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Kerry Is Toast!

Real Clear Politics "explains" why Bush will probably win offering the following cunning analysis of the electoral college:

Let's stipulate up front that if Kerry wins wins either Florida or Ohio Bush is more than likely finished. But if we leave aside Florida and Ohio for a second and assume they stay in the Bush column, suddenly Kerry's path to 270 becomes very difficult.

Realistically, Kerry would have to sweep the trio of New Hampshire, Nevada and West Virginia - which would be the political equivalent of drawing to an inside straight. Not impossible, but pretty unlikely.

And, indeed, he's right -- if you stipulate that Kerry won't win either of the two largest swing states it will be very hard for him to win. But what kind of stipulation is this? Right now the latest poll has Kerry up 47-44-4 in Florida and up 48-45-2 in Ohio. A guarantee that Kerry will carry Florida and Ohio? Of course not. A guarantee that Kerry will carry either Florida or Ohio? Of course not. But something that should caution one against simply assuming that he will carry neither? Of course.

What's more, according to current polling even if Bush were to pull ahead in both Florida and Ohio, Kerry still wins, because along with those two he's also carrying Missouri (49-48-1), West Virginia (48-44-2), and New Hampshire (49-42-2). If he carries Missouri (admittedly, no sure thing, that's a very narrow lead) he can afford to drop his current leads in Florida, Ohio, West Virginia, and New Hampshire and still win. So does Kerry have it in the bag? Again, obviously not. A relatively small shift in public opinion could, if distributed fairly evenly across the swing states, push Bush into an electoral college lead of the sort Kerry is currently enjoying. But so far, it hasn't happened, and Kerry is enjoying a rather comfortable lead that he has, in fact, maintained for quite a long time now. Bush could win the race, but he needs to do something to win it. Right now we're on course for a narrow Kerry win, just as we have been for a while.

August 15, 2004 | Permalink


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Narrow Kerry win? Kerry's been ahead by about 100 EV's for the better part of 3 months. That lead dips below 100 here and there, but never for more than a few days. Furthermore, you have to assume that Kerry picks up more of the undecideds as time progresses.

Put another way, look at electoral-vote.com. I havent checked today, but I did a few days ago--Bush has not gained any ground in swing states vs. his 2000 performance. Now, most of the polls have undecideds which would push Bush above that threshold even if he only got a third of them, but as it stands, he has no gains. Kerry, in the same polls (i.e. ones that dont add up to 100%) is ahead of Gore's tally in many of those states.

Posted by: Deej | Aug 15, 2004 3:20:22 PM

I can't imagine anything (short of rigging the election) that Bush could do to turn his numbers around right now. Actually, as the days pass, seems like he is ripe for defeat as long as he keeps on doing what he's doing. Go George!

Posted by: beck | Aug 15, 2004 3:25:45 PM

catching Osama?

Posted by: praktike | Aug 15, 2004 3:28:33 PM

To be like all negative:

As someone somewhere said, as long as Jeb is Governor, Bush gets Florida.

And I consider the Ohio Republican Party, home state of Diebold, to be at least as corrupt as Jeb, if not quite as powerful.

Bush wins both.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Aug 15, 2004 3:32:51 PM

Matt, quit mischaracterizing John McIntyre's message. His piece does not explain why Bush will "probably" win. It just says that it's not Kerry's to lose. There's a difference.

Posted by: Warbonnet | Aug 15, 2004 4:22:57 PM

bob mcmanus, with his love of dogs, and learning, and blogging blather is the most cheerful pessimist possible.

Could it be he superstitiously won't allow himself to be optimistic about the election for fear he will jinx Kerry?

Posted by: epistemology | Aug 15, 2004 4:45:40 PM

True pessimism means you are never disappointed, and your day is filled with pleasant surprises.

I expect the airplane engine to fall thru my roof and kill me, so of course I am cheerful when it doesn't happen.

And yes, I don't want to jinx a Kerry win. Not that victory would necessarily be a good thing.....


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Aug 15, 2004 4:56:17 PM

You have to admire the nerve of this sentence, in the midst of explaining why Bush is in better shape than you might think:

Our lead op-ed on Wednesday was the NY Times' Nicholas Kristoff writing persuasively about the potential reality of a 10-kiloton nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan killing some 500,000 people.

If you follow the link, you find that Kristoff's point is this:

But the White House has insisted on tackling the most peripheral elements of the W.M.D. threat, like Iraq, while largely ignoring the central threat, nuclear proliferation. The upshot is that the risk that a nuclear explosion will devastate an American city is greater now than it was during the cold war, and it's growing.

Well, then, no wonder Bush is going to win.

Posted by: DonBoy | Aug 15, 2004 5:07:01 PM

I agree with Bob - a bit of healthy pessimism/fatalism has never killed anyone.

The race is not Kerry's to lose and neither it's Kerry's to win; it has little to do with Kerry; it's a referendum on Bush.

Posted by: abb1 | Aug 15, 2004 5:24:57 PM

I think people who dismiss Kerry's ability to win Arizona have not researched the change in demographics since 2000. In the past, the population of the mostly conservative Phoenix area outnumbered the population of the rest of the state. Not so now. Which is why we were able to elect a democratic governor.

I also wouldn't bet the farm on Bush getting the bulk of the military vote. I've been hearing some interesting stuff from people who have professional/business relations with Fort Huachuca, the army post in southern Arizona where military intelligence people are trained. Many of the intelligence folk are privately expressing deep frustration with the blending of Iraq into the war on terror. Some of the returning soldiers felt their interrogations of Iraqi stereo and car thiefs to be a real waste of their time and an indication of how clueless the brass are regarding who is a threat and who is not. I also seriously doubt the bulk of the National Guard is going to vote for Bush.

Posted by: AzRez | Aug 15, 2004 5:30:33 PM

I think the tradesports market offer the best insight into the election. It puts both Ohio and Florida at around 50 points for Bush...and yet, there combined basket is at 46.9...so the math clearly doesn't add up.

Why? Basically, because Florida and Ohio HAVE to go to Bush for him to win, so there is arbitrage if the Florida and Ohio numbers are different than the Bush numbers. And yet, there is clear arbitrage with Ohio and Florida. Clearly, some people aren't willing to look at the numbers solidly.

Next, if we assing all states with a probability above 65% for going to either candidate according to those trade markets, the full electoral vote for those states, we get:

Kerry 243, Bush 200.

Change the number to 60%, Kerry picks up Iowa and New Hampshire and Bush picks up Arkansas, making the numbers 254-206 in favor of Kerry.

The following states are between 50 and 60% for either candidate: Florida, Ohio, West Virginia, Nevada, Wisconsin, and Missouri. That's it.

Of those states Kerry needs 16 EVs for 270. Because I assume we can't lump states with percent chances under 60% as for a particular candidate, I took the expected values of the electoral votes going to each candidate from the states, which will smooth out the overal error. Kerry gets 13.5 from FL, 9 from OH, 2 from NV, 2.5 from WV, 5.5 from Missouria, 5.5 from WI. 38 more. Giving him 292. Clearly, these states will fall in groups, and there is variation, but there is also clear arbitrage on tradesports right now, between the electoral landscape and the Election shares.

Remember, these take into account that the election is on Nov. 2nd and much can happen between now and then. Further, on Florida and Ohio, they should aggregate the information that Jeb and Diebold can steal for Bush.

What's specifically encouraging about these numbers is that voters within a particular state are probably aggregating information and putting wagers on their states, so the information from state to state is probably more accurate than the overall landscape.

Posted by: Joel Wertheimer | Aug 15, 2004 5:39:52 PM

Taking a poll...anyone think the hurricane, either the by-products of its destruction or FEMA's response, will affect Nov 02?

Posted by: Warebonnet | Aug 15, 2004 5:47:06 PM

"Again, assuming FL and OH are off the table for now, Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Louisiana, Colorado and Arizona are not exactly high value targets. It's not that Kerry can't win one of these states, it's just that if Bush does win FL and OH the chances of Kerry winning any of these states is less than 5%. It just isn't going to happen."


Posted by: Sean Flaherty | Aug 15, 2004 6:14:36 PM

yeah, Sean, it's BS and clearly just asserted without any type of proof. Give Bush all of those states up there, which my statement above does, then we get Kerry 254, Bush 253 with MO, WI, NV, and WV left. Bush needs 16 EVs from those, as does Kerry, because Bush just needs 269 whereas Kerry needs 270. Kerry wins with MO and anything, or Wisconsin and anything. Chances of that not happening are slim.

Frankly, the electoral landscape looks grim for Bush. He needs OH, FL, and then either WI and MO or WI or MO and WV and NV, all of which are right around 50% chance going to him.

At least, that's how the bettors put it, and some how they have Bush at 50%. They are either wrong on the state by state races or they are wrong on the national level.

Posted by: Joel Wertheimer | Aug 15, 2004 7:04:40 PM

I see a lot more optimism here than I expected. Last I heard Kerry was getting Dukakis-ized -- look at the string of news cycles the GOP won because he used the word "sensitive" and got hung up over his war vote.

It reminds me a lot of September 1988 -- mosquito bites turn into real wounds and next thing you know another Democrat is declared "out of step" with the public.

My parents, both lifelong Democrats, have stopped watching cable news for a bit because the last week went so badly for our side. I see that Atrios and Tom Tomorrow are publicly begging the Kerry campaign to get competent message bearers.

So instead of worrying about electoral votes from specific states, I'm worried about Kerry's ability to sell himself to anyone who doesn't want a left-liberal, terminally confused Prince Hamlet as commander in chief. That's how the GOP wants to frame the election (minus the Shakespeare reference) and so far there's no indication the Kerry campaign knows how to stop them.

Posted by: Kyle | Aug 15, 2004 7:58:19 PM

Joel, I think you've just demonstrated that tradesports is not a particularly rational market. If it were, why would the election number be so different from the implications of the state races? I can think of two answers:

1) There is an assumption, shared by RCP, that events between now and the election will shift the whole thing toward Bush, but we can't predict which states that will happen in.

2) It's simply difficult to conceive of an election being to close in the aggregate and yet not close at all on closer inspection. Of course, if the market were rational, it should be conceivable...

Posted by: DJW | Aug 15, 2004 8:35:59 PM

How about a tie?

If Kerry wins the states Gore won, plus New Hampshire (where he's ahead), and then Nevada or West Virgina, we have a 269-269 electoral college tie!

Posted by: JSB | Aug 15, 2004 9:16:18 PM

That was well said, Matt.

The problem that I've noticed with the commentators at realclearpolitics.com is that they create scenarios that don't really agree with what facts are currently out there and what situations currently exist. But speaking more generally, their analyses suck.

Specifically, I have to wonder why it is pretty much impossible for Kerry to win Nevada, New Hampshire, and West Virginia. They probably don't have a lot in common, but you can make that argument about a lot of states.

Posted by: Brian | Aug 15, 2004 9:49:51 PM

bob mcmanus,

Good news! The Sec. of State of Ohio recently made a decision regarding electronic voting in our favor. He's not allowing the use of Diebold in at least three counties.

Posted by: Brian | Aug 15, 2004 9:56:55 PM

Can someone explain to me why tradesports is given so much credibility?

Posted by: Brian | Aug 15, 2004 10:06:08 PM

catching Osama?

Or, barring that, "catching" Osama.

Posted by: Something Polish | Aug 15, 2004 10:25:13 PM

"He's not allowing the use of Diebold in at least three counties."

That is good news, tho it makes me a little sad that we can't seem to come up with a reliable form of electronic voting. Or, since Diebold makes ATM's, that Diebold cannot or will not prove itself reliable in voting machines.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Aug 15, 2004 11:09:10 PM

To DJW: Even if you couldn't tell which states the outcome would happen in, each state should be bumped up overall to reflect that knowledge. Also, inefficiencies take time to be corrected and this market is slower than financial ones. I think they will be corrected...actually, I'm on it now...

To Kyle: Don't you wish pundits would talk about whether it matters that Kerry said sensitive, not whether people think it will matter. Dumb.

On Diebold: Don't you think, given that they make ATMs, they could make the voting machines shoot out a little slip that each voter gets that says his voting ballot and then the voter can check the records latter...or something like that.

Posted by: Joel Wertheimer | Aug 15, 2004 11:46:44 PM

Kyle, your totally missing the boat. Kerry doesn't have to do a lot. People are looking for an excuse to replace book.

The 1988 playbook simply won't work in 2004 for a number of reason, most importantly, that this country is much more socially and cultural liberal than it was then. Issues like busing, affirmative action, law and order, etc. are going to define the race like they did in 1988. Can you imagine GHWB in 1988 having support for a ban on gay marriage actually potentially backfire as an electoral gambit?! I don't thinks so.

Also, Kerry is a much better candidate than Dukakis, if not as good as Clinton. Don't "misunderestimate" him - he's already been written off this election cycle once.

But at the end of the day, the stubborn facts are that Bush is not that popular. The right wing infrastructure might do enough to drag Bush across the finish line yet, but it won't be by much. Right Track/Wrong Track numbers are terrible, as are deserves reelection - his only hope is making Kerry seem unacceptable.

Bush's only hope at this point probably depend on two factors: suppressing Democratic turnout (not going to happen), make Kerry seem unacceptable to enough people to make it a kind of "devil you know vs. devil you don't know" election that Bush eeks out.

Bush can win, but the odds aren't in his favor.

IMO, if the election were held today - which of course, it is not - Kerry would win by 100+ EVs and his vote total would be 3 to 5% higher than Gore's in 2000.

Ben P

Posted by: Ben P | Aug 16, 2004 12:31:33 AM

The Sec. of State of Ohio recently made a decision regarding electronic voting in our favor. He's not allowing the use of Diebold in at least three counties.

The Secretary of State is a Republican. He has ensured that two of the most Democratic counties in Ohio will use punched cards in 2004, rather than a technology with a far lower undervote rate. In essence, he's ensured that a few thousand Kerry votes will not be counted.

That's not a victory "in our favor," unless we're Republicans.

Posted by: Drew | Aug 16, 2004 12:32:52 AM

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