Monthly Archives: December 2010

Looking Ahead Towards the 2012 Presidential Map

Even though the 2010 election results aren’t yet finalized, speculation among political pundits about President Obama’s re-election chances already is running rampant.

Whether or not certain Republican candidates can win their party’s nomination and defeat Obama are topics for another day. The main purpose of this report is to simply analyze the mathematics that govern each side’s ability to win the next national election.

Photo: The White House

In 2008, President Obama secured his victory by winning 365 electoral votes (EVs); 270 are required. With reapportionment becoming official before December 31st, the 2012 map will begin to take shape. Right now, though, we know that Obama’s winning coalition of states will yield fewer electoral votes than it did in 2008.

Assuming that Texas gains four congressional seats from reapportionment, and Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, and Utah all add one, a grand total of eight more electoral votes would be assigned to the group of states that supported ’08 Republican nominee John McCain. Obama states like Ohio (down two), New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, and Iowa look to lose districts, thus meaning another 10 votes would be deducted from the President’s previous total. The only McCain state poised to lose a district is Louisiana. Florida, Nevada, and Washington are Obama states that look to gain representation, so add three EVs back to his total. Therefore, the new Obama state configuration would fall to an apparent total of 358 EVs.

The McCain coalition, on the other hand, would see a net gain of seven votes, giving this group of states a future total of 180 electoral votes. Assuming that pre-apportionment estimates are completely correct, which is unlikely (Oregon is in good position to gain and Missouri might lose, for example), the total swing away from the President when merely considering population shifts will be approximately 14 votes, or the size of a state like Michigan or Georgia.

If this analysis is correct, then the Republicans, in order to unseat Mr. Obama, would have to convert states with an electoral vote value of 90 votes, in addition to winning every previous state they claimed in 2008.

How can this be done? From a Republican perspective, they first must regain the states Obama won that traditionally vote for the GOP nominee. Indiana is priority #1, North Carolina is priority #2. Switching Indiana from blue to red would give the Republicans 11 more votes and take away the same number from the Obama total. An N.C. win is a swing of 30 EVs, thus bringing the EV count down to 332 to 206 and putting the GOP within 64 votes of denying the President a second term.

Next come Florida and Ohio. With Texas (38 electoral votes in the next presidential campaign) being the only large state that the Republicans traditionally carry, Florida and Ohio become central to a GOP win. A Democratic candidate can lose both of these states and still win the election, but it is virtually impossible for a Republican to do so. With Florida and Ohio added to the hypothetical Republican total, the adjusted electoral vote count moves to 286 to 252, still in favor of the Obama coalition. This leaves the generic Republican candidate 18 EVs away from winning.

While that can be done by taking Pennsylvania or the president’s home state of Illinois, neither seems likely today, especially the latter. Therefore, the Republicans must add multiple states. Two small swing states that could return to the GOP fold are New Hampshire (4 EVs) and Nevada (6 EVs).

If all the above happens, then the Republican nominee would go over the top by winning just one of the following states: Michigan, Virginia, Wisconsin, or Colorado. Another option, if this latest group of states all remain loyal to Obama, is to carry Iowa and New Mexico (11 total EV’s). These two places are the only ones that have consistently flipped between the two presidential party nominees in the 21st century and must be considered competitive for both the eventual 2012 Democratic and Republican presidential nominees.

Though much will happen to define campaign 2012, the mathematical formula leading to victory will remain as described above.

Sen. Scott Brown Faring Well in Massachusetts

Public Policy Polling was in the field again with another small-sample poll during the past few days, this time surveying potential match-ups against Massachusetts freshman Sen. Scott Brown (R). As you will remember, Brown, then a state Senator, won the January 2010 special election to fill the late Sen. Ted Kennedy’s unexpired final term in office. The seat is now in-cycle, so Brown will be running for his first full term.

The PPP poll sampled 500 Massachusetts voters over the Nov. 29-Dec. 1 period and found Brown to be beating every potential Democratic opponent, including Gov. Deval Patrick who was just re-elected to a second term last month. The new Senator’s job approval is a very respectable 53:29% positive to negative.

When paired with Rep. Mike Capuano (D-MA-8), a man widely believed to soon become an official Senatorial candidate, Brown posts a strong 52-36% lead. The two Democrats who poll the best are Gov. Patrick and Vicki Kennedy, the late Senator’s widow. Brown leads both by seven points. His advantage is 49-42% against Patrick and 48-41% when opposing Mrs. Kennedy. Against lesser known potential opponents, Brown leads Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA-9) 49-30% and enjoys a 49-39% advantage over veteran Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA-7).

In looking at the 10 Republican seats to be contested nationally in the 2012 election cycle, the Massachusetts campaign is commonly viewed to be at the forefront of the GOP vulnerability index. With President Obama leading the top of the ticket in 2012, the turnout model in the heavily Democratic state likely will be a problem for Brown. If these strong early polling numbers keep appearing, the new maverick Senator will be well-positioned to wage a strong fight to keep the seat he so impressively won early this year.

The Missouri Senate: Another Close One Coming

Yesterday’s announcement that former state treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Sarah Steelman (R) will challenge Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) prompted Public Policy Polling to quickly release the results of a new 2012 small-sample poll they were in the process of completing. The survey (11/29-12/1; 515 registered Missouri voters) provides evidence that the Show Me State is moving back to its normal voting pattern of hosting some of the nation’s closest political campaigns after Senator-elect Roy Blunt (R) bucked the trend by winning a 54-41% landslide victory this past November.

According to PPP, McCaskill would lead Steelman 45-44%. To show the stark polarization among voters in the state, 77% of Democrats approve of Sen. McCaskill’s performance in office, while the exact same percentage of Republicans disapprove.

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The Democracy Corps: Why the Dems Lost

Democratic strategist James Carville and pollster Stan Greenberg often come together to conduct electoral studies for the purpose of public education under an organization of their founding called The Democracy Corps. Their new 2010 post-election analysis was just released, which provides some interesting findings and may help explain the election’s “upside-down” effect.

The study was developed from a sampling universe of 2,587 voters from across the country. The live interviews were conducted by telephone, 333 of which were via cell phone. The data was accumulated through three different surveys during the November 1-3 period. The results of the first post-election study (Democracy Corps-Resurgent Republic) came from a subset of 1,000 voters, 111 of whom were using cell phones. The second (Democracy Corps-Campaign for America’s Future) used a different 1,000 voters from within the larger universe, 115 on cell phones, and the third (Democracy Corps-Women’s Voices, Women’s Votes) chose 804 voters, 107 of whom were using cell phones.

While turnout was down for Democratic voter groups across the board, the drop in support among certain subsets was very telling. While the traditional minority group Democratic vote within the African-American and Hispanic communities remained virtually constant when compared to 2006 and 2008, several other voting segments where Democrats did particularly well in the two previous elections did not come through for them in 2010. Among unmarried women, Democratic support was off 12 points, the largest negative number of any group tested. The Dems dropped nine points from their 2008 mark in the industrial Midwest, and eight points among non-southern white rural voters. Their strong ’06 and ’08 showing among suburban voters also receded eight points in 2010.

But, as was detected throughout the 2010 election cycle, the biggest switch away from Democrats and toward Republicans came within the Independent voter sector. When matched against the 2006 and 2008 electoral results, we can now see just how intense the swing became, and it appears the Independent pendulum made a rather unexpected complete and total swing during the four-year period just elapsed.

According to the various Democracy Corps data, Democrats enjoyed an 18-point advantage over Republicans in the 2006 election among Independent voters. This dropped to an eight-point edge in 2008. For the election just past, the Republican surge within this voting group was so large that it also reached the +18-point plateau, signaling that the Independent segment rather astonishingly made a complete full circle in just a four-year period. This confirms that the Independent voting behavior is the number one reason for the difference in the 2010 results as compared to the previous two elections.

The ideological make-up of the three voting universes (2006, 2008, 2010) also reveal a pattern. In 2006, according to previous Democracy Data information, those comprising the voter turnout model described themselves as 47% moderate, 32% conservative, and 20% liberal. In 2008, the segmentation was similar: 44% moderate, 34% conservative, 22% liberal. This year, it was the conservatives who surged to the top, with 42% of the sampled turnout self-identifying with this ideological group, as compared to 38% who claimed to be moderate and 20% liberal.

The ideological breakdown within the 2010 turnout model as compared to the previous two years is also not particularly surprising based upon the electoral results, but may help explain why the GOP landslide actually got stronger as voters moved down the ballot. With a larger and more intensely energized conservative voter block, it is more likely that they continued voting for the less publicized offices in greater numbers than the moderates and liberals. Thus, as predicted before the election, the conservative energy did prove to be the defining factor, but particularly so when analyzing the election’s “upside-down” effect. We are using this phrase to describe the landslide of 2010 and how it actually gained Republican strength down the ballot as opposed to losing it, which is more typical.

Expect more such data to be released by other sources in the coming weeks that will help fully explain why the American people voted as they did on November 2, 2010.