USA Presidency 2008 Archive

Electoral maps

Via Crikey, Manhattan tech blogger Jason Kottke has posted a variety of different organisations’ maps used to display results in the US presidential election. They are all interesting to look at the different styles, but there’s two I wanted to post in particular, from Crikey and The Onion respectively.

US08: Summary of results part 1 – the Presidency

Barack Obama has been elected 44th President of the United States. In addition to winning all of those states won by John Kerry in 2004 (Hawaii, the three West Coast states, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Maryland, DC and everything to the northeast, including New York and all of New England), Obama has carried:

  • Nevada (5 EVs)
  • Colorado (9)
  • New Mexico (5)
  • Iowa (7)
  • Indiana (11)
  • Ohio (20)
  • Virginia (13)
  • Florida (27)

In addition, Obama is slightly ahead in North Carolina, leading by 12,160 votes, out of over 2 million cast. McCain held on by 6,000 votes in Missouri. Georgia appears in the McCain camp, 53-46, but a large number of votes have not yet been registered, believed to be early votes leaning to Obama, and AP has not yet called the state. All other states have gone to McCain.

Some points of interest:

  • Barack Obama led in Montana early in the count, before eventually losing, 50-47.
  • For much of the night it appeared possible that Obama would win one of Nebraska’s five EVs. Nebraska and Maine both split their EVs, with 2 EVs going to the statewide winner, with one each going to each congressional district. However the two states have never split their EVs since changing their system of electing presidential electors.
  • John McCain ended up winning in Arizona by only nine points, 54-45.
  • Obama is the first Democrat since 1964 to win in states such as Indiana and Virginia.

On the last count of the night, the popular vote sits at:

  • Obama – 52.3% – 62.2 million votes
  • McCain – 46.4% – 55.2 million votes

With George W. Bush polling 62.04 million votes in 2004, Obama now stands as the single candidate to have received the most votes in global electoral history. In comparison, John Kerry polled 59m, Al Gore polled 50.999m and George W Bush polled 50.45m in his first election in 2000. It appears that the highest vote for a single candidate in a non-US election was the 58.3m votes cast for Lula de Silva in the second round of his re-election in 2006. Lula also polled over 52m in his first election campaign in 2002. To put it in a ranking:

  1. Barack Obama 2008 – 62.2 million
  2. George W. Bush 2004 – 62.0 million
  3. John Kerry 2004 – 59.0 million
  4. Lula de Silva 2006 – 58.3 million
  5. John McCain 2008 – 55.3 million
  6. Ronald Reagan 1984 – 54.5 million
  7. Lula de Silva 2002 – 52.8 million
  8. Al Gore 2000 – 51.0 million
  9. George W. Bush 2000 – 50.5 million
  10. George H. W. Bush 1988 – 48.9 million
  11. Bill Clinton 1996 – 47.4 million
  12. Richard Nixon 1972 – 47.2 million
  13. Bill Clinton 1992 – 44.2 million
  14. Ronald Reagan 1980 – 43.5 million
  15. Lyndon Johnson 1964 – 43.1 million
  16. Michael Dukakis 1988 – 41.8 million
  17. Jimmy Carter 1976 – 40.8 million

As far as I can tell, these are the only 16 candidates in global history to poll over 40 million votes, and only one of them (Lula de Silva) is not an American. Of course, countries like India have seen parties poll much higher numbers, but no country with a presidential system and a functioning democracy has such large numbers of voters as the US and Brazil. In comparison, the Indian National Congress polled 100 million votes in the 2004 federal election, but only won 26% of the vote.

Update: oops, I missed John McCain.

Liveblogging USA

5:22pm – So I’m going home. With the Presidency, it appears that Obama will pick up North Carolina and Indiana, while Missouri will go to McCain. Montana is going down to the wire, with McCain just taking the lead, with a lead of 850 votes, out of 250,000 votes cast. In the Senate, the Democrats have gained five Senate seats, and should pick up Alaska when the results flow in. In Oregon, the Democrat leads by 9500 votes, with 40% of the precincts reporting. In Minnesota, Democrat Al Franken has fallen behind, with Senator Coleman leading by 3300 out of almost 2 million votes. However, at least 150,000 votes are yet to be counted in Hennepin County, which covers Minneapolis. Franken is leading 52-35 in Hennepin County, so it’s not over yet. Anyway, I’ll post a summary post hopefully tonight or maybe tomorrow. Until then, goodbye.

4:20pm – So Obama’s speech finished. He is slightly ahead in Indiana and North Carolina, leading substantially in Montana and behind in Missouri. It appears the result will be 368-170. In the Senate, the Democrat is ahead by 1% in Oregon and only 15,000 votes behind in Minnesota. Polls are yet to close in Alaska, while the Democrats have won five other Senate seats. I probably won’t keep updating this now.

3:08pm – All the networks called the result immediately after polls closed on the West Coast. Barack Obama elected President of the United States. He’s now pulling even in Indiana and North Carolina and is in a strong position in Virginia and Florida. The Senate race in Minnesota is on a razor’s edge.

2:05pm – Oz wants a summary. Obama looks to have made modest gains in the electoral map, winning Ohio and New Mexico, possibly also Colorado, Virginia and Florida with outside shots in North Carolina, Indiana and Missouri. In the Senate, the Dems have gained 4, will almost certainly gain 3 more, with Minnesota a toss-up. No idea about the House of Representatives.

1:57pm – The sole remaining Republican in New England, Chris Shays, has been defeated in his congressional race.

1:46pm – In the Senate, the Democrats have gained 4 seats. In Colorado it is too early to call, Minnesota is too early and too close to call, and Alaska and Oregon are still voting. Minnesota has Coleman leading 45-38, but only 1% has been counted. Udall is leading 47-35 in Colorado with 3% counted.

1:34pm – The presidential race is over. Obama has now picked up New Mexico and Ohio, plus all Kerry states which have closed. The only four remaining Kerry states, Hawaii, California, Washington and Oregon, will be safely Obama and put him over the top. I’m gonna focus on the Senate now.

1:25pm – If you take MSNBC’s number of 195 for Obama, add 55 in California, 4 in Hawaii, 11 in Washington and 7 in Oregon, you come up with 272. Those four states are the only four Kerry states not to be called already for Obama. It’s almost over.

1:22pm – Obama has won Ohio, according to MSNBC. The first state to flip. MSNBC has the race as 195-76. He could lose Virginia and every other Bush state and still win.

1:19pm – Some interesting factoids: Ohio now, with 8% counted, has Obama leading 57-41. Texas has McCain only leading by a slim margin, although I don’t expect that to hold. McCain’s lead in Virginia has shrank to a slender 25,000 votes with over 60% counted. This is going to be one close state. Incredibly, South Dakota is close while North Dakota appears to be safely going to McCain.

1:03pm – Chris Matthews says they won’t be able to decide the race until after 11pm (3pm our time).

1:00pm – MSNBC has called a bunch of states with the latest poll-closing. The only toss-up was North Dakota, which went to McCain. MSNBC now has it as 175-70, with no states changing from the 2004 race so far.

12:54pm – Republicans hold a solid lead in Senate race in Georgia, although the race is only 51-49 for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell with a lot of votes counted. Polls close in much of the Mountain West at 1pm. 2% of votes counted in Texas senate race, and it’s extremely close

12:51pm – McCain has held onto Georgia. In Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia Obama is leading, although the numbers are miniscule in Ohio and West Virginia and the lead is slim in Florida. In North Carolina, Obama leads by 9% with 16% reporting.

12:49pm AEDT – Democrats have also won Elizabeth Dole’s Senate seat in North Carolina. 3 gains so far. No states have switched parties in the presidential race so far, although Obama is neck-and-neck in three key Bush states.

12:44pm AEDT (8:44pm EST) - Just got back to the office, sorry about the absence. In the Senate, the Democrats have already gained two seats, in New Hampshire and Virginia. MSNBC has Obama on 103 EVs, with McCain on 58. It appears that Indiana, Florida and Virginia are all extremely close. The only two blue states in danger, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, are holding firm.

7:50am AEDT (3:50pm EST) – I recommend this map, showing closing times in both US eastern time and AEDT for the entire US. Very useful to know when to watch where.

6:30am AEDT (2:30pm EST) – Votes are being cast across the entire mainland USA by now. First exit polls should come through around 9am AEDT. For a guide to which states close their polls when, read Slate’s hour-by-hour guide. The first races of interest are Indiana and Kentucky at 10am. If Indiana goes to Obama, then he’s on track for a solid victory. If Kentucky falls to the Democrats in the Senate, the Dems are on track for a 60-seat majority, and will have knocked off the Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell. Liveblogging is also available at Pollbludger and an open thread on the topic has been posted at Larvatus Prodeo.

Just f**king vote already! The US election prediction thread

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With twenty-four hours to go until polls close in the first states in the US election, I thought it was a good time to make predictions and look at the state of the race. The Pollster.com national average has Obama leading McCain by 7% as undecided voters make their choice. Both candidates’ numbers are increasing, but the gap remains solidly in Obama’s favour. Likewise in the key states.

So here is my predicted election map result:

This prediction gives Obama all Kerry states, as well as Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio, Virginia and Florida, for a total of 349 Electoral Votes. I came close to calling North Dakota and North Caroline for Obama, but I decided against it.

With the Senate, my prediction is that Democrats retain all of their seats, and pick up the following Republican seats:

  • Alaska
  • Oregon
  • Colorado
  • New Mexico
  • Minnesota
  • North Carolina
  • Virginia
  • New Hampshire

This produces a total of 57 Democrats, 41 Republicans and 2 Independents. I called Kentucky and Georgia for the Republican incumbents, but those two races will be the most interesting contests to watch tomorrow. If they fall, the Democrats with Bernie Sanders will have the fillibuster-proof majority, and will have defeated the Senate Minority Leader.

So what are your predictions? Post them in the comments below.

I’m going to try and liveblog tomorrow as the results flow in. Check in then for the latest updates.

Why Pennsylvania?

John McCain’s campaign has focused much of its energy on Pennsylvania, despite remaining well short of winning the state in most polls. At first glance, the state appears to be a tough ask, which it is, but McCain’s Pennsylvania strategy reflects his overall difficult position on the electoral map.

Pollster.com rates states that “lean Republican”, “lean Democrat” and “toss-up” adding up to a total of 156 electoral votes, more than a quarter of the total EVs. However, when you look at the map, every single one of those states voted for George W. Bush in 2004. In addition to the 252 EVs won by John Kerry in 2004, the 7 EVs of Iowa are also classed as “safe Democrat”.

Assuming that the race is limited to current toss-up and leaning states, John McCain needs to contain his losses to 9 EVs out of 156. That means over 90% of close EVs need to fall into John McCain’s lap. In contrast, Barack Obama only needs to win eleven of 156 votes. So while McCain could still theoretically win using the same states as Bush in 2004, he would need to be lucky in a wide variety of states. Assuming Iowa is lost, McCain could lose one of Mississippi, New Mexico or Nevada, or all three of the marginal Plains States. But if any of the larger marginal states, including Missouri, North Carolina, Virginia, Indiana, Arizona, Colorado, or the bigger states of Ohio or Florida. Any one of these would be sufficient to knock out McCain’s chances.

Considering that McCain is currently behind in six different states, each of which would be solely sufficient to defeat him, McCain’s only alternative is expand the field. Hence Pennsylvania. Four Gore/Kerry states carry over 20 EVs. California’s 55 EVs are well out of reach, as is New York’s 31 EVs. Barack Obama has locked in Illinois’ 21 EVs. Considering Pennsylvania’s relatively marginal status, and Obama’s poor performance in the Pennsylvania primary, clearly the McCain campaign has decided that Pennsylvania is the best prospect for expanding the field. If Pennsylvania was to become competitive, then McCain would only need to win 147 out of 177, allowing him to concede losses in Virginia and other small states.

There’s only two problems with this strategy:

  • One Blue state isn’t enough to stem the tide of losses in Red states. If Virginia and either Florida or Ohio falls, then Pennsylvania won’t be enough, before counting other losses in the Mountain West and the South.
  • Pennsylvania still hasn’t shifted. Pollster.com still has Obama leading by 10% in Pennsylvania.

But I guess when you’re in as weak a position as John McCain is, the Pennsylvania strategy is the best you can find.

Swing state stories: Virginia

Since Eisenhower’s first election in 1952, Virginia has been a solidly Republican state, only going to the Democrats in the landslide election of 1964. As a former Confederate state, the state was solidly Democratic until the 1950s and 1960s, which saw a switch to the Republicans.

In local politics, Virginia was dominated by Republicans in the 1990s, with Republican governors George Allen and Jim Gilmore winning election in 1993 and 1997 respectively. Virginia has the stricted term limits law in the country, with governors limited to one four-year term in office. During the 1990s the Senate contingent was split between Democrat Chuck Robb and Republican John Warner.

Virginia gained an extra seat in the US House of Representatives in 1993, going from 10 to 11 seats. After Democrats lost one seat at the 1994 Republican landslide, but held six of eleven seats from 1994 to 2000. The 2000 election saw Virgil Goode change from Democrat to Independent, resulting in a 5-5-1 split, while the Republicans won control of the Virginian House of Delegates and former governor George Allen won the Senate seat for the Republicans. The following redistricting in 2001 strongly favoured the Republicans. They gained a seat at a 2001 special election in the 4th district. The 2002 election saw one more Republican defeat a Democrat, while Independent Virgil Goode was re-elected as a Republican. The Republicans have maintained this 8-3 lead in Virginia House of Representatives seats at the 2004 and 2006 elections.

The Democrats won back control of the governorship in 2001, when liberal businessman Mark Warner was elected to office. The 2005 election saw his lieutenant governor, Tim Kaine, elected as his successor.

The 2006 race for the Senate saw former Reagan Secretary of the Navy and Vietnam veteran Jim Webb challenge sitting Senator George Allen. Webb remained behind for most of the campaign, until the turning point of the Macaca scandal in August, when Allen was videoed using a racial epithet against a Webb supporter of Indian heritage who appeared at an Allen event. After Webb began climbing in the polls, he took the lead in late October and ended up defeating Alllen by a slim 9329 votes, a margin of 0.4%. The race was the closest in the country and decided which party would hold a majority in the Senate.

Geographically, Virginia is a divided state. A quarter of Virginia’s population lives in Northern Virginia, which is made up essentially of the southern suburbs of Washington DC, leaning heavily to the Democrats. In contrast, the southern, more rural districts, are heavily dominated by the Republicans.

The races in 2008

In late August 2007, long-serving Republican Senator John Warner announced that he would retire at the 2008 election. Two weeks later, former governor Mark Warner (no relation) announced he would run as a Democratic candidate for Senate. Facing no Democratic primary opposition, Warner took an early lead over his potential Republican opponents. The Republicans chose another former governor, Jim Gilmore, following Gilmore’s withdrawal from the Republican presidential primary. Yet Warner has dominated the race for the entire campaign. The Pollster.com average has strongly favoured Warner for the entire campaign, Warner currently leads by 59.4% to 32%. Out of all the Democrats’ potential Senate gains in 2008, Warner is the most likely. It seems impossible that the Democrats won’t pick up this seat.

In addition to the three seats won in the past three elections, the Democrats appear on track to win back the Northern Virginia 11th District, after losing it at the 1994 election. In addition, the Democrats have outside shots of winning the 2nd and 5th Districts. In particular, the 2nd District has seen a rapid rise in the Democrat vote in the last few months.

The presidential race in Virginia has also shifted strongly to the Democrats. John McCain held a lead from February until June, when his gradually declining lead was eliminated. McCain and Obama remained neck-and-neck for three months, before McCain’s vote collapsed in mid-September, with Obama taking a dominant lead in the state, with Obama now leading by an average of 8.1%. Virginia’s status as a solid Obama gain is making it extremely difficult for McCain to find the 270 electoral votes needed to win. If Obama carries through on his current lead and wins, Virginia will likely be an essential component of that victory.

Pollster.com rolling average of the Virginia presidential race

US08: It ain’t over ’til it’s over, but…

As an extra item for people to consider, Charlie Cook lays out how the metrics of the race show that Obama’s position is much stronger than what the polls say. The simple facts he lay out demonstrate Obama’s dominance and how John McCain will struggle to come close:

The metrics of this election argue strongly that this campaign is over, it’s only the memory of many an election that seemed over but wasn’t that is keeping us from closing the book mentally on this one. First, no candidate behind this far in the national polls, this late in the campaign has come back to win. Sure, we have seen come-from-behind victories, but they didn’t come back this far this late.

Well worth reading in full.

US08: Two weeks out

The United States will elect its 44th President in less than two weeks time, on Tuesday, November 4. You would have to say that Barack Obama is in a dominant position as we move into the final stretch. According to Pollster.com, Barack Obama holds 286 electoral votes, John McCain holds 157 and 95 EVs are considered toss-ups, although most “toss-up” states lean slightly towards Obama.

Senator Obama has been the clear frontrunner ever since he took the lead in the Democratic primary. Since the 2006 midterm elections delivered a victory to the Democrats, polls have leaned towards the Democrats for most of the campaign. Senator McCain briefly took the lead in the aftermath of the Republican National Convention, as Governor Sarah Palin dominated the media. Poor performances from Governor Palin, combined with the financial crisis, saw Obama open a gaping lead in the national polls and in the key states. This has begun to narrow in the last few days, although Obama remains well in front.

In particular, the electoral geography strongly favours Barack Obama. John Kerry and Al Gore each came only one state short of winning government, meaning that Barack Obama, assuming he can hold onto all the Kerry states, only needs to win one medium-sized Bush state to win the election. According to Pollster, every single seat won by John Kerry is in the Obama camp, as well as New Mexico, Colorado, and Virginia. In addition, every single toss-up state voted for Bush in 2004. This means that the battle is being fought almost exclusively on John McCain’s territory, meaning he needs to win practically every swing state in order to come out on top.

Funding makes it even harder for McCain to compete. Barack Obama has demonstrated a phenomenal ability to raise money, including from gaining huge numbers of smaller donations, as opposed to larger donations from richer donors. In the month of September, Obama raised a mind-boggling $150 million. Over 3.1 million Americans have now donated to the Obama campaign, and the average donation still sits under $100 per donor. In contrast, the McCain campaign has accepted public funding, which will dramatically limit its spending power from August to November.

The last few days have seen a narrative emerging of conservatives turning on John McCain, some endorsing Barack Obama while many have criticised the McCain campaign’s strategy in the last few weeks. Many have expressed disappointment with the performance of Sarah Palin and how the decision to appoint her to the ticket reflect’s on John McCain’s ability to serve as President. This peaked with the endorsement of Barack Obama by former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

With two weeks to go, Barack Obama looks in a very strong position, and very likely to win. While nothing can be ruled out, it will be extremely difficult for John McCain to overcome Obama’s massive advantage. The longest and most expensive election campaign in US history looks likely to end with a historical result, with Obama likely to win.