull the religious right loonies to the polls. I’ll call it 52-45, with Obama not only getting more votes than anyone ever, but setting a record in that stat which may not be broken for 30 or 40 years.

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