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February 23, 2008


Impressive work, emptypockets. Thanks. I just got electoral-vote.com bookmarked.

Great work--and interesting! Here are two thoughts, however:

(1) There's an additional dimension that it may be useful to address. Comparing general election results with open primary and open caucus results is fine. (Except for the effect of "mischief makers" who cross party lines to help the opposition nominate the weakest of its candidates, but would never vote for that candidate in the general election, this comparison will tend to indicate the actual comparitive strength of, for example, Obama now and Kerry in '04.) Comparing general election results with closed primary and closed caucus results, however, is comparing apples and oranges. Even if Obama won all the Democratic votes in a closed primary in a state that went 66% for Bush, that would have limited predictive value with respect to the liklihood of his winning electoral votes in that state in the general election--barring a prior major shift in voter registration toward the Democrats, or the Republican candidate completely self-destructing, politically. Dots representing closed primaries and caucuses should be identified and given less consideration than those for open primaries and caucuses.

(2) Also: Clinton's win in Connecticut, for example, doesn't mean that Obama won't carry reliably Democratic Connecticut in the general election; Obama's big win in Idaho doesn't mean that any Democrat will carry Idaho in a general election within our actuarial lifetimes.

"It may also give us pause about whether he represents the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party"

Are you kidding??
I live in California and I can tell you that even if Obama doesn't spend a dime here he will waist McCain in a blow out, do you doubt me?
Obama will carry every single blue state, do you really believe the solid blue states like California and New York will go republican because Clinton dose not get the nomination?
What your scatter plot shows is that Obama cuts deep into republican strong holds and pulls the independents who ever since 911 have flocked to the republican banner back to the middle where democrats can reach them once again.
What you can expect is Obama taking all the traditionally blue states, most of the purples and some of the red states for a general election mandate.

Oh and BTW, your whole "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" is a bit misleading, It's really about class warfare in the Democratic party.
HRC represents the aristocratic wing and BO is leading the bourgeois class.

You claim 'there are a LOT more points on the bottom than the top' but that 'there are even MORE points on the left than the right'. I count 11 points in the bottom right, but only 6 in the top left. You've got that backwards.

Ken and Bison, you raise similar points which, I'm afraid, somewhat misinterpret the analysis I intended to make. Obviously either Clinton or Obama is going to carry the big blue states (the dots farthest on the right). If I gave the impression that the analysis here is meant to predict which states Obama will carry in the general election (which, as Ken notes, cannot be extrapolated from the results of closed primaries) then I have done a poor job of writing this post indeed!

The purpose of this post is to ask (as the post subtitle and lower subsection header indicate) which of the two Democratic candidates has been winning the "Democratic wing of the Democratic party." These voters are of minor importance for the general election because they are likely to vote for any Democrat over any Republican. But it does give us a sense of who voters are perceiving as the more leftist, progressive candidate.

There has been some question of whether Clinton or Obama is the more centrist candidate. Clinton, through her DLC association in the 1990s and her early hawkish stands on the war, has been considered the less progressive. What may be surprising -- what this post is meant to emphasize -- is that, in fact, it is Clinton who is doing best in Democratic strongholds, and worse in the places where you would expect a more centrist candidate to do well (assuming red state Democrats are less lefty than MA/CA/NY Democrats). The data suggest that Clinton, despite being painted as more centrist, in fact does better with the left wing of the party while Obama, despite being painted as more progressive, does better with the middle.

As a side note, Bison, the data has very little to say about Obama's appeal to Republicans or independents, as Ken explains, because many of these primaries are closed to voters outside the party.

Josh, whoops, fixed. Totals for the states + DC shown here are
Obama 24 Clinton 11
Bush 20 Kerry 15

Looking only at contests where someone one by more than 5 points it's
Obama 22 Clinton 9
Bush 17 Kerry 12

The underlying point stands that, to be accurate, some of these dots should be drawn much bigger than others. (That might be a fun chart to make.)

I would like to see an analysis with the actual votes cast in the primary between both parties. I have seen instances where, if all the candidates were compared, that Obama came in first, Clinton second and McCain third. This is even after most of the other Republican candidates withdrew. This might give a better indication of a candidate's chances in the general election.

Desert Leap, you remember correctly. For example, in Virginia, a state that went for Bush by 9 points in 2004, Obama received more votes than all Republican candidates combined.

But, I don't think this kind of comparison has much power to help predict the 2008 general election, for the reasons discussed above: in closed primaries, only registered Democrats and Republicans are voting, while general election results usually turn on how the independents vote. And, in most cases, we simply have no idea how the independents feel right now. We did get one glimpse into their minds in New Hampshire, where independent voters are allowed to turn up on election day and ask for either a Republican or Democratic ballot. As you recall, in that election Clinton came in first despite Obama having outpolled her in advance. One of the possible reasons for that surprise was that independents who said in polls that they preferred Obama to Clinton ended up deciding they preferred McCain to either of them, and casting a Republican ballot.

Of course, that was several lifetimes ago in politics, and the landscape has certainly shifted since then -- which is one more reason not to try to use primary results to predict the general, which remains many political lifetimes and possible seismic upheavals away from where we are now!

New Voters versus Swung Swing Voters

I'd like to see the statistics on what percentage of Obama primary voters didn't vote in 2004 general election.

I'm not convinced that Obama has, or will, get any significant amount of votes from people who oppose abortion, oppose gay rights, favor invading Iraq & Iran, oppose universal healthcare, etc. I would hypothesize that the percentage of 2004 general election voters who will vote against Obama is close to 50% and is unlikely to change.

If we think of the 2004 voter pool as a closed system, the only way to change the outcome is to change the minds of the swing voters in the swing states, but I don't think that's how Obama's winning primaries or how he plans to try to win the general.

How many African-Americans are eligible to vote? 20 million? How many of them voted in 2004? How many will vote in 2008? Those are new voters, not swung swing voters. How many people under the age of 24 are there in this country? How many of them voted in 2004? How many people who would have voted for Kerry but didn't get to the polls might go the extra mile to vote for Obama?

The other side of the coin is that 2004 itself had an unusually high turnout. How many of the highly-motivated evangelicals, gay marriage haters, etc. might not vote in 2008?

obsessed, there are about 23 million African-Americans eligible to vote, with about 15 million registered to do so. In 2000, 85 percent of registered African-Americans voted, or 57 percent of all eligible black voters.

In 2004 the numbers were similar, with black turnout in MS for example being roughly equivalent to white turnout.

Obama's argument that he could increase the black vote by at least 30 percent in some states would be very difficult, if not impossible. For example, a 30 percent increase in the black vote in Mississippi would require 74 percent of black residents to turn out and vote, virtually unprecedented in recent American elections. And even with such an increase, white voters' support for Republicans in the state is so broad -- 85 percent of white voters backed Bush in 2004 -- that if every other voting bloc remained the same and black voting jumped, an unlikely scenario, Obama would still collect only about 45 percent of the vote in Mississippi based on Kerry's performance.

As to the youth vote, in 2004 voting by people less than 24 years old was up 11 points to 47%, or about 12 million youths. That link has some nice charts and maps, including this table of state-by-state youth turnout, from a high of 69% in MN to a low of 36% in AR.

In general, banking on new voter turnout has not been a successful electoral strategy. But who knows, this year may be different. Along these lines, I'd certainly be interested in seeing Congress take up the issue of lowering the voting age to 17, which is the youngest age for army enlistment. If you can join the army, I think you should be able to vote for President.

I wish we knew how many Obama primary voters didn't vote in 2004. That would be a pretty reliable number.

On the blacks:

- 23 million eligible to register
- 15 million registered
- but how many pf the 15 million actually voted in 2004?

It's hard to say how many of the 8 million unregistered blacks are likely to register and vote.

But considering the percentage of blacks Obama wins against Hillary, it's hard to imagine more than a very low single-digit percentage going for McCain, making blacks the most monolithic voting block that's more than a few million strong.

There aren't as many blacks as evangelicals (a good argument for moving to Cuba), but for every evangelical who votes for Obama, the total effect of the evangelical block goes down by 2, right?

In 2000, 64% of African-Americans were registered to vote and 54% voted.
That means that 84% of registered black voters actually voted.

In 2004, 64% of African-Americans were registered to vote and 56% voted.
That means that 88% of registered black voters actually voted.

That's from an NAACP fact sheet, although I'd caution that it also says that in 2006 there were 67% of black voters who voted while only 61% were registered -- so something's a little screwy in the numbers. The bottom line, I think, is that pulling in black voters in largely black states is probably not enough to turn those deep-red states blue. A successful nominee would need to pull in many white voters in those states as well or, more simply, tip the balance in the traditional swing states like OH and FL.

Don't get me wrong, I think Obama can do that (in fact, I think either Democrat can do it this year). But I don't think the recipe will be to bring in new blocs of voters or, necessarily, to win the south -- as much as there's a sense of change and unconventionality in the air, I think the 2008 presidential election will be much like the presidential elections before it, and will come down to voting access (including voter ID measures, ballot box distribution, and polling place discrimination) and voter turnout drives in the large swing states.

bill clinton won the primary season in 1992 with most of the deep red states, and only won a few of them in the general (Georgia being the except). romney also won in all those caucus states, and i guess that's not working out for him that well either. Really? Texas will go obama 65%?????? i wouldn't bet on a final gap of more than 10%.

Maybe they should do a Hillary-Obama versus McCain-Romney graph. Maybe that can show Hillary and McCain share victories many states, and that's also true with Obama/Romney.

When there was still a Republican fienld, many GOP voters voted in the Repub primaries when they had a choice, not that there is not, they are taking a hand in deciding the Dem nominee.

Here in Texas, I can tell you that will for sure cut in Obama's favor. Many (and I know several who already have) usual Republican primary voters are voting in the dem primary to "make sure Hillary doesnt' win." Those I've spoken with feel they can live with either McCain or Obama as president but damn well don't want Hillary.

This situation will throw polls of and, in my opinion, turn what would have been a slim win for Obama into a big win for Obama.

Your analisis continues to support my long held belief that Hillary is the less electable of the two candidates. The blue states would go to the democratic candidate if I were on the ticket and campained in a diaper (not a pretty sight). The fact that Obama can pull purple and red states makes him the safe bet if we want the White House in '08.

I tell people voting for Hillary now is actually a vote for McCain in the General. I'm convinced it's true.

The blue states would go to the democratic candidate if I were on the ticket and campained in a diaper

I wish and hope that's true, but what's up with Oregon and other such "blue" states going for McCain? Hopefully whatever spell he's cast over these people will pass. I personally find McCain more repulsive than Bush in some ways.

I really am very doubtful that Obama will win a single Southern state. I thought for awhile he might win Florida, but then I remembered that it is full of old people, many of whom will prefer to vote for a "centrist" dinosaur. Mind you, I hope fervently I am wrong about this and that I will have to eat crow for judging my fellow Americans so harshly. I think Obama can still win, but it will be close and he will probably have to win OH and IN. These states have southern portions that are very similar to the South in many demographic aspects. The high negative ratings of HRC, even among independents, still gives Obama an edge in the general election IMHO.

well i would say that was a bit misleading. we all know that HRC is done for... its time to get in tune with Obama and register to vote. i mean hello lets start worrying about the stuff that really matters! http://www.obamarocks08.com

I vote for Obama

You got one thing wrong:

One difference between a blogger and a pundit: the first tests ideas against the data, the second test the data against what Republicans are saying about it.

Anyone who believes that there is a relationship between objectively verifiable facts and elections is living in a fantasy world.

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