Monday, November 03, 2008

Professors Sousa and Haltom predict the election

From Professors Sousa and Haltom:

Election day scenarios

A note on the popular vote:

If Obama wins with over 50.1 percent of the national vote, he will be the third Democratic presidential candidate in 100 years to do so. FDR did it 4 times, with a maximum of 60.8% (1936) and a minimum of 53.4% (1944). Johnson ran at 61.1% in 1964. Carter got just 50.1%, and Wilson (twice), Truman, Kennedy, and Clinton (twice) were elected with less than 50% of the popular vote. Gore beat Bush in the popular vote but did not win 50% of the national popular vote.

It appears likely that Obama will win with 52 or 53 percent of the popular vote, which seems close but in historical perspective is a strong performance for a Democrat. This would be the second time a Democrat has done this well since before the end of WWII! Interestingly, many of the political scientists who predict election returns projected Obama wins with 52 or 53% months ago, raising once again the question of whether campaigns matter.

The electoral college:

These scenarios get a little confusing without a scorecard.

Most optimistic McCain map: McCain 281 Obama 257.
McCain has focused heavily on Pennsylvania as a matter of necessity. Because he has lost several Bush states—IA, NV, CO, NM—Pennsylvania is vital, but it’s not enough. Even if he wins Pennsylvania and Ohio (it’s hard to imagine him winning PA while losing OH) and holds the currently competitive Bush states like Indiana, Missouri, Florida, and North Carolina, Obama would still win the with the narrowest margin—270 electoral votes.

So, the most optimistic McCain scenario requires him to take Virginia in order to win.
This gets McCain to 281 electoral votes.

So in this scenario Obama wins all the Kerry states except PA, plus IA, NV, NM, and CO. McCain holds all of the Bush states but those listed above, and wins the election by cracking PA.

I think that this scenario is unlikely, but the most likely McCain victory map. I also think that Obama is going to outperform Kerry and Gore in lots of “red” states, and that under this scenario there’s a good chance that Obama wins a fairly solid popular vote victory while losing the electoral college.

I don’t think that there’s another feasible McCain victory map. Therefore, while watching the election returns on Tuesday the first focus should be on PA and VA, while keeping in mind that Obama wins in FL or NC mean that Obama will be elected in a fairly broad electoral college sweep. Sousa’s recommendation is that if you are at an election night party, eat dessert first, because the party could well end early!

Least optimistic Obama map. Obama 270, McCain 268. Under this scenario, Obama wins the election by carrying the Bush states listed above (IA, NM, NV, CO) and trading Kerry state PA for Bush state VA. It’s still hard for me to imagine a Democrat losing PA while carrying VA, so there’s a second version of this scenario in which Obama holds PA and loses VA: Obama 278, McCain 260. Given current polling, I think that it’s far more likely that Obama will carry both PA and VA and win with 291 electoral votes.

In fact, I think it’s highly unlikely that Obama will lose Pennsylvania. Thus, my recommendation that you eat dessert first at your election party holds.

All of the other feasible electoral college maps show Obama wins. The only questions are whether he will carry southern states—GA, NC, or FL—and crack OH and, more significantly, Indiana and Missouri. If a black Democrat from Illinois runs strong

Sousa’s presidential prediction? Obama 311, carrying Bush states Virginia, Ohio, NV, NM, CO, and IA and holding all of the Kerry states. Florida might get him to 338, but with polls so close there and the demographics of that state I see McCain as slightly advantaged here. I don’t think that Obama’s strength in NC, GA, IL, and MO and other “red states” like Montana are mirages. In fact, I think that given the trends in those states and the likely bloodletting in the Republican party after this (likely) McCain defeat, a reasonably successful Obama first term would redraw the electoral map of American politics substantially, solidifying Obama’s strategy of “expanding” Democratic efforts to formerly red states. Looking ahead, Obama’s got to hope that the economy turns around by 2010-2011 and that he gets the kind of lift that Reagan did from the recovery after the depths of the 1982 recession.

And from Professor Haltom:

David's report is measured and cogent.

I utterly agree that VA is crucial. For at least 22 days, VA has leaned
Obama's way. His lead in VA is > 5%. Most important, most recent polls
show Obama above 50% -- even if all undecideds go to McCain-Palin, Obama
squeaks through [ignoring the margin of error due to outlandish

VA is scheduled to close its polls at 7:00 p.m. EST, so it MAY be a
temporally leading indicator. [If polling places are overwhelmed,
however, polls may close at 7:00 p.m. but everyone "in" the polling area
may be allowed to vote -- I am unsure.] If exit polls indicate an Obama
victory in VA, that deprives McCain-Palin of 13 electoral votes and puts
them, even with the most pro-GOP assumptions, under 270. Before PA
closes [supposedly at 8:00 p.m. EST], VA may render PA's electoral votes
moot. Then all that McCain-Palin would have would be some Diebold

Indiana and Kentucky are scheduled to close their polls at 6:00 p.m.
EST. If Indiana actually goes Obama -- as David notes, not impossible
but not likely -- that may be the earliest signal that the Obama ground
game was what it was cracked up to be. Election-watchers should then
steel themselves for other Obama "takeaways."

P&G should probably counsel election-watchers to monitor the Dole-Hagan
Senate race when NC polls close at 8:30 p.m. EST [presumably]. That MAY
keep guests from desserting and deserting.