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:
3bluedudes.com -- off by 4 EV's (too many for Obama)
electionprojection.com -- off by 24 EV's (too many for McCain)
electoral-vote.com -- off by 24 EV's (too many for McCain)
karlrove.com -- off by 54 EV's (too many for McCain)
realclearpolitics.com -- off by 54 EV's (too many for McCain)
intrade.com -- off by 38 EV's (too many for McCain)
npr.com -- off by 148 EV's (too many for McCain)

There are a ton of others -- you can go to 3bluedudes.com to see the complete list, but this is a fairly representative sample. 3bluedudes.com 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.

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