Showing posts with label electoral college projections past. Show all posts
Showing posts with label electoral college projections past. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

2008 vs. 2004, Part II: What Happened in the Final 100 Days in 2004 and What That May Mean for the Rest of This Campaign

Now that we've seen that John Kerry's state-level poll leads over Bush in 2004 were similar in the aggregate to the electoral college vote distribution we see currently in the 2008 race, we can focus more on what appears to have happened over the final 100 or so days of the race four years ago. By extension, then, we may be able to make some educated guesses as to what we may have in store between now an November. Here again is the map that shows how the electoral college would have looked in mid-August if FHQ's weighted average methodology were used on the polling from 2004.
[Click Map to Enlarge]

Based on Florida (or at least on Kerry's edge in the average there in August), Kerry held an advantage over the incumbent president in the August electoral college projection. Florida, though, wasn't the only mover between August and November. It was however, among a group of states that shifted their electoral votes from one side of the partisan line to the other -- Iowa and New Mexico were the other two. Below are the final results from the 2004 election. Each state was color coded based on the final vote percentage margin four years ago. California, for example, was firmly within Kerry's column throughout 2004, but the final percentage margin (9 points) put the Golden state in a position to be deemed a Kerry lean state. While Florida, Iowa and New Mexico were the only three states to have shifted sides, there were twelve overall movers when comparing the August projection to the final results.
[Click Map to Enlarge]

Let's isolate those twelve states just to get a visual on where exactly the movement occurred. Not only do Florida, Iowa and New Mexico turn red, but several states became more intensely red and all twelve moved toward Bush including the two blue states on the map, California and Minnesota. The momentum seems to have been squarely on the incumbent president's side coming down the stretch. Bush made his biggest gains -- moving across two categories -- in Florida and New Mexico and seems to have outperformed state-level polling average through August most consistently in the peripheral South and in border states.
[Click Map to Enlarge]

That momentum translated into a shift of 39 electoral votes over the final three months of the 2004 campaign and into an electoral college victory for Bush. So what does any of this have to do with the current race for the White House? It should serve as a cautionary tale for all you President Kerry enthusiasts and Obama supporters. Much can change and likely will over the course of the next two plus months, and though, in 2004 that meant a shift toward the incumbent, in 2008 it may mean something different. One pattern that has emerged in this current race is that things often return to normal after a "shock" to the system. Obama wins the Democratic nomination and gets a bounce that trailed off in some states. McCain punches back while Obama is abroad and upon his return and draws closer to the Illinois senator. But even that has given way to a regression toward the mean. You see different pictures of this depending on where you look. Real Clear Politics shows Obama rising ever so slightly while McCain dips since last week. Over at Pollster the picture is a bit different with both candidates trending upward, but McCain is doing so at a quicker rate.

Granted that focuses on the national picture and Alan Abramowitz has already covered that. One thing that we can note of 2004 is that half of those movers from August on were toss up states. We can then feel comfortable that that is where most of the action will be from now on. That's 13 states as of FHQ's most recent accounting of the electoral college. [I'll have an update up tonight. Yeah, I know -- late.] Of the big hitters, Pennsylvania is trending toward Obama, Virginia and Ohio are holding steady but very close, Michigan and Colorado are closing a bit, and Florida, after moving hard toward Obama has held steady like North Carolina at a distance just outside of Obama's reach. One thing that should be noted is that both Indiana and Nevada have not been polled very recently and are certainly in need of updating. With that said, one thing that struck me in going over the data from 2004 was how big the uptick in polling was once September started. We have been lucky to have had as much information during this cycle as we've had, but it should really start to pick up after the GOP convention during the first week in September.

I should also put in a request to all FHQ readers. I have access to an incomplete set of the polling from 2000 and would like very much to do a similar sort of analysis with that data. If anyone knows where that data can be found just let me know in the comments section below. Thanks.

Recent Posts:
2008 vs. 2004, Part I: What Things Would Have Looked Like 4 Years Ago This Time

The Electoral College Spectrum

The Electoral College Map (8/10/08)

2008 vs. 2004, Part I: What Things Would Have Looked Like 4 Years Ago This Time

Just last week, Alan Abramowitz posted on Sabato's Crystal Ball an examination of how the 2004 presidential race looked in early August. I've been sitting on the state polling data from 2004 for most of the summer, but have yet incorporate it in this forum. I don't particularly like to jump on a bandwagon, but if I've got to follow someone, Abramowitz is a good person to follow up on. His focus was primarily on polling from the national perspective, so an investigation from the state level dovetails nicely with that and augments our understanding of the overlapping dynamics in both races as well as their differences.

In this first part, I want to treat 2004 as if it was the election FHQ was currently examining twice every week. To put it slightly differently, this post applies both the format and methodology of the electoral college projection posts to the state level polling of 2004. Given polling conducted prior to August 12, 2004, what did things look like on August 13 four years ago? Which states were in play? Who held an advantage in the electoral college?
[Click Map to Enlarge]

In the aggregate at least, the Bush-Kerry race looks an awful lot like McCain-Obama does now. Four years ago, Kerry would have held a 44 electoral vote lead over George W. Bush. Over the course of the summer, Barack Obama has had a 298-240 electoral vote edge over John McCain. Notably, Florida and Ohio have switched places in the interim: Florida turning pink and Ohio going light blue. Like Ohio since 2004, Colorado and Nevada have gone blue as well. Other than those four states -- all of which remain toss up states in 2008 -- everything is exactly as it was four years ago.

So should John McCain be feeling pretty good about his position in the 2008 race?

Well, yes and no. It is true that the numbers look eerily similar [Democrats are getting that nervous feeling again.] to the ones in 2004. However, there's more to it than just reds and blues on a map. If we shift our focus to the Electoral College Spectrum, we can get a better idea of exactly how intensely red or blue those states were (ranked from most Democratic to most Republican). This is where the two races look totally different. Bush had at least a 5 point lead (lean or strong states) over Kerry in 22 states with 187 electoral votes. McCain on the other hand isn't as strong overall with strong and lean states (19 of them) totalling 157 electoral votes. In a tight race 30 electoral votes is a big difference. On the flip side, John Kerry's strong and lean state electoral vote tally summed to 198, whereas Obama's total of similar states adds up to 222. From 2004 to 2008, then, the intensity has shifted from the right to the left. But primary season really already told us that. Higher turnout for and a higher number of new registrants participating in the 2008 Democratic primaries are fairly good indicators of that.

The Electoral College Spectrum*
*Follow the link for a detailed explanation on how to read the Electoral College Spectrum.
**The numbers in the parentheses refer to the number of electoral votes a candidate would have if he won all the states ranked prior to that state. If, for example, Bush won all the states up to and including New Hampshire (all Kerry's toss up states, but Michigan), he would have 323 electoral votes. Both candidates numbers are only totaled through their rival's toss up states. In those cases, Kerry's number is on the left and Bush's is on the right in italics.

***Florida is the state where Kerry crosses (or Bush would cross) the 270 electoral vote threshold to win the presidential election. That state is referred to as the victory line

As always, these presidential races come down to what happens in those states competitive enough to be considered swing states. In mid-August of 2004, John Kerry needed every last one of those states in shades of blue and Florida to even hypothetically cross over 270 electoral votes. 2008 and 2004 differ on the spectrum in the fact that in 2008, Barack Obama's toss up states push the partisan line beyond the victory line. The Illinois senator has two states in Nevada and Ohio that he could cede to McCain and still top 270 electoral votes. Kerry's lead in 2004 was much more tenuous. The junior senator from Massachusetts didn't have a similar cushion. In fact, four years ago, the partisan line and the victory line would have converged on Florida. All Bush had to do then was to swing the Sunshine state a little less than a percentage point and the election would have been his. As it turned out, he just had to show up in the state during a hurricane season that ravaged the Florida coast to accomplish that. Sure, both Ohio and Nevada were close enough to have been put on the mid-August Watch List in 2004. And Bush certainly had to work to keep the Buckeye state from turning blue.

The Watch List*
Arizonafrom Bush lean
to Toss Up Bush
Floridafrom Toss Up Kerry
to Toss Up Bush
Michiganfrom Toss Up Kerryto Kerry lean
Minnesotafrom Kerry leanto Toss Up Kerry
Nevadafrom Toss Up Bush
to Toss Up Kerry
New Hampshire
from Toss Up Kerryto Kerry lean
New Mexico
from Kerry leanto Toss Up Kerry
Ohiofrom Toss Up Bush
to Toss Up Kerry
South Carolina
from Strong Bush
to Bush lean
from Bush lean
to Toss Up Bush
*Weighted Average within a fraction of a point of changing categories.

As you look at the Watch List, you'll note that seven of the ten states were on lines that would have put them close to switching in Kerry's direction. Part II will show that those shift didn't come to fruition for Kerry and that something entirely different happened between August and November 2004.

Recent Posts:
The Electoral College Spectrum

The Electoral College Map (8/10/08)

On VP Announcement Timing and Graphic Naming -- Some Housekeeping