Friday, July 27, 2012

And the Winner Is....Predicting the 2012 Presidential Election

Note: Several months ago I published an article predicting the 2012 presidential race.  On July 26, 2012 I was the keynote speaker at the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities Summer Conference/Annual Awards Dinner where I updated my prediction.  Here is a summary of my talk and prediction.

    Presidential public opinion polls are perplexing. Some polls put Obama ahead of Romney, some say the race is tightening. Others find Obama ahead in critical swing states while others describe swing voters as perhaps moving toward Romney. 

    Ignore all of these polls.  The only three numbers I think that are important are these:  10/10/270.   Let me explain.

    You should ignore the polls first because they are snapshots in time, more than almost four months before the November elections.  Too many things can happen–a collapsing economy, war in Syria, gas prices, campaign gaffes–which can impact the race in the next few months.  Ignore the polls also because they are national opinion polls reflecting aggregate opinion across the county.  As Florida in the 2000 presidential election taught us, one can win the popular vote in a presidential election (as Al Gore did) but still lose the presidency in the Electoral College.  What matters most is winning 270 electoral votes.  The presidency is a battle not across 50 states but in 50 states.  In contrast to the Republican presidential contest that has turned less from winning individual states than to amassing delegates, the general election in November is really one of winning enough electoral votes to reach 270–a majority of the 538 electoral votes at stake.

    What complicates the race to 270 is that with the exception of Maine and Nebraska, the remaining 48 states plus the District of Columbia award their electoral votes on a winner-take-all basis.  Whichever candidate wins a plurality of the popular vote in a particular state wins all of its electoral votes.  Thus the general election is both about winning states and amassing delegates.

    Why is all of this important?  Simply the presidential race is over in 40 states.  There are some states that are reliably Democratic or Republican.  No one seriously thinks a Republican is going to win New York and even though Mitt Romney is its former governor, neither he nor any other Republican has a prayer to win Massachusetts.  Conversely, even though Romney’s recent bad news was that he could not prevail in Alabama and Mississippi, the good news for him and Republicans is that no Democrat is going to win there.  The race for the presidency is simply over in these states and Democrats in Texas and Republicans in California might as well do something else besides casting presidential votes in November.

    Barack Obama is reasonably assured of winning California (55 electoral votes), Connecticut (7), Delaware (3), Hawaii (4), Illinois (20), Maine (4), Maryland (10), Massachusetts (11), New Jersey (14), New York (29),  Oregon (7),  Rhode Island (4), Vermont (3), Washington state (12) and Washington, D.C. (3).  And despite protests from Republicans that Minnesota (10) is competitive, that is a fairy tale. If Minnesota is a swing state then it is truly over for Obama. Don’t look for the candidates or TV ads to be here come October. Thus, Obama starts with 15 states (plus D.C.) and 196 electoral votes.

    Conversely, Mitt Romney or any other Republican nominee is reasonably assured of winning Alabama (9), Alaska (3), Arkansas (6), Georgia (16), Idaho (4), Kansas (6), Kentucky (8), Louisiana (8), Mississippi (6), Montana (3), Nebraska (5), North Dakota (3), Oklahoma (7), South Carolina (9), South Dakota (3), Tennessee (11), Texas (38), Utah (6), West Virginia (5) and Wyoming (3).  Moreover, it was luck in 2008 that Obama won Indiana (11) and that is not in the cards this year.  This is a total of 21 states and 170 electoral votes. 

    Initially, this means a total of 14 states, with 172 electoral votes, are potentially in play. These swing states will determine the outcome of the election and within them, swing voters–roughly 10-15% of the voters–will make the difference.  Thus, the battle for the presidency is really over what a handful of swing voters do in 14 swing states.  These states are:  Arizona (11), Colorado (9), Florida (29), Iowa (6), Michigan (16), Missouri (10), Nevada (6), New Hampshire (4), New Mexico (5), North Carolina (15) Ohio (18), Pennsylvania (20) Virginia (13), and Wisconsin (10).

    Now some of the states are debatable as swing.  It is a long shot for Democrats to win Arizona even with a strong Hispanic turnout.  In hopes of winning North Carolina Democrats are holding their convention in Charlotte.  But there is no evidence that there is a convention bump; look to the Republican National Convention in Minnesota in 2008 as rendering North Carolina a long shot.  Similarly, Republicans consistently see Pennsylvania as one that they can win, but the Keystone State, as well as Michigan, remain more Democratic than Republican.  The last time the GOP won Pennsylvania was in 1984 with Ronald Reagan. In the case of Michigan, Republicans running against the auto bailout seem to be a losing strategy.  Thus, the original 14 state list could be reduced to ten, leaving Obama with 232 electoral votes, and a Republican nominee with 196.  This leaves 110 electoral votes in contest.

    These states are: Colorado (9), Florida (29), Iowa (6), Missouri (10), Nevada (6), New Hampshire (4), New Mexico (5), Ohio (18), Virginia (13), and Wisconsin (10).

    If pressed I could even make the argument that it is over in Wisconsin (Obama) and Missouri (Romney) but will not.

    In these swing states the percentage of undecideds ranges from 10% in Colorado, Ohio, Florida, Tennessee, Iowa, and Missouri, to about 7 percent in Nevada, with the overall undecideds in the country at 10%. Thus this is how I arrive at 10/10/270–Ten percent of the voters in ten states determine who gets to 270.

    Now the question is who the undecideds are and what will move them. Politics is about moving marginals (swing voters) (politics as a bar fight) Consider who these voters are and the issues that concern them. 

    First they are the unemployed, struggling middle class affected by the economy gas prices, and unemployment. These are the white working class. Bad news for Obama is that he does not connect with them. Good news for Obama, they also do not connect with Romney.

    The second group of swing voters include moderate women concerned by recent debates over reproductive rights, birth control, and family issues. These are the soccer moms. The swing to the right has alienated many of these women from the GOP and Obama and the Democrats seem to be enjoying an unusually large gender gap this year.

    The third group of swing voters are young people under thirty. It is odd to call them swing voters especially since four years ago they came out strong for Obama. This time around they are nowhere near as excited by him as they were in 2008, mostly because of economic issues and the failure of Obama really to connect with them.. These voters should be part of Obama’s base but because of their unpredictable turnout it is apt to call them swing voters.  If they do show up they will vote for Obama.

    Potentially these three groups and issues overlap; making it difficult to decide which is the most important or will tip the balance in the election.  But assume for minute that this presidential election is similar to many others in that it is a economic referendum on the incumbent–then it is the economy that is the main issue.  How is the economy doing in these swing states?  It is a mixed bag, with unemployment levels stagnating along with economic growth.  Moreover, neither candidate seems to be doing a good job coming up with an election narrative except for saying “I’m not Obama” or “I’m not Romney.”

    Having said all that, here is how I think the remaining states are tipping now.

    Add to Obama’s 232 the following states: Colorado (9), Nevada (6), New Hampshire (4), New Mexico (5), and Wisconsin (10).  This is 34 more electoral votes that gets him to 268, two short of the necessary 270.

    Add to Romney’s 196 :  Missouri (10), Virginia (13).  This is 23 more electoral votes and gets him to 219,still 51 short.

    Three states, Florida (29), Iowa (6), Ohio (18), total 53 electoral votes, and they are too close to call at this time. Romney needs all three states to win, Obama one state to win.

    Unless this election is a replay of 1980 where disgust for the status quo and Carter was so strong that it tipped millions of swing voters in the last 72 hours to vote for Reagan, I do not see Romney presenting winning all three of these states.  Obama wins at least one of these states, thereby ensuring his re-election.  Obama wins with 274-321 electoral votes.


  1. Presidential elections don't have to be this way.

    The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps. There would no longer be a handful of 'battleground' states where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in more than 3/4ths of the states, like Minnesota, that now are just 'spectators' and ignored after the primaries.

    When the bill is enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes– enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538), all the electoral votes from the enacting states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC.

    The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for President. Historically, virtually all of the major changes in the method of electing the President, including ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote and 48 current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have come about by state legislative action.

    A survey of Minnesota voters showed 75% overall support for a national popular vote for President.
    Support was 84% among Democrats, 69% among Republicans, and 68% among others.
    By age, support was 74% among 18-29 year olds, 73% among 30-45 year olds, 77% among 46-65 year olds, and 75% for those older than 65.
    By gender, support was 83% among women and 67% among men.

    In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in virtually every state surveyed in recent polls in closely divided Battleground states: CO – 68%, FL – 78%, IA 75%, MI – 73%, MO – 70%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM– 76%, NC – 74%, OH – 70%, PA – 78%, VA – 74%, and WI – 71%; in Small states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK – 70%, DC – 76%, DE – 75%, ID – 77%, ME – 77%, MT – 72%, NE 74%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM – 76%, OK – 81%, RI – 74%, SD – 71%, UT – 70%, VT – 75%, WV – 81%, and WY – 69%; in Southern and Border states: AR – 80%,, KY- 80%, MS – 77%, MO – 70%, NC – 74%, OK – 81%, SC – 71%, TN – 83%, VA – 74%, and WV – 81%; and in other states polled: AZ – 67%, CA – 70%, CT – 74%, MA – 73%, MN – 75%, NY – 79%, OR – 76%, and WA – 77%. Americans believe that the candidate who receives the most votes should win.

    The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers in 21 states. The bill has been enacted by 9 jurisdictions possessing 132 electoral votes - 49% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.

    Follow National Popular Vote on Facebook via NationalPopularVoteInc

    1. The electee should be accountable to the voter.

      In a critical, winner-take-all state, no one opposing voters is represented; worse is that just enough tinkering to ensure that all the states' votes in a close election are awarded to the candidate with a handful of votes certified by a commission dominated by one party or the other tips the election in favor of a candidate who, in effect, steals the election.

      By focusing on a deliberate miscount of the vote in one or two states (Bush in Florida in 2000, for example), the entire election can be decided by a small, monied, influential cabal.

  2. The Republicans will never allow this idea to become law....They need to divide and conquer in order to win.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. 90% of Romney's support consists of whites. Few of these people really want more of their tax dollars subsidizing companies that send American jobs abroad. Few want the privatization of Social Security or the end of Medicare as we know it in exchange for vouchers with which we take our changes every year on the market, where insurance companies--exempt from anti-trust--laws, charge what the market will bear.

      Whites will not vote for Romney; they are voting anti-Obama, their decision made not from the head but from the gut.

      If whites, like other Americans, voted their best interests, Romney would be buried in the greatest landslide in American history.

  3. On June 7, 2011, the Republican-controlled New York Senate passed the National Popular Vote bill by a 47–13 margin, with Republicans favoring the bill by 21–11. Republicans endorsed by the Conservative Party favored the bill 17–7.

    Jason Cabel Roe, a lifelong conservative activist and professional political consultant wrote in National Popular Vote is Good for Republicans: "I strongly support National Popular Vote. It is good for Republicans, it is good for conservatives . . . , and it is good for America. National Popular Vote is not a grand conspiracy hatched by the Left to manipulate the election outcome.
    It is a bipartisan effort of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents to allow every state – and every voter – to have a say in the selection of our President, and not just the 15 Battle Ground States.

    National Popular Vote is not a change that can be easily explained, nor the ramifications thought through in sound bites. It takes a keen political mind to understand just how much it can help . . . Republicans. . . . Opponents either have a knee-jerk reaction to the idea or don’t fully understand it. . . . We believe that the more exposure and discussion the reform has the more support that will build for it."

    Former Tennessee U.S. Senator and 2008 presidential candidate Fred Thompson(R), former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar (R), and former U.S. Representative Tom Tancredo (R-CO) are co-champions of National Popular Vote.

    National Popular Vote's National Advisory Board includes former Senators Jake Garn (R–UT), and David Durenberger (R–MN) and former congressmen John Anderson (R–IL, I), John Buchanan (R–AL), and Tom Campbell (R–CA).

    Saul Anuzis, former Chairman of the Michigan Republican Party for five years and a former candidate for chairman of the Republican National Committee, supports the National Popular Vote plan as the fairest way to make sure every vote matters, and also as a way to help Conservative Republican candidates. This is not a partisan issue and the NPV plan would not help either party over the other.

    Rich Bolen, a Constitutional scholar, attorney at law, and Republican Party Chairman for Lexington County, South Carolina, wrote:"A Conservative Case for National Popular Vote: Why I support a state-based plan to reform the Electoral College."

  4. My question is: would these proposed changes help reduce the influence of big money in national campaigns?

    1. If Big Money could not be concentrated in one or two critical winner-take-all states, Big Money would at least have to spend a lot more. For example, in 2000 GWB got 201 electoral votes (he needed 270 to win). In a virtual tie, as was the case in Florida, at least 10 of the state's electoral votes should have been awarded to Gore. The "investment" could be focused on one state. If the "investment" had to be made in many states, the cost would be multiples of buying an election in just one or two states.

      We would be a much better, more prosperous country had GWB's brother, the Republican party charged with the vote count, and the Supreme Court, with five partisan judges, not stolen the election from the rightful winner of a fair count in Florida, or--better--the winner of the popular count (Gore beat Bush by one-half million votes).

      It is in our national interest, however, to allow as little private money into elections. Senators and Congressmen on Capitol Hill must spend at least half their time not representing your interests and mine, but raising money for the next election and the Party.

      The election season goes on and one for an intolerable length of time.

      We must decide that we the people will finance elections, and that the candidate will play by our rules: say, 90 days to choose a candidate and campaign--all primaries, caucuses, etc., must be held during those three months; fact-checked campaign statements with fines imposed for attempts to deceive the public; non-partisan election committees; free time on radio and TV, and free space in newspapers and magazines.

      If we decide that our problem is Big Business in government and not government in Big Business, then we need to get Big Business out of government. As long as Big Business can "contribute" all it wants to candidates who will reward their supporters, we will see no end to the growth of the plutocratic corporatocracy that now pulls the strings of its puppets in government--especially those forced to sign an oath to a corporatist lobbyist like Grover Norquist.

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