Patterico's Pontifications


You don’t need to pay much attention to the Electoral College right now

Filed under: 2012 Election — Karl @ 9:56 am

[Posted by Karl]

The bloggy thing to do this morning would be to link the results of the new Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll of FL, OH and PA, toss in today’s media focus on VA from ABC News and others, then do some analysis of the strategies the campigns might be to pursue some given set of swing states.  Indeed, I have done posts in that vein before (albeit with some nuance I won’t get into here).  But today I feel more contrarian and nitpicky.

First, these polls and media stories merely confirm what we would have surmised a year ago: FL and OH are going to be close, PA remains a tough get for the GOP, and VA has been trending Democratic but not a sure thing for Obama in light of the 2009 and 2010 elections there.

Second, as Nate Silver notes, state polling is still noisy at theis point in the campaign.

Third, as political scientist Andrew Gelman notes, the past several decades have seen a steady decline in the variation of statewide vote swings.  Come November, the swing in the swing states will likely mirror the swing nationally.  Electionate makes a similar point, although I have some disagreement with the underlying reasoning:

There’s a growing chorus arguing that Obama has an electoral college advantage. The underlying assumption is that the race is close nationally and yet Obama seems poised to secure well over 300 electoral votes. In my view, that argument is misguided for a simple reason: the race isn’t close nationally, and the electoral college consequently reflects an Obama advantage.

Electionate’s claim that the race isn’t close nationally is based in large part on the argument that Rasmussen and Gallup are skewing perceptions of the race.  I will not rehash the claims against Rasmussen; some of them are quite reasonable, others less so.  Gallup defends its polling here and here.  Rather, I will note that Electionate’s plot excluding Gallup and Rasmussen tends to show a slowly tightening race, which is what you see with Gallup and Ras in the mix.  Eyeballing the plot suggests Obama currently has an edge of a bit over 4% — but today’s RCP average gives Obama an edge of 3.6%.  That’s not much a difference, particularly when considering that head-to-head polls at this point in the election cycle explain less than 50% of eventual results. [Note: Electionate does not name RCP as an offender on this score.]

However, this is another reason to focus more on Obama’s job approval number than any Electoral College map at the moment.  The current RCP averages are 48.3% approve, 47.4% disapprove.  If you exclude Gallup and Ras, 47.8% approve and 47.3% disapprove.  Again, judiciously including Gallup and Ras has no significant effect on the numbers; if anything, they boost Obama’s approval number.  For the zombies focused on the 2004 campaign analogy, note that while Bush had declining job approval eight years ago, he went into the election with a 49.8% job approval by the RCP average.

None of this will keep we political junkies from obsessing over polls and maps.  It’s fun to do that.  Just keep in mind that at this point in the campaign, they probably do not tell you what you really want to know.


46 Responses to “You don’t need to pay much attention to the Electoral College right now”

  1. Ding!

    Karl (f07e38)

  2. It’s all about the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Hooray for end-runs!

    Leviticus (ca4174)

  3. Come November, the swing in the swing states will likely mirror the swing nationally


    It depends upon how you define “mirror.” Keep in mind in connection with major elections in large states even a 1% variance is a very substantial sum.

    Obama in 2008 vis-a-vis his national vote total underperformed in the two major swing states. His national vote total was 53%. In Florida and Ohio, however, he respectively received 51% and 51.5%. That’s not a coincidence.

    Ohio has a very large percentage of mature working class whites. That’s a bad demographic for Obama. Among white people his only major sources of large-majority support are the very wealthy and the very young.

    Florida is far more conservative than most other large states. Again, Obama in 2008 underperformed there, despite the fact there is a higher-than-average share of blacks in that state.

    It’s not out of the question that Obama could win the national vote but still lose Florida and Ohio. In that event Romney would have a very high likelihood of becoming president.

    Tsar Nicholas II (cb2d5b)

  4. None of this will keep we political junkies from obsessing over polls and maps.

    Hopefully ye political junkies will also obsess over (and blog about) historical polls during challenges to incumbent Presidents.

    gs (0952df)

  5. As a politician, Romney is a perfectionist. I think he is unable to resist responding to whatever Obama puts out there, and this is a huge mistake.

    Sadly, I think Mccain was a better politician (which is not meant to say he’s a good one), but the GOP must win this rematch of centrist GOP vs Obama.

    The same rules that gave Mccain the edge in the primary gave Romney one. Those rules do not apply now. Now we need to see who is the leader with the vision. It boggles my mind that people see Obama as one, but a lot of them do.

    Romney needs to ignore Obama and strike a serious tone of how America really can get on track. Sometimes he does this. I think he should do this instead of responding to Obama’s message of the day.

    Dustin (330eed)

  6. I know this is almost a cliche but it’s going to come down to GOTV and registering new supporters, and I think Obama’s likely got the edge there again. Does the RNC have a way to get out the social conservatives for Romney?

    Maybe the Mormons in some western states could be sort of a secret weapon for Romney if they really get out on the streets.

    Gerald A (cc0aaa)

  7. Well, I imagine the left’s hysteria about Mormons will do a great deal to mobilize them on Romney’s behalf, but I don’t think that’s enough.

    There is an enthusiasm problem, in my very limited view of things. I hope I’m mistaken about that because Romney is a no-brainer better candidate than Obama.

    I don’t think there’s a lot we can do. It boils down to the economy and good a job Obama does to change the subject.

    Dustin (330eed)

  8. Speaking of the economy, there was a drop today in first time unemployment claims.

    There’s been a lot of drops in first time claims in recent months, except they later often turn out not to be drops.

    Very odd.

    Gerald A (cc0aaa)

  9. Karl,

    I submit that PA will, indeed, go red this year.

    In 2010, PA elected a Republican gov and a second Republican legislative chamber. Things are even worse now.

    James Carville was accurate (although intending to be demeaning) when he described PA as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in the middle. The Phila core will always go blue; the question is always what will the surrounding Phila suburbs do?

    When Pittsburgh also goes blue, so does the state, but this year that is not even close to being a certainty. Western PA is populated by numerous voters who had made a livelihood in heavy union industry (steel) and mining. Obama’s opposition to the Keystone Pipeline has not gone unnoticed neither has his administration’s war on coal. Both are seen as a war on heavy-industry good paying union jobs.

    In a recent visit, Obama was not able to fill a small reception room in very blue Pittsburgh, and many local people are talking about how he’s trying to “take away our electricity.” Today’s news from Dem Gov. Tomblin of W VA about opposing Obama’s anti-fossil fuel policies is yet another nail in the blue coffin here. Southwestern PA and W VA are very very much alike in both their basic industries and their basic mindset. Even Joe Biden’s area of Scranton (North East PA) is coal counry.

    Furthermore, the working of the Marcellus Shale gas deposits have already provided benefits and jobs to local Pennsylvanians. The Obama war on fossil fuels just isn’t playing well in PA. As of this writing, I just don’t see how it’s possible for Obama to win PA this November. Of course, anything can happen in 5 months.

    T (400783)

  10. Tsar Nicholas II (4)

    Of course, even a small national swing will matter in a state like Ohio in November. That’s what makes them swing states. But the point is that studying the swing states (esp. now) doesn’t tell you anything the national numbers do not. Indeed, given that state polling is still noisy now, looking at the state polling may tell you less. If we get a series of polls showing OH or FL is way out of line with the national trend of the moment, I will duly note it, because that would be remarkable.

    Karl (f07e38)

  11. It is hard to argue that IL, CA, NY, NJ, MA and several other large states will go R this year. I hope T is right about PA, but the way I see it, it will have to be an almost landslide election for BO to loose this year. And our buddies in the media will see to it that every uptick in employment, every Taliban killed in action, etc will get BO the credit he deserves while highlighting every goof up Romney makes.

    Somewhat related, just imagine if CA, NY and Il were governed by Repbulicans and were rated the worst states to do business, do you think the media would have a field day over this, yet there ain’t much talk about it is there? Why hurt Obama?

    Ipso Fatso (7434b9)

  12. T (9),

    Midterm election results do not translate to a general election turnout. One of my friends does political work for a prominent PA GOP official; he gives Romney a 40% chance of winning PA. That’s not bad, but not good enough for me to ignore how long it has been since PA voted GOP for POTUS.

    Karl (f07e38)

  13. You can expect things in general to average out, with the winner of the popular vote also winning the Electoral College especially if the candidates pay attention to the Electoral College.

    As the popular vote overall changes states tip over from one candidate to another

    The key question is which states would tiop over first in a close election.

    Florida and Ohio may not be so important. Even if Romney carries both of them he can still lose.

    All that Obama needs to win is to carry all the states that John Kerry carried in 2004, plus, Iowa, New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado. He’ll obviously be trying in more than just those states.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  14. Karl – Much more important than the electoral college right now are the facts that Obama ate dogs, although we have no confirmation on how many and when he stopped doing it, and that he had composite girlfriends.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  15. If on the other hand Obama does a little bit worse in general than John Kerry, a number of other states, like Missouri, will go Republican.

    Every election they keep on expecting Pennsylvania to be close. I don’t know why. It wouldn’t be one of the first states to go Republican.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  16. Comment by daleyrocks — 5/3/2012 @ 2:30 pm

    Karl – Much more important than the electoral college right now are the facts that Obama ate dogs, although we have no confirmation on how many and when he stopped doing it, and that he had composite girlfriends.

    Well, we now have definite confirmation that he lied in his 1995 memoir of growing up.. (and there was mention of one girlfriend in it)

    I think in the case of the dog story, there may have originally been a very good anecdote or two there (maybe one about eating dog meat and another about the snake) but he cut it out, or was persuaded to cut it out.

    Maybe he left a little bit it in because he’d told one or two people about the incident or maybe because it was really something he had wanted to mention.

    And then he carefully rewrote it to make it seem like it was his stepfather rather than his mother, the anthropologist, always interested in new or different cultures, who was responsible for him eating part of a dog!!

    At the White House Correspondents’ dinner this weekend he also carefully made it look like Lolo had given him the dog to eat.

    “My step father always told me it’s a boy eat
    dog world out there.”

    Of course, his joke wroter probably didn’t know the truth there.

    But, remember, this was away from the dinner table.

    His mother took him along on a trip somewhere to some ceremony, or somebody’s home…that’s what probably happened.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  17. But to be fair, from a link posted by narciso and I did remember this being quoted somewhere:

    “For the sake of compression, some of the characters that appear are composites of people, I’ve known, and some events appear out of precise chronology.”

    I never like books like that. Usually this kind of thing is responsible for some of the implausibilities you find.

    He knew people reading it would know things were wrong.

    He probably did a little bit more than just change names, create composites and put things out of order.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  18. Comment by Gerald A — 5/3/2012 @ 11:20 am

    Maybe the Mormons in some western states could be sort of a secret weapon for Romney if they really get out on the streets.

    But those states also have Hispanics, and the Mormon Church and its members may not quite like Arizona’s immigration policy – Utah passed a considerably different law, although it still follows Arizona a little bit:

    The state’s leaders changed direction. They followed the lead of business, religious groups and others that drafted a 227-word document, introduced in November, called the Utah Compact.

    Religious groups: That means Mormons among others.

    It still contains provisions affected by the current Supreme Court case:

    from the Azcenbtral web page:

    …The package contains provisions calling for the state to set up guest-worker programs – one for the estimated 110,000 unauthorized immigrants already in Utah and another to meet future demand for workers with residents from the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon. Neither program would start for another two years, and the state likely would need a waiver from the federal government before launching them.

    The package does include a watered-down version of the Arizona law enforcement language. But it targets only those unauthorized immigrants who are arrested for serious misdemeanors or felonies.

    I suppose Romney will get around to endorsing this before November.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  19. Then it’s not autobiography, it’s fiction, like with James Frey,

    narciso (8d0f34)


    The Utah Compact was key to the passage of a Utah law that enables illegal immigrants who pass a background check and pay a fine to obtain work permits. Immigrant advocates have said they believe the compact was also influential in the 2011 recall of Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce, author of the state’s hard-line immigration laws.

    A majority — 78 percent — of Arizonans say they support passing a guest-worker law similar to Utah’s, according to a November Arizona State University poll.

    But Republican lawmakers in Arizona say they’re not interested in heading that direction.

    And this is one reason why Barack Obama thinks he can even carry Arizona.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  21. And why some Democrats aren’t so anxious to have the Supreme Court overturn the law.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  22. Sammy,

    Friend, is it necessary to double-space in between every sentence ? It complicates reading and scrolling down the thread.
    I understand double-spacing to delineate between someone else’s actual quote and your analysis of it or your response to it. But it’s probably not necessary if you’re writing several sentences that should belong to the same paragraph.

    Elephant Stone (0ae97d)

  23. No, Sammy, that was an abject lesson that no move toward an aggressive enforcement policy will be tolerated

    narciso (8d0f34)

  24. Cook said “I love you”
    and 0bama said “thank you”
    hey! what’s not to love?

    Colonel Haiku (d62f1b)

  25. “Then it’s not autobiography, it’s fiction, like with James Frey”

    Comment by narciso

    James Frey… Patrick Frey… too many Freys spoil the broth… sorry, inside joke.

    Colonel Haiku (d62f1b)

  26. No, I would never make that mistake, Colonel,

    narciso (8d0f34)

  27. hey hey Julia
    ya acting so peculiar
    0bama fool ya?

    Colonel Haiku (d62f1b)

  28. It’s all about the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Hooray for end-runs!

    The Compact, if it ever happens will happen exactly once as faithless electors will abound when they are asked to vote against their chosen candidate.

    The Electoral College is a GOOD THING, and very much not an accident or a primitive device. It’s a firewall and general bulwark against cheating. Without it, if just any alleged ballot went straight to the bottom line, local cheating would be rampant and Chicago would routinely have an extra million votes. With the EC, there usually isn’t a point since local cheaters have already won their state.

    And let’s not even consider the horror of a close national count, and national recount, and the self-serving rationalizing of pull-outs (or stay-ins) from any compact.

    You would really have to be naive AND innumerate to think the Compact is a good idea.

    Kevin M (bf8ad7)

  29. “and the self-serving rationalizing of pull-outs (or stay-ins)”

    pull-outs are nevah self-serving, but teh stay-ins usually are!

    Colonel Haiku (d62f1b)

  30. We have to see what happens with the economy, of course. Perhaps Obama’s Economic Creationism will turn out to work (for the first time in recorded history), but I pretty much see the economy tanking even more as the uncertainty of national direction causes business to delay plans.

    Again: Obama’s Plan:

    1. Demonize businessmen, attack investors and add thousands of costly regulations to the load.

    2. ????

    3. Recovery.

    Kevin M (bf8ad7)

  31. pull-outs are nevah self-serving, but teh stay-ins usually are!

    Two words: child support

    Kevin M (bf8ad7)

  32. but that’s teh effing you get for the effing you got!

    Colonel Haiku (d62f1b)

  33. colonel’s on Cloud 9, cuz he just met a gal named Julia and another guy pays for everything!

    Colonel Haiku (d62f1b)

  34. Comment by T — 5/3/2012 @ 12:16 pm

    I believe Dick Morris says Romney will carry PA, but he said fairly confidently Reid would lose in 2010 so…

    Gerald A (cc0aaa)

  35. Karl (12,

    I realize that mid term elections do not necessarily translate into general election turnout or general election results. They can,however, be indicative of trends. As for your friend, I won’t say that he’s incorrect. I will note, though, that pollsters judge the landscape from the top down. Look at the demographics of the poll; are most of the polled urban residents? What is the polling relationship of Phila to Greene and Fayette counties in Southwest PA (to name only two)? IMO Obama will take Phila, and he might even take the city of Pittsburgh. I don’t know the surrounding Phila counties well enough to speculate, but under the current circumstances I find it hard to see how Obama carries any counties surrounding Pittsburgh. He doesn’ take Erie (Tom Ridge country) and he takes no counties bordering Ohio from Erie down to the W VA border. As Carville noted interior PA in Republican country so he loses most of those (except Centre county–home of Penn State), but again, the caveat anything can happen in 5 months.

    I have overheard blue collar Democrats swear that they would never vote for Obama. Some of them, clients of mine, have said it outright. As you know, a pollster needs to be conservative in his predictions. I will not fault him for that. I live elbow to elbow with these people and am not gleaning my information through a telephone questionnaire, but of course, it’s still speculation. I hope I’m correct.

    T (759eca)

  36. Karl,

    One additional observation. I would submit that a 40% chance of Romney taking PA at this early stage of the campaign is promising, indeed. Romney has not yet begun to campaign in PA against Obama. Let’s just see what happens.

    T (759eca)

  37. Indeed, who cares about the US election with UK and French centrists taking it in the shorts.

    France’s house values to drop 12% in a year, 40% before the suicides peak. Oz, Germany and Brazil are in recession, UK expects deleveraging to last ’til 2020.

    Sequestration and expiring tax cuts will mean 4% decline in GDP here(not sure about the ACA component).

    Incumbent doom.

    gary gulrud (d88477)

  38. Americans in job market at 1981 levels, an era of 11% unemployment.

    Dead rat bastard campaigning to what purpose?

    gary gulrud (d88477)

  39. Image of Scratches changes going FORWARD:

    Operation Twist ends in June, followed by QE3?

    gary gulrud (d88477)

  40. I think I speak for all of us, gary, when I say “Hunh?”

    Kevin M (bf8ad7)

  41. On e problem, Gary, someone has to eventually own that debt

    narciso (8d0f34)

  42. 43, 44. Sovereign debt sells in the US because the directs make big commissions selling to the Fed a week or two later.

    MF Global went under when it became obvious only the ECB would get paid par for Greek debt.

    Well, hedges have some $430 TRILLION in notional value of such junk. What will happen to global finance when they all go under?

    gary gulrud (676e68)

  43. 48.3% approve, 47.4% disapprove. If you exclude Gallup and Ras, 47.8% approve and 47.3% disapprove.

    What kind of brain-damaged ephwit do you have to be to approve of President Downgrade???

    Smock Puppet, 10th Dan Snark Master (8e2a3d)

Powered by WordPress.

Page loaded in: 0.7525 secs.