Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Election Math

The national election is the United States is in its home stretch. In September polls have constantly shown Obama with a lead, a lead that continued to widen. No candidate or party has given a knock-out punch or faltered to the degree that victory is hopeless.

Over the upcoming twelve days the polls will narrow, which is what typically happens when the election is not going to a landslide. That said, there are signs of growing tension within the McCain campaign’s leadership. McCain messaging has continued to meander. Palin’s fitness to be President has increasingly come into question and today 55% of those surveyed feel she is not qualified to be Vice-President.

In the United States, the candidate entering the White House does not need to win the popular vote. Gore won the popular vote in 2000 but lost the race. The race is focused upon winning the Electoral College. Win a state, even by one vote, the candidates receives all that state’s electoral college votes.

I would note for family and friends north of the boarder that it is possible to win the White House by winning only eleven of the fifty States. The eleven have the largest electoral colleges and when combined gives a candidate 271 electoral votes, one greater than what is needed to win. The eleven states are:
California with 55 electoral votes
Texas with 35
New York with 31
Florida with 27
Illinois with 21
Pennsylvania with 21
Ohio with 20
Michigan with 17
North Carolina with 15
Georgia with 15
New Jersey 15

Losing three of the above states does not unduly harm a candidate if they are not all in the largest four. Losing one of the large four and two of the others can be easily off-set by strength from a range of smaller Electoral College states. But losing five or six of the eleven creates a great challenge for any candidate. Both parties are aware of the importance of these eleven and build their campaigns around winning as many any of the eleven as possible.

Before the campaign started the Democrats knew Texas is going Republican and conceded Texas. Texas is easily offset by Wisconsin, Minnesota, Washington and the District of Columbia.

Georgia too is likely to go Republican. Democrats balance off Georgia with Massachusetts and Vermont, both of which are strong Democrat states.

Though the fight for North Carolina is a tight, North Carolina too is likely to go Republican. Again its lost is not of great concern since the northeast strong holds of Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Hampshire compensate for not winning North Carolina. That said, the Democrats are pouring resources into North Carolina in an effort to drain Republican resources from other states as Republican success depends upon Republicans winning North Carolina.

Though the Republicans have conceded Illinois, New York and Michigan, they would be in great difficulty if they lose North Carolina. What is interesting is that recent polls indicate that Obama is within two or three points of winning North Carolina. If Obama wins North Carolina it is more than likely that Obama will be the overall victor.

A great deal of attention is being given by both parties to Ohio and Florida. In the last two presidential elections these states could easily have gone Democrat. For the Democrats losing either Ohio or Florida could be balanced off by a series of smaller states, but for either party to lose both creates an uphill battle, particularly for McCain.

Democrats losing Ohio is balanced off by winning Maryland, Maine and Iowa. Iowa which went Republican in 2004 gives Democrats more breathing space. Loosing Florida requires the Democrats to win Maine and Hawaii, which the Democrats have won in the last four election cycles, as well as several states that swing back and forth.

Losing Ohio and Florida means Oregon, Colorado and New Mexico become must wins for Obama. Both Florida and Ohio are close. Obama has a strong lead in Oregon and somewhat of a lead in Colorado and New Mexico.

For the first time since 1964 Virginia could be taken by the Democrats. Virginia is being hotly contested. If the Commonwealth of Virginia does vote for Obama and so does Oregon, Colorado and New Mexico, the Democrats will be in a strong position to win the White House, even without lost Ohio and Florida.

Given where Virginia is polling recently, significant campaign money is being poured into the state. Though the Commonwealth may well go Republican, Missouri too is receiving a great deal of attention from both parties.

For McCain to win the White House he must take Ohio, Florida, Missouri, North Carolina and Virginia. He is going to lose Iowa and New Mexico. The lost of these two states means Maine and Pennsylvania become must wins for him. Hence, the Republicans are pouring resources in Pennsylvania in an effort to win there even though the polls indicate that McCain is behind in the state by six to nine points.

For any reader who is interested in playing around with various combinations, I would point them to

The race will tighten and the heavy focus will come down to six to eight states.


Evie said...

I'll just wait until election night to think about any electoral math. I'm tired of this election. Canada called and held an election in the time it took Sarah Palin to spend $150,000.00 of Republican campaign money on a wardrobe. She can't dazzle voters with her intellect, so I guess she's trying to win them over with her looks, or at least, her fashion sense.

Barbara said...

Oy! Me head is spinning.