Electoral College

Reapportionment: Policy Matters

Christmas has come a few days early this year in the form of the decennial data dump from the U.S. Census Bureau that kicks off the redistricting scramble. The reapportionment numbers were not only hugely consequential for the makeup of the next Congress and the durability of the Republican majority, but even a cursory look at the state-by-state numbers one sees the clearest possible vindication of conservative ideas at the state level. Dare I say, this week's numbers were the most ringing endorsement of the Republican governing model since Rudy Giuliani towered over the vested interests in New York City. Not only did the South and West win -- which liberals will dismiss as a function of weather -- but low tax states consistently beat high tax states. Not only did conservative states beat liberal states, most tellingly, the winners were almost to a man conservatively governed. 

Consider this striking fact unearthed by political strategist (and former Giuliani adviser) Ken Kurson, posted on Facebook: 

    Avg tax rate in states gaining a Congressional seat: 2.8%
    Avg tax rate in states losing a Congressional seat: 6.05%
    People vote with their feet.

This finding is relevant to top marginal tax rates, which unlike property or sales taxes more prevalent in redder states punish creation rather than consumption, but the basic finding runs deep throughout the numbers. The big population winners did not just happen to red states with nice weather. They also had a deeply embedded Republican governing model. Consider who governed in the big population-gaining states this year. 

    Texas +4 (10 years of Republican governors, 0 Democrat)
    Florida +2 (10 Republican, 0 Democrat)
    Nevada +1 (10 Republican, 0 Democrat)
    Utah +1 (10 Republican, 0 Democrat)
    South Carolina +1 (8 Republican, 2 Democrat)
    Georgia +1 (8 Republican, 2 Democrat)
    Arizona +1 (2 Republican, 8 Democrat)
    Washington +1 (0 Republican, 10 Democrat)

Collectively, that's 58 years of Republican governance to 22 years of Democratic governance in the states gaining Congressional seats. And Washington State's impressive record -- alone among true blue states -- likely had more to do with the little matter that it lacks an income tax, and an initiative this year to impose one was beat back by 2-to-1. 

More than that, the leadership of these growing states has not only been Republican, but very much conservative: Rick Perry (whose approach to luring jobs from high-tax states is methodical and focused like a predator stalking his prey), Jeb Bush, Mark Sanford, and Sonny Perdue. 

Other gems abound in these numbers, providing us an acid test on the difference between good and bad policy. 

Michigan's prevailing wage union economy has wreaked more devastation than Hurricane Katrina did to Louisiana. Michigan was alone among the states to lose population, losing 0.6% of it. Louisiana (which had to deal with the destruction and relocation of major portions of its biggest city in this decade) gained 1.4%. 

The Northeast continues to bleed, especially its dying, secondary metros. New York state, which absurdly tried to levy an iPod tax under the hapless Gov. David Paterson, limped along with 2.1% growth (the national average was 10%). We don't have county numbers yet, but we can infer that the New York City area, and especially the suburbs, were the bulwark of any growth. Both New Jersey and Connecticut, which are roughly half New York City suburbs, outperformed the entire region (4.5% and 4.9%, respectively, to the Northeast average of 3.2%). This shows us that there is still a creative class and professional allure to major metropolitan areas that can partially counteract high taxation. But what happens to the remnant, secondary metropolitan areas out of reach from New York City or Boston? There, you have no creative class and sky-high taxes forced upon them by liberal city-dwellers. The bottom line: Goodbye Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse. A similar dynamic is at play in New England. High-tax, secondary metro Rhode Island performed worst (at anemic 0.4% growth) while the Boston bedroom communities of income-tax free New Hampshire lifted it to a region-leading 6.5% growth rate. The Granite State is like a miniature version of Texas up north: increasingly metropolitan and lightly taxed. 

The Midwest is also hurting, but good policy saves the day. The Midwest fared only slightly better than the Northeast at 3.9% vs. 3.2% growth, but here one begins to see the difference policy makes. The damage here was done by both Democrats and weak sister Republicans. Michigan, which stubbornly refused to change under eight years of Jennifer Granholm, has the nation's worst economy and population growth. (Let us hope, for the sake of the survival of that state, that Governor Rick Snyder and his Republican majorities in the House and Senate can deliver a Right-to-Work law.) Ohio has the second worst, under the consecutive administrations of the corrupt, tax-raising Bob Taft (a Republican) and Ted Strickland (a Democrat). Like Snyder, John Kasich has the opportunity to emerge as a hero of the recovery. But aside from tiny South Dakota, the state in the region with the best population growth at 7.8% -- 4 points higher than neighboring Iowa and 2 points higher than neighboring Wisconsin, was Minnesota, where Tim Pawlenty held the line on taxes and spending for two solid terms. (Disclaimer: I help with Gov. Pawlenty's Freedom First PAC.) Likewise, there is no real reason that industrial Indiana should have performed any better than neighboring Illinois or Ohio other than its distinctively Republican orientation and the budget-cutting leadership of Gov. Mitch Daniels. Illinois, the state whose political leadership this decade consisted of Rod Blagojevich and Barack Obama, turned in a mediocre growth rate of 3.3%, lower than all of its neighbors. 

For the First Time, the South Leads the Nation in Growth. Past Censuses showed the nation's growth tilted West. For the first time, the South took the crown this time, with an overall growth rate of 14.3% to the West's 13.9%. That's a turnaround from 2000, when the West led with 19.7% growth to the South's 17.3%. It's also perhaps a sign of the waning power of immigration as a driver of that growth (it tilts west, though heavily Latino Texas is considered part of the South). In many ways, this past growth was also because the West was the only truly "new" and underpopulated region for the better part of the last century. The 2010 Census shows the trend is definitely waning. The only state with a truly torrid growth rate was Nevada, at +35% -- but it was 66% (!) in the 1990s. The filling out of the interior and mountain West is also slowing. +24% and +21% growth in Utah and Idaho respectively show that it's not just about good weather, but those numbers represent declines of about 15 to 20 points from '90s growth rates. 

The Rise of Texas and the Decline of California. The blaring headline from the 2010 Census is, of course, Texas picking up 4 Congressional seats, landing at 38 total electoral votes. The last time a non-California state had this many was New York in the 1980s. At the same time, California leveled out at 55 electoral votes, the first time since the 1920 census that they haven't gained seats. Joel Kotkin has an excellent read on the California-Texas dynamic, stoked by Rick Perry who boasts of "hunting" for jobs every time he visits the Golden State. 

Texas's 20.6% growth off an already strong base shows its continued promise. California's 10% growth was the weakest in the West save for Montana (9.7%), showing again that even with its favorable geographic positioning, government for the public employee unions, by the public employee unions bleeds jobs and natives. Both states are bouyed by high immigration, much of it illegal (with Texas seemingly avoiding the social friction that characterizes the trend in California and Arizona). While Democrats wax hopeful that long-term demographic trends will ultimately save them (Democrats have been waiting in vain for a blue Texas since the days of Ann Richards), but they forget that many of these are nonvoters (hence the enduring push for amnesty). In California's case, counting illegal immigrants serves to prop up the state's Democratic electoral college block (without really changing the internal electoral dynamics of the state, in terms of new voters added to the rolls), while in Texas it helps add a few more Republican electors. The net effect of immigration is thus a wash in terms of national elections. 

The outflow from California can also be seen in the continued phenomenal growth of neighboring Nevada and Arizona. One telling story is that of Zappos, which moved its headquarters from San Francisco to Las Vegas this decade because the lack of a real middle class in the Bay Area made it difficult to find call center employees. 

The Curious Case of New Mexico. Here's another state where bad policy may be making a difference: New Mexico. Like its neighbors on the border, the state feels the impact of immigration. Yet its growth is a respectable but less than torrid 13.2%, almost half of Arizona's and a full seven points below Texas. Only Colorado's 16.9% comes close. Politically, New Mexico has been seen as a haven for corruption, is heavily dependent on government employers (the national labs), and has been ruled by Democrats including Bill Richardson. If there is any newly elected governor who's well positioned to make a difference with fiscally sound policies, it's Susana Martinez. 

New York Nearly Fades to 4th Place. If there's a cautionary tale California should heed, it's New York. 2010 was the year California topped out its power and influence on the national stage, and may face an actual decline in Congressional representation in years to come. New York has been in population free fall for some time now. Once the Empire State in both name and fact, Florida is now within 500,000 residents of overtaking it. New York's decline from 1st to 4th seems inevitable. 

How Does the Electoral Map Change on Tuesday?

Whether it is as largely expected on Tuesday with the Messiah descending upon 1600 or if McCain pulls out a miracle, the electoral map is likely to change in subtle but significant ways that set up 2012 and 2016 and dictate our opportunity states in the years to come.

This is a post about relative change, not absolutes. Obama is likely to do better than John Kerry in every single state, even Kentucky and West Virginia that shellacked him so in the primaries. This is simply the national atmospherics and the political environment. "The map" does not dictate his ability to win or lose. It only dictates what order he wins those states in. We sometimes focus on "the map" to the detriment of everything else. But in reality, any topline outcome is possible given the right environment. And if you doubt it, just remember that a guy with the middle name of Hussein could pick off one or two Deep South states on his way to the White House.

What "the map" does dictate is the shape of our coalition and what states we target moving forward. The 2004 result gave Democrats reason to hope about Virginia and Colorado, hopes that will possibly by realized on Tuesday. Win or lose, Tuesday will be an opportunity to gauge which states are moving in and out of our orbit. And thanks to the plethora of state polling, we have a better idea in advance of which states are becoming more or less Republican relative to the rest of the country.

Here is the map, with bluer being the stronger pro-Obama swing:

Fix America's confidence deficit

America faces many deficits. Some can be measured easily by metrics: i.e a  budget deficit or a trade deficit. 

But there's a far more debilitating deficit in our nation today. The confidence deficit

Without confidence business transactions grind to a halt and political progress is stalled as rational actors play the old zero-sum game.

This week the McCain campaign had an opportunity to address this confidence deficit.  The opportunity passed. And indeed, now they demonstrate their own confidence deficit.

First, let's look at the root causes of the confidence deficit. I trace them to Bush's annus horrible in 2005 when social security reform died, Katrina was an unmitigated disaster and Bush alienated his core supporters with the Miers nomination. Add Iraq to this brew and we get the 2006 midterm thumping. At rhe end of the day, the public lost faith in Bush and it seems Bush lost faith in what had worked in the first term for him.

The Democrats who took power in Congress then exacerbated this problem. Their "vision" was of accepting defeat in Iraq and running the same ethically challenged Congress they decried---only with an even greater level of incompetence.  The lowest approval ratings in recent history were to be expected.

Hence the opening for a "Hope and Change" presidential candidate. By mid-summer it was self evident that Obama's spiel was inspirational to the young and partisan, but was falling on deaf ears to the older and more jaded.

McCain's campaign mocked the "messiah' and then made a bold move that regained the political advantage. They picked Sarah Palin for V.P.

The Biden pick: 3 electoral votes and a cloud of dust

Early in this campaign we were treated to the Obama camp promising to "expand the field" and campaign hard to win traditionally Red States.www.mydd.com/story/2008/5/1/144541/9616 

Even Michael Barone said to "throw out the map" http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2008/03/throw_out_the_maps_in_2008.html  thinking we would have an "open field election" (I questioned this at the time, BTW)

The sports analogy would be akin to a spread shotgun formation, where a football team tries to use the whole field to set up one-on-one matchups and provide the running game lateral room for big plays, while enabling receivers to get quickly upfield for deep passes. 

Speed, elusiveness, and finesse are essential to executing this offensive philosophy. It's hard for a inexperienced quarterback to succeed in this gameplan, because such a triggerman will tend to get sacked, throw picks, or put the ball on the ground a lot., instead of knowing when to just heave the ball in the stands.    

  Go to fullsize image

Obama had the chance to go this route by choosing Tim Kaine, Evan Bayh, or Kathleen Sebelius. He didn't.

Instead by picking a running mate from a very "Blue" state it is apparent that Team Obama will be narrowing the field and trying the old "smashmouth"  football approach of trying to grind out a messy victory in the mud.

In the power running formation, one tries to overload the point of attack with blockers and outmuscle the defenders on a narrow slice of field.  The odds for disaster are lower (fewer interceptions, sacks or fumbles) but it is hard to score often or win big over a credible opponent in this fashion. (One problem the Obama camp has with this plan is their candidate lacks any bonafides on old time Democrat bread-and-butter economic issues) 

The best electoral argument for Biden is he may help a bit in PA. But there were better picks to do that,even. Surely Ed Rendell or Bob Casey,Jr. have more vote pulling appeal in PA.http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2006/pages/results/states/PA/   But Rendell and Casey lacked foreign policy experience. Evidently trying to fill this hole was more important than going to a better electoral choice. Having been seen a lot on Philly TV and growing up a half century ago in Scranton is thin gruel to help Obama in a state he got hammered in during the primaries, and will almost certainly cost him the presidency were he to lose it in the general election.. 

Biden offers no help in any 2004 red state that I can identify. Hell, even Dick Gephardt might''ve helped in MO if Obama wanted to appeal to tired old DC career politicians.  

No, Biden was an effort to firm up the Democrat base and grind out a win along the traditional Democrat/Republican scrimmage line.  Which is what we now have at summer's end http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/maps/obama_vs_mccain/?map=10

Instead of the "we can lose Ohio and still win" meme, the Obama camp has pulled its ads in seven red states it was working hard in all summer. http://www.mcclatchydc.com/homepage/story/50084.html

Florida and Virginia are surprising, although Obama has been unopposed on the TV  in FL, dropped over $5M , yet  failed to overtake McCain. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121850408634131921.html  I presume he'll be back in those places, but I suspect they have thrown in the towel in the other five.  Perhaps the reason Obama made such a boring VP choice is they have made the strategic decision that they simply can't execute the "big play" in red states, having lost ground in many despite massive effort. 

No, there has not been a huge surge of Obama Republicans, or evangelicals for Obama. There are just a lot of mostly young and well educated Democrats for Obama. The strategy he is left with is to take the 2004 John Kerry voting pattern and put it on steroids.   This will amount to trying to squeeze another 120,000 net votes out of Cuyahoga and Franklin counties,http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2004/pages/results/states/OH/P/00/   or gin up turnout in Denver and Boulder http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/elections/2004/co/prescounties/    and hope another state like NM or NV  flips.

This will be exacerbated as certainly some voters in VA and IN will be disappointed that Biden was picked over well liked local officeholders. Obama had recently lost some ground in both states  http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2008/president/in/indiana_mccain_vs_obama-604.html http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2008/president/va/virginia_mccain_vs_obama-551.html and I suspect Obama will find IN drifting out of reach soon.

Especially if Team Mac puts a few hundred GRP behind this ad in the Richmond and Indianapolis ADI's http://www.everydayrepublican.com/2008/08/23/joe-biden-on-barack-obama/

The Biden pick will relieve McCain of worries that his base electoral votes will be at risk. The freedom of decision now rest with his team, who can now decide whether it is their turn to open up the field with an unconventional choice, or look for a conventional pick who can enhance our vote totals in the traditional battleground states and media markets     

I have no gripes with Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty taking it to Obama-Biden on the traditional line of scrimmage, but boy am I feelin former champion women's jock Sarah Palin about now.



Two routes to 270

As I see it there are two different victory scenarios for McCain that I find plausible. 

But first we should reconize the swing states that he absolutely must win in November.

The North-East:

No must-wins here!


Florida--27 electoral votes, obviously of immense importance.  Fortunately, McCain appears to be leading here already.

North Carolina--15 electoral votes I thought this state was solid GOP but current polls show Obama within striking distance.

Virginia--13 Electoral votes, possible the most vulnerable Southern must-win state.

Misssouri--11 electoral votes, usually votes for the winner but has been leaning Republican recently.

Mississippi--6 electoral votes. Obama can win it if he drives the black vote through the roof but its unlikely to happen for reasons stated earlier.

Right now, McCain has a comfortable lead in the remaining Southern States. 


Indiana--11 Electoral votes, again, supposed to be solid GOP but polls are tied.

Ohio--20 Electoral votes, the most vulnerable must win state considering that Bush won it by 2.1% in 2004.

Great plains:

McCain has confortable leads here, except possibly Nebraska's first Congressional district.


McCain is virtually assured to win traditional GOP strongholds like Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, and Arizona.

The first scenario is what I call the "Bush scenario". This envisions McCain playing defense and trying to win all 29 states that Bush won in both 2000 and 2004, limiting resources in other states.  That would give McCain 274 electoral votes, four more than necessary, so it is technically possible that he could lose a small state like Montana and a congressional district in Nebraska as well and still win 270-168.

A drawback to this stategy, of course, is that Obama has made strong showings in Western swing states like Nevada, Colorado, and New Mexico and exerts a special appeal due in large part to his untraditional "new politics" that is attracting libertarian whites who would have been turned off by Clinton. 

A bold alternative strategy could be to concentrate resources by trying to flip a midwestern/eastern state while writing off most of the west.  For example, assume that Howard Dean's wildest dreams come true and Obama not only carries New Mexico, Colorado, and Nevada but also Alaska, Montana, and a Nebraskan district.  But assume he loses the above states plus Michigan.

He still loses 168-270.

It may sound foolish to "write off" the west, but McCain may have to prioritize his resources if he is going to be massively outspent as many are suggesting. 

Could Obama Really Win a State in the South?

(promoted by Soren)

If Barack Obama wins any of the states in the former Confederacy, it’ll probably be Virginia or North Carolina. But a few analysts have suggested that he could boost African-African turnout across the rest of the south — the Deep South, mind you — to the point where he makes some really red states competitive. Chuck Todd and Marc Ambinder, who were both my editors at The Hotline and who are two of brightest political minds I know, have hinted that Obama could make Georgia and Mississippi interesting.

Chuck wrote in March that “Mississippi's one of those rare Southern states that might be in play in the general election if Obama becomes the nominee. One Dem statistician tells First Read that there are three red states that could swing if African-American turnout was ever maximized (both in registration and in actual turnout): Georgia, Louisiana and, yes, Mississippi. So don’t assume this is just one of those untouchable red states.”

Marc took it a step further in May and broke down the actual numbers, asking, “Did you know that a half a million African Americans in Georgia are eligible to vote but haven’t registered? The Obama campaign knows this. And they plan to register these voters by November, campaign folks say.”  And the Southern Political Report noted on Tuesday that the DCCC and DSCC have already registered 70,000 new voters in some Louisiana parishes.

Stateline also took a look at it on Tuesday and noted that “Some Democrats hold out hope that Obama could actually win one of the six Southern states that he won so convincingly during the primary season — Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina — all of which have voted strongly Republican in recent presidential elections.” But the key phrase from that observation might have been that Dems are “holding out hope,” because after all, it’ll be a long shot.

Tom Schaller, another superb political analyst, actually crunched the numbers (something that no one else has done), and found that Obama is facing steep odds. In a conversation about white voters posted on Salon, Schaller presented his data: 

“I did a correlation between the black share of statewide population in the 11 Confederate states and the share of Bush’s support among white voters, and it correlates at .76 with all 11 confederate states and if you take Texas out, which Bush obviously did well in, though it has a relatively low black population, with a data set of just 10 data points, it correlates at .9. Human height and weight doesn’t correlate at .9. With 10 data points, it’s ridiculous. I don’t even think this is an empirical matter of dispute.”

 Schaller has a point and his numbers are tough to argue with.  But if Obama’s campaign is really about redrawing the electoral map and scrapping the old Clinton-Bush model, then he should leave no stone unturned and leave no county uncontested.


Cross-posted at TheElectoralMap.com

The Electoral College: The Analysts Begin Mapmaking

Promoted. -Patrick

Now that Obama has almost certainly tied up the Democratic nomination, analysts and number-crunchers have already begun taking a look at what the map would look like if the election were held today.   Two prominent sources for political data and analysis - RealClearPolitics and the Evans-Novak Political Report - have maps indicating what the landscape looks like.  While the RCP model is mathematical and computer-generated (it takes the statewide head-to-head polls, plugs them into a map and paints by numbers), the Evans-Novak map analyzes trends and demographics in states to make predictions.

RCP's current electoral map, as of this afternoon, has Barack Obama with 228 electoral votes, John McCain with 190, and another 120 listed as "toss-up".   What should give McCain supporters something happy to read from this is the "solid" versus "leaning" breakdown.  Of Obama's 228 electors, RCP only lists 60 as "solid" with 168 as "leaning".  McCain, however, has 96 "solid" to 94 "leaning".

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