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Electoral Math

My boss Bob Kuttner does a good job of questioning some of the Kerry triumphalism out there, but I think he's a bit off on his electoral college math:

Kerry's popular support may be on the rise, but the Electoral College arithmetic is relentless. Kerry could win the popular vote by piling up huge majorities in New York, California, and the rest of "blue" America, but still lose the Electoral College and the White House if he can't carry two out of three crucial swing states -- Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida.
That's a bit too pessimistic. If you look at the latest state by state numbers, Kerry's actually doing well enough that he could drop Florida and Pennsylvania (he's already losing in Ohio) and still win the election based on the other states where he's leading. Admittedly, that theory's based on the somewhat unlikely proposition that Kerry will hold on to his current lead in Tennessee (I've yet to see anyone give a plausible explanation of how he got that lead) but even if he drops the big three and Tennessee he could make up that ground in, say, Nevada which is a very real possibility.

The general dynamic, I think, is that Bush needs to defend many fronts -- Nevada, Arizona, Missouri, Ohio, West Virginia, Florida, New Hampshire (82 electoral votes) -- while Kerry really only needs to play defense in Iowa and Wisonsin (17 electoral votes). What could change this dynamic is if the Nader campaign picks up steam and re-produces the artificially close results we saw last time in Maine and the Pacific Northwest.

August 3, 2004 | Permalink

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» Electoral Math from Outside The Beltway ™
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Comments

Michigan and Minnesota look pretty close too. But the overall point is well-taken.

Posted by: JP | Aug 3, 2004 11:32:19 AM

I agree with JP. Kerry needs to play defense in not just Iowa and Wisconsin, but Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Minnesota. Lots of electoral votes in those 4 states.

Posted by: Goldberg | Aug 3, 2004 11:36:52 AM

Obviously he has to "defend" PA, MI, and MN in some sense, but he has pretty strong numbers in those three states (about strong as Bush's in VA, SC, NC, and CO). Iowa and Wisconsin are in a different category.

Posted by: N-Dawgg | Aug 3, 2004 11:44:02 AM

Goldberg,
I am having a tough time figuring our which four states you are referring to.
Is it possible we (someone) could convince Nader that he would be best by saying as we get close to the election that he urges all of his supporters to vote for John Kerry, and to make sure that they make the turnout huge, to demonstrate the power his voters can have in an election - providing a contrast with 2000 - with Nader and without Nader. Rather than going down in flames Nader could capitalize on what is already going to be big turnout, get himself back in good graces with a lot of people who are sympathetic to him, and to send a message to his really enemies (Christian right+Big Business coalition) that their electoral advantage has lost its grasp and continues to diminish.
It appears to be a win-win for Nader and Kerry. Can he really hope to heighten the contradictions more?

Posted by: theCoach | Aug 3, 2004 11:46:49 AM

My guess on Tennessee is that Bush is losing his support in the eastern part of the state, which borders North Carolina and Virginia. The western part is more Democratic - particularly along the border of Arkansas and around Memphis. I wouldn't be surprised if the numbers for Tennessee were correct.

I'd also add Arkansas as a state Bush has to defend and it's one that's often forgotten.

Posted by: rob | Aug 3, 2004 11:47:15 AM

Republican Tax Cuts Create Jobs and Democrat Tax Cuts Don’t

When you look at the graph of the value of a stock or an economy you see that analysts break it down into fluctuations around trend lines. The fluctuations are noise and the trend lines are the real signal. The noise should be ignored and the signal is valuable information to be used in your planning.

Noise is all over the place and is fairly meaningless in the long run. Trend lines can be up or down, a little or a lot. This characteristic of a trend line is its slope.

Proposed Democrat tax cuts (I say proposed because no Democrat has ever actually passed a tax cut in 40 years although they’ve promised plenty) are always temporary give-aways to their middle, low and no income constituents and are supposed to “stimulate” the economy when they are spent at McDonalds or Target. From a long term perspective these illusory Democrat promises are never more than noise.

Republican tax cuts are real and actually...

http://pep.typepad.com/public_enquiry_project/2004/08/republican_tax_.html

Posted by: Adrian Spidle | Aug 3, 2004 11:59:30 AM

These things all happen together, though. If the polls show Kerry's support falling through the floor in Pennsylvania, for example, Minnesota and Nevada would then be in jeopardy. Under the circumstances, I think that winning (or at least narrow polls) in Ohio is necessary to promote the perception among the electorate that Kerry is a winner.

Of course, this goes for Bush, too. If his support is perceived to be faltering, and the news reports that he is losing in states that he "should" win, then other states on the edge will follow suit and swing to Kerry.

Posted by: Constantine | Aug 3, 2004 12:00:11 PM

I'm from Las Vegas, and I'll eat my velvet Elvis painting if Kerry wins the state. I'd love to see it happen, but it's like the old monkey with a typewriter composing 'Hamlet' trick. Nevada is by far the lowest-IQ state I've ever lived in, and I'm here to tell you they'll have a hard time maintaining the giddy heights of intelligence it takes to vote for Kerry. Once Kerry gets close, the only major daily in Las Vegas, the Review Journal, will set about bashing him relentlessly. They're an out-and-out libertarian rag. Add to that the power of the fundies (seriously, they're a force) and the nearness to Utah, where Bush has his biggest lead nationwide...

I'd love to see it happen. But if it comes down to needing Nevada, it'll be like asking Jessica Simpson to present on molecular biology with the fate of the free world hanging on her every 'uh.'

Posted by: djangone | Aug 3, 2004 12:09:36 PM

There is NO FUCKING WAY that Washington State will go for Bush. I don't know why Kerry is airing so many commercials during "Regis & Kelly" and "The View."

I think we might see a Kerry laugher. I hope he campaigns in close congressional districts down the stretch.

Posted by: c. | Aug 3, 2004 12:20:20 PM

Matt, et al,

It looks like you're basing your view of the race on Zogby's battleground polls, and I don't think that's wise, even if it looks good for Kerry. Do you really think Kerry is losing Ohio but winning Tennessee? The variation in some of Zogby's state by state polls is inexplicable, and casts doubt on the whole enterprise.

He's using an unconventional polling method for his battleground polls, and I think the method is unproven, to say the least.

Posted by: danielj | Aug 3, 2004 12:29:54 PM

Just my weekly reminder that a bicoastal party is a big loser. Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, and maybe Arkansas keep the Dems in the ball game. (I don't count Pennsylvania as coastal).

During recent debates here there was a tendency to write off the "white working class" -- which seems to mean anyone who is white and any one of the following: non-prosperous, less-educated, non-urban, religious, or flyoverish. At some points this whole group, primarily because of opposition to gay marriage, was lumped with the worst bigots in the Deep South.

Certainly the social-liberal coastal strategy would be as kamikaze than as an ultra-left creeping-socialist strategy (my own sentimental preference).

To me it makes sense to write off the South from the Carolinas to Mississippi (not Florida) and the interior from Texas up to the Dakotas, over to Idaho, and down to Utah and Wyoming (plus Alaska). But various border states and Midwestern states are very possible. (Can anyone explain Indiana, BTW? Probably them too.)

The things you'd have to do to win Missouri are only slightly the same as those you'd have to do to win Mississippi, even though those two flyover states have similiarly-spelled names.

Posted by: "Zizka" | Aug 3, 2004 12:53:06 PM

This is all very interesting, but the oil price yesterday reached $44/barrel. If it keeps going the way it does, Bush is going to lose not only Nevada but Texas too.

Posted by: abb1 | Aug 3, 2004 12:55:28 PM

DanielJ is correct, re Tennessee.

Kerry is leading in Tennessee only in John Zogby's fantasy world.

Let's take a look at Zogby's online polls for Tennessee:

7/30 Kerry +1.8 (47.5 - 49.3)
7/23 Kerry +2.2 (46.9 - 49.1)
7/10 TIE (47.5 - 47.5)
6/20 Bush +18.8 (57.4 - 38.6)
6/6 Bush +11.7 (54.3 - 42.6)
5/23 Bush +2.5 (49.3 - 46.8)

So Zogby is expecting me to believe that Bush went from +2.5 to +11.7 to +18.8 to tied to -2.2, all in the space of two months??? Uh, NO!!!

The last legitimate poll out of Tenn was in late June, out of Survey USA, which had Bush up 10.

Posted by: Al | Aug 3, 2004 1:03:27 PM

djangone,

I notice that you do not mention the issue of Bush's double-crossing Nevada concerning the nuclear dump at Yucca Mountain. Hasn't this disillusioned some voters in your state?

Posted by: Vadranor | Aug 3, 2004 1:07:59 PM

Kerry also has to "defend" New Mexico, which, if Bush can win (certainly possible, if onlythrough a slight increase in hispanic support), can replace lost electoral votes of Nevada, or West Virginia, or New Hampshire.

Posted by: Al | Aug 3, 2004 1:18:39 PM

I think Rob's mostly right about Tennessee-- it's possible that people in East TN will be more likely to stay home, especially since there's no Senate or gubernatorial race this year, and good GOTV efforts in the west might tip the balance. I'm in the midstate, which is pretty well split-- Nashville will go for Kerry, but suburbanites are more likely to support Bush. The bumper-sticker wars here are dead even, in my unscientific poll.

Kerry needs to send Edwards here, come and shoot something at least once, and really get Harold Ford Jr. & Gov. Bredesen on board. It's not a lock or even particularly likely, but it's doable. Tennessee likes to feel the love.

Posted by: latts | Aug 3, 2004 1:20:28 PM

I'd think Virginia and NC would be more likely to go Dem than Tennessee. Ideopolises and all that.

Fundamentalists are a force in Nevada? Really?

Posted by: JP | Aug 3, 2004 1:26:50 PM

Here in Nebraska, we split our electoral votes. The winner of each CD gets a vote. The state winner gets the other two. In NE-1 there is a truly close house race for the first time in 20+ years and the Dems are fired up to win it. The Kerry campaign has actually hired a full-time director for the state, the first time the Dems have had a paid staffer here in a long time. They have their eyes on one or two electoral votes.

Between the awful rural economy, the toll the war is taking on reservists here, and the huge Dem turnout expected for the house races in both NE-1 (Lincoln) and NE-2 (Omaha), Kerry could steal an electoral vote or two in this state.

Posted by: Steve | Aug 3, 2004 1:56:00 PM

Zizka -- why would you count PA as "coastal" -- it's not on the coast? For those above who say no way Bush wins TN, I agree. But as a resident of PA, I'd say no way he wins PA -- the republicans got their asses kicked here in 2002 in every statewide race, and that was when Bush was riding high was the war president. And it really wasn't that close in 2000.

I don't worry about the upper midwest, its reliably blue. Minnesota is the bluest of the blue states because it has gone for the democrats every year since 1972. Its neighbors, Wisconsin and Iowa, have gone for the democratic nominee since 1988. You can't say that about NY or CA. I don't see Bush reversing the trend of the upper midwest given his poor national approval rating. Only a popular republican could pull that off.

And both parties have become regional. The republican party is the party of the depopulated plains, the mountain west and the south. The democrats are the party of the heavily populated northeast, pacific coast, and great lakes region.

Posted by: pj | Aug 3, 2004 2:08:06 PM

I was born and raised in Indiana, but can't really explain it. A large Amish/Mennonite community gives a different perspective on the words "religious conservative." Multiple generations of "Reagan Democrat" types, blue collar Catholics. We were a hotbed of the KKK during the twenties, but that was really one charismatic guy. We frowned on ideology or religion that distracted from family.

We frowned on anybody getting rich, for that usually meant he wasn't attending enough HS basketball games. Seriously, our heroes and most honored citizens were HS coaches, who would mold the next generation of HS coaches. "Middletown" and "Hoosiers" are decent references.

Solid. Solid. Quietly and permanently intransigent Republican.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Aug 3, 2004 2:14:19 PM

I always thought that IN was like PA, OH, MI, and IL, except without the big cities that put Democrats over the top. E.g., IL without Chicago, PA without Phily and Pittsburgh, MI without Detroit, OH without Cinci and Cleveland. Indianapolis, after all, is no Chicago or Detroit.

Posted by: Al | Aug 3, 2004 2:35:03 PM

Reporting from East Tennessee, I'm not seeing a lot of Bush bumper stickers, but I'm seeing a fair number of Kerry stickers. The Democrats are publicly, wildly enthusiastic about GOTV; the Republicans' efforts must be concentrated in the churches or something.

Posted by: Maureen | Aug 3, 2004 3:19:06 PM

Minnesota, alas, is no longer reliably Democratic the way it used to be.

My point though, was about general strategy, relating to earlier threads. Not about this year. Don't take the socially-somewhat-conservative Midewest too much for granted.

I count Vermont as coastal. To the extent that the Delaware River is navigable, you might count PA. as coastal. But it has a lot of back country.

Posted by: "Zizka" | Aug 3, 2004 3:38:07 PM

I think Al's basically right about Indiana--no urban core. Indianapolis is decidedly suburban (and pretty conservative) for a city.

Posted by: djw | Aug 3, 2004 3:38:30 PM

Of course, that leaves open the question why Iowa tends Democratic as much as it does.

Posted by: djw | Aug 3, 2004 3:39:13 PM

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