Friday, November 28, 2008

Giving Thanks, The Big 3, GOP Holds Ground in MN & GA, Terror in India

Why I Am Thankful
I just got back from Thanksgiving dinner at my sister's house in Maryland. We had a lot of turkey and cranberry sauce, too many slices of pie and a ton of political discussion -- most of my family are staunch conservatives, so we always have lively debate.

But it got me thinking about the things I am thankful for. Since this is a political column, I'll let you guys take it as a given that I am thankful for my wife, my family and all the other deeply personal things you don't care about.

But as an American, here are the things I am deeply thankful for:
(1) I am thankful that we live on one of the only nations on earth where people are free to speak their minds. Even in western democracies in Europe, the concept of a nearly absolute First Amendment is foreign -- you can be thrown in jail in Germany for advocating Nazism, for instance. I'm not advocating Nazism, but I am proud of a country mature enough to recognize that the best way to defeat it is to confront it head on.

(2) I am thankful that this November I was presented with an honest choice between two good and capable men for the Presidency. I'd have to go back a long way to say that in any previous cycle.

(3) I'm thankful that American economic might is such that we consider the current economic state a financial crisis. To 95% of the world's population, this would be a field day.

(4) I'm thankful that we are a mature enough nation to make intelligent decisions in the face of smears. No, I'm not talking about the presidential campaign, as I've said repeatedly, I actually found that to be remarkably clean. I'm talking about the North Carolina Senate race. Elizabeth Dole deserved to lose for the sleaze she was peddling at the end. And she did.

(5) I'm thankful our list of Presidents have been good enough that George W. Bush is considered among the worst. Compare him to bad leaders of other countries -- we've been blessed with a long string of capable leaders if he sorts to the bottom.

So, Happy Belated Thanksgiving. And give thanks that you live in the greatest country to have ever graced this Earth.

The "US" Auto Industry
One of the hot topics of discussion this Thanksgiving in my family was the US Auto Industry -- why it is failing and what should be done.

First, let me state my view that the Big 3 do not represent the US Auto Industry.
Here are a few facts:
First, there are more cars built in the US by companies other than GM, Ford and Chrysler than by GM, Ford and Chrysler. Just ask Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Mazda and BMW workers in places like South Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and Mississippi. Then try to tell them they are not part of the US auto industry.

Second, ownership of all auto companies are multi-national. The Saudis own a chunk of GM and Ford. I own stock in Honda and Toyota. These are publicly traded companies. In a global economy of public companies, there is no such thing as a "US-owned" or "Japan-owned" company.

But let's put those points to the side and act under the assumption that the Big 3 ARE very economically important and therefore we have to look at what went wrong and what needs to be done.

Clearly the Big 3 are doing something wrong that Toyota and Honda (who are still profitable in this economy) are not doing wrong.

My brother-in-law attempted to passionately make the case that the source of all woes for the Big 3 was the UAW. While I don't necessarily consider the UAW to be the most forward-thinking organization in the world, this is, with respect, utter nonsense.

First, the US Auto industry's failings are not primarily driven by higher labor costs and lower productivity. Yes, it is a problem. But average assembly costs for Mini Coopers (made in the UK) are higher than for Big 3 cars and they are doing fine. The Big 3's's primary problems are and have been: poor innvoation & R&D pipeline leading to bad design and inferior production quality.

I haven't considered buying a Big 3 car for my last several vehicles because the designs were horrible and all empirical data points towards a very high cost of ownership due to poor product quality. If you don't believe me, try two things:
#1 Pick up an auto buying guide from consumer reports. Look at the real reliability data that they track from real owners.
#2 Call a GM dealership and ask them the price of an extended warranty. Then call a Honda dealership and do the same thing. Can you think of any reason other than poor quality that the same warranty costs 3x to 4x as much from GM?

So why are other companies doing so much better? Part of it has been strategic decisions made by management in terms of where to invest funds. GM, Ford and Chrysler have focused heavily on larger vehicles such as SUV's and Pick-ups, which are way down in this economy. Part of it is much poorer production systems leading to the inferior quality.

Toyota has had hundreds of books written about it and is widely considered to be the best run manufacturer of anything in the world. The key to their success is a focus on what they call "respect for humanity" -- the value of the line worker. Line workers at Toyota plants can each individually stop the line at any time they detect a quality issues. An hour of each of their days is devoted to continuous improvement. Toyota does everything it can to avoid layoffs and furloughs during slow sales periods. Does GM or Ford measure up to any of these standards? No.

Now, let's talk about the unions. Yes, higher wages are an issue for the Big 3. But how did those wages get there? The UAW can't unilaterally, management has to agree to them. Unions are actually a very free-market enterprise. Companies whose workers organize usually did something to deserve it. And companies that have unions that agree to bad contracts are to blame, not the unions. It's a union's JOB to get more money for its members. It's the company exec's JOB to do things in the interest of the company.

There is a reason that Caterpillar is not broke and GM is. Caterpillar recognized that they could not afford higher wages and fought a very tough fight with the unions to manage the issue. GM did not. Their fault.

I have absolutely zero confidence in the present management at the Big 3 to turn things around. Accordingly, I absolutely do not support a bailout to keep them afloat -- it would be wasted money. The only way I would support a bailout would be if present management is removed and replaced with capable business leaders who establish intelligent R&D strategies, improve labor relations and productivity and modernize factories. If congress doesn't see this, it should let the Big 3 go Chapter 11 and let the bankruptcy court impose these needed changes.

GOP Holds Ground in Remaining 2 Senate Races
It appears with most of the recount complete in Minnesota, that Norm Coleman has returned approximately the same lead he had going in (215 votes.) There are thousands of challenged ballots still to be resolved, so we don't know for sure, but I would say signs point towards a Coleman return to the Senate. Democrats should actually be grateful not to have Al Franken in their ranks.

In Georgia, Saxby Chambliss leads by 3 to 6% in all the polls that I've seen. He appears headed to a run-off win. It's too bad, Chambliss is a real seedy character, having won election by accusing his war veteran paraplegic rival of not being patriotic enough in 2002. But, it looks like he gets 6 more years.

Terror in India
Terrorist attacks on high-end hotels in Mumbai reminded everyone that there are issues other than the economic crisis that President Obama will have to contend with when he takes office. While India has a history of Hindu/Muslim tensions, these attacks were clearly targeted at Westerners, the primary guests in high-end hotels.

Interestingly, the Obama transition team responded with a statement much more quickly than the Bush administration did -- which begs the question -- who is really in power now?

One other side note -- does Joe Biden get points for being right?

Friday, November 21, 2008

One Senate Race Decided, Presidential Map "Final", Obama Cabinet Rumors, The Politics of Depression

Senate Update
Here's where we now stand in the US Senate:
Ted Stevens has conceded the Alaska Senate race after the late mail in votes gave Mark Begich a small, but insurmountable lead. Republicans are probably relieved to be rid of Stevens, who, as a convicted felon for taking illegal perks from campaign donors would have faced an ugly expulsion fight in the Senate if he had won.

This leaves the Democrats with 56 Senate seats and the Republicans with 40. Independent/Socialist Bernie Sanders from Vermont gives the Democrats an effective 57 seat working majority. Throw in Independent Former Democrat Joe Lieberman, who appears to have buried the hatchet with Harry Reid and now intends to caucus with Democrats and the Dems have 58 seats secured for most issues.

We still have two races undecided and they are still important as they determine the size of the working majority and therefore the number of Republicans that Democrats will need to break filibusters.

In Georgia, because Saxby Chambliss did not receive 50% of the vote on election day (due to an independent drawing a small percentage of the votes), there will be a run-off in December. I continue to expect Chambliss to win -- a run-off will undoubtedly have lower turnout than the Presidential race, particularly among African-Americans and that will favor Chambliss. Advantage GOP.

In Minnesota, it is very close and very ugly. The state is in the midst of a hand recount that will take weeks after the initial count gave Republican Norm Coleman a lead of just 215 votes over Democrat Al Franken. 215 votes is a very tight margin (0.008% of votes cast) and anything could happen in the recount, although any lead is better than no lead for Coleman. With 46% of the vote recounted as of today, Franken has picked up 43 votes, putting the current margin at 136. At this pace, he would not overtake Coleman, but obviously, we don't know the weighting of which precincts the recounts came from, so we can't really project. There are also already over 800 ballots challenged by one side or another and a stack of provisional ballots that the Franken campaign is challenging should be included. This one is a real mess by the looks of it. I still give Coleman a small edge in prevailing. The deadline for resolving all of this is December 5th. We'll see.

If Chambliss and Coleman hold on, the GOP has 42 seats and moderate GOP senators such as Olympia Snow and Arlen Specter become very important in key filibuster votes.

Presidential Race is Official -- Sort Of
The last state winner has been declared in the 2008 presidential race -- John McCain was declared the winner in Missouri after a recount left him with an over 3,000 vote lead. This is in line with the map published here two posts ago.

So, the 2008 race is in the books right? Close, but not technically. The electoral college does not officially meet to elect the president until December 15th. No reason for Obama supporter to fret, the electors are all party loyalists and have pledged to support their candidate. But you do occasionally get interesting little footnotes, like the elector in 1988 who flipped the ticket and voted for Lloyd Bentsen for President and Michael Dukakis for Vice-President.

Obama Cabinet Rumors
The famously tight-lipped and disciplined Obama camp has been letting a lot of leaks out lately. No official cabinet appointments, but a lot of informal information out there. Here is the latest:
Secretary of State -- Hillary Clinton -- seems like this one is almost a done deal
Secretary of Treasury -- Timothy Geithner (New York Federal Reserve Chairman) -- Wall Street loved the pick, rallying stocks today, although the markets only gained back a small percentage of the 50% crash over the past few months.
Secretary of Homeland Security -- Janet Napolitano -- Demoratic Governor of Arizona -- happiest guy about this would be John McCain, who was like to face a fierce fight for his Senate seat from Gov. Napolitano otherwise.
Secretary of Health & Human Services -- Tom Daschle -- former Senate Democratic leader
Secretary of Defense -- Robert Gates -- wouldn't be much of a stretch for the guy currently in the job
Attorney General -- Eric Holder -- Deputy AG under Clinton
Bill Richardson is also rumored to be strongly considered for a cabinet role, but it is unclear which one.

A well qualified group who will all sail through to easy confirmations. But I must say -- I was hoping to see more Republians (guys like Chuck Hagel and Colin Powell) to bridge the divide as Obama has often spoken. I'd also like to see fewer Clinton retreads, although I concede that about the only qualified Democrats alive for cabinet positions worked in the Clinton administration.

The Politics of Depression -- How to Judge Obama's First 100 Days
In an economic mess like we are in, it is unrealistic to expect President Obama to take us to prosperity in his first few months, but here are some things to look for:
(1) A Sensible Economic Stimulus Plan
Obama has spoken frequently about the need to rebuild our national infrastructure and the need for a new green economy. I can't think of two better aims for an economic stimulus plan that would build jobs and also accomplish important and lasting policy objectives.

If Obama gets a package that centers around one or both of these things, I will consider it a success. If he gets no bill or one that is just pork-laden giveaways, we will know he failed.

(2) Disciplined Management of the Bailout
The management of the bailout has been an utter disaster so far, with shifting focus every day, from buying toxic mortgages to recapitalizing banks, to buying stakes in insurers. All the money has flowed with no strings attached, creating embarrassment and very little economic benefit.

Getting the right team in and getting order to how the money is managed is critical.

(3) An Auto Solution
The talks in Washington this week around the auto industry got nowhere fast, thanks in no small part to the absurd behavior of the Big 3's CEOs who left me emotionally wanting the whole industry to go bankrupt just to teach them a lesson. Of course, we can't let Detroit go out of business, but getting to a plan that forces meaningful change in the industry rather than just a cash extension to continue the same bad management practices they have had is crucial.

It's worth noting that Toyota is not in trouble and now builds as many cars in the US as GM. Just some food for thought.

(4) Meaning Change in the Capital Markets
Controls on mortgages, changes to short-selling rules, sound monetary policy -- all of this needs to be handled to solve the long-term economic issue.

(5) All Other
If Obama gets ANYTHING done on Healthcare, Immigration, Social Security, Iraq, etc. in the first 100 days, it's a victory. I would expect that the first 100 will be almost entirely economically consumed.

That's it for now -- stay tuned.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Obama Leaves Senate, Ongoing Senate Battles, GOP 2012

Obama Senate Resignation
Barack Obama officially resigned from the US Senate this weekend. This is probably a good strategic move as he doesn't want to be President-Elect amidst the fights in the Senate that will occur in the lame duck session of congress. He is now, for all intents and purposes, the leader of the country and needs to be focusing his time and resources on a successful transition, not on serving in the senate.

Where is Obama?
Obama has been largely absent from the public eye since winning the election -- the only notable exceptions being his brief press conference and the much touted meeting with President Bush at the White House. His aides say he is busy vetting cabinet choices. But we still haven't heard any cabinet choices. It is sort of a shock to the system after seeing Obama constantly on TV that he is largely absent. He has not even commented on Paulson's flip-flop on how to use the bailout money. Is this his "one president at a time theory" or is Obama ducking going on record? I'm not sure, but it appears this will continue for the next two months.

In the cabinet sweepstakes, both Hillary Clinton and Bill Richardson have been floated as possible Secretaries of State. I was hoping for a Republican such as Chuck Hagel or Colin Powell to demonstrate Obama's commitment to bi-partisanship and the Obama camp has been mum on the deliberations, so I hold out hope. Either Clinton or Richardson would clearly be qualified, but it would either mean that Obama wouldn't be picking a very bi-partisan cabinet or he would have to do so in his domestic appointments, which is less likely.

I'll keep you posted.

Ongoing Senate Battles
The Democrats have secured 55 senate seats, the Republicans 40 and 2 will be held by independents (former socialist Bernie Sanders who is essentially a Democrat and former Democrat Joe Lieberman, who may or may not caucus with Democrats but tends to vote with them on domestic issues and with Republicans on foreign policy issues.)

The remaining battles are:
Georgia -- Saxby Chambliss won the most votes but failed to cross the 50% threshold and will therefore face a run-off. Given that Georgia had huge African-American turnout for Obama on November 4th that may not all show up for a Senate run-off, it seems more likely than not that Sen. Chambliss will win the run-off. John McCain has been out campaigning for him in Georgia this past week.

Minnesota -- Norm Coleman leads Al Franken by less than 250 votes in the final tallying, obviously triggering a recount. This one still could break either way given how close it is, but my experience tells me that the candidate leading the first count usually wins the recount as well. Do the Democrats really want Al Franken in the Senate when all is said and done? He is a loose cannon and a pretty nasty guy, frankly.

Alaska -- it appears that some sanity may exist in at least half of the Alaskan electorate. Not all the absentee and provisional ballots have been counted yet, but Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich has extended his lead to over 1,000 votes with what has been counted so far. 1,000 votes is more than it sounds like in a state as small as Alaska. Begich appears headed to the senate while Stevens appears headed for 12 cent an hour license plate-making duty.

So, if Georgia and Minnesota break GOP, as I expect they will and Alaska breaks Dem, the Dems will have a working majority of 58-42 on domestic issues and 57-43 on foreign policy issues. Not completely fillibuster proof, but any legislation that peels off a few Republicans (immigration, health care and education all come to mind) will be difficult for the GOP to stop.

We'll see how it all turns out in the next few weeks.

GOP 2012
A lot of ink has been written about the GOP doing soul searching in the wake of Obama receiving a higher percentage of the vote of any Democrat since 1976 and it's worst congressional showing since the post-watergate era of the 1970s. I personally think this talk is a little over-rated. Sure, the GOP is in the worst spot it has been in 30 years. But, think about this:
(1) The presidential race was still only a 6 to 7 point decision. That's not a big percentage of the vote. in 1996, they lost by almost 9% then won in 2000 (granted, while losing the popular vote.) A change in foreign policy position, a change in economic times or a high-profile gaffe and they are back in national contention.
(2) They will probably gain in the mid-terms. It is extremely rare that the incumbent party of a new President does well in the mid-term elections. The GOP retook congress in 1994 after Bill Clinton's win in 1992. I doubt they will retake congress in this case, but I certainly expect them to make inroads.

Having said all that, the GOP needs to decide what type of candidate they want in 2012. From the response at the Republican Governor's meeting, the party is cooling somewhat to Sarah Palin. She is still on the radar and certainly has the best national name recognition, but there are many other choices for the GOP that may have broader appeal: Tim Pawlenty, Charlie Crist, Bobby Jindal, etc. These young, intelligent, articulate and bi-partisan governors are probably the future. Sarah Palin may look a lot less appealing as $60/barrel oil takes its toll on the Alaskan economy. But then again, we may not yet have met the 2012 nominee.

Regardless, I think the Republican party just needs to do a few basic things to put it back in contention:
(1) Revive Economic Conservatism -- John McCain tried to do this late in the campaign by talking about tax and spend liberalism but it lacked credibility given the Bush record. Republicans need to present a coherent case for way government needs to be smaller, how they would shrink deficits and why lower taxes would benefit the populace. A bold proposal like a flat tax or eliminating the income tax in favor of a consumption tax would help. The incrementalism that Bush pushed is a sure loser.
(2) Retake Foreign Policy from the Neocons -- we will likely be out of Iraq by 2012. The party needs to return to its traditional position that we do not get militarily involved in countries unless they present a clear and present danger to our national security. This worked and had credibility in the 80s and 90s, the Iraq war put a huge crack in it.
(3) Let Obama Take Issues Off the Table -- Fred Barnes had a great piece in the weekly standard on this topic. If Obama gets comprehensive immigration reform passed, it takes it off the table as an issue in 2012, the same way that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" took gays in the military off the table. Just letting these issues run their course will help Republicans avoid issues that divide the base.
(4) Push the Popular Parts of Your Social Agenda -- being anti-gay marriage is still (regrettably) popular in the US. Being anti-abortion is not. Knowing the difference and talking about the issues that resonate with the public is critical.

That's all for now...65 days until Obama is sworn in and a lot left to happen.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Red/Blue States, Scorecard vs. Other Sites, Transition Thoughts and Response to a Comment

First, a minor correction to my last post. My electoral vote count was off by 1. Obama has won a single electoral vote in Nebraska (note the blue circle on the map below) that I had not accounted for. As a refresher, both Maine and Nebraska allocate their EV's in a different manner from the other 48 states which are winner take all -- they award 2 EV's to the winner of the state and 1 EV to the winner of each congressional district. Obama won 1 EV in Nebraska even though McCain won the state -- the first time this has happened since these laws passed. It doesn't really change anything, but I thought it was worth noting the correction.

Now, on to today's subjects
(1) Red States vs. Blue States
The question has come up a lot since Obama's victory whether there are still red states and blue states. The map above shows the winner of each state (assuming Missouri holds for McCain) in the electoral college. Clearly, Obama made inroads into regions of the country that neither John Kerry nor Al Gore was able to win -- southern states like Virginia and North Carolina, Florida (which is technically in the south, but really it's own geographic region) and the southwest (New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada) as well as expanding into Indiana and Iowa.

As you can see from the map above, though, other than some geographic expansion by Obama, the fundamentals of the map don't appear to be all that changed -- deep south states are still red, as is Texas and most of the mountain west. The northeast, midwest and west coasts are still the basis of Democratic power.

But the simple "winner take all" look at the states belies some interesting facts. The chart below shows the same map, but shaded based on the MARGIN of victory (full blue or full red in this case is a 40% margin, white is an even state.)

So, what do we see? Let me look at the regions:
a. "True Blue" States -- The Northeast and New England
These regions are basically locked down for Democrats. Pennsylvania and New Hampshire are a little closer than the other states, but don't expect a Republican to win here for a long time.

b. The "Left" Coast -- CA, OR, WA
Probably pretty similar -- Democratic and trending more so, but you see a little more potential give if the Republicans had a big year

c. The Deep South -- AL, MS, LA, AR
Probably safe Republican states in any year

d. The Non-Coastal Northwest -- ID, WY, UT
These are the safest Republican states out there -- not going Dem anytime soon

e. The Midwest
There is a Democratic power base in Illinois, but the rest of the region is moldable -- the margins are simply not that great. Indiana is the new swing state and Ohio is always in play, but in a closer year, so too are Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa

f. The "New" South
Virginia, North Carolina and to a lesser extent Georgia and South Carolina become new frontiers in battlegrounds

g. The Hispanic Southwest
Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico all become intense battlegrounds.

h. Florida
Always a battleground, always.

So Florida and Ohio remain crucial in future elections as they have in the past few, but f & g also become important fights, especially given that all of those states will likely have expanded electoral votes in 2012 after the 2010 census results are in.

(2) Scorecard vs. Other Sites
Obama won the election 365 EV's to 173 for McCain or a margin of 192 EV's.

We projected 356-182 or a margin of 174 EV's or 18 EV's off from the actually margin (we predicted 9 EV's wrong which adds 9 to Obama's total and subtracts 9 from McCain's)

Here is us compared to other major sites: -- off by 4 EV's (too many for Obama) -- off by 24 EV's (too many for McCain) -- off by 24 EV's (too many for McCain) -- off by 54 EV's (too many for McCain) -- off by 54 EV's (too many for McCain) -- off by 38 EV's (too many for McCain) -- off by 148 EV's (too many for McCain)

There are a ton of others -- you can go to to see the complete list, but this is a fairly representative sample. had us all beat with accuracy of count, but by and large this site stacked up well against most of the experts. As you can see, most sites called more EV's for McCain than materialized. We did too, but were closer than the vast majority of sites. Our only pitfall was incorrectly calling Indiana (we incorrectly called North Dakota too, but that was miscalled the other way.)

In short, we did pretty well and given the available data, I'm not sure the projection could've been any better. North Dakota we simply didn't have enough data, and Indiana was just a really close state that could've gone either way.

(3) Transition Update

The Bush's hosted the Obama's at the White House this week -- by all accounts it appears to have been a cooperative and well managed meeting. Bush honestly seems to want to help Obama and that is a good thing, because the national will need a good handover to hit the ground running. There are a ton of important issues to deal with and the last thing we would want would be progress slowed by egos -- fortunately this doesn't seem to be the case.

Obama is working behind the scenes to keep Lieberman in the Democratic party. This is a good move. It would be damaging to the notion of a post-partisan presidency if the first thing your party does is kick out the guy in your party who opposed you. Lieberman is an asset to Democrats both in his support on domestic issues AND in his dissenting voice on foreign policy. They should look to keep him.

No word yet on key cabinet positions -- I continue to hope Obama will be bi-partisan in his selection.

It looks a lot like Camelot is back in Washington. All the fascination with the Obama's dog, Michelle's clothes, the school the first kids will go to -- it all beckons back to an era when people viewed the President as a social role model as opposed to merely the leader of the nation. This is on one hand uplifting and on another hand disturbing and I lean a little bit towards disturbing. The President is the leader of the most powerful nation on earth. While it is great that Obama loves his family, it is frankly irrelevant to his skills as a leader. There are serious issues confronting the country and that should be the focus. Having said that, I do understand that many people seek to hold the President up as a role model and in that vein, I hope the Obamas do the nation proud.

(4) A Reader Comment
In my final post election night, I closed with the line "God Bless America". A reader commented to the effect of "sure, you say that now that Obama won."

I had enough of a visceral reaction to this comment that I felt it warranted some discussion. I generally think that things that evoke emotion are worth discussing.

I will readily admit, first of all, that I felt a wave of emotion and patriotism at the notion that this country, which has an unfortunate history of slavery and racial discrimination, had fulfilled the ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence by electing an African-American as President. I also admit that this patriotism was aided by the fact that as I stated several weeks before the election, I was supporting Obama for the office.

Having said this however, I take exception to the notion that my patriotism is contingent on the outcome of a particular election. I have proudly been an American my whole life. I have worked since I got my first paper route at 10, paid my taxes, volunteered in my community, voted in every election for which I was eligible and always tried to be an advocate for things that I believe would make the nation greater. I believe the United States is the greatest country on earth and that Obama's election would not have been possible in most of the world, the first world included.

I resent very much the attempt by some in the conservative movement to co-opt patriotism from all of us. I resent Sarah Palin talking about the "real America" excluding those of us who live in places less conservative than her standard. I resent Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity implying that protesting a war that people disagree with is unpatriotic. I resent it, but it is their right as Americans to say it. So I don't resent them nearly as much as I resent those who name a bill that strip mines the bill of rights "the Patriot Act". Benjamin Franklin famously said that "those who would sacrifice liberty for a measure of security deserve neither security nor liberty" and I agree.

I don't call those who disagree with me unpatriotic. I have spoken throughout the campaign (in this space) about my belief in the character and patriotism of John McCain.

It is the height of ignorance and arrogance to call those who don't support a myopic world view unpatriotic and I will continue to call out those who do so.

The strength of this country is in our ability to resolve our differences through debate and at the ballot box. What makes me most patriotic isn't that Obama won -- it is that in this great country of ours Obama and McCain could debate and the winner chosen by the population could assume power peacefully.

So, God Bless America. ALL of America.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Post-Election Scorecard

So, how did this site do on projections for the 2008 Presidential Election? Fairly well, actually, although there is always room for improvement.

Note: For purposes of this analysis, I am assuming that John McCain won Missouri, although most of the networks have not yet called it. He currently leads by 5,800 votes barring a recount.

Here is the top line rundown:
(1) Electoral Votes
Projected Actual Difference
356-182 364-174 Obama won 8 more than predicted

States Correctly Projected: 48 out of 50
States Missed: North Dakota predicted for Obama, went to McCain, Indiana predicted for McCain went to Obama
Electoral vote percentage correctly projected: 97.4% (524 out of 538)

(2) Popular Vote
Projected Actual Difference
Obama by 7.2% Obama by 6.5% McCain won 0.7% more than predicted

In other words, we predicted 99.3% of the popular vote correctly.

(3) State Averages

Average Miss in States Designated Battleground: 1.6%
Average Miss in States Not Designated Battleground: 2.8%
Total Average Miss: 2.5%

Note: These averages have been weighted by the number of electoral votes in a state

Clearly, I was a lot more accurate in battleground states, which shouldn't be a surprise since there is much more polling data available on close states and I spent much more time on the analysis of these states.

State Projection Details
a. Projected Non-Battlegrounds
There were 38 states that I designated as non-battlegrounds in the last projection. Of these 38 states, all 38 proved to be non-battleground with the projected winner in fact winning by more than 8%

b. Projected Battlegrounds
Of our twelve projected battlegrounds, I break my projection accuracy into a few categories:
i. Almost Exactly Right (Right Winner, within 2% of the vote) -- 7 states
North Carolina -- Projected Obama win by 0.4%, Actual Obama win by 0.3% -- 0.1% error
Virginia -- Projected Obama win by 5.3%, Actual Obama win by 5.6% -- 0.3% error
Missouri -- Projected McCain win by 0.6%, Actual McCain win by 0.2% -- 0.4% error
Ohio -- projected Obama win by 3.2%, Actual Obama win by 4.0% -- 0.8% error
Florida -- Projected Obama win by 1.6%, Actual Obama win by 2.6% -- 1.0% error
Georgia -- Projected McCain win by 4.3%, Actual McCain win by 5.5% -- 1.2% error
Montana -- Projected McCain win by 3.7%, Actual McCain win by 2.5% -- 1.2% error

ii. Right Winner, Wrong Margin (Right Winner, >2% error) -- 3 states
Colorado -- projected Obama win by 5.8%, Actual Obama win by 8.8% -- 3.0% error
Arizona -- projected McCain win by 4.2%, actual McCain win by 8.4% -- 4.2% error
Nevada -- projected Obama win by 5.7%, Actual Obama win by 12.6% -- 6.9% error

Arizona is fairly easy to explain -- McCain clearly got some late "home state" benefit that hadn't showed up in the polling.

Colorado and Nevada are more problematic for me to explain. Colorado was still relatively close to correct (within 3%), Nevada we were way off. Both states had massive early voting and late campaigning by Obama. This may have driven people to break late for Obama, but I'm not really sure. We just missed here, although we projected the right winner.

iii. Wrong Winner -- 2 states
Indiana -- projected McCain win by 1.5%, actual Obama win by 1.0% -- 2.5% error
North Dakota -- projected Obama win by 0.2%, actual McCain win by 8.8% -- 9.0% error

In the case of North Dakota, I'd been screaming for two weeks that we needed new polling. We didn't get it and clearly it might have shown that McCain had pulled back ahead, but we will never know. Suffice it to say, error will be a lot higher if the input data is old.

Indiana was always projected close, but 2.5% error is well above average for battleground states. I'd say this was the most surprising miss of the election year.

So, with all that, here's the scorecard:
National Vote Accuracy: 99.3%
Electoral Vote Accuracy (overall): 98.5%
Electoral Vote Accuracy (state by state): 97.4%

Battleground State-Level Accuracy: 98.4%
Overall State Level Accuracy: 97.5%
Percent of States Correctly Called: 96%
Non-battlegrounds: 100%
Battlegrounds: 83%
Percent of battlegrounds called within 1 point: 42%
within 2 points: 58%
within 3 points: 75%

Overall, I'm extremely proud of these results -- I got all of the major things about the election right both nationally and at a state-by state level.

Next week, I'll compare this site to other major projection sites so that you will get a feel for the comparative scorecard.

One Last Word on the Bradley Effect
Of the many things positive things that happened Tuesday night, one that may have been lost in the shuffle is the death of anyone talking about the Bradley effect again. There is not a single state where I could cite a Bradley effect based on our projections and the actual results. On election night, when the early returns came in from Georgia, I incorrectly states that it appeared there might be an effect in that state. I was wrong, as the final returns came very much in line with our pre-election projections.

It's a great day for America when race is not a key determining factor in our elections.

Quick Take on the First Week Post-Election

Obama has named Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff. It is his choice and he should choose someone he is comfortable with, but this is clearly not a pick in the spirit of bi-partisan reconciliation. I think this is fine, provided he puts moderates and Republicans in some of his cabinet seats (Chuck Hagel, Colin Powell and Dick Lugar would all be obvious choices.) If he does not, it will become a problem. Despite a decisive victory (the highest percentage of the popular vote of any candidates since 1988 and the most total votes ever), Obama needs to be as bi-partisan a president as he was a candidate. The risk will be with control of both houses of congress to just ram through an agenda -- that temptation should be resisted.

Obama's first news conference was impressive. He was poised, funny and professional. Isn't it great to have a new President who can actually answer complex questions coherently? Having said that, not a lot specific was really said, so we'll have to wait and see. Hopefully the transition of power will go as smoothly as both Bush and Obama are promising.

Now that the election is lost, McCain aides are laying into Sarah Palin, accusing her of not only being a diva, but an idiot who doesn't know Africa is a continent, doesn't understand the 3 branches of government, doesn't know which countries are in North America, etc. This may all be true, but for once, I will come to Palin's defense. If this is all true, then it means Sarah Palin is ignorant, not stupid. McCain picked her, she didn't pick herself -- he was the one who made the judgment she was ready. She undoubtedly did the best she could for the campaign and if that wasn't good enough, it's on him for asking her to run -- it was unreasonable to expect her to say no. Palin I believe possess the intelligence to learn the issues and be a threat down the road. I don't care for her divisive style of politics, but I recognize political skill when I see it. McCain's campaign should be ashamed of itself for trying to lay the blame for the loss at her feet after picking her and doing so many things wrong: suspending the campaign, horrible performances in the first two debates, losing his message. George H.W. Bush won with Dan Quayle and surely Palin is no worse than Quayle.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"The Dawn of a New Era of American Leadership"

I've attempted to be objective throughout the election season, so indulge me for a post when I say how proud I am of this country and how inspired I was by Obama's speech.

Obama has the OPPORTUNITY to be one of the greatest leaders in the history of this nation. Opportunity is the key word -- nothing has happened here but an election, but oh, what an election.

Thank you for reading this election season.

Next weekend I will be looking at final results and publishing a scorecard as well as looking at why we missed where we missed. So far tonight, we've only missed North Dakota, although the outcome of several states are still in doubt. Also, I'll be fascinated to look at the final actual margins compared to our projections and mine the data for trends.

Good night and God Bless America.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Exceptional Concession Speech by McCain

Senator McCain was moving, sincere and struck exactly the right tone of unity. It occurred to me as I watched his supporters boo at all the times when he meant for them to applaud -- this is a man who is better than his base. That may have been his problem all along -- he lost ground when he departed from his "maverick" principles and did what he thought the base wanted. That plus an incumbent Republican president with a 19% approval rating.

Obama Projected Winner By All Major Networks

Obama is now officially projected to win.

We are only looking at margin and congressional seats now.

Virginia goes to Obama.

We've only misprojected one state so far, North Dakota, but there are other close races to be decided

John Murtha Holds On

John Murtha wins re-election after calling his district racist rednecks. Ironically, his state probably vaults Obama to victory. Funny how life works, isn't it?

Preliminary Verdict on the Bradley Effect

One of the big questions going into this election night was whether the Bradley Effect was real in this day and age.

My verdict from the preliminary results so far:
Obama has significantly underperformed his poll numbers in Georgia
Virginia is a slightly closer than the polls going in showed
And there was plenty of polling both states to get a good read

Other than that, things are more or less proceeding according to recent polls.

So I guess the answer to the question is, only in isolated pockets of the country.

Great Races in NC, IN and VA

Hasn't been a lot of press because of the big Obama wins in PA and OH, but the races in North Carolina, Indiana and Virginia are incredibly close. If you watch the returns online, a high percentage of votes are reported in each state and Obama and McCain are only separated by a few thousand votes in each.

10 PM Projections

Nothing unexpected as Iowa breaks for Obama and Utah breaks for McCain.

NBC News: 207-129
CNN: 207-89

Obama needs only carry California (55 EV's) and basically anything else and he will win in Washington and Oregon.

We may have to wait an hour for "official" word, but it is way over.

Only the margin matters now.

CNN Follows NBC News, Calls Ohio

CNN has called Ohio as well. NBC is also calling New Mexico (which we expected Obama to win.)

NBC now projects 200-85
CNN now projects 194-69

According to these projections, the only other thing Obama needs is to hold the west coast, none of which is in play.

Total popular vote so far:
Obama 50%, McCain 49%

NBC News Calls Ohio, Obama Will Be the Next President

NBC News has called Ohio for Obama. McCain cannot win without it. Obama will be president.

9 PM Calls

Mostly predictable calls at 9 PM, but one battleground goes to McCain -- North Dakota called right at the close. This was one we had called for Obama, but obviously McCain is going to win handily. Clearly the recent polling that we didn't have may have shown it trending late to McCain.

CNN has the tally at 174 to 49 for Obama
NBC News (which has been more aggressive with its calls throughout the night) has the tally at 175 to 70

Basically, McCain is 2 for 2 in battlegrounds so far. He needs every one of them to win.

McCain Projected Winner in Georgia -- First Battleground

Our first battleground state is called by NBC News (CNN is being FAR more conservative in all of their calls.) Georgia will go to John McCain. This is in line with our final projection. Apparently the large early African-American turnout could not overcome the intrinsic redness of this state.

CNN has caught up and projected Obama the winner in Pennsylvania

Our count has Obama leading in the EV 103-58 at this point.

NBC News Projects Elizabeth Dole Loses Her Senate Seat

Huge senate pick-up for the Dem's

Obama Leads, Varyinig Projections

CNN has called 77 EV's for Obama, 34 for McCain
NBC News has called 103 EV's for Obama, 34 for McCain
(the difference being the PA and NH calls)

Still very early -- if McCain does indeed lose PA, as I said in my final prediction, he will need ALL of of the battleground states

More Calls at the Top of the Hour -- No Battlegrounds

NBC has called PA and NH for Obama, CNN has not.

No battleground calls yet.

SC for McCain

John McCain picks up South Carolina and leads 16-3.

Still no calls in battlegrounds.

No Battleground Calls Yet

Indiana appears to be super-close -- too early to tell in Virginia, Georgia and Florida. Don't expect Ohio to get called at 7:30 either.

In the case of Indiana, bear in mind that Gary, IN, which is heavily Democratic generally reports very late, so if McCain builds a 3 or 4% lead with 80 or 90% of the vote reporting, in may still be very close.

First Electoral Votes on the Board, McCain Leads 8-3

Put Kentucky in the McCain column
Put Vermont in the Obama column

As everyone expected.

McCain leads 8 electoral votes to 3 in the (very) early going.

Early Returns, First Exit Poll Surprise

First results are trickling in from Kentucky and Indiana. Obama has a modest lead in Indiana and McCain has a big lead in Kentucky (where we all expect him to win.) Not really enough information to draw any conclusions.

The first exit poll surprise of the night -- voters with incomes over $100K voted 52-45% for Obama. I can't remember the last election where people with incomes over $100K went for the Democrat. Probably not good news for McCain.

The Slow Dance of Unsurprising Exit Polls, Disgusting McCain-Palin Robocalls

The networks always struggle to make news prior to 7 PM since they can't project winners or release overall exit poll results.

Here is what we have learned so far:
If Iraq is your top issue, you probably voted for Obama
If terrorism is your top issue, you probably voted for McCain
If you are a new voter, you probably voted for Obama

Nothing surprising in any of that and nothing we can really use as a clue to election results.

Just waiting it out until we get some real returns.

Disgusting robocalls from the McCain-Palin campaign targeting Cuban-Americans saying that Fidel Castro is endorsing Obama. So much for my praise of McCain running a clean campaign. He should be ashamed of himself.

Early Voting Returns from Indiana? Split Electoral Votes?

Evidentially, Indiana and Kentucky will start reporting returns from the Eastern time zone at 6 PM Eastern Time rather than at 7 PM Eastern Time when the polls in the rest of those states close. It will be interesting to see those early returns, particularly in Kentucky (I don't expect it to be close there.) We really won't know much until 7 PM still, given that partial returns can be deceiving when you don't know what precincts are reporting.

One thing to note that we have not discussed at any length is that Maine and Nebraska are actually not winner take all states for electoral votes, unlike the other 48. Each award 2 electoral votes to the statewide winner and the remaining to the winner of each congressional district. The reason we haven't talked about it is that both districts in Maine are expected to break for Obama and all three districts in Nebraska for McCain, as has been the case in every other election (neither state has actually wound up splitting their votes under these laws.) Would be interesting if somehow it were an ultra-close race and they did split, but that seems like a very theoretical discussion at this point.

One Late-Coming National Poll Shows It Closer

A late entrant to the "day of election" national poll release is the Battleground poll. It actually shows two projections, one with Obama winning by 2%, one with Obama winning by 5%. These are the two lowest totals of any polls released in the last two days.

Should this give us pause about whether Obama will win? It definitely shows that nobody knows exactly what will happen. But somehow I doubt one poll showing a closer race makes McCain a likely winner. He still has been behind in every single national poll since September 25th. He still trails in critical battleground states and needs a miracle run the table to win.

I wouldn't change my projection anyway (as I said before I think it is silly to be "projecting" an event after it starts), but even if I would, I wouldn't. I think our final projection from yesterday still looks spot on both in terms of popular and electoral vote.

I Am Sick of Stump Speeches

Anyone else out there share my feelings? There is nothing more annoying than watching a news network running a story of interest and they break away to watch a live candidate event. Guess what? They give the same speech at every stop! I could recite both candidates stump speeches by rote at this point.

So, in seeing John McCain's stump speech for the 200th time, my questions are:
Senator McCain, can you quit telling me that I will know the names of pork-barrel spenders and just name a few? How did you finish in the beauty pagent if you didn't get Miss Congeniality?

Oh well -- probably the last time I will see either one of them give their stump speech -- I guess I should relish it.

4 more hours until polls close in Virginia and we can get some actual results.

Lines Die Down, Signs of Dirty Pool

Most of the surge of early morning lines appear to have abated during working hours. This may be an indicator that turnout is not as incredibly high as some of us anticipated early this morning, or it may simply be a sign that a lot of people voted early in many states and many are working right now. We'll see if it picks up this afternoon and evening as people get off work. Long lines at poll closure time could lead to delays in getting voting results as by law in mos states, people in line at the poll closure time will be allowed to vote.

There have been several reports of misinformation being put out there via phone -- phone calls from people claiming to be associated with the voting registrar telling people that due to volume their voting date has been changed. This is the worst kind of scummy -- hopefully most people are smart enough that these techniques won't work and I hope they find some of the people behind this and they go to jail for a long time.

I assume that John McCain and Sarah Palin have voted by this point, although I evidentally was not watching coverage when it happened. I know McCain has scheduled events in New Mexico and Colorado, so presumably he voted near when the polls opened.

Looks like all the pre-election polls have been released, as nothing of note has come out in the past several hours.

John McCain is continuing to slide downward in Intrade. The latest odds have him as a 13:1 underdog, his worst position of the race.

Just Voted, Hopefully Everyone Else Does Too

Polls are now open in all of the 48 lower states and in the District of Columbia. Only Hawaii and Alaska are yet to open.

I justed voted in Marlton, New Jersey. No line at all in the polling place although business was brisk. I missed the early morning rush, but this typifies the disparity between upper-middle class neighborhoods and poorer neighborhoods in terms of voting resources. While it is great that I was able to vote in 5 minutes, it is a shame that others, especially those least able to get time off from work, are not afforded the same opportunity.

One new poll of note -- a Zogby poll just released shows Obama up by 11% in Nevada. It is odd to see movement when 60 to 70% of the state has already voted, so this may be an outlier, but it certainly confirms that Obama is a heavy favorite to win there.

Biden and Obama Vote, 44 States Now Open for Voting

It's 9 AM Eastern and 44 states are now open for voting.

A short time ago Barack Obama and Joe Biden both voted in Illinois and Delaware respectively.

It is raining in northern North Carolina and Southern Virginia and there are very long lines in Virginia. Hopefully the weather will not suppress turnout.

37 States Plus DC Now Voting, McCain Slides on Intrade, Election Day Campaign Stops

Polls just opened in Arkansas, bringing the total to 37 states plus the District of Columbia.

On Intrade, John McCain has been sliding for several days. Last week he was slightly better than a 6:1 underdog. Current trading on Intrade has him at as an 11.1:1 underdog.

Both candidates are making campaign stops later this morning -- Obama in Indiana and McCain in Colorado and New Mexico. Both candidates clearly chose the locations as they are fairly local to their home states where they will be voting. I personally don't understand holding events on election day. Don't you want your voters in line voting rather than listening to you speak? Going outside polling places and shaking hands is one thing, holding a rally is something else. It will probably have no effect in the end, but I don't understand these unorthodox moves.

Orderly Election So Far, Only Minor Problems, Obama Surging in Late National Polls

Polls are now open in 36 states plus the District of Columbia.

Only minor issues have been reported so far, the most serious being voting machines in Virginia breaking down. From the reports, paper ballots are being issues in precincts where a majority of machines are breaking down, in accordance with state law. It appears Virginia is doing what it is supposed to be doing and hopefully none of this will have an impact on the race.

Polls released so far today show a surge in support for Obama from yesterday.
Marist -- Obama +9% (unchanged from yesterday)
Zogby -- Obama +11% (Obama +4% since yesterday)
IBD/TIPP* -- Obama +8% (Obama +3% since yesterday)

* This is the "most accurate" poll often cited by the media for 2004 that Republicans had been hanging their bets on as it HAD consistently showed the race closer than other national polls.

Obama is at 52-54% in all the polls, McCain is at 43-44% in all the polls.

Could it be that undecideds are actually breaking disproportionately for Obama?

This could put some of the states that I projected in the red column in play -- I'm specifically thinking about Missouri, Indiana and Georgia.

Latest state polls released today show Obama up by 2% in Ohio, up by 9-10% in Pennsylvania, up by 1-3% in Florida, up by 4-7% in Virginia and tied in Missouri and North Carolina (one poll has Obama up by 1%, one poll has McCain up by 1%.) McCain still leads in Indiana (5%) and West Virginia (11%).

I feel good about my projection yesterday when I said Missuori and North Carolina were true toss-ups (I ultimately have Obama winning North Carolina and McCain winning Missouri), Indiana and West Virginia in the McCain column, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida and Virginia in the Obama column.

High Early Turnout, Obama Leads Popular Vote 15 to 6

Polls are now open in 26 states. More polls open in about half an hour.

From all the news pictures, it appears turnout in the key battleground states (Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Virginia) have long early morning lines and early turnout appears to be high. Good for Obama, likely.

In the votes counted so far, Obama leads 15-6. No, those aren't millions and they aren't electoral votes. They are from the one tiny town in New Hampshire that all vote together at midnight and then immediately count the vote. Probably insignificant, but notably that town has not voted for a Democrat in 40 years and voted for Obama by a better than 2:1 margin.

Hopefully everyone is getting out to vote. I'm going to go about 9 AM after the morning rush dies down, although I still expect to wait in line.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Final Projection with Complete Analysis


Indiana, North Dakota, Missouri, North Carolina, Florida

Montana, Ohio

Virginia, Georgia, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado


Final Analysis of Each Battleground
What the Polls Say: Final Zogby poll shows McCain up by 5%, final Rasumussen shows McCain by by 3%, ARG poll has it even, Indy Star Seltzer poll has Obama up by 1%
Prediction: McCain holds off the Obama assault in this previously dark red state and wins in a close battle with huge margins in rural vote off-setting big win for Obama in Chicago area

What the Polls Say: Rasmussen, ARG and Survey USA have it even, Zogby has Obama up by 1%, Mason-Dixon has McCain up by 1%, Insider Advantage has McCain up by 3%
Prediction: McCain wins by a hair in a recount-worthy state

North Dakota
What the Polls Say: Not much! Most recent Research 2000 poll from 10/29 has McCain up by 1%, all other polls are 10/14 or earlier
Prediction: Obama's ad buy at the end pays off and he wins in a squeaker

North Carolina
What the Polls Say: Final polls have it anywhere from McCain +2% to Obama +6%
Prediction: Massive early voting from African-American pays off and Obama pulls it off by a narrow margin

What the Polls Say: All the final polls have Obama up by 2 to 4% except Rasmussen which has McCain up by 1%
Prediction: Again early voting pays off and Obama wins a close victory

What the Polls Say: Final polls have it anywhere from Obama +7% to McCain +2%
Prediction: McCain's late charge falls just short and Obama wins by a couple of points

What the Polls Say: Final polls all have McCain up by 3 to 4%
Prediction: The polls prove right -- McCain wins by 3 to 4%

What the Polls Say: McCain up by 1 to 5% in the final polls
Prediction: It's a good thing McCain had his last stop planned for Arizona -- he wins it but it is uncomfortably close

What the Polls Say: McCain by 1 to 7%
Prediction: Obama's early voting surge of African-Americans falls just short and McCain holds on to win it

What the Polls Say: Obama by 3 to 6%
Prediction: Northern Virginia and Richmond turn out and deliver the state for Obama

What the Polls Say: Obama by 4 to 10%
Prediction: Early voting and heavy campaigning pay off for Obama and he wins by a decent margin

What the Polls Say: Obama by 4 to 7%
Prediction: Democratic convention in Denver pays off and Obama wins

Missing the cut barely: Pennsylvania (yes it missed making our battleground list), New Mexico, South Dakota, West Virginia. For those of you following PA, the final polls are between 4% and 14% for Obama.

Popular Vote Final Polls
Here are the spreads in all the final polls
First Our Tracking Polls:
Gallup -- Obama +11%
Rasmussen -- Obama +6%
Zogby -- Obama +7%
Hotline -- Obama +5%
Battleground -- Obama +6%
IBD/TIPP -- Obama +5%

Other National Polls:
Marist -- Obama +9%
Fox News -- Obama +7%
NBC/WSJ -- Obama +8%
CBS -- Obama +9%
ABC/WP -- Obama +9%
Ipsos -- Obama +7%
CNN -- Obama +7%
Pew Research -- Obama +6%

Note: Obama at least 50% in every poll

Our prediction seems pretty reasonable, no?

Comparison with Other Major Sites
Here's what the respected sites are saying: -- Obama 338, McCain 200

Difference: North Dakota and North Carolina for McCain, other 48 states called the same -- Obama 353, McCain 185
Difference: North Dakota for McCain, other 49 states called the same -- Obama 353, McCain 185
Difference: North Dakota for McCain, other 49 states called the same -- Obama 367, McCain 171
Difference: Missouri for Obama, other 49 states called the same

Intrade (the gambling money) -- Obama 364, McCain 174
Difference: North Dakota for McCain, Missouri for Obama, other 48 states called the same

There are many, many others, but the key points are:
(1) I am in the vast minority calling North Dakota for Obama (only makes the same call) and I admit that I don't feel like I have enough data to make the call, but I go with what I've got
(2) North Carolina and Missouri are true toss-ups which is why you see them called differently on different sites
(3) There is pretty broad agreement on most everything else.

McCain's Best Case
I do not think McCain has a realistic shot in Pennsylvania -- he is behind by more than 8% in our projection. The final tally may prove closer than that, but he won't win there.

That being the case, McCain needs to win every single battleground state:
Georgia, Arizona, Montana, Indiana and Missouri (where we show him leading)
North Dakota, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Nevada and Colorado

Let's generously say he has an 90% shot in the states we show him leading and a 50% shot in the states that we show him behind. His combined probability for wining all of the states? 0.5% -- 1 in 200. And I don't think he has a 50% shot in the states he is behind in.

If he somehow does all that, he gets to 274 electoral votes and wins.

Obama's Best Case
On the flip side, if Obama runs the table and wins all the aforementioned states, he scores 406 electoral votes. This would be a crushing defeat to the GOP and the biggest margin of victory since 1984 when Reagan scorched Mondale.

Complete Guide to the Coverage
Before 7 PM it is all pointless blather. You may get some early cues on exit poll results since all the anchors will have seen them and have really bad poker faces. But, as we've seen from 2004, the early exit polls are not necessarily great indicators of the final outcome.

So here are the real things to watch (all times are Eastern):
7 PM -- Polls close in Kentucky, South Carolina, Indiana, Georgia, Virginia and Vermont.
Kentucky, Souch Carolina and Vermont are no brainer calls.
If Obama wins any of the 3 from Indiana, Georgia or Virginia, McCain has probably already lost. He would need Pennsylvania to recover at this point.

7:30 PM -- Polls close in West Virginia and Ohio. West Virginia SHOULD break for McCain. If McCain doesn't win Ohio, he's done, regardless of the outcome in Pennsylvania.

8:00 PM -- Polls close in 17 states but the only 3 worth watching are Missouri, Florida and Pennsylvania. If McCain somehow pulls the upset in Pennsylvania (and hasn't already lost a couple of other battleground states), we have a race. If not, even if he has won all the other battlegrounds, he needs Missouri and Florida.

8:30 PM -- Arkansas and North Carolina close. Arkansas should be a quick call for McCain. North Carolina will be a bellweather for if Obama is going to win huge.

9 PM -- Polls close in 12 states, the only notable ones being Colorado and New Mexico. New Mexico should break easily for Obama. If Obama hasn't wrapped it up with an earlier battleground state, Colorado is probably the key.

10 PM -- Polls close in 6 states -- see if I'm right with my unorthodox call of North Dakota for Obama. Nevada is the other key state here. If McCain has somehow run the table in all the other battleground states, this one will decide the election.

11 PM -- Polls close in 5 states -- 4 will break for Obama (the west coast and Hawaii), Idaho will break for McCain by a huge margin

1 AM -- Polls close in Alaska -- hopefully we are all in bed by then, but McCain should coast here

So, basically all the important states close by 10 PM and many close as early as 7 PM.

Haven't had an early night in the past two elections, maybe it will be one this time. Or maybe we will be counting votes in Florida for a month and a half -- who really knows?

Senate and House Watcher
The two key senate races to watch are in North Carolina and Minneosta. Both could legitimately break either way. If the Democrats win both, they will have 57 seats. The only other race that could break their way is in Georgia, but I suspect Saxby Chambliss will hold on. Running the table on these races would give the Dems 58 seats to 40 for the GOP, meaning that a fillibuster could be stopped with the vote of Bernie Sanders (Socialist from Vermont) and Joe Lieberman (Independent from Connecticut.) If Republicans sweep these 3, the count will be 55 to 43 and the fillibuster will still be a real option in many cases.

In the house, I expect Democrats to pick up about 25 seats, but it is so hard to project with 435 races happening.
Key races to watch are:
AL-2, AL-5, CA-4, CO-4, CT-4 (the last GOP seat in New England), FL-8, FL-21, FL-25, GA-8, ID-1, IL-10, IN-3, KS-2, KY-2, LA-4, LA-6, MD-1, MI-7, MI-9, MN-3, MN-6, MS-1, MO-9, NE-2, NV-3, NH-1, NJ-3, NJ-7, NM-1, NM-2, NY-26, NY-29, NC-8, OH-1, OH-15, PA-3, PA-11, WA-8, WY-1

If everything breaks well for the Dem's, they could pick up as many as many as 40 seats or as few as 15 if it breaks more for the GOP. But pick up seats they will.

That's all for this election season...follow my live blog tomorrow night as results come in.

Thanks for reading this election season and if you have not done so already, please vote tomorrow.

Final Projection: Obama 356-182, 52.6% to 45.4%

Note: Complete analysis to follow in a couple of hours
Final Projected Electoral Vote: Obama/Biden 356, McCain/Palin 182
Final Projected Popular Vote: Obama/Biden 52.6%, McCain/Palin 45.4%

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Almost Endgame, Minor Changes Today, Final Projections Tomorrow

(Obama down 0.3%, McCain up 0.3%)
TIME UNTIL FIRST (non-early voting) POLLS OPEN: 1 DAY, 13 HOURS

I'm feeling a little nostalgic as this is my next to last post before the election. I wish I had something extraordinary to reveal but I don't. I expect a huge number of polls to be released tomorrow, so some of our battleground states may see some movement, but for now, only minor changes.


Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota and North Carolina remain as key battlegrounds

Florida, Montana, Georgia and Arizona remain as serious battlegrounds

Virginia -- upgraded from fringe to substantial -- polls have tightened a little here
Ohio remains as a substantial battleground

Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico remain as fringe battlegrounds

South Dakota is dropped as a battleground. Looks like Obama's sweep of the Dakotas is spoiled.

Note: Pennsylvania has been closing for the past few days. Obama's projected lead still stands at 8.3%, which is just above the definition that would allow it to be a fringe battleground. Obama was up by about 12% a couple of weeks ago. If McCain continues to close in polls tomorrow, it will be listed as a battleground on our final projection, although McCain has not led in a poll here in months.

This is the last post I will publish on early voting information as it is essentially all completed. As such, I thought I would include all states for which data are available.

Alabama -- absentee only -- no data available
Alaska -- no data available

Arizona -- no data available

California -- 3.3 million votes, 78% of the 2004 early vote total, 26% of the 2004 total vote
Apparently California voters are not over enthusiastic, but I know of no one who thinks it matters -- Obama will win here.

Colorado -- 1.5 million votes, 144% of the 2004 early vote total, 69% of the 2004 total vote, 2% Democratic edge in early voting
Obviously very high turnout here and most of the votes for this state have already been cast. There is no substantial demographic edge for either candidate, but high early turnout presumably helps Obama in that he has been leading in the polls and this has been presumably "locking in" that result.

Connecticut -- absentee only

Delaware -- absentee only

District of Columbia -- absentee only

Florida -- 4.1 million votes, 149% of 2004 early vote total, 54% of the 2004 total vote, 8% Democratic edge in early voting
Clearly early votes in Florida are favorable to Obama. Early voters are 11% more Democratic than in 2004. Republicans will need big turnout on Tuesday to make up the gap.

Georgia -- 2.0 million votes, 298% of 2004 early vote total, 60% of the 2004 total vote, 35% of votes coming from African-Americans

Assuming Obama wins 95% of the African-American vote, McCain would need to win 72% of the white vote to be even here. I think McCain may legitimately be in more trouble than the polls show. Already, if no more black voters vote, they will represent a higher percentage of the vote than in 2004.

Hawaii -- no data available

Idaho -- no data available

Illinois -- data incomplete, but based on the 3 available counties, at least 0.5M early ballots have been cast, 160% of 2004 early votes and about 9% of the total 2004 vote.

I know of no one, John McCain included, who thinks he has a shot in Illinois.

Indiana -- 0.5 million votes, 174% of the 2004 early vote and 18% of the total 2004 vote

No clear advantage to anyone since Indiana doesn't track either party or race of voters in early voting. Clearly, early turnout is up, but the overall percentage is still fairly low.

Iowa -- 0.5 million votes, 97% of the 2004 early vote and 30% of the total 2004 vote, 19% Democratic edge in early voting

Clearly the demographic edge favors Obama, but the turnout is not up versus 2004. Nothing here to change the view that Obama is comfortably ahead in Iowa.

Kansas -- no data available

Kentucky -- absentee only

Louisiana -- 0.3 million votes, 209% of the 2004 early vote total, 14% of the total 2004 vote, 30% Democratic edge in voting, 36% of early voters African-American

No doubt that the early voters are heavy Obama voters in Louisiana. I don't think it will seriously put the state in play, because the number of votes is too small. McCain wins comfortably here.

Maine -- 0.2 million votes, 102% of the 2004 early vote, 22% of the total 2004 vote, 15% Democratic edge in voting

Not much of a bump in turnout here from 2004. No matter, Obama will win handily here.

Maryland -- absentee only

Massachusetts -- absentee only

Michigan -- no data available

Mississippi -- absentee only

Missouri -- absentee only

Montana -- 0.2 million votes, 187% of 2004 early vote, 41% of the total 2004 vote

No data on demographics, so we can't draw any conclusion here except that a lot more people are voting early. Who knew there were half a million voters in Montana?

Nebraska -- 0.1 million votes, 135% of the 2004 early vote, 19% of the total 2004 vote

Nebraska is McCain country. No information here changes that fact.

Nevada -- 0.6 million votes, 127% of the 2004 early vote, 67% of the total 2004 vote, 21% Democratic edge in early voters in Clark County, 12% in Washoe County

Since those two counties (Las Vegas and Reno) have something like 90% of the voters, these stats look pretty good for Obama. That plus the fact that most people have already voted and he has been ahead in the polls.

New Hampshire -- absentee only

New Jersey -- absentee only
(and I REALLY wanted to early vote)

New Mexico -- Regrettably, only data from 1 county, Bernalillo -- in that county, 73% of the 2004 total votes have already been cast. I have no idea if this is representative of the state.

New York - absentee only

North Carolina -- 2.6 million, 235% of the 2004 early vote, 73% of the 2004 total vote, 21% Democratic edge in early voting, 27% of early voters African-American

These numbers would seem to imply that McCain is in big trouble here. Early voters are 12% more Democratic than in 2004, and heavily African-American versus past years. I think we can suspend with the thought that these are just the same voters voting early given the magnitude of the numbers.

North Dakota -- no data available
(no polls, no early voting data, how's an observer supposed to call a winner in this state, anyway)

Ohio -- our incomplete county-by-county data tells us: at least 0.6 million votes, 104% of 2004 early vote, 11% of the total 2004 vote. I suspect total early voting turnout is much higher than this based on the counties we do have, but it would just be speculation. No clear advantage to either candidate.

Oklahoma -- absentee only

Oregon -- all votes are early because all votes are mail-in. The total received so far is about 50% of the 2004 total vote (which was also all mail-in.)

Pennsylvania -- absentee only

Rhode Island -- absentee only

South Carolina -- absentee only

South Dakota -- no data available

Tennessee -- 1.6 million votes, 133% of the 2004 early vote and 63% of the total 2004 vote

John McCain will win here, never mind what Dick Morris says.

Texas -- incomplete data (only 15 counties) available, but at least 3.1 million votes representing 82% of the 2004 early vote and 42% of the total 2004 vote.

Nothing to sway the point of view that McCain will win handily here.

Utah -- absentee only

Vermont -- no data available

Virginia -- data is available from Fairfax County only -- turnout there is 162% of the 2004 early vote and 17% of the total 2004 vote.

Hard to glean much from this, Obama needs big turnout in Northern Virginia and Richmond to win.

Washington -- incomplete data from only 6 counties -- turnout in those 6 counties appear to be relatively low.

Again, hard to learn much from this, but nothing to make me believe Obama won't win handily here.

West Virginia -- 0.1 million votes, 65% of the 2004 early vote and 13% of the total 2004 vote

I guess Appalachia isn't enthralled about choosing between a socially moderate Republican and a black guy. McCain will win here.

Wisconsin -- no data available

Wyoming -- no data available

So, there you have it, the 2008 early vote. In total, 24.1 million votes have been accounted for, but the final total when all the absentee ballots are countied and the unreported states report will be far higher than that. Gallup national polling indicates that 28% of likely voters have already voted nationally.

Trail Dust
(again, our final edition)
McCain hit Pennsylvania (2 stops), New Hampshire and Florida (1 stop each)
Obama did 3 stops in Ohio.
Palin did 4 stops in Ohio.
Biden did 3 stops in Florida.

Tomorrow (the LAST day of campaigning)
McCain has his busiest schedule of the last two years:
1 stop in Florida
1 stop in Tennessee
1 stop in Pennsylvania
1 stop in Indiana
1 stop in New Mexico
1 stop in Nevada
Last stop in Arizona (Prescott)
(I'm tired just writing that, I hope he doesn't hit any traffic or air traffic delays!)

Obama is not quite as busy:
1 stop in Florida
1 stop in North Carolina
Last stop in Virginia (Manassas Park)

Biden is keeping busy too:
1 stop in Missouri
2 stops in Ohio
Last stop in Pennsylvania (Philadelphia)

Palin as also busy:
1 stop in Ohio
1 stop in Missouri
1 stop in Iowa
1 stop in Colorado
2 stops in Nevada (including Last stop in Elko)

So, there you have it -- the end of the 2008 presidential campaign. I'm done writing about upcoming events, tomorrow I'll publish around 8 PM or so, and there will be 4 sections:
(1) Final Projection
(2) Best Case for McCain
(3) Best Case for Obama
(4) How to Watch the Coverage (Poll Closing Times, States to Watch, etc.)

Thanks for reading throughout this election season. Make sure to check back tomorrow to see the final projections and check back election night -- I'll post live blogs as results come in. The week after the election I'll post our scorecard.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Okay, I'm Ready to Say It: Barack Obama Will Be President

(Obama up 0.2%, McCain down 0.2%)

Barack Obama is going to win the election -- we are just projecting the margin at this point.
Here are my reasons for making this call:
(1) Obama's popular vote lead is insurmountable at this point -- no one has ever come close to closing 6.4% in under 3 days
(2) There is no evidence of movement towards McCain in the battleground states Obama leads
(3) Early voting has locked in a very high percentage of the total vote in many states
(4) There was no October surprise
(5) Obama has all the money going into the last two days to run ads
(6) Obama has the superior ground organization
(7) As I discussed in my last post, national polls have been pretty rock solid in the past few decades in predicting the outcome
(8) Even if McCain pulls off his Pennsylvania and Ohio miracle, where he is investing all his time, he will still lose Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Iowa and Virginia and that gives Obama 270.

Let me list (and rebut) the reasons McCain might win:
(1) The Bradley Effect -- largely debunked in recent if you look at recent data (Harold Ford Jr's run in Tennessee) and even disputed in the Bradley election. Even if it is worth 2 or 3%, McCain still doesn't win.
(2) A late-stage surprise -- if the McCain camp had anything, they'd have fired the bullet by now. The leak today that Obama's aunt was illegally overstaying a visa in the Boston area will have zero effect and this is the best McCain has (and make no doubt that was the source of the leak.)
(3) Undecided having "decided against Obama" and breaking to McCain -- there is almost no history of a 100% undecided break in a presidential race -- besides, Obama is already up over 49% (the number he needs assuming 2% independent vote between Nader/Barr/Mckinney/others) in enough battleground states to win

Having said this you should still vote! You should vote because:
(1) Margin matters. If you are a Republican, you want to diminish Obama's mandate. If you are a Democrat, you want to enhance it.
(2) Downticket is important -- important House and Senate seats are up, whether the Democrats get to 60 seats in the Senate will have a material impact on how policy is conducted in the next 2 years.
(3) There could still be a bombshell -- you never know -- maybe McCain is just waiting until Monday
(4) I could be wrong about everything above -- this election cycle has certainly proved I am a long way from infallible.

At any rate, there will be two more updates to our projection -- one published tomorrow evening, and one published on Monday, which will be the final projection. This site is competing with dozens of others for accuracy -- check after the election to see how we did. There have been fewer new polls both today and yesterday, and I expect Sunday to be a relatively slow day as well. Monday, we will see tons of new polls (my guess is close to 100), so don't be surprised if we see a few late changes to the map on Monday.

Also, Monday, I'll compare our calls with those of other respected sites (,, and a few others.)

Here are the changes for today:

North Carolina -- upgraded from serious to key -- this will definitely be razor-close on election night
Indiana, North Dakota and Missouri also remain as key battlegrounds
(still REALLY need new polling from ND!)

Montana -- downgraded from key to serious -- Mac probably holds on here
Georgia -- upgraded from substantial to serious -- we have to consider the very real possibility based on early voting that Obama will win here, although McCain still leads
Arizona -- upgraded from substantial to serious -- anybody remember Al Gore in 2000?
Florida remains as a serious battleground

Ohio remains as a substantial battleground

Nevada, Colorado, Virginia, New Mexico and South Dakota all remain as fringe battlegrounds

Battleground Early Voting Update (or is everyone else just voting late?)
Here are the latest numbers:
(# voted, % of 2004 early vote, % Democratic edge, % African-American)
Colorado -- 1.5M, 144%, 2%, N/A
Florida -- 3.8M, 130%, 8%, N/A
Georgia -- 2.0M, 298%, N/A, 35%
Indiana -- 0.5M, 174%, N/A, N/A
Nevada -- 0.5M, 113%, N/A, N/A
New Mexico -- data not available
North Carolina -- 2.4M, 215%, 22%, 26%
Ohio -- incomplete data but at least: 0.6M, 97%, N/A, N/A

A few notes on the numbers. Everywhere with complete numbers is WAY up. In many states, over half the general election ballots have already been cast (Colorado, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina already are there, Florida is at 48% and will probably get there.) Florida early voters are 11% more Democratic than in 2004, North Carolina 10%. Huge black turnout in Georgia and North Carolina. We don't know how anyone actually voted, but we sure know that a lot of people from demographics favorable to Obama have already voted.

Trail Dust, Part 1 has a great feature on their website that allows you to look at where the candidates have visited throughout the campaign.

So where have they visited most (more than 40 times)?
Obama: Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia
McCain: Ohio and Pennsylvania

Not very surprising, is it?

Trail Dust, Part 2
Obama -- Colorado and Nevada today. Ohio tomorrow.
Biden -- Indiana and Ohio
McCain -- Pennsylvania and Virginia
Palin -- Florida, North Carolina and Virginia

Has any presidential election been this much fun? Stay tuned -- only a few days left!