Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Obama's Slide: Is Clinton Taking Advantage?

One of the biggest complaints about these maps that I've been producing for over a month now (see right side bar for the links) is that they pull in polling data from way back in February and give each of those polls (recent and long ago) equal weight. And that's a legitimate argument. Clinton supporters (and the detractors of my methodology) have chimed in in the comments sections of some of these posts to argue that Obama's good standing in the polls, post-Super Tuesday and pre-Jeremiah Wright, is propping up his averages, giving the appearance of competitiveness against McCain. My argument for including all the polls from Super Tuesday on has been that that was the point at which this became an even, two-person race for the Democratic nomination. The argument that we should expect some decay in a poll's value as it gets older, though, is still a valid one. I would counter that it is still necessary to include all the data from Super Tuesday forward, but to discount the early polls and weight the more recent ones.

Since there is a range in the number of polls per state
(a low of one and a high of 15) there was some variation in the number of polls that were considered recent or dated. The following rules have been adopted to deal with these differences:
  • If there has only been one poll conducted in a state, that is all the information on that state. Those poll numbers are left as they are, neither discounted nor weighted.
  • If a state has had two or three polls since Super Tuesday the more recent one was given extra weight while the dated one (or two were) was discounted.
  • Any state that had four polls over this period had the two most recent polls weighted while the earliest two polls were discounted.
  • Finally, in all the states that had five or more polls the three most recent polls were given added significance while all the other polls were discounted to account for decay over time.
The big question: What effect does this have on the electoral college projection maps? If the recent negativity around Obama's campaign has any relevance, there should be a noticeable shift in his numbers against McCain in the hypothetical general election polls pitting the two against each other. In other words, adding in a decay function and giving more significance to the newer polls should be expected to hurt Obama. Relatedly though, is Clinton taking advantage of her opponent's slide? She has picked up some points on Obama both nationally and in the states yet to hold nominating contests, but is that translating to a possible battle against McCain? Is she able to make a better case that she would be more electable against McCain than would Obama?

To the maps!
In comparing the weighted Obama map to the unweighted one (see link under Recent Posts at the bottom), several things are clear. There is a lot less light blue and purple and much more brown. Many of the states that were leaning toward Obama or were toss ups favoring him moved into the McCain column. Whereas last week's maps showed an even split in the number of toss up states between Obama and McCain, this map has 11 of the 15 total toss ups favoring McCain. As a result, the race between the two in the electoral college has gone from a virtual tie to an 80 electoral vote advantage for McCain (309 to 229) with 174 toss up electoral votes. Among the states where the candidates were either strongly ahead or held a solid lead, Obama led 192 electoral votes to 172. McCain, then, took 137 or those 174 toss up electoral votes.
And Clinton? Her map and the resulting electoral college projections are nearly identical to the unweighted map. There are changes in the map on the margins, but the electoral vote tally is exactly the same (304 to 234 for McCain). That indicates that she has managed to maintain a certain standing against McCain, but that Obama's recent troubles have not changed the perceptions of those polled in regard to her standing against the Arizona senator.
And what of the difference each candidate makes in the various states? Here too, the maps are largely similar. The states shaded on each candidate's map are the same with the weighted data as they were before the transformations to the data were made. The difference is the magnitude of the differences. The Obama map is much lighter now. There are many more yellows and greens now than purples and blues. When the more recent polls are given greater value, the impact Obama had by being the head of the ticket against McCain is erode in relation to Clinton. In other words, the McCain margins between the two are narrower in many of the states. Obama's slide then has pulled him back down to earth; to the point that there really isn't a "dime's worth of difference" between Clinton and himself.
So, now I have appeased the Clinton supporters on their methodological concerns, but probably have both camps agitated with me over how the maps now look. I have argued before that the cloudiness over who the Democratic nominee will be has suppressed some of the support the party's nominee should get given the state of the typical general election indicators (presidential approval and economy). In that regard then, this is something of a worst-case scenario for the Democrats. It does underscore how the divisiveness of the post-Texas/Ohio race has hurt them and makes that much more understandable the calls from the party's elite to decide this thing earlier rather than later.

Related: Obama's Slide Revisited

Recent Posts:
The Electoral College Maps (4/30/08)
***Please see links to past maps in the right side bar***

The State of the Race: Counting Delegates in the North Carolina Primary

The State of the Race: Counting Delegates in the Indiana Primary

The Electoral College Maps (4/30/08)

Another Wednesday, another set of electoral college projections. New polls were few and far between this week and only served to confirm the maps from the past several weeks. The eight new polls (from eight states) did little to shake up the McCain-Clinton map, but that has been the more stable match up throughout this series of maps. Only Nevada shifted this week, moving from a toss up favoring McCain to a stronger lean toward the Arizona senator. As such, the electoral vote breakdown is largely the same as it was a week ago. McCain holds a 70 vote advantage over Clinton with 164 toss up electoral votes.
Things in the hypothetical McCain-Obama race are also similar this week compared to last. A new poll in Pennsylvania broke last week's tie between the two, handing McCain a fraction of a point's lead over the junior senator from Illinois. And as we've seen, that puts McCain over 270 electoral votes needed to take the presidency. The only other change (and this will allay the fears of some Democrats who have complained about this one) was that Massachusetts shifted from being a toss up leaning toward Obama to a more solid lean toward him. With those changes, McCain edges Obama 281-260 in the electoral college with 177 toss up electoral votes.
The few changes that did occur this week had no effect on the difference each candidate makes in each of the 50 states. Please refer to last week's McCain margin maps for a refresher on which Democrat does best in what states and how much it matters.

Recent Posts:
The State of the Race: Counting Delegates in the North Carolina Primary

The State of the Race: Counting Delegates in the Indiana Primary

The Electoral College Maps (4/23/08)
***Please see the links to past maps in the right side bar.***

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The State of the Race: Counting Delegates in the North Carolina Primary

After yesterday's look at the playing field for the upcoming primary in Indiana, the focus now shifts toward the Tar Heel state. North Carolina also holds a primary on May 6 and things in the Democratic race are heating up there as they are in Indiana. Polls show Obama with a pretty good lead over Clinton in the state and the Real Clear Politics average (see link) has only dropped slightly following Clinton's victory in Pennsylvania last week (15. 5 points before to 12.6 points now). In the interim the North Carolina GOP has publicized and aired a TV ad featuring both Obama and his pastor, Jeremiah Wright, in an attack on the two main Democrats vying for the state's Democratic gubernatorial nomination (both of whom have endorsed Obama). Will those numbers continue to trend downward for Obama with Clinton picking up the endorsement of Democratic governor, Mike Easley today.

The primary in North Carolina is a modified, open primary that allows independents to vote but prohibits Republicans from participating. There is evidence of party switching among registered Republicans in the lead up to the primary, but with a competitive gubernatorial primary on the GOP side, one has to wonder whether those are sincere switches or Republicans seeking to throw a monkeywrench in the Democratic contest. It seems less likely that these are Rush Limbaugh voters with the presence of a GOP primary for governor because the Republicans in the state must be energized to take back the governor's mansion after 16 years out of it.

At stake are 77 delegates allocated to the winner of each of the state's 13 congressional districts and another 38 based on the statewide results (source: The Green Papers). The number of congressional district delegates varies from a low of 4 in more Republican districts (6 of the 13 districts are held by Republicans) to a high of nine in the more heavily Democratic districts. The split in which candidate gets what number of delegates from a district depends on the following rules:

The delegate distributions:
  • Those districts with four delegates will split two to two (delegates to each candidate) unless one candidate clears 62.5% of the vote in that district for a three to one advantage.
  • The districts with five delegates will split three to two in favor of the winner unless the winner of the district surpasses 70% of the vote for a four to one edge.
  • The districts with six delegates will split the delegates evenly unless the winning candidate in such a district garners more than 58.33% of the vote for a four to two lead. 75% would be necessary to win a five to one delegate advantage coming out of a six delegate district.
  • The districts with seven delegates will divide those delegates 4 to 3, in favor of the winner, unless the winner receives more than 64.29% of the vote in that district. The winner would take home a five to two delegate advantage from that district in that case.
  • The district with nine delegates will split those delegates 5 to 4 unless the winner surpasses 61% of the vote in the district, giving the winner a six to three edge. 72% of the vote is necessary to give the winner a 7 to 2 lead.
How does the race look on the district level? With the race shifting south, the focus shifts almost exclusively to the percentage of the district that is black. North Carolina is not on par with South Carolina (where Obama has already won) in terms of its concentration of African American, but it is nearly equivalent to another neighboring state, Virginia (another state Obama won), in that regard.

1st District (Northeast corner, bordering Virginia/6 delegates): This Democratic-controlled district is 50% African American and contains the East Carolina University community. Both bode well for Obama despite this being a rural and agricultural district as does the endorsement of Rep. G.K. Butterfield.
The Score: Clinton-2, Obama-4

2nd District (East Central, surrounding the Raleigh area/6 delegates): This is another of the Democratic districts in the Tar Heel state. It stretches from south of the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area and around the to the east northeast of the state capital. The 2nd is 30% black and has all or part of several of the military bases in the state. Obama could flirt with the 58% barrier here, but this one is likely a split.
The Score: Clinton-3, Obama-3

3rd District (Coastal North and Outer Banks/4 delegates): The 3rd has been represented by Republican, Walter Jones for the past seven terms and has a far smaller black population than the previous two districts. The third also has a military presence and could be an area where Clinton could find some support.
The Score: Clinton-2, Obama-2

4th District (Research Triangle Park area, Durham, Chapel Hill/9 delegates): The 4th is the most heavily Democratic district in the state, is very young (only 8% over 65) and holds Research Triangle Park, the University of North Carolina and Duke University. It is also one-fifth African American. In other words, the state's big delegate prize favors Obama. But by how much? The endorsement of Rep. David Price won't hurt Obama either.
The Score: Clinton-3, Obama-6

5th District (Northwest, bordering Virginia/5 delegates): This Republican district stretches westward into the Appalachian Mountains from Winston-Salem and is only 7% black. It does have the area in and around Appalachian State University, but looks to favor Clinton. She won the bordering area in Virginia during Obama's convincing win there in mid-February.
The Score: Clinton-3, Obama-2

6th District (Piedmont, West of RTP/5 delegates): Similar to the 5th, the 6th is safely Republican and has a black population that only comprises a tenth of the total population. The good news for Clinton is that it is another district with 5 delegates at stake, so the delegate distribution won't be even. She could do well here but won't pass 70% to get anything more than a one delegate advantage out of it.
The Score: Clinton-3, Obama-2

7th District (Coastal Southeast, Wilmington/6 delegates): A solid coalition of African Americans and blue collar workers has kept Democratic congressman, Mike McIntyre safely in office since 1996. Those groups are at odds if this district trends the way the rest of the nation has in the states that have held delegate selection events thus far.
The Score: Clinton-3, Obama-3

8th District (South Piedmont, East of Charlotte/5 delegates): The 8th is one of just 15 districts that CQ rates as "No Clear Favorite" in the congressional race that will take place this fall. What does that mean for this Democratic presidential primary, though? Three in ten in the district are black and nearly a third have a blue collar background. As in the 7th, and nationwide for that matter, those groups are at odds. The tiebreaker could come from the exurban Charlotte population. Obama has done well in and around urban centers and that could give him enough support to manage a win and the one delegate advantage coming out of this five delegate district.
The Score: Clinton-2, Obama-3

9th District (South Piedmont, South and West of Charlotte/6 delegates): The ninth is my hometown district and has been represented by Republican and former-Charlotte mayor, Sue Myrick, for so long that calling her the former Charlotte mayor is outdated. This is a district that cedes much of the area's African American populace to the neighboring, majority-minority 12th district. The result is a district that is less black and more blue collar among the Democratic electorate. There is some exurban Charlotte development in the Gastonia area, but not enough to offset Clinton's strength.
The Score: Clinton-4, Obama-2

10th District (Western, foothills/5 delegates): Like the 9th, the 10th district is less than a tenth black and holds a significant number of blue collar workers. It should grant Clinton a comfortable margin, but not enough to emerge with more than a one delegate advantage.
The Score: Clinton-3, Obama-2

11th District (Western tip of the state, Asheville/6 delegates): This westernmost district is only 5% black and nearly a third blue collar, but the Asheville area offsets those Clinton advantages with a highly educated population.
The Score: Clinton-3, Obama-3

12th District (I-85 district, running from Charlotte to Greensboro/7 delegates): The 12th is the most controversial district in the state because it is always the one challenged in courts after the post-census redrawing of the lines. If ever Elbridge Gerry had a salamander, this would have been it. Snaking along I-85 from Gastonia through Charlotte to the Winston-Salem and Greenboro areas, the 12th has a black population approaching 50%. That will comprise a significant portion of the Democratic primary electorate. Mel Watt, the district's representative, has endorsed Obama as well.
The Score: Clinton-2, Obama-5

13th District (Northern Piedmont, bordering Virginia/7 delegates): This district runs along the border area of Virginia where Obama did well in his victory there. It also includes areas of Raleigh and Greensboro that cobble together a significant white collar population and a black community that makes up over one quarter of the district's population. This district could go for Obama but not by as much as in the 12th.
The Score: Clinton-3, Obama-4

Total Score: Clinton-36, Obama-41

A five delegate advantage in the districts combined with a ten point win (21 of the 38 statewide delegates) would give Obama a nine delegate advantage overall in North Carolina. If the projections from Indiana and North Carolina hold, then both candidates would emerged with one win apiece on May 6. No, that doesn't account for the expectations game. Obama is "supposed" to win North Carolina and the 10 point margin used above is the line he probably needs to clear in order for that to remain a "win" for him in the state. That scenario pushes the game into the next week when West Virginia (Clinton territory) holds its primary.

Recent Posts:
The State of the Race: Counting Delegates in the Indiana Primary

The Electoral College Maps (4/23/08)

Back to the Original "Too Early" Sanction

Monday, April 28, 2008

The State of the Race: Counting Delegates in the Indiana Primary

Well, Pennsylvania is out of the way. Guam is done. Oh wait. Guam is this weekend! But if the loyal Guamanian readers of FHQ don't mind, I'm going to skip ahead for a look at the May 6 contests in Indiana and North Carolina. I'll look at the rules in each state and the state of the game on the congressional district level. Indiana is up today and North Carolina will get a more thorough examination tomorrow.
The Hoosier state will hold an open primary with 85 delegates at stake in the May 6 contest. 47 of those delegates will be allocated based on the outcome of the race in each of the state's nine congressional districts with 25 others coming from the statewide results (source: The Green Papers). Of those nine districts, five are held by Democrats. Those five districts have six delegates apiece while three of the four Republican held districts have four delegates each. The sixth district has five delegates on the line.

The delegate distributions:

  • Those districts with four delegates will split two to two (delegates to each candidate) unless one candidate clears 62.5% of the vote in that district for a three to one advantage.
  • The district with five delegates will split three to two in favor of the winner unless the winner of the district surpasses 70% of the vote for a four to one edge.
  • The districts with six delegates will split the delegates evenly unless the winning candidate in such a district garners more than 58.33% of the vote for a four to two lead. 75% would be necessary to win a five to one delegate advantage coming out of a six delegate district.
Of the Indiana delegation to Congress (and thus superdelegates) only Sen. Evan Bayh and Rep. Andre Carson (7th-Indianapolis) have endorsed candidates in the race for the Democratic nomination. Bayh is backing Clinton and Carson has come out in favor of Obama. The rest of the Democratic elected officials in the state are neutral in the lead up to next week's contest.
So how does this race break down on the district level? In other words, in what districts are we likely to see anything other than an even (or near even) split of the delegates?

1st District (Northwest, along the border with Illinois/6 delegates): This is the district that we often hear referred to as a place where Obama is almost a native son. It is certainly in the footprint of the Chicago media. The district is 18% black, 13% over 65 and 31% blue collar. The 1st has been held since 1984 by Democrat, Peter Visclosky. The Chicago connection and the higher percentage of blacks in the district could prove a good combination for Obama to offset a fairly high population of blue collar workers.
The Score: Clinton-2, Obama-4

2nd District (North Central, borders Michigan/6 delegates): The district is 8% black, 13% over 65 and 35% blue collar. This Democratic district is less black than the 1st and has a higher percentage of blue collars; a good recipe for the Clinton campaign. However, Notre Dame is in the district and could prove a neutralizer for Obama.
The Score: Clinton-3, Obama-3

3rd District (Northeast, borders Michigan and Ohio/4 delegates): The district is 6% black, 11% over 65 and 36% blue collar. Slightly less black than the 1st and the 2nd and among the most heavily blue collar districts in the state, the 3rd could be a possible two delegate margin district for Clinton. It also borders on two states she has won already (though Obama wasn't on the ballot in Michigan). Despite that, it will be tough for any candidate to clear 62.5% in a Republican-controlled, four delegate district.
The Score: Clinton-2, Obama-2

4th District (Central, West of Indianapolis/4 delegates): The district is 1% black, 11% over 65 and 30% blue collar. This Republican district has a balance of strengths between Clinton and Obama. Clinton will have a pretty solid blue collar presence here, but Obama will have the Purdue University community to lean on and keep Clinton under 62.5% there.
The Score: Clinton-2, Obama-2

5th District (Central, East Northeast of Indianapolis/4 delegates): The district is 3% black, 11% over 65 and 25% blue collar. It is also a Republican district, but has a smaller blue collar presence. 30% blue collar seems to be a dividing line of sorts between these districts and this one falls below that point for Clinton to take anything more than an even split in delegates away from this district.
The Score: Clinton-2, Obama-2

6th District (East Central, borders Ohio/5 delegates): This Republican-held district borders an area of Ohio that Clinton swept in the March 4 primary there. The district is 4% black, 14% over 65 and 36% blue collar and with an odd number of delegates, the junior senator from New York will come away from the 6th with a one delegate edge.
The Score: Clinton-3, Obama-2

7th District (Indianapolis/6 delegates): The lone district where a Democratic member of Congress from Indiana has endorsed one of the two Democratic contenders. Andre Carson has given the nod to Obama and represents a district that is 29% black, 11% over 65 and 26% blue collar. Other than the 1st, this is the only district where Obama can hope to gain a couple of delegates on Clinton.
The Score: Clinton-2, Obama-4

8th District (Southwest corner, bordering Illinois/6 delegates): Democrat Brad Ellsworth represents the 8th district. He came in with the Democratic wave in 2006. The district is 4% black, 14% over 65 and 33% blue collar. This is a district bordering Illinois, but one that favors Clinton demographically. That's enough of a balance to keep a likely win there for Clinton under 58%.
The Score: Clinton-3, Obama-3

9th District (Southeast corner, bordering Kentucky/6 delegates): Like the 8th, this district saw Baron Hill swept into office in the Democratic surge of 2006. It is 2% black, 12% over 65 and 35% blue collar. Home to Indiana University, the 9th also has nearly a quarter of its population with some form of higher education degree.
The Score: Clinton-3, Obama-3

Total Score: Clinton-22, Obama-25

Obama, then, has a slight edge in this Indiana delegate projection, based on enough African American support in a couple of districts, friendly territory along the Illinois border and some well placed university communities that help offset the blue collar percentages in some districts. Clinton, however, could win the statewide vote and eke out a slim delegate victory. And with the popular vote argument she's been making since Pennsylvania, she would stand to gain on Obama in that count in Indiana. She would need to offset Obama's strength in the 1st and the 7th with a number of steady, if unremarkable in terms of delegates, victories in the other districts to win statewide. And that isn't out of the question. Regardless, it looks tight in the Hoosier state.

CQ gives a slight edge to Clinton in Indiana (24 delegates-23). If anything this confirms what the polls in the state are saying: it will be close.

I'll be back tomorrow with a look at North Carolina.

Recent Posts:
The Electoral College Maps (4/23/08)

Back to the Original "Too Early" Sanction

Jeremiah Wright to Sit Down with Bill Moyers (Friday, April 25)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Electoral College Maps (4/23/08)

Another week and another set of new state head-to-head general election polls. This week (4/17--4/23/08) had twenty new polls in eighteen states. Once again, however, is significant amount of new data failed to shift much in the electoral college outcomes between both Clinton and Obama against McCain. New this week is the addition of toss ups by candidate. Since this endeavor was initiated at the end of March, the modus operandi here at FHQ has been to lump all the toss up states, no matter who they favored, into one catch-all category. And let's face it, that is less than transparent, though probably slightly more so than the Clinton campaign's estimation procedure for tabulating the popular vote during this primary season. With the addition, the Democratic toss ups remain purple (it goes better with the blue) while McCain toss ups are shaded in brown (No, that doesn't really go with the red and the orange, but my map utility doesn't include pink.).

What's new this week, then? Well, not much. Clinton continues to inch closer in terms of her McCain margin versus Obama's, but it has yet to effectively alter the electoral college maps in any way. One thing that continues to grow is the number of toss up states in both hypothetical races pitting the two Democrats against McCain.
The McCain-Obama map remains virtually the same. Kansas switched from being a lean to McCain to the Strong McCain category. The next state over moving west, Colorado also moved from being an Obama lean to being a toss up favoring the Illinois senator. Not including those toss ups, Obama maintains a 190 to 159 electoral vote advantage over McCain with 189 electoral votes from 16 toss up states. Pennsylvania had no new polls this week (at least not on Real Clear Politics) and remains a tie with those 21 electoral votes serving as vital to either Obama (260) or McCain (257) surpassing the 270 electoral votes need to win.
The states in and degree to which Obama's "McCain margins" are the same as they were a week ago. Only New York, which was a tie (in McCain margin) between Clinton and Obama last week has changed; moving onto the Clinton map after having been on Obama's all April. That isn't too much of a surprise given that Clinton hails from the state. However, the difference isn't consequential as New York is firmly planted in the strong Democratic category no matter which candidate becomes the party's nominee.
For Clinton, the map is similar to the past maps for a possible McCain-Clinton general election match up. Excluding the toss up states in that hypothetical race indicates a relatively close race. McCain leads Clinton by a margin of 207 to 164 with 167 electoral votes in 14 states.* When those toss up states' electoral votes are allocated, however, Clinton trails by the same 304 to 234 margin she did in last week's projections. She drew closer (and changed categories) in three states. Iowa shifted from Strong McCain to a McCain leans while both Oregon and New Mexico moved from being McCain leans to toss ups favoring McCain.

Clinton's strength in McCain margin still remains centered on just thirty percent of the states. She has added New York (as was already mentioned) and has increased her advantage over Obama against McCain in Missouri and Kentucky (though Kentucky is not a state that is on the table as competitive in the fall).
What does all this mean? With the new differentiation between toss up states, I'd like to spend a bit of time analyzing what we see there. In other words, what does each candidate bring to the table in each of these races in terms of toss up states? There is some overlap between what the toss up states are no matter who the Democratic nominee is, but what states does each candidate (McCain included) bring to these two races?

In the hypothetical match up between McCain and Obama there are 16 toss up states that are evenly distributed between the two candidates. Obama has an advantage in eight of those states (70 electoral votes) while McCain holds a lead in seven of the remaining eight (98 electoral votes). Pennsylvania's 21 electoral votes are still up in the air.

What toss up states are unique to this match up though? Obama brings eight toss up states into play that Clinton does not. Those states (CO, NE, NC, ND, SC, SD, TX and VA) account for 90 electoral votes. For his part, McCain only brings one state into the toss up category that is not in play against Clinton: Massachusetts (12 electoral votes).

The potential race between the senior senator from Arizona and the junior senator from New York, as was mentioned in the original electoral college post, looks similar to the electoral college maps from the last couple of presidential cycles. Of those 14, Clinton leads in five states (70 electoral votes) and McCain in the other nine (97 electoral votes).

Clinton pulls Florida and Missouri (38 total electoral votes) into play that are currently outside of the toss up category for Obama. McCain carries more weight against Clinton than he does against Obama though (at least in terms of toss up states). Five states (HI, MN, OR, WA and WI) amounting to 42 electoral votes are not on the table in the McCain-Obama race but are in the McCain-Clinton race.

Of the 23 states that are in the toss up categories across both potential general election races, eight of them are there because of Obama's presence in the race. McCain brings a total of six (one against Obama and five against Clinton) while Clinton only manages to bring two states into the toss up category that are not already there or are already favoring Obama. [The remaining seven toss up states overlap between the two possible races.] Remember, though, that this does not include states like Iowa, which favors Obama but gives McCain an edge against Clinton, or Arkansas, which strongly favors Clinton but goes for McCain against Obama.

*It is interesting to note that the total number of toss up electoral votes is within 3 electoral votes of each of the Democrats' (either Clinton's or Obama's) totals when the toss ups are excluded. Clinton has 164 electoral votes from her strong and leaning categories while there are 167 total toss up electoral votes. For Obama, there are 189 toss up electoral votes between himself and McCain and 190 electoral votes from states that fall into either the Strong Obama or Obama lean categories. I have no idea what that means, but it is interesting nonetheless.

Recent Posts:
Back to the Original "Too Early" Sanction

Jeremiah Wright to Sit Down with Bill Moyers (Friday, April 25)

Do Campaigns Matter? A Reflection on the Results in Pennsylvania

Also, for a look at past electoral college projection maps, see the links in the side bar on the right side of the page (under the map).

Friday, April 25, 2008

Back to the Original "Too Early" Sanction

And now we've come full circle. The Democratic Party's Rules and Bylaws Committee will apparently hear challenges from both Michigan and Florida late next month about the severity of the full delegation penalty handed down last fall (by the same committee!). [Sometimes you just have to love the democracy of the Democrats.] I've said numerous times that I thought the party would eventually, and quietly, return to the original rules that stripped any state holding a nominating contest prior to February 5 half its delegates. Of course, nothing has been quiet in this race, so hopes of that happening were nothing more than a pipe dream for the DNC.

This is the same rule/sanction the Republicans have as well
and it has been triggered this cycle by all the pre-Feb. 5 states that allocated any delegates to the convention. That includes New Hampshire. The only early states that skirted the GOP sanctions were Iowa and Nevada because the first stage of their caucuses did not award any delegates directly to the national convention. Of course, this fact has escape the media in the midst of all the ballyhoo over Florida and Michigan for the Democrats. Mind you, McCain is still the nominee whether those delegates are counted or not, and it may not be a story as a result. Still though, you'd think you'd hear mention of it in passing at least.

So now the Democrats are thinking of reversing course on their decision to make an example of Florida. Well, that example didn't work so they had to make one of Michigan too. And with that the seeds of the current catastrophe were sown. And they may go back on that decision and revert to the original penalty? Didn't the Democrats deal poorly with the flip-flop moniker in 2004? Now the national party is coming back for more. This seems more than fair though. The national party is penalized because it went too far in punishing both states and the original violators pay the price for their transgressions as well. No, the state parties don't get off that easily either.

The question now is, how does this affect the delegate counting? It surely is a blow to the Clinton folks, who are trying desperately to get the delegate margin as low as possible so they can make a solid argument to the uncommitted superdelegates. I'm also curious to see if this sanction applies to the popular vote as well. With all of the Clinton campaign's estimating of the popular vote lately, this is a question I'd like answered (if only in jest). Perhaps I could get a ruling from the Rules and Bylaws Committee. Nah, probably not.

**One interesting tidbit from that MSNBC link at the top is that the Rules and Bylaws Committee has jurisdiction over this issue until June 29 when it then passes over to the Credentials Committee. June 29 is awfully close to the July 1 deadline Howard Dean imposed for dealing with the Florida/Michigan/nomination question. Coincidence? I think not.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Jeremiah Wright to Sit Down with Bill Moyers (Friday, April 25)

Bill Moyers has secured the first interview with Rev. Jeremiah Wright since the pastor's now famous comments emerged as an issue in the Democratic nomination race. The interview will air on Friday, April 25 at 9pm (unless you are in Georgia). For Georgians, GPB will air the show on Sunday at 3pm. Fire up your DVRs!

Here's a preview.

Meanwhile, the Obama camp crosses its fingers and Clinton and McCain break out their pads and pencils.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Do Campaigns Matter? A Reflection on the Results in Pennsylvania

As I awoke this morning to find the final margin in yesterday's Pennsylvania primary, I was haunted, to some extent, by the parallels that were drawn between Ohio and Pennsylvania in the wake of the Ohio primary some six weeks ago. If you operate under the assumption that the demographics in each state are fairly highly correlated, the results of each primary speak for themselves. In both Ohio and Pennsylvania, Clinton's margin of victory was essentially 10 percentage points. So after all that spending and all the bickering and all the revelations (Rev. Wright, Bosnia, lapel pins, etc.) the result of a six week campaign was essentially nothing. Well, that's the way it looks; cynical as that may seem. [Tom Holbrook and Jim Campbell may want to weigh in now on that question.] I don't really subscribe to that because Clinton's original Pennsylvania poll numbers following the Texas-Ohio results got a boost based on her wins. Over time, though, those numbers decayed and came back down to earth. There was some variation in there based on spending, advertising and other revelations, but in the end the six week long efforts by Obama and Clinton (endogenously) and outside factors canceled each other out.

So do campaigns matter? There is the argument that campaigns cancel each other out, sure, but in the end we only get to see the fruits of a campaign's labor when an election is close. And that's what we have here: a closely contested race for the Democratic nomination. Do campaigns matter? No, if all you're doing is looking at margins between certain states. Yes, if you look at Obama's strength in caucuses or Clinton's approach to Texas and Ohio. Each either knew and exploited the rules or took advantage of some last minute doubt raising.

Of course, if you lean on state demographics as the major indicator of success, then most of the remaining states, save Indiana, fall squarely in either Clinton's or Obama's camps. The real battle then, will be waged there and among, ahem, the superdelegates. The party, I'm sure, is really going to step up the pressure on the superdelegates to decide, one way or the other, sooner rather than later.

And what of momentum? Rob has weighed in in the comments to yesterday's post. Is it dead or is it just the uniqueness of this Democratic race that has made it a non-factor? The comments await.

Who's next? Well, Guam is officially up next followed by North Carolina and Indiana. Guam is Obama country and North Carolina appears to be as well. Let's see how yesterday's results get spun though and how the polls move in the meantime. Two weeks is shorter than six, so Obama doesn't have as much time to get things back to "normal" after what should be something of a Clinton boost after yesterday. But then, momentum may not play a role at all.

The Pennsylvania aftermath has pushed the 2008 Electoral College Maps back a day, so I'll be back with those tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Pennsylvania Results

There's enough "what to watch" stuff going around about what is worth keeping tabs on tonight as the results come in from precincts across Pennsylvania (see here and here). 10 is the number du jour; the number Clinton has to clear tonight to have a fighting chance going forward into Indiana and North Carolina in two weeks. With a new contest come visions of the end game. Anything less than 10 points maintains the status quo and an Obama win likely ends things for Clinton by the end of the week. I've said before that her performance thus far and standing in the delegate count has earned her the right to compete until the last contest has been held, but a loss in Pennsylvania is an ominous sign in light of the $10 million hole her campaign is in according to the recent FEC reports. Those are the stakes on this Earth Day where the record turnout of the 2008 primary season stretched to the Keystone state. On to the results:

10:39pm: Margins and delegates, part II: I'll be back in the morning with more on PA and what's ahead. This should make for an interesting discussion group meeting tomorrow afternoon.

9:37pm: Why is it assumed in media accounts that Hillary voters won't vote for Obama if he is the nominee? The opposite scenario isn't getting as much play because Hillary is playing catch up. This is an interesting question though. Why is the media automatically assuming that Obama running behind among certain groups is ominous for him in the fall? Sure, there are polls to suggest that some among the supporters of each would rather vote for McCain than their favored Democrat's rival for the nomination. Is Clinton closer to McCain than Obama though? This seems like a stretch. In a swing state like Pennsylvania, it may matter. But they aren't saying that. This continues to baffle me as this race continues.

9:32pm: Margin and delegates. That's the focus now. Clinton will talk about the win. Obama will talk about the delegates. Does he dare invoke the name of Huckabee and the idea of the miracle he needed to overtake McCain when the math was up against him? I doubt it, but it is an interesting comparison.

9:17pm: CNN has followed suit on the Clinton projection. The question now? What will the final margin be? That's where the true spin begins.

...and the new bickering too. "Clinton was supposed to win!" "We were outspent and still won!" Voters in North Carolina and Indiana must be so excited. FHQ will be reaching out in the next couple of weeks to satellite members in the North Carolina viewing markets for their take on the ads running there.

9:11pm: ABCNews is calling PA for Clinton. That came out of left field. "Despite Delegate lead Obama can't wrap up nomination" is the secondary headline. I've drawn parallels between this race and the Democratic race in 1980 before. That was in terms of the two years' calendars, though. The two races are similar in other ways too. Jimmy Carter gained something of a comfortable lead in the early going but Ted Kennedy had all the big wins coming down the stretch. The result was an extremely divisive convention an a loss in November. Democrats are hoping history doesn't repeat itself.

9:00pm: What am I saying?!? Of course we know more than we did an hour ago. John McCain has won the Pennsylvania primary. I'm somewhat disappointed given the level of chatter among Ron Paul supporters over the last week. Since my Ron Paul post last week, I've been keeping tabs on the chatter and the news from that end of the Republican Party and a lot of the talk concerned how Paul could win in the Keystone state. I'll have an update on the efforts to secure Paul a presence at September's GOP convention later this week.

8:58pm: Nearly an hour in and we still don't know much more than we did an hour ago. We have some numbers trickling in, but it is still too close for a call from any of the networks.

8:41pm: Ah, numbers. Clinton has opened up a nearly two to one lead on Obama.

...with 2100+ votes counted so far.

8:35pm: This is fun. This just popped up in the sidebar of the live blog over at The Caucus: Is Obama a Mac and Clinton a PC? Unless you've been under a rock for the past two or three years, you are familiar with the Apple ads with the "cool" Mac guy and the "square" PC guy. [I suppose I could have gone with another descriptor for the PC character, but I thought I'd use a 50s/60s throwback.] An interesting parallel to the Democratic race. We could see a reprise in the general election if Obama wraps up the nomination.

8:29pm: As of 8:25, the New York Times Election Guide is still showing 0% reporting. It could be a long night.

8:25pm: The Caucus is reporting that two of the big battleground counties, Bucks and Montgomery (both in suburban Philly) will not have any results until 9pm and 10pm respectively (see the 8pm and 8:20 posts over there). The winner of those counties will be in good shape overall, but we won't know who that is for a while...apparently.

8:20pm: The Drudge Report has 0,000,000 beside each candidates name. Will both candidates surpass one million votes? That is a far cry from four years ago when Pennsylvania was an also-ran and only managed a shade under 800,000 votes in a Democratic primary that was after the point at which Kerry had been crowned the nominee.

8:07pm: ABCNews says it's too close to call. Does that mean a large turnout for Obama in the quick-reporting urban centers? If so, this could go on for a while. Not really what the Clinton camp wants.

8:00pm: I've got eight o'clock here. Polls are closed. Start counting.

7:53pm: Seven minutes to go. The Caucus is running a report from watchdog group, Committee of Seventy, that contends that in the Philly area there are some voter identification/registration problems (see 7:50 post at the Caucus). People who were registered as Democrats were appearing as independents on the voter rolls. That's a problem in a closed primary. Send in the provisional ballots. There aren't any hard numbers as to how widespread the problem is, but that could really be a headache for elections officials in the city of brotherly love.

7:35pm: Something else to pass the time: The Monkey Cage has a new post up discussing a paper looking at momentum in the primaries. The authors, Knight and Shiff find that in 2004 Iowa voters were six times more influential in determining the outcome than Super Tuesday voters. That's a lot of influence for such a representative state. Michigan and Florida just got even angrier.

7:32pm: If you need something to do to pass the next twenty-some odd minutes, head over to the New York Times where they have a delegate scenario calculator for "Clinton's Challenge" over the course of the rest of primary season. You can set her percentage of the vote for the remaining contests and determine the percentage of remaining uncommitted superdelegates she needs to win to take the nomination. A neat little gadget.

7:30pm: Polls close in half an hour.

7:25pm: The most interesting nugget from the exit polls so far is that two-thirds of those surveyed think Clinton hit below the belt in her attacks on Obama. That jibes well with the theory I proposed yesterday: that blame attribution for the negative attacks will go a long way toward deciding who wins in Pennsylvania. Of course, those polls also show few last minute deciders, so it may not have matter much anyway.

7:14pm: I will fall back on my old stand-by sneak peek at the exit polls from The Drudge Report. As of 5pm they had these numbers up (REMEMBER, these are exit polls.):
Clinton 52%
Obama 48
Here's the breakdown among whites, blacks, men and women:
Clinton 55%
Obama 44

Clinton 47%
Obama 53

Clinton 60%
Obama 40

Clinton 8%
Obama 92
None of these numbers are particularly surprising, but it would be interesting to see how things look among different age groups. Remember back to Wisconsin (That was eight weeks ago, two weeks prior to Texas-Ohio.) when Obama was cutting into Clinton's support among women and blue collar workers? Things have changed and Clinton seems to be avoiding that scenario among women at least. Again, these are exit polls so we don't know where the data is coming from or if it is an accurate depiction of the Pennsylvania electorate today. With just four points separating the two, Clinton certainly won't be making up much, if any, ground in the delegate count.

Pennsylvania Primary Day! The Long Journey Through the Wilderness is Over

Yes, it's Earth Day today too, but for political junkies, saving the planet may be pushed to the back burner on a day that officially ends the six week drought of nominating contests. Remember that 3am phone call ad? Yeah, that was six weeks ago, though it feels like a hundred years and 100,000 bickering points ago. That all comes to an end today though. Well, the drought does. If Clinton wins as expected (the polls have had her ahead--by as much as 26 points--in the Keystone state since the focus shifted after Texas-Ohio), the bickering is likely to continue.

Who wins and loses in such a negative environment? See the comments from yesterday's post for some of those answers and add your own thoughts if you like.

Negativity and polling aside though, what can we expect on Pennsylvania Primary Day? Polls close at 8pm this evening and the quicker the networks make a projection the better the news will more than likely be for Clinton. The longer that projection takes to be made though, is a sign that Obama has potentially done better than expected. The other factor today is how the increase in registration ahead of this primary election will affect turnout today. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, attempting to determine which candidate wins in a high turnout environment has been a tricky enterprise during the 2008 cycle. Obama's ability to bring new voters into the process has caused many to think that high turnout bodes well for him. Then again the voters in New Hampshire, Texas and Ohio didn't feel obliged to follow that rule. Is Pennsylvania a part of the exception to that rule, giving Clinton a boost? Or does the Keystone state's increased participation give Obama the knock out punch he needs to end the nomination race? One thing's for sure: turnout will be greater than the 800,000 Pennsylvanians who went to the polls for the 2004 Democratic primary.

The number of the day looks to be 10.
If Clinton wins by 10 points or more, she lives to fight another day. Anything less than 10 leaves a lot of questions to be answered. Translation: enter the spin room.

I may have linked this before, but for a deeper examination of today's contest (on the congressional district level), check out CQ's distrtict by district analysis of the race from last week.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Kennedy School Symposium on Presidential Primaries Process

Next week Harvard's Kennedy School of Government will be holding a symposium to examine the presidential primary process.
"The first-of-its-kind, day-long event will gather Secretaries of State and other elected officials, political strategists, Democratic and Republican Party rules committee members and state-party chairs, congressional staff, members of the media, noted election law experts and governmental scholars to participate in an effort to consider improvements in the way future presidential nominating contests take place."
It will be interesting to see if the resulting published transcript reveals a consensus for a rotating regional primary system like the one pushed by the National Association for Secretaries of State (a partner in this effort). That may be a cynical approach, but as I have stated in this space on numerous occasions, pulling that off is going to be a nearly insurmountable task. The fact this is a bipartisan effort though, leaves room for some hope however, if change to the current system is the goal.

Oh and while you're over at the Kennedy School's site, have a look around. They have some neat things in their Election 2008 section. Elaine Kamarck's history of superdelegates was a good read.

Negative Nellie in Pennsylvania

Maybe you noticed over the weekend that the campaigning in Pennsylvania got ugly. Maybe. Or maybe onlookers and Pennsylvanians alike made up their minds and spent a nice spring weekend outside trying to avoid the onslaught and any April surprises. As we inch closer to the Pennsylvania primary tomorrow several ideas are floating around in my head.

1) Why the negativity now from Obama?
In a season where voters have not taken to negative campaigning very well (Romney's out and Clinton's use of negativity before and after South Carolina seemed to aid, at least in part, Obama's post-Super Tuesday winning streak), it is an odd choice for the typically adept Obama campaign to opt for a seemingly more negative approach in the lead up to the latest "most crucial contest." Either the Obama camp is desperate for a win in Pennsylvania that would put an end to this race or they're hoping that Clinton receives the last minute blame attribution for the negativity (which could lead to an Obama win).

2) Does record registration in the Keystone state bode well for Obama?
That's what Politico's Jeanne Cunnings (via The Caucus) concludes. I've been burned on this sort of thing before; suggesting that high turnout in New Hampshire would mean a win for Obama. We can all see how that one turned out. I don't disagree with the conclusion but I do think that an Obama win may not be the result of a spike in registration.

3) What if Obama's trip to Negativeland is simply a ploy?
A calculated move? In politics? I shudder to think. But seriously, what if this is nothing but a clever ploy on the part of the Obama camp to play on Democrats' worst fears: a divisive primary that ruins their chances of winning in November? If voters are reminded of that are they more or less likely to want to put an end to the race? If Clinton gets that blame attribution, then Pennsylvanians could prove the decisive electorate in this race.

4) Will Pennsylvanians take the bait?
And could I cast that in any more negative a way? I don't know, but I have an idea. If you are in the voting booth and this negativity is affecting your decision, who loses the most points. Clinton has gone negative already, so even more negativity just builds on that perception. Obama has avoided negativity, or so the story goes, so any negativity from his campaign either really breaks from the past tenor of his campaign or is just an aberration.

The big questions then are who gets the blame for the recent rash of negativity and are Pennsylvanians tired (scared) enough of the potential for divisiveness to want to end the nomination race? The answers will decide who wins tomorrow and how quickly this thing may be wrapped up.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Credentials Committee and "The Dean 25"

Depending on how the next handful of nominating contests go for the Democrats, the Florida/Michigan situation may once again be resurrected (In fact, Michigan Dems are going ahead with their delegate selection process despite the DNC sanctions.) and prove crucial to the outcome of the party's nomination race. In the UGA Campaign Discussion Group on Wednesday, the issue of the Credentials Committee and its role in deciding the fate of those delegates from Florida and Michigan was raised. This 186 member group is comprised of 1) party members from the states based on each state's primary or caucus results (not clear whether the results are from this cycle or from the past) and 2) party members appointed by the chairman of the party. There are 161 of the former and 25 members appointed by DNC chairman, Howard Dean. This committee is a completely separate entity from the Rules and Bylaws Committee that opted to strip Florida and Michigan of their delegates for violating the contest scheduling rules in their delegate selection plans. The "make an example of them" approach may not be felt as intensely in the Credentials Committee as it was in the Rules Committee. However, "the Dean 25" (as Avi Zenilman of Politico is calling them) may have something to say about that.

The question though, is, are these appointees in lock step with the positions Howard Dean has taken on the Florida and Michigan question. One thing that the Politico analysis fails to examine directly is when these appointments were made. They do come to the conclusion that these Credentials members may not be beholden to what Dean wants. But if these appointments were made when he became chairman in 2005, there's no way this was even an issue in the appointment decisions. Like everyone else then, these folks are faced with having to choose between Clinton and Obama. And just like in the primaries and caucuses and just like with the superdelegates, there is a pretty even split in who members of the Credentials Committee appear to backing. Based on the "hints" information in the Politico piece, eight support Clinton, eleven favor Obama, five are neutral and one has donated to both and favors the 50 state strategy under which Dean has the party operating. Obama then, has a slight edge with five or six members holding all the power. Even if that 50 state strategy backer opts for Obama (And as FHQ has speculated, Obama puts more states in play on the electoral college landscape than Clinton, with the result of promoting the strategy more effectively.), the Illinois senator only has 12 of the 25 members of the committee in his corner. The other five would all have to break for Clinton though to give her an edge.

Is that good news for Florida and Michigan? Probably not. But it won't necessarily be because of the Credentials Committee bowing to Dean's desires on the matter.

I still feel like the party will quietly punish Florida and Michigan, but will ultimately strip half their delegations as called for in the original rules for 2008 delegate selection. But that will only be "quiet" if Florida and Michigan are inconsequential in the grand scheme of things in this nomination race. However, predictions are made to be broken in this primary season. So don't hold me to that.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Did the Debate Change Anything?

Rob Shewfelt and I have started an exchange on the debate in the comments to yesterday's electoral college post, and while I included some debate commentary there, the events of last night deserve their own post. The question of the day remains to what extent, if any, did the debate change things in the Democratic battle in Pennsylvania and/or the broader race for the nomination?

In a footnote to yesterday's post I wrote:
"Two things are certain to come up at some point in the ABC debate: Obama's comments and
the Clinton trust poll numbers (since they were from ABC News). I don't know that those two equate, but they will both have something negative to address during this evening's proceedings. Strategically, Obama, in Clinton-esque fashion, has attempted to turn a weakness into a strength by welcoming a debate with John McCain over who is most out of touch. He will more than likely continue with that line of argument tonight. Clinton, on the other hand, may not be able to make the same reversal. Is she on firm enough ground arguing that either Obama or McCain can be trusted less? We will have to wait until tonight to see."

After the debate Rob had this to say:
"She got the question you predicted (on trust) and one of the ones I mentioned (on guns), but she can't complain that he is being pampered by the media. It seems to me that Stephanopolous had a conflict of interest. For years we have heard about the revolving door between government (particularly civil servants) and industry leading to favorable treatment of big business. I think it is time to look at the revolving door between Congress and the Executive branch and network news. It is one thing to be a pundit on election night or a talk show, but it is entirely different being a questioner in a debate. I understand that the frontrunner gets more scrutiny than the runerup, but I think this was the most slanted questioning of a candidate in a debate I can recall.

"Clinton clearly won the debate. Obama looked bad. Clinton looked good when she answered the questions asked, but she may have overplayed her hand when she piled on after Obama stumbled. It will be interesting to see if the debate makes any difference in PA. The trend this year has been the person that gets beat up is the person who does best in the next primary. We'll know more next Wednesday morning."

One thing is for sure in both these comments: We're both taking a "wait and see approach" to this. And given the way this race has gone thus far that's pretty wise. If the 2000 general election hadn't proven most experts' predictions wrong, I'd dub this the "election in which predictions were made to be broken." Maybe I'll settle for the "primary season in which predictions were made to be broken". Nah, too long.

Anyway, here are my first reactions to Rob and the debate:
"I don't know, Rob. Yes, Clinton "won" the debate*, but Obama survived without digging a deeper hole for himself. He is in a position now with his argument of changing the "politics of distraction" that Clinton has been in playing the gender card and crying. He can't overuse it (whether he thinks its the right angle to take or not).

"And while Clinton won, she has to do more than that; she has to change the outlook of the race. And it remains to be seen whether she went beyond just winning last night. My take is that she didn't. Her solid performance was in the policy arena and voters expect her to be good there. Chris Cillizza over at The Fix brought this up in his post-debate reaction. He cites the LA Time/Bloomberg poll of PA, NC and IN voters who perceive Clinton to be the better candidate on policy, but opt for Obama anyway.

"*These proceedings are really wins for McCain. The more time the Democrats spend answering questions about guns, lapel pins and members of the Weather Underground, the more ammunition they willingly hand over to McCain and the "Republican attack machine". Both Obama and Clinton seem to be aware of this, but the fight continues."

Other thoughts? The comments section is open, so have at it FHQ readers and UGA Campaign Discussion Group regulars.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Electoral College Maps (4/16/08)

This past week saw twelve new polls in ten states, thus offering more potential for change than last week's overall lack of new polling. Obviously much has changed on the landscape of the presidential race with Obama's "bitter" comments to a group of San Francisco area donors at a fundraiser recently. However, the effects of that have yet to appear in any significant way in the polls. In the next week, in the lead up to the primaries in Pennsylvania, those poll numbers may begin to shift. Charlie Cook, writing for the National Journal, contends that the episode comes to late to help Clinton in the race for the Democratic nomination. That may be true and in combination with a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll showing a lack of trust in Clinton in the wake of the Bosnia misstatement, does not bode well for the junior senator from New York and former first lady. And while that news and the electoral college analysis to follow doesn't paint the rosiest of pictures for the Clinton campaign, the debate tonight (nationally televised on ABC*) and the Pennsylvania primary next Tuesday provide them with an opportunity to shift the news in a positive direction.

How, though, does the electoral college map look this week for Clinton and Obama against McCain?

For Clinton, the numbers are slightly better for the first time since FHQ began this endeavor. A ten electoral vote shift brings her deficit to 70 electoral votes; down from 90. McCain still leads 304 to 234 though and with the 155 toss up electoral votes (state's with average poll margins less than five) subtracted that lead holds up, 219 to 133. So while Clinton makes out slightly better than McCain among the toss up states, she is too far behind in the remaining states for that to make any difference. The poll changes this week that affect Clinton the most are the shift of Wisconsin from a "McCain lean" to a toss up and New Mexico staying a "McCain lean" but moving to the cusp of being considered a toss up. Pennsylvania is still a toss up as well, but Clinton's margin over McCain has been trending upward for her in the Keystone state.Clinton's presence in the general election race against McCain still makes less difference than if Obama were the Democratic nominee. She continues to be competitive in the traditional swing states of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, but is still faring collectively worse in the non-battleground states than Kerry and Gore before her. One shift this week is that the "McCain margin"** between Clinton and Obama in New York is now zero. That means that in New York, it makes no difference who the Democratic nominee is against McCain; they are equally likely to carry the state (A Democrat will win there in any event in November.).The Obama-McCain map for this week looks similar to the way it looked two weeks ago in that Pennsylvania is once again a tie between the two. The Keystone state broke for McCain last week, giving him an electoral college victory. As Pennsylvania goes then, so goes the nation; just like Florida and Ohio before it. The alignment of states across the map is the same as it has been with Obama holding a 260 to 257 advantage over McCain. This week though, North Carolina slips into the toss up category and Alaska (like New Mexico for Clinton) is on the verge of being there as well. The electoral votes in those 15 toss up states add up to 180. Those toss up states actually break for McCain (with Pennsylvania outstanding) because Obama maintains a 40 electoral vote lead (199-159) in the states that aren't toss ups on the McCain-Obama map. And as last week's map demonstrated, if McCain takes Pennsylvania, he makes up that deficit and gains victory in the electoral college.
As was mentioned earlier, Obama continues to have a better McCain margin than Clinton in 34 states. He brings states like Alaska, North Dakota, Nebraska and Colorado into play where Clinton lags well behind McCain. And that ultimately is where the power of these maps lies. It clearly points out a decided difference in the competitiveness of each candidate against McCain. And that fact that margins are so wide (both in the electoral college and in McCain margin) speaks volumes about the state of the race for the Democratic nomination and the presidency.
*Two things are certain to come up at some point in the ABC debate: Obama's comments and
the Clinton trust poll numbers (since they were from ABC News). I don't know that those two equate, but they will both have something negative to address during this evening's proceedings. Strategically, Obama, in Clinton-esque fashion, has attempted to turn a weakness into a strength by welcoming a debate with John McCain over who is most out of touch. He will more than likely continue with that line of argument tonight. Clinton, on the other hand, may not be able to make the same reversal. Is she on firm enough ground arguing that either Obama or McCain can be trusted less? We will have to wait until tonight to see.

Update for 4/23/08

Update for 4/30/08

Weighted Averages 4/30/08

Weighted Averages 5/7/08

Update for 5/14/08 (weighted)

Update for 5/21/08 (weighted)

New Maps? (5/25/08)

Update for 5/28/08 (weighted)

Update for 6/3/08 (weighted)

**McCain margin refers to the difference between Obama's state-to-state margins against McCain and Clinton's margins against McCain.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

In Search of Ron Paul Delegates

Arizona senator John McCain may lay claim to being the Republican party's presumptive nominee, but efforts to shape the party behind the scenes during this presidential election year continue. While the much of the talk has centered around McCain uniting the various segments of the party behind him as the Democrats continue to wage a battle for their nomination, stories of dissension among the ranks continue to surface (and get lost in the headlines about bowling and sniper fire and "bitter" comments). Much of the dissension has been driven by Ron Paul (or at least by his supporters). And even though the Texas congressman scaled back his presidential efforts in the lead up to his early March congressional seat primary, those supporters have carried on, influencing the nomination system by alternate means.

What's on the table?
Though Paul has admitted that winning the nomination isn't going to happen (see above link and a more recent reminder following the Texas primary), message boards devoted to the candidate's presidential run and the libertarian ideas he backs are littered with how to guides on how Paul can still become the nominee. Whether that is the unifying cry from these members of the Ron Paul Revolution though, is beside the point. That goal may never be realized but the byproduct of those efforts may influence to some extent who the delegates to September's convention are and the direction of state and national party platforms. And both may cause headaches for John McCain at a convention that is supposed to be all about him and his run for the White House.

It was easy early on to dismiss these stories as rabble rousing, but more and more evidence of these sorts of efforts has emerged to indicate that it is more than simply coincidence. The big questions then are, where are Paul supporters making inroads and in what ways? Much of this can be viewed through the lens of which type of delegate selection event a state uses, primary or caucus. As has been demonstrated in this space over the last few weeks (see posts on The Caucus Question here, here and here), caucuses offer an opportunity for a bit more delegate tweaking. This has been discussed in the context of the race for the Democratic nomination, but Ron Paul (or at least his supporters) has taken advantage of the caucuses as well. In Minnesota, Nevada and Washington (all caucus states) Paul has parlayed his initial showings into various levels of success.

In Minnesota, Paul supporters overran the congressional district caucuses during the first weekend in April and managed to win six of the twelve national convention delegates at stake during that phase of the process.

After placing a distant second in the Nevada caucuses in January, Paul stands a good chance of sending some delegates to the national convention from the Silver state after the next step, the state convention on April 26. He will be speaking at that convention as well. There's no better way to drum up some extra support than by making an appearance. It will be interesting to see if John McCain, who finished third behind Paul in the state, will show up to speak as well. There are an awful lot of Romney delegates available since the former Massachusetts governor secured a victory with over 51% of the vote.

Following a solid showing during the Washington caucuses in early February (Paul was third in a four candidate cluster with each winning between 15 and 26%), Paul supporters have pushed some Paul delegates through to the state convention. There is evidence of this out of Jefferson County and plenty of other anecdotal, yet unconfirmed, incidents of this in other parts of Washington as well.*

In primary states, the rules are much more clear cut and there obviously aren't as many steps in the process. People vote and the the outcome directly affects the number of delegates allocated to the winning candidate or candidates. The route Paul supporters have gone in several primary states has been to operate through the state party apparatus to influence delegate selection rules and state party platforms. The process then, to elect delegates to the state conventions in some primary states have seen increased participation from Ron Paul supporters. Again, this has no direct bearing on the national convention delegates allocated in the primary, but a Paul presence could affect those allocation rules and the platform planks decided upon in the state party platform.

In Florida, this has meant that some Paul backers have been blocked in their efforts to become precinct captains and to make it on to the Republican Executive Committee in the Sunshine state. The objective of Paul supporters is clear: to influence the Republican party's agenda in the state.

Paul supporters in Missouri found more success, hijacking several county caucuses in the Show-Me state. In Jackson County (in the Kansas City area) there was enough Paul support to send over 175 delegates to the next level of the caucus process. Those 175 will have some influence over the 55 delegates the state will send to the GOP convention and over the platform that emerges from the state convention.

The situation was similar in Oklahoma, where only one of the state's five congressional district conventions failed to send at least one Paul supporter on to the state convention next month. And while the rules require delegates to vote for the primary's victorious candidate, there is some indication that the Paul backers at the convention will attempt to change those rules in order to send some of their own to the national convention.

Paul's home state of Texas also saw action to push the Paul agenda onto the national party's radar. In both Travis and Tarrant Counties, Paul's supporters were able win or draw in senate districts in both counties.

In isolation these events don't seem to make that much of a difference in the race for the Republican nomination. Together however, they add up to a potential problem for McCain and the national party at their September convention in St. Paul, MN. The more Paul delegates that make it through to state and national conventions, the more Paul's agenda will be discussed. And what that translates into is a battle over the platform and potential ideological fissure within the GOP. So while all the talk has been about division within the Democratic party, something appears to be brewing on the Republican side as well. And the division here isn't over who is best able to answer and deal with a 3am phone call, it is division that gets to the heart of some basic Republican principles. The heights this grows to though depends in large measure on how many Paul delegates can make it through the process. Thus far, it has been more than one might expect given recent coverage of the race for the White House.

*There is an awful lot of material online to support such events happening across Washington as well as in other parts of the country. My rule on this is to only proceed with information that has been verified by, at least, a local news outlet. If it has been mentioned on any of the various Ron Paul Forums, and only there, such events were excluded. There is talk that similar sorts of activities have taken place in Alaska, Colorado and Louisiana as well. Most of the sources there are Ron Paul-related sources though.

[Thanks to campaign discussion group participant and UGA grad student, Patrick Rhamey, for planting this idea in my head.]