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Thursday, July 08, 2004

John Kerry's Electoral College Advantage

JB

If you look at this July 7th poll of states from Rasmussen, you will see that Kerry is in pretty good shape. [Please note: this post is based on numbers for July 7th. The numbers change regularly] Rasmussen now places Florida in the Kerry column. (According to Rasmussen's methodology, a state goes in a candidate's column only if the candidate is ahead by five or more percentage points. Otherwise the state is labeled a "toss-up.")

There are 98 electoral votes in states in which no candidate leads by more than five percentage points. (I'm using Rasmussen's figures. Your mileage may differ.). To obtain the necessary 270 votes, Kerry must win 33 more electoral votes; Bush must win 67 more. Kerry can do this by winning any two out of the three of Michigan (17), Ohio (20), and Pennsylvania (21). If he only wins one of these three, he will need to win three small states: Oregon (7), New Hampshire (4), and New Mexico (5). If he cannot win any of the three large states, he cannot win the Presidency. But a Democrat who cannot win either Michigan or Pennsylvania probably doesn't deserve to win.

Bush, by contrast, has a more difficult road ahead of him. Let's assume that Bush will win Missouri (11) and Virginia (13), which he will probably do if the race is close. That means he must win 43 more votes, and that means he must win two of the big three remaining states of Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. That is because even if he wins Oregon, New Hampshire and New Mexico, he is still 27 votes short.

Bush has to focus on the big three, and he must try to get Florida back in his column. That gives Kerry and Edwards the ability to move into other states and make trouble for Bush. They can take the offensive. Note, for example, that if either Virginia (13) or Missouri (11) goes for Kerry, the wheels start to come off of Bush's wagon. Kerry would still need 20 or 22 electoral votes, respectively, to win. But a Democrat who picks up either Missouri or Virginia is virtually guaranteed to pick up 22 more electoral votes from somewhere in that list.

In short, when you are ahead, the possible methods of disrupting your opponent multiply; when you are behind, the urgency of focusing on a few key states and holding onto what you have is enhanced.


UPDATE: In case you are wondering, in the second paragraph, I'm assuming that Missouri and Virginia are going Republican. Drop that assumption, and Kerry could lose all three big states, and theoretically win by winning Missouri (11) and Virginia (13) and two of Oregon (7), New Hampshire (4), and New Mexico (5). But it would be very unusual for a Democrat today to to lose Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio and pick up both Missouri and Virginia. (In the old days of the Solid South, it would have been less unusual).


UPDATE: As you will notice if you go to the website, Rasmussen's polls change regularly, so the mix of states that are toss-ups changes accordingly. My remarks apply to the mix of states as of July 7th.


Comments:

After watching the polls endlessly and comparing the economies of the swing states, the odds remain very high of Kerry pulling in Ohio. He should pull in Michigan and Oregon easily, too, though both will have gay marriage on the ballot as countermeasures, which make neither a slam dunk.

Employment trends make it likely that Kerry won't gain AZ or NV or LA and he could lose NM for the same reason. He's trailing in WI presently, for a net loss of two states, if that holds.

But even if he trades in PA for OH and loses WI and NM, picking up FL would purt near clinch it. Edwards clearly puts NC and VA in play and tossup states like WV, NH, CO, AR also remain very much in reach.

Unless employment roars back strong or Al Qaida hits the industrial heartland, all current indicators trend very favorably towards Kerry.

Wild cards like Valerie Plame and Abu Ghraib photos of child abuse have yet to appear, too... and the secret project Josh Marshall mentioned in June also suggests more scandals yet to emerge. For the first time, my hopefulness has foundations to rest on.

-Kevin of The American Street
 

Oregon will be very interesting. The gay marriage initiative will generate turnout for both conservative Christians and progressives; there have been 2 other anti-gay measures in the last ten years, so both sides have active networks. Some LGBT activists are optimistic because the previous measures did so much to get folks out of the closet that most straight Oregonians probably know a Bob or Jane next door who's just like them except for the rainbow flag.

Of course there's the Nader factor as well, but it probably doesn't help him among Oregonians that he's getting on the ballot with anti-Kerry Repubs doing the heavy lifting.

If I were Kerry, I wouldn't bet the farm on carrying Florida. In fact, if I were inclined to be sly, I'd encourage the Bushies to think so in order to get them to focus heavily on legal, quasi-legal, and illegal shenanigans down there but really push on the old Rust Belt. With the right spin, Edwards should be a big help in the industrial midwest and PA among those whose manufacturing jobs were outsourced and for whom Walmart is not an acceptable career path.

Speaking of Walmart, Kerry/Edwards ought to play the gender gap for all it's worth. They obviously can't comment directly on Walmart, but there are an awful lot of pissed-off women out there who like the idea of lawyers, legalism and anti-discrimination policies when they mean that such women can afford health care for their families.
 

All the discussion about who is leading in the battleground states shows that using electors to select the President is a hopelessly flawed anachronism. Every vote should count in the Presidential election. Right now one vote in Ohio or Florida counts so much more than a vote in California, New York, or Texas.
It's ridiculous that the policies of the candidates are tailored to get the votes in the battleground states, rather than to establish policies which are beneficial for all of our people. I know that a consitutional amendement is needed but seriously, we need to think about changing things.
 

All the discussion about who is leading in the battleground states shows that using electors to select the President is a hopelessly flawed anachronism. Every vote should count in the Presidential election. Right now one vote in Ohio or Florida counts so much more than a vote in California, New York, or Texas.
It's ridiculous that the policies of the candidates are tailored to get the votes in the battleground states, rather than to establish policies which are beneficial for all of our people. I know that a consitutional amendement is needed but seriously, we need to think about changing things.
 

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