Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Electoral Map Trumps the Party Math

I have been talking about the Electoral College and the way in which the primary wins for Obama simply do not add up to victory for a few months:

Hillary's campaign and most of the major blogs are reinforcing the argument that she is a stronger candidate in the general because she has stronger support than Obama in states that A) the Democrats have a real chance of winning in November and B) have a high enough Electoral College vote count that it will add up to 270.

I have already made the formal arguments for this position in the above articles. Below, I simply list the reasons why the general election and its electoral map trump the party delegate math:

  • The general election (Electoral College) is winner take all based on a simple majority of votes in that elector’s state. They are all secret ballot elections. All voters are eligible.
  • No candidate can win in November by gaming caucuses or manipulating delegate counts. The majority vote that day is all that counts. If you don’t win the state outright, McCain gets it.
  • All 50 states are counted, including the places that didn’t vote for a candidate in the primaries and including the states the Democratic Party is currently refusing to allow to vote on the eventual nominee.
  • A candidate can manipulate their way into a high delegate count, but if they have failed to be the winner of primaries in the must-win states, they are at an electoral disadvantage in November.
  • Obama has his pledged delegate majority by leveraging unrepresentative caucus votes in Republican dominated states and by blocking attempts to revote Florida and Michigan. He does not have the support of the majority of Democrats who voted. He is at a disadvantage in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan, and the party needs three of those four in our column to win November.

Long story short: The ability to manipulate the primary race to eke out a whisker thin majority of pledged delegates is irrelevant in the general election because it does not reflect the way in which the Electoral College votes are awarded. Our current contenders are both able to get the necessary 2209 party convention delegates, but only one of them is also able to win the necessary number of Electors – 270.

Hillary can deliver the White House. Obama can’t.


Cathy said...

Great summing up of the "gods awful truth." But consider the level of fantasy that his supporters have bought to get him this far, it will be a tough sell (in other words, he barely fits the thin resume he does leak out and they don't care.)

Thus it defaults to the supers to decide. But given how the Party has laid down for Bush over past 8 years, it seems a little naive to ask them to find their courage now.

That's why I'm on a rant tonight to push Hillary to leave the Party for a third party effort. She won't but dammit, Party Insiders have left her with little choice given their shameless manipulation of rule and policy. By 2012 there will be nothing left to lead that will grant the democratic party a vanguard position.

Ivory Bill Woodpecker said...

Keep drinkin' the Kool-Aid, Ink. ;)

Unknown said...

Yo! This is politics and the use of a totally irrelevant sports metaphor with no real connection, Barry's a rather lousy politician Eli Manning can play quarterback, to the discussion at hand provides us with a great case study of the delusional mental processes of Obama 'fans'.

Barry the Bumbler will be Barry the Loser if he gets to the big game and Ol' 'Inky Negro' will pretend he doesn't even know the man.

Cathy said...


You have it only partially right. In this case Hillary is Manning and Obama is Farve. She kicked Obama's ass in the states that count in November, much like Manning beat Farve. Even without using the meme of states that actually count, this race is NOT over.

You and your fellow Obama supporters are the ones creating "rules" that change the outcome. Before you start with any of them, explain how Michigan and Florida are the only two of five states who get punished for moving up their primaries. (Oh wait, did those other three go for Obama?)

If you are going to take this stand, then please accept the responsibility that comes with it. Namely the election of John McCain, the destruction of the Democratic Party, and the enrichment of your cherished candidate due to his book series.

Hank Gillette said...

cathy said:

Before you start with any of them, explain how Michigan and Florida are the only two of five states who get punished for moving up their primaries. (Oh wait, did those other three go for Obama?)

Two of them did; New Hampshire was won by Senator Clinton. Since the other states moved their primary or caucus up in response to the actions of Florida and Michigan, the DNC didn't see the need to punish them.

Cathy said...

Oh please. They didn't dare punish South Carolina because that launched him. Nevada they expected tp go for him (and tonight we learn that he took pledged delegate lead despite losing popular vote). New Hampshire they expected to bury her.

Michigan and Florida are all about setting the table for Obama.

Nothing in the rules allowed DNC to strip Michigan and Florida of all their delegates. (At most they could take half.) Nothing allowed them to not count the popular vote or the super delegates. But they have gone forward with these things anyway.

So yeah it works great if you are a party shill looking to benefit from Obama's take over. But it harms if you are a regular member looking to win the general election in the fall.

In fact, treachery or malfeasance are pretty good words for what happened. Though that's right -- both would involve party shills feeling they have a duty to rank and file members. What a joke.

That's why on Tuesday - despite a string of losses in key states over last weeks - we will get Obama's "Mission Accomplished" speech in Iowa.

Well guess what . . . we are going to give it the same amount of deference we gave W's speech (since it has the same effect). See you in August.

Cathy said...


Let's dispose of a few things.

One she had name recognition prior to the campaign starting not necessarily an "insurmountable" lead. Those 20 point leads were against a field of mostly unknown candidates. Elevating Obama to single handily wiping them out is a gross misstatement of facts. (Much like his 20 plus debates, when only 3-4 were between just the two of them.)

Two that senator with the funny sounding name got backed by the Party establishment. They covered for his lack of experience. Aiding them was the MSM, which has done little or no reporting of his incredibly thin resume. (For example, no one reported until much later how he obtained his "victories" in Illinois -- knocking off Alice Palmer, drawing Alan Keyes as his opponent.)

Three, she split her funds between GE and primary. Foolish, perhaps. Though no one ever knows exactly how much Obama money has or its sources. (Bulk does not come from small donors despite myths to the contrary.) Hopefully she will use that to fund an independent run.

Four, we can base our talk in November on what has occurred over last several weeks. He has LOST major states -- a string of them -- and in a manner that has alienated much of the Democratic base. (Your argument that Hillary has alienated that base is ridiculous. Every time she has won she has done by expanding the turnout. He only wins when the turnout is depressed or he's campaigning in states with high concentrations of African American voters. (The latter advantage doesn't carry over to GE.))

Five, his lead in all categories right now is tiny when counting Michigan and Florida. Given that Clinton agreed to revotes - paid by private funds - in those two states he has no leg to stand on in regard to the rules.

How could the Clintons not get blown out in the Potomoc primaries? Where were you during the Clinton presidency when the DC area was a cesspool for them. Plus her campaign manager was not that great then.

But ultimately this is supposed to be about winning in the fall. The party shills could have - and did - grease the primary for him. But that won't matter worth a damn in the General Election.

His campaign and its supporters have gone out of their way to insult Hillary's base. They will cost us Michigan and Florida. He will lose significant portions of the women's vote based not only on his supporters but his own miscues. He will not hold the Hispanics in the Southwest against McCain.

gendergappers said...

Ink seems to have blotted his copybook. It's not the koolaid that makes for the madness and fury of BO's lemmings, it's the facts so ably presented in this blog.

Anglachel said...

inkonegro and elem's comments have been deleted for lack of relevance to the topic and for general offensiveness. Any further comments from either of them will be when I see them, so regulars please don't respond to them.


Anna Belle said...

Thanks Anglachel. Sorry you too, now, have to deal with Obama trolls. They're pretty desperate and trawling the web everywhere these days. Keep up the good fight. Another great post.

Scarlet said...

What a person description of the playing field. Dare we hold out hope the DNC will respond in a rational manner?

Scarlet said...

Sorry that word should have been perfect.

What a perfect description of the playing field.

Unknown said...

Another fine analysis....Hillary makes some states competitive in the general....Like Texas...
If Clinton ran against McCain I believe she would have the State.

Cathy said...

Sorry, Anglachel, I probably shouldn't have fed the trolls. But it was late and they were annoying.

Fortunately, I had a lot of your data to try and back me up.

But I'll stay extra quiet today to make up for it. :>

(Note: I would have sent this privately without posting but couldn't find a link.)

alibe said...

I saw this in an article in the NY Times this morning. It is a Times puff piece but this part caught my attention. It is refering to Obama's book "Dreams...." Isn't it amazing how the U. of Chicago has had a hand in the most destructive movements of this country. Be it Friedman economics, Wolfowicz and the neo-con insanity, Leo Strauss and the American right. And then there is the confluence between the neo-cons and the religious right through a devotees of the Christain Reconstructionists or the Domionists.
"Mr. Obama was given an office to write in at the University of Chicago through a surprising connection. Douglas G. Baird, a professor who was head of the law school’s appointments committee, had learned of Mr. Obama from Michael W. McConnell, a conservative constitutional scholar then at Chicago whom President Bush would later make a federal judge.

Professor McConnell encountered Mr. Obama during the editing of an article he wrote for The Harvard Law Review, Professor Baird said recently. “He sent a note saying this person is really brilliant, we should have him on our radar screen,” Professor Baird said. Professor Baird called Mr. Obama at Harvard and asked if he was interested in teaching....

So Professor Baird got him one (a room to write in), a small office near the law library, along with a law school fellowship that Professor Baird hoped might later lead to his full-time teaching.

By the time Mr. Obama landed at Times Books, he had a partial manuscript. He required minimal editing, said Henry Ferris, his editor, who is now a vice president and executive editor at William Morrow. "

So Obama got $40,000 advance and a fellowship and an office to write his book in. Is this the Manchurian aspect of Obama's beginning to become a faux liberal with the backing of the conservatives. How many real liberals were honored with such largesse?

Anonymous said...

I would add the following: in the critical states, FL,OH,MI and PA, the electorate splits about evenly between Dems and Reps. Obama's decision to offend many Democratic groups - blue collar workers, women, Clinton supporters - will cost him a certain percentage in November. The anti-Obama force may split beteen McCain and staying home, but it is significant enough tip the scales towards McCain.

Obama outrageous behavior was not needed and did not help him. It is going to give the nod to McCain.

Anonymous said...

Catching up on all of the posts I've missed while being away from the internet this week. To all of the regulars on here: Do not reply to the Obamabots who come here. They are too ignorant to realize that the B.S. they spew on pro-Clinton sites only harden us into not voting for Obama if he is the nominee. Anglachel, keep up the good work as always and thank you for deleting the fools who come here to ruin one of the few spaces on the web for Clinton supporters to have an intelligent conversation about politics and the future of the Democratic Party.

orionATL said...

anglachel -

your's is a concise, precise summary of the situation the democratic party faces today.

my favorite paragraph:

[long story short: The ability to manipulate the primary race to eke out a whisker thin majority of pledged delegates is irrelevant in the general election because it does not reflect the way in which the Electoral College votes are awarded. Our current contenders are both able to get the necessary 2209 party convention delegates, but only one of them is also able to win the necessary number of Electors – 270.]

i will add that the rules the democratic party is using for this nomination contest are unlikely to ever be used again by the party.

it seems rather odd to me,

fatalistic actually,

for the demo party to obdurately insist on applying a set of rules that all understand are inadequate for the job.

kaya said...

hey -

i'm not an 'obamacan' or an 'obamabot' or any of those other fun words, but i'm also not a 'regular' on this site so i'm a little worried you're going to delete my post. i just have a question:

doesn't this also largely depend on how democrats who did not vote for the nominee in the primaries decide to vote in the general election? meaning isn't it possible that either obama or hillary could still win states they lost the primaries for, if democrats don't go over to mccain?

Florence said...

Anglachel, I need to contact you. It's about something I wrote, which uses a phrase from one of you diaries. I wanted to let you know, I borrowed your phrase.

Anglachel said...

Florence, to reach me, send your name, email and a message thorugh this form:
Romenna contact


Anglachel said...


Yes, general elections usually have a higher level of participation than primaries. However, even though turn out is higher, if the GE candidate is not the original winner of the primary for that state, the level of defections (and a defection can anything from no vote cast to voting for the opposing party) will be higher than if the GE candidate is also the original primary winner.

Thus, Obama would see more defections in Pennsylvania than Hillary, while Hillary would see more defections in South Carolina than Obama. In both cases, it is probable that either candidate will get the majority of all Democratic votes cast.

Given that basic presumption, someone modeling the contests on a state by state basis would ask:

1. What is estimated level of party participation as a whole? (50%, 60% 80%, etc.). This may be difficult to do this year, given exceptional turn outs.

2. What were the percentages on the primary? If very strong preferences one way or the other, can the preferences be explained? This is where caucuses cause modeling problems because they grossly undersample the entire party and because they over-represent certain segments of the party. This is true for *all* parties, not just Dems.

3. What is the likelihood of defection in a given state? This means you need to have an accurate explanation of the primary preferences. Exit polls, demographics of the state, etc., will be needed. This is the one place where the analyst cannot go on hunches - if the data isn't there, it doesn't count.

4. If defection levels are likely to be high, is this a party majority state, party minority state, or swing state? High defections in states you are likely to lose anyway are not as problematic as defections in swing states. In party majority states, defections are rarely an issue *unless* defections hit double digits of all expected party turnout. Again, these conditions are formal rules and apply equally to all parties.

5. What is the probability of victory/defeat once defection rates are factored in?

6. How does this affect the electoral college count?

I don't care who you do/don't support as long as you ask questions that are not simply rhetorical BS. This is a good question because it asks about how voting patterns can be estimated, and is not biased for or against any candidate.


orionATL said...

professor a -

your comment at the (10:36) is very informative.

if i understand it, all these maps and charts about the electoral college have a lot of "slack" in them relative to predicting who may win the presidency.

i would guess this is just what super delegates are saying to themselves.

and i would guess they are assuming that a well-run g e campaign can turns votes and states in obama's direction.

still, where many states are concerned, there does seem to be a strong determinism in the electoral college counts.

Chinaberry Turtle said...

kaya, you can count me among those defections Anglachel just described. I know a lot of "bitter people who cling to guns and religion" as well as a lot of "sweeties" who are gonna defect as well. I think defections against Obama will be more palpable than in any other election. Contrary to the hype, Obama doesn't seem to be very good at unifying people.

sassysenora said...

kaya, When viewing electoral map projections, in addition to what Anglachel posted at 10: (good post, BTW), you need to find out how they determined their projection of who would carry each state.

Some are based on polls conducted in each state (or some subset of that state). (If it was a subset, which states are based solely or mostly on poll results and which based, in whole or part, on other factors.) If so, how recent was the poll? How many ppl were polled and does the poll seem to be likely to be reasonably representative? (You can check the pollsters track record to see how representative and valid their projections seem to be.)

Who did they poll? All potential voters? (If so, did they find out if the person is registered and if they've voted in past elections?) All registered voters? Only likely voters? (If yes, how did they define that?) All of these approaches have advantages and disadvantages, but they can produce very different results. Polling likely voters (e.g., those that voted in the primaries plus those who voted in the last general) is usually the most valid approach but, depending on the election, can be counting dissatisfied or overwhelmed or uninterested voters who may not vote or may miss some voters who haven't yet voted (or haven't voted in many years) but may vote this time. NB: these voters often say they'll vote but it's very difficult to tell if they actually will. Many won't (usually very few do), even if they honestly think they will certainly vote.

How were the questions worded? I.e., if it's a matchup of McCain vs. Obama and McCain vs. Clinton, did they ask the person who'd they would vote for (or who they preffered) without using a list or did they give them a list of candidates and ask them to pick among the list? Regardless of the foregoing, did only let the person pick a candidate or did they try to measure how strongly they supported that candidate? If they had a category for "leaning toward" (or better, "slightly leaning toward", "strongly leaning toward"), how did they count those answers? Did they have a multilingual staff so that minorities are fairly represented? How did they determine who to call?

Are they using data other than direct questions asked in a poll? Sometimes it is helpful to adjust poll results by things like previous votes in the state (e.g., New York has voted Democratic for years and is considered by everyone to be a "safe" state for the Dems. It will show up on both Obama's and Clinton's map as a "win" state. However, a few respectable polls have shown McCain to be within striking distance of Obama here. It's difficult to know what to do with such poll results. It's many months until the general.)

Hope this helped.

sassysenora said...

kaya, sorry, i forgot to add that, ideally, one would make sure that pollsters have enough staff that are profient in all of the languages that any relatively sizable minority in the given state might speak. E.g., on the west coast, in MA, NY, DC, and TX, they should not only have staff that speak Cantonese but also Mandarin and any other variety of Chinese that might be relevant in that state. It takes some digging to find out what those languages are and whether the organization has an adequate staff.

orionATL said...


thank you for taking the time to explain.

i am slowly acquiring an understanding of how these projections and the maps that describe them are built, thanks to comments like this and posts from anglachel.

kaya said...

wow, so many answers to my question since last time i checked!

thanks everyone - those were really helpful responses.

and chinaberry turtle - i wonder if the number of defections due to animosity at this point are high enough that they might cost the dems the election regardless of who the nominee is. i hope not, but its starting to seem a bit likely, no?

gendergappers said...

I don't get it.

If the BO people and the media and the DNC are so sure he has won, why are their bloggers and pundits and "sources close to..." still jumping in on HRC blogs or anything written that is positive toward her with anger, derrogatory remarks and general nastiness?

I don't get it. Why aren't they just doing a crazy goalpost dance?