Friday, October 31, 2008

On Politik goes to war

Frank and I are heading back to the scene of our 2004 defeat whilst John will continue to offer his analysis from our secret Edinburgh HQ. 

To all our readers in the field: good hunting!

The battleground map (31 October, 2008)

Obama landslide E-4 days

Our last update before we shift from state-of-play to prediction-only. McCain can hope for a national tightening in the polls all he wants but unless he can achieve what Nate Silver calls the 2-2-2 rule (within 2 points in 2 out of these 3 states VA, CO, PA by at least 2 reputable pollsters) he has no path to 270 electoral votes. Meanwhile, Obama's offensive drive expands even further.

Here's the maps:

Likely Obama: CA, CT, DE, DC, HI, IL, ME, MD, MA, NJ, NY, OR, RI, VT, WA, IA (197 electoral votes) 
Lean Obama: MN, NM, NV, MI, WI, PA, NH, CO, VA  (94) electoral votes) 
Toss-ups: FL, OH, NC, MO, IN (84) electoral votes) 
Lean McCain: GA, MT, ND, WV, NE-2  (26) electoral votes) 
Likely McCain: AK, AL, AZ, AR, ID, KS, KY, LA, MS, SD, NE 1,3,4,5 OK, SC, TN, TX, UT, WY, ND (137) electoral votes) 

Obama likely + leaners: 291  electoral votes 
McCain likely + leaners: 163  electoral votes 
Tossups: 84 electoral votes

Likely Obama: CA, CT, DE, DC, HI, IL, ME, MD, MA, NY, OR, RI, VT, WA (175 electoral votes)
Lean Obama: IA, MI, MN, NH, NJ, NM, PA, WI (111 votes)
Toss-up: FL, IN, MO, NV, NC, OH (89 votes)
Lean McCain: AZ, GA, MT, NE 02, ND, SD, WV (40 votes)
Likely McCain: AL, AK, AR, ID, KS, KY, LA, MS, NE (the rest of the state), OK, SC, TN, TX, UT, WY (123 votes)

Obama likely + leaners: 286  electoral votes 
McCain likely + leaners: 163  electoral votes 
Tossups: 89 electoral votes

On Politik
Likely Obama: CA, CT, DE, DC, HI, IA, IL, ME (all 4 EVs), MD, MA, MI, MN, NJ, NY, OR, PA, RI, VT, WA, WI (255 EVs)
Lean Obama: CO, NH, NM, NV, VA (36 EVs)
Toss-up: FL, IN, MT, NC, NE-cd2 (1ev), MO, OH (85 EVs)
Lean McCain: AZ, GA, MT, WV, ND (36 EVs)
Likely McCain: AK, AL, AZ, AR, ID, KS, KY, LA, MS, NE(4EVS), OK, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, WY (126 EVs)

Obama likely + leaners: 291 electoral votes
McCain likely + leaners: 162 electoral votes
Toss-ups: 85 electoral votes

State by state

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Past as predictor of future: a Senatorial psycohistory

                                     Hari Seldon ponders the Senate race
On the one hand you could just check the Senate charts to guess the winners and losers (although GA is going to be a Dem win) or you can play a history-based model out and see what things look like.

Simply put, close Senate races tend to break mostly all one way or the other. The important thing is that there are always one or two exceptions. But whether there is one exception this year or two exceptions is the likely difference between the Dems achieving their filibuster-proof majority dream or not.

This year, the Dems have pick-up opportunities in 10 seats: VA, NM, CO, AK, NH, MN, NC, GA, MS and KY.

In 2006, the Dem wave carried 6 out of 7 Senate targets (VA, MO, MT, OH, PA, RI but failed in TN) - a near 85% success rate. In 2004, the GOP wave carried 6 out of 8 target seats (FL, GA, LA, NC, SD, SC but failed in IL and CO) - a 75% success rate. In 2002, the GOP wave carried 3 out of 4 target seats (GA, MN, MO but failed in AR) - a 75% success rate.

Thus the average success rate was 78.3%. Applying that to this year's Senate seats, it would seem that Dems are on course to pick up 8 out of 10 seats, likely losing only KY and MS - per those averages!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Revolution in Political Affairs: Obama's Levee-en-masse

Barack Obama?

On Politik contends that Obama's approach to fundraising and field organisation constitutes a revolution in the practice of political affairs of such magnitude as to be comparable with Napoleon's Revolution In Military Affairs, namely a defining transformation in both the scale and practice of the art and science of politics. 

To analyse this change, let us now consider Napoleon's own revolution and the scale of the Obama revolution. Post-election, we'll consider the broader implications in the long term of the revolution for both policy and politics.

Napeleon's Revolution in Military Affairs
The Napoleonic era saw a Revolution in Military Affairs in which the small scale, professional, often mercenary armies of the cabinet wars period were swept aside before the power of the man Clausewitz immortalized as "the God of War".

Napeloen's invention of the modern army as a mass force of conscripts (the "levee-en-masse") came about because he tapped the passion of the people (the third and most powerful element of Clausewitz's Trinitarian theory of war: Reason (Govt.), Chance/Probability (Army/Commander) and Passion (People)) and so was able to massively escalate the resource pool he could draw from in waging a larger scale of war then had ever previously been seen.

Simply put, Obama has awoke the passions of the people (the electorate) and by so doing has been able to raise more money then the 2004 field combined, establish more field offices with professional paid staffers and recruit more grassroots volunteers into the campaign process then was previously thought even possible. By so doing he has escalated political warfare to a higher level then has ever preciously been achieved.

The scale of the change: more money, more volunteers, more voters

More money
"The most extraordinary development in this year's election may well be the Obama fundraising juggernaut" - Bradley Smith, former Federal Elections Commission chair 

Source: Open Secrets
  • Obama fundraising from small donors: "Obama’s vast base of small donors – 1.7 million was the last public count — carries big clout. To date (July 21, 2008), Obama has reported raising $338 million for his campaign from individuals and 94% of his donations have come in amounts of $200 or less." - Politico
  • Obama fundraising from bundlers (each raising $50,000+): $63mn (estimated at 10-25% of overall Obama fundraising)
  • Per Obama campaign manager David Plouffe: Obama's largest donor groups are retirees and young people.
  • Per Obama campaign manager David Plouffe: Approximately $200mn has come in donations of $200 or less.
More volunteers
Al Giordano of the Field and Sean Quinn of 538 have done yeoman's work in detailing the unfolding Obama revolution in field organising while Zack Exley's 'New Organizers' series is a must-read examination of the operations of the Obama field game. Taken individually, their examples might be dismissed as exceptional stories, taken collectively, they reveal a strategic approach to field organising of unprecedented ambition and accomplishment. Here's the story so far:
On the road: 538's guide to battleground state field ops
  • Minden, NV: "If you want to talk about Republican domination, try this. Not since 1946 has a Democrat been elected to a county office here. George Bush beat John Kerry countywide 15,192 to 8,275, and Kerry lost statewide by 21,500 votes (Bush and Kerry together got approximately 815,000 votes statewide). Another way to put it is that about a third of Bush's 2004 victory margin came from an area contributing less than 3% of the statewide vote. You can see why reducing that margin by even a thousand votes would be a worthwhile investment in Nevada's ground game."
  • Reno, NV: "In just the last year, Washoe County’s R-D voter registration gap has dropped from R +16,000 to R +5,000. The several months on the ground leading up to the January 19 caucus helped. That shift represents a lot of grinding, day-by-day work by organizers and volunteers to canvass and recanvass neighborhoods that can't be crammed at the last minute."
  • Las Vegas, NV: "Democrats have gained over 100,000 registrations in Clark County, which helped net roughly 70,000 statewide in the last year. 30,000 new Democrats registered on caucus day alone. Democrats have 5 field offices in Clark County, 14 offices open in the state as a whole, with 3-5 more planned, 90 paid staff and 75 field organizers."
  • Gallup, NM: "In our personal Gallup poll, it seems clear Barack Obama will exceed the Kerry margin in McKinley, simply because Democrats are working with an unprecedented presence here. Having an office open 2-3 months before a general election versus sweeping in for the final 10 days makes all the difference, especially in a state where early voting by mail needs to be organized well ahead of time."
  • Espalaola, NM: "170,000 registered Hispanic voters didn't vote in the 2004 election, and Hispanics are roughly 40% of the state population here."
  • Albuquerque/Santa Fe, NM: "John McCain and the Republicans are running a workmanlike ground game here. They now have ten offices open, up from five a week ago. Their volunteers often begin calling showing up at 8:30 am to make phone calls. Some call all day. In larger offices they'll fill the twenty-ish seats for a full phone bank."
  • Durango Cortez, CO: "In terms of numbers, there was more going on at the Obama office, which is open 9 to 9 every day of the week. In the twenty minutes we spent at the office, we saw a local woman come in to register and take a form for her daughter. Another 70-something woman returned with her completed phone sheet and took another one home. Two phone bankers made dials. Another man, who volunteers twice a week, had taken upon himself the task of blind-knocking his trailer park and was getting a high contact and success rate."
  • Grand Junction, CO: "Grand Junction, CO (two parts): Let's do a little math. 12 face-to-face contacts is one new voter who would not have otherwise voted that you personally generated. You just doubled your own vote by speaking at the door to twelve voters. Of course, then it comes down to contact rate -- how often is the person home that you're trying to reach. A very low contact rate is probably 10%, and that happens. A very high contact rate can be 50%. Average is in the 25% ballpark. On average, you'd have to knock on 48 doors to generate 12 face-to-face contacts and one additional vote. 48 doors is a pretty standard, approximate walk list. In Glenwood Springs up the road an hour or so, we saw the process repeat. A volunteer named Barclay Lottimer raved about the Obama organizer there, whose program in Garfield County had generated 3,000 knocks the previous weekend and 2,500 knocks so far this weekend when we stopped midday. Garfield had at least 1,000 new Democratic registrants. Summit County has flipped its registration edge from R to D based on the voter reg work spearheaded by Obama's organizers and volunteers."
  • Colorado Springs, CO: "The whiteboard in the Obama office listed different volunteers and their total numbers of registrations earned. 100 gets you a free T-shirt, and most names had earned somewhere between 25 and 80 toward that goal. Robert had 341, not including the 12 new ones he'd returned with moments after we arrived. (He doesn't care about the shirts.) He's lived here 15 years and hasn't seen any Democratic presence like this one. He told us a friend of his had been here 30 years but had never seen a Democratic presidential office in Colorado Springs."
  • Boulder, CO: "John McCain's campaign doesn't have an office in Boulder's blue oasis, whereas Barack Obama is willing to put his organizers all over deep red territory. Overall, the Colorado field office edge stands at 32-11, after the Obama campaign added their 32d office Tuesday. Moreover, in our travels we're finding the Obama offices have generally opened earlier in the season than the McCain offices and have more organizers attached to each office. In the more rural areas like Cortez, Obama might have one full-time organizer, but in places like Colorado Springs and Boulder we counted very large staffs."
  • Denver, CO: "Kathy Archuleta is now a Latina Advisory team member for Barack Obama. Along with three other women, she has organized an impressive women-to-women outreach program aimed at adding 10,000 undecided and/or least-likely women voters to vote for Obama. In just two and a half weeks, Archuleta’s effort has coordinated a 1,000-strong-and-growing group. The goal for each member is to get at least eight women to vote for Obama who probably would not have voted otherwise. Among the group’s ranks, Archuleta counted 100 women in Colorado Springs, 100 in Vail, 100 in Evergreen, 50 in Pueblo, and 250-400 in the Denver area who would be counted on for this targeted outreach."
  • Omaha, NE (!!!): "This past weekend in Omaha, Republicans knocked on 11,000 doors. Two weeks ago when Barack Obama's permanent office opened, 1,100 volunteers showed up for the office opening. Eleven hundred people. "We essentially shut down midtown," said John Berge, Obama's Nebraska State Director. Omaha -- land of one precious electoral vote -- is not being conceded."
  • Des Moines, IA: "The ground game is extraordinarily numbers-based. For both campaigns, every single precinct in every state has a vote goal -- a specific number of votes the campaign has determined it needs to stay on pace with its overall path to victory in the state. By voting early, a supporter of a given candidate are giving his or her candidate a kind of donation. The sacrifice is the feeling of having participated in a vote on Election Day -- it feels like giving up a little bit of tradition. But campaigns are less concerned with tradition than with winning."
  • St. Louis county, MO: "We walk into McCain offices to find them closed, empty, one person, two people, sometimes three people making calls. Many times one person is calling while the other small clutch of volunteers are chatting amongst themselves. In one state, McCain’s state field director sat in one of these offices and, sotto voce, complained to us that only one man was making calls while the others were talking to each other about how much they didn't like Obama, which was true. But the field director made no effort to change this. This was the state field director."
  • Tippecanoe, IN: "Although John McCain has only one field office open in the state, Barack Obama has two on the same block. One is a large phone bank office, and a few doors down on the corner is the canvass staging area. We heard stories from volunteers who sometimes canvass because the phone bank is so frequently packed to capacity that if they want to volunteer, knocking on doors is the only option."
  • Bloomington, IN: "A few students got together to start the Obama group, and then each person brought two friends, and so forth, until the student group had a dedicated staff of 10-25 who regularly call and knock. Often they hit near 2000 dials in a night, the same as one of the three McCain Las Vegas, NV offices in its entirety."
  • New Albany, IN: "Democrats have to be considered the underdog here. Indiana hasn't gone blue since 1964 in LBJ's landslide year, and Republicans won by roughly 510,000 votes in 2004. Still, if we apply our 80-20 split on the self-selecting new Obama registrants (80% Obama registrants, 20% McCain) and a 75% turnout rate (newly registered voters vote in higher rates than regularly registered voters), then Obama just added approximately 318,000 votes in Indiana. Now the challenge is to get about 100,000 existingly-registered Bush voters to switch to Obama, approximately 4% of the roughly 2.5 million Indiana voters from 2004."
  • Dueling rallies, OH: "Obama did five rallies here in two days: Dayton, Cincinnati, Portsmouth, Chillicothe, and Columbus, while Palin did events in Wilmington (home of the DHL plant closing that David Plouffe promised to highlight in local radio ads) and Cleveland."
  • Troy, OH: "The first thing that stands out about the Troy, Ohio Obama field office is its placement. It's right in the heart of town. It catches everyone's attention -- you can't miss it. The next thing that caught our attention was that, since the office had first opened, 800 different people from Miami County had come through the office's doors to volunteer. There were only 51,760 voters in the entire county in 2004, and a mere 17,606 were Kerry voters. 4.5% of the entire Miami County Kerry vote has already walked in the doors to volunteer."'
  • Columbus, OH: "Barack Obama has 89 field offices open in the state of Ohio right now, about a 2-1 edge on John McCain. Kerry had 50 offices open in Ohio, and only 4 field organizers in Franklin County. Obama has three dozen, and Franklin County itself comprises two regions. As elsewhere, Ohio is the beneficiary of the long primary season. "Well over half" of Obama's general election organizers were veterans of the primary. Every Regional Field Director went through the primary or caucus. They've been through the wars. An organizer ages in dog years."
  • Toledo, OH: "Now that Debrah (Bush 04 defector) has settled into her role as one of Obama's Toledo Community Directors, she's amazed at the sophistication of the Obama structure. As a Community Director, she oversees three Neighborhood Team Leaders, volunteers who comprise the heart of Obama's volunteering infrastructure. Each neighborhood team, in turn, has up to five different coordinators: (1) the canvass coordinator; (2) the phonebank coordinator; (3) the volunteer coordinator; (4) the data coordinator; and (5) where applicable, the faith coordinator. In Ohio, Campaign for Change State Director Jeremy Bird told us, there are 1,231 defined neighborhoods, as of August 25 there were about 800 in place, and as of Saturday approximately 1,100 NTLs had been tested and were up in operation. By "tested," Bird said, each NTL had undergone and met a series of specific challenges the field organizers had presented."
  • Marietta, OH: "The other day at Obama's rally in Toledo, the local organizer asked everyone in attendance to (1) early vote; (2) make 40 phone calls or knock 40 doors; and (3) take Election Day off to help the volunteering effort. This is routine practice at every single event the campaign holds."
  • Morgantown, WV: "When we asked Vogel why he was confident about Obama's chances in a state nearly everyone had written off until the recent surge in polling, he pointed out that Democrats had 20 open offices, over 30 paid staff and thousands of volunteers. (McCain, by contrast, has one Charleston office open and one paid staffer.)"
  • Western PA: "In Washington County, a bellwether in this traditional swing state that John Kerry carried by a mere 552 votes out of over 96,000 cast, the Obama campaign's mood is optimistic but very cautious. The campaign has registered over 4,000 new voters in this county, and enough statewide since the primary season to push the Democratic registration edge to over 1.2 million."
  • Philadelphia suburbs, PA: "Obama himself hopped on a nationwide all-staff conference call Friday to emphasize this point to the troops. Pledging to "come down hard" on anyone getting "too cocky"."
  • Northern VA "660 people attended just this one office opening."
  • Richmond, VA: "They've done it. The McCain campaign has gone and pissed off Miss Virginia. When McCain senior adviser Nancy Pfotenhauer divided Virginia into the DC suburbs and "real Virginia," Kristi Lauren Glakas felt extremely disappointed. Glakas, a recent three-time Miss Virginia title holder and whip-smart University of Virginia scholarship honor student, said the comments were divisive."
  • Charlottesville, VA: "As for the Obama campaign here, well, you know the story by now if you've been reading our long series. Between the Coordinated Campaign offices and Campaign for Change offices and canvassing-only and phonebank-only offices, we saw no fewer than five office locations, all thrumming with energy and volunteers. All the offices had workers busy very late into the evenings, long past midnight."
  • Stone Gap, VA: "Mitch Stewart, Virginia State Director of Obama for America and one of the heroes of Iowa, told us in a sit-down interview that the Campaign for Change now boasted 49 offices in Virginia, with an additional 23 Virginia Coordinated Campaign party offices. 40 additional GOTV offices, not including the myriad GOTV staging locations clustered out from those offices, were already up and running."
  • Charlotte, NC: "After the training, we talked with Crandall about what he'd seen in Charlotte. He estimated the office would train 75 doorknocking volunteers just that day, just in that one Charlotte office. One thing that struck him was the way the campaign trusted its volunteers to take responsibility if the campaign simply provided the tools and overall direction. "The delegation of responsibility was tremendous," said Crandall." 
  • Raleigh, NC: "The Democratic HQ across town was much busier. When Republican offices are empty and shutting down, 7:30 pm in an Obama HQ or field office is only just past the halfway point of the workday."
More voters
The evolution of Obama primary operations into voter registration efforts into a GOTV attack of epic proportions will pay it's full dividends on Nov. 4 but in the meantime can already be measured by the impressive voter registration and early voting results. 

Voter registration
  • Pennsylvania: Per The Field: "Since April's primary, Democrats - mainly through the very aggressive voter registration efforts of the Obama campaign working out of 78 offices throughout the state - have added 186,908 voters to their column, while Republicans have added just 31,407 - a six-to-one tromp. In the final two weeks, Republicans made an eleventh hour push and registered 17,627 of those into their party, but during the same time period, 50,803 Democrats were added to the rolls."
  • Pennsylvania: The shock troops of the Obama revolution: volunteers like Leslie Wars who registered 1, 136 new voters.
  • Nevada (per the Secretary of State's office): 2004: D: 430k R: 434k. 2008: D: 625k R514k. In the only NV congressional district (CD2, which has never elected a Democrat to Congress) the GOP used to enjoy a +9% party ID advantage. Democrats now marginally outnumber GOPers Washoe. This is all the more critical given that Washoe represents 70% of the state's electorate as a whole. 
  • Colorado: Per Daily Kos: 2004: D: 942k R: 1.118mn I: 1.024mn. 2008: D: 1.051mn R: 1.063mn. I: 1.069mn. "As of January, 2008, Democrats made up 30.33% of the total registered electorate, Republicans made up 34.82%, and Independents made up 34.40%.  As of October 22, 2008, Democrats make up 32.81%, Republicans 33.19%, and Indies 33.38%."
  • Virginia: VA has added, 438,000 new voters this year (the state does not catagorise by party). Per 538: "Obama campaign strategists believe that, with their massive months-long, grinding-it-out-every-day registration plan, that 80 percent of those new registrations would vote for Obama, and that 75% of the newly registered voters will turn out. If 75% of an 80-20 split on 300,000 new registrants turns out, that’s Barack Obama adding 135,000 bonus votes to his total in Virginia alone." 
  • Florida: Per the AP: "Democrats have added more than two and a half times the number of new voters to the rolls than Republicans have. Democrats increased their numbers by approximately 461,000 registered voters while Republicans increased their registered voters by approximately 172,000. Republicans now have 4,064,301 registered voters and Democrats have 4,722,076, according to the Florida Division of Elections, giving Democrats an edge of roughly 658,000 registered voters. In 2004, the state had 3,892,492 registered Republicans and 4,261,249 registered Democrats, for a gap of 369,000. Overall, Florida now has nearly 1 million more voters than four years ago. The total, including people not registered with any party, is now 11,247,634 registered voters, up from 10,301,290 in 2004."
  • Ohio: Per the Dayton Daily News: "Democrats appear to have won the voter-registration battle in Ohio. Of the 822,804 newly registered voters in the state, almost six in 10 — more than 475,000 — are in the 16 counties that went Democratic in 2004 presidential election, a Dayton Daily News analysis of statewide voter registration data has found. The 72 remaining counties that went for President Bush in 2004 recorded some 347,000 voters. And most of Ohio's new voters are young, which polls indicate should favor Democrat Barack Obama over Republican John McCain on Nov. 4. The analysis found that almost 452,000 or 55 percent of the newly registered voters are under 30 years old. And more than a quarter, or 227,852, are 20 or younger. The latest Dayton Daily News/Ohio Newspaper Poll found that likely voters 29 and under favored Obama over McCain by 62 percent to 38 percent."
Early voting
  • Overall: Per CNN: "As of Tuesday, at least 9,813,052 ballots had been cast in 31 states that allow early, in-person or absentee voting without having to provide an excuse. The figures are based on reports from state election officials. Of those votes, at least 1.2 million ballots have been cast by registered Democrats and at least 731,200 by registered Republicans. These 1.9 million votes make up 19.6 percent of the 9.8 million early votes available for calculation by Many early voting states do not specify party affiliation for voters."
  • North Carolina: Per CNN: "As of Tuesday, just over 396,000 registered Republicans had cast early votes in North Carolina, compared with registered Democrats, who had cast 771,500 ballots -- nearly twice as many."
  • Colorado: Per the respected GMU US Elections Project, approximately 50% of Coloradans have already voted, with a slight edge to the Dems (numbers will be updated here once released tommorrow).
  • Virginia: VA does not have early voting.
  • Florida: Per CNNFlorida, well known as a presidential battleground, has brought out nearly 1.2 million early voters so far, according to election figures. According to figures provided Wednesday by the Florida Democratic Party, in-person early-vote ballots cast by registered Democrats in Florida totaled 772,694. Florida ballots cast in person by registered Republicans totaled 431,520. Forty-one percent of Florida's registered voters are Democratic and 37 percent are Republican, according to state election officials.
  • Nevada: Per CNN: "Election officials in Nevada only report party registration for Clark and Washoe counties, where the major cities of Las Vegas and Reno are located. There, early voters have been trending heavily Democratic: 161,463 to 90,017. The two counties account for about 90 percent of the state's population, and Democratic turnout is currently about 75 percent higher than turnout for Republicans, according to The Early Voting Center."
  • Ohio: Per the OH Secretary of State: "Today Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner announced key statistics on absentee ballots, early voting, and anticipated turnout. Highlights:
    • Through October 24th, 221,368 Ohioans requested in-person absentee ballots and 1,234,996 requested mail-in absentee ballots – an unprecendented total of 1,456,364 absentee ballot requests. (This is the first presidential election in which any Ohio voter can request an absentee ballot without a reason.)
    • Brunner expects "historic" voter turnout of 80%, or 6,480,000 Ohio voters, and anticipates absentee ballots could account for up to 1/3 of those voters. To date, absentee ballot requests represent 22.5% of that anticipated turnout.
    • During the one-week "overlap" period for same-day in-person registration and voting, 652,875 absentee ballots were requested, of which 585,467 were mail-in and 67,408 were in-person. However, only about 12,800 of Ohioans requesting in-person absentee ballots also registered on the same day. 
      The highest turnout precentage in any prior presidential election (since 1977 when such percentages became available) was 77.15% in 1992. The turnout in 2004 was 71.77%. 
      * If Brunner is right about turnout and if a third of those voters will have voted early, that means that the number of people actually walking into polling places on November 4th will be about 4,290,000. Judging by this chart, that appears to be fewer Election Day voters than any presidential election since 1980, perhaps even 1977 (depending on how many people voted absentee in prior years, when a valid reason for doing so was required).
The Obama Revolution in Political Affairs
By expanding his supporter base, utilising the internet (whilst optimizing traditional fundraising means) to raise record sums, re-shaping the electorates of key states and putting new states into play, Obama has revolutionised political campaigning. Critically, Team Obama operationalised this approach by brilliantly integrating it's field operations from the primary season into a magnificent voter registration programme which in turn became a GOTV juggernaut.

Obama's campaign has seen the advent of a new and powerful donor/activist model (one that both Huckabee and Palin are likely to utilise in their struggle for the 2012 GOP nod), it has shown that electorates are not static statistical models (Nov. 4th could be the Iowa Caucus writ large) and it has huge potential governing implications for a President Obama (which we will explore during the bizarre twilight that is Transition). 

All of this will be tested on Nov. 4, but if this assessment is accurate, Nov. 4th isn't the end of the Obama model, it is the beginning of nothing less then the transformation of political campaigning. Boney and Carl would be proud.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fall of the House of George

House for sale. Fixer-upper, handyman's delight. Motivated seller.

In my last post I outlined the three-pillars of the GOP House that George Built – wealthy conservatives, social conservatives, and security conservatives - tracing their origins back to Nixon.

McCain has claimed, as any still-technically-viable candidate must, that reports of his campaign’s death are premature. This is not true; to the extent that the fortunes of its presidential campaign are a reflection of the fortunes of the party, reports of the demise of the GOP are if anything tardy in the extreme. The House that George Built collapsed in 2006 because one its pillars, security conservatives, collapsed.

Security conservatives have made the difference for Republicans since 1968. What is critical about these voters is that, unlike wealthy conservatives and social conservatives, they are not Republican loyalists. In fact, they take in a great many 2s and 3s – registered Democrats and independents who share the GOP’s traditional emphasis on a strong military but may vote Democrat on local matters. It is no coincidence that traditional swing states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida, as well as new battlegrounds such as Virginia and North Carolina, are in the top ten states in the nation for number of military recruits from the state or the number of active-duty personnel in residence.

In the ten presidential elections from 1968 to 2004, security voters did not deliver the popular vote for a Republican or conservative candidate only three times - 1976, 1996, and 2000 (remember that in 1992 the conservative vote was split, allowing Bill Clinton to prevail without 51% of the popular vote). These same voters gave the GOP a ringing endorsement in 2002, and delivered enough for a second Bush term in 2004. By 2006, however, they had abandoned the Republican Party almost wholesale, returning power over Congress to the Democratic Party. It is clear, based on polling in the battlegrounds described above, that security voters have not rushed to the GOP’s standard bearer in 2008 in droves, despite the fact that he is, himself, a veteran. Some of this has to do with the fact that national security is not the dominant issue of the day, squeezed out by the economy and health care, but McCain’s record on veterans’ affairs has been roundly criticized and Obama has been endorsed by a number of high-profile veterans and veterans-groups.

McCain, and other Republican candidates, will suffer next Tuesday because one of its three key pillars has simply disappeared. But, for the GOP, these days it’s always darkest just before it goes pitch black. The worst will come in 2012. More on that in my next post.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The final week: where will they be?

As of tommorow, it's 7 days to go so where will the principals spend the final week? Weigh in below please!

My bet:
Obama: OH, PA, IN, MO, VA, WV, NC, FL
Biden: OH, PA (often), WV, FL
McCain: OH, PA (often), NH, VA, NC, FL 
Palin: CO, NV, NM, OH, PA, VA, FL

Your thoughts?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Pennsylvania & Admiral Ackbar

As previously noted, McCain's only hope is Pennsylvania. But what if the Obama campaign are cleverly, cunningly luring the McCain campaign into making their stand on a battleground in which they have no real hope? What if Pennsylvania is, as Admiral Ackbar would say: "A TRAP!"

Let's consider the 'evidence' of faux-Obama weakness:
  • A leaked Obama poll (by a "rogue" agent no less) showing Obama up only two points; and
  • Recently declassifed communiques from PA Governor Rendell to the Obama High Command pleading for the return of Senator Obama to the Keystone state.
I'm sure that the McCain Alliance (secretly massing at Sullust) is already congratulating themselves on their glorious victory to be at End...errrr, Pennsylvania. But no! For the polls actually look like this:

And Governor Rendell says Obama is on course to over-perform Kerry's 419,000 Philadelphia-area result with an over/under of 470,000-500,000 votes. 

The good Governor also notes that: "If you look at the polls, the breakdown of the polls, Barack Obama is carry South Central Pennsylvania, he's carry Cumberland and Dolphin and places like that and it's pretty remarkable as no Democrat since Lyndon Johnson has carried those areas."

Perhaps no plan is too cunning for the Clausewitzian genius of Plouffe and Axelrod. Afterall, On Politik would never engage in Ritchie-Hook-esque warrentless strategic speculation - unless of course this was reverse-reverse psychology...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The battleground map (23 October, 2008)

Obama landslide probable

The map tells the story. Even if McCain were to somehow miraculously flip PA he'd still have to run the table on all our current Toss-up states to win - the equivalent of flipping the coin 6 times and calling it correctly on each occasion (which John informs me is a 1 in 64 chance or 1.5625%). Good luck Senator.

Onto the maps! 

Likely Obama: CA, CT, DE, DC, HI, IL, ME, MD, MA, NJ, NY, OR, RI, VT, WA, IA (197 electoral votes) 
Lean Obama: MN, NM, MI, WI, PA, NH, CO, VA  (89) electoral votes) 
Toss-ups: FL, OH, NV, NC, MO, IN (89) electoral votes) 
Lean McCain: GA, MT, ND, WV, NE-2  (26) electoral votes) 
Likely McCain: AK, AL, AZ, AR, ID, KS, KY, LA, MS, SD, NE 1,3,4,5 OK, SC, TN, TX, UT, WY, ND (137) electoral votes) 

Obama likely + leaners: 286  electoral votes 
McCain likely + leaners: 163  electoral votes 
Tossups: 89 electoral votes

Likely Obama: CA, CT, DE, DC, HI, IL, ME, MD, MA, NY, OR, RI, VT, WA (175 electoral votes)
Lean Obama: IA, MI, MN, NH, NJ, NM, PA, WI (89 votes)
Toss-up: CO, FL, IN, MO, NV, NC, OH, VA (111 votes)
Lean McCain: GA, MT, NE 02, ND, SD, WV (30 votes)
Likely McCain: AL, AK, AZ, AR, ID, KS, KY, LA, MS, NE (the rest of the state), OK, SC, TN, TX, UT, WY (133 votes)

Obama likely + leaners: 264  electoral votes 
McCain likely + leaners: 163  electoral votes 
Tossups: 111 electoral votes

On Politik
Likely Obama: CA, CT, DE, DC, HI, IA, IL, ME (all 4 EVs), MD, MA, MI, MN, NJ, NY, OR, PA, RI, VT, WA, WI (255 EVs)
Lean Obama: CO, NH, NM, VA (31 EVs)
Toss-up: FL, IN, NC, NV, NE-cd2 (1ev), MO, OH (90 EVs)
Lean McCain: GA, MT, WV, ND (26 EVs)
Likely McCain: AK, AL, AZ, AR, ID, KS, KY, LA, MS, NE(4EVS), OK, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, WY (136 EVs)

Obama likely + leaners: 286 electoral votes
McCain likely + leaners: 162 electoral votes
Toss-ups: 90 electoral votes

State by state
  • Florida returns to Toss-up after it's brief flirtation as a Lean Obama state as the polls tighten in the Sunshine state. 
  • Montana remains a Lean McCain state but will move to Toss-up as and when mainstream polling shows the race to be neck and neck.
  • North Dakota remains a Lean McCain state and will move per the same basis as Montana. 
  • Nebraska 2 remains a Toss-up. We may be lacking proper polling but if Obama is running so strongly in the Dakotas and even in Kansas then his NE-2 operation should be within a coin flip of victory.
  • Maine-2 moves back to Likely Obama as McCain winds down in Maine.
  • Minnesota moves to Likely Obama as he opens up a clear poll lead and McCain's ad spending dries up.
  • Pennsylvania may be McCain's only path to 270 but the polls and incidentals don't show him breaking through. He needs to be in single figures at least in the average to bring it back to Lean Obama and thus have a shot.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The House That George Built

I hear you can take over the mortgage for pennies on the dollar

As you can tell from previous posts, we at VomPolitik are just about calling this election, and we’re not the only ones. The electoral math hasn’t been there for McCain for a while, and he now has no realistic path to victory.

This is not just the end of the McCain candidacy. His technically hypothetical but now virtually inevitable defeat marks the end of Republican primacy in national politics. Marcus even predicts, quite reasonably, that the midterm of 2010 will favor the party in power and deliver or consolidate Democratic control in the Senate.

While McCain need look no further than the mirror to find a compelling reason for the end of his candidacy, there is no doubt that he inherited a party with serious structural problems. The Republican Party is very much a house divided, and we know what its greatest member said about those. This narrative is already out and about in the media, but what is not discussed is the fact that, for the Republican Party, the worst is yet to come. Eight years after victory in the presidential race (and Supreme Court), six years out from an historic election triumph, and four years out from a second presidential victory that had Republicans toasting to permanent power and the Dems in disarray, The House That George W. Built has well and truly collapsed, and it may be impossible to rebuild. In the post I will talk about its construction, and later will detail its collapse and cast an eye over its very grim future.

Curious George Builds a House

The Republican Party of the post-Nixon-era was founded on three pillars: social conservatism, economic conservatism, and security conservatism.

It’s important to note that the joining of the three forces represented a new birth for the GOP. The Republican Party began as liberals and social reformers, popularized under Lincoln, and continued in this vein through Teddy Roosevelt. After Roosevelt the Republican Party began to forsake a bit of its liberalism, trading it in for market-based competence, which went rather out of favor with Herbert Hoover. The next Republican president, Dwight Eisenhower, bore very little resemblance to modern Republicans, presiding over some of the highest tax rates in US history as he insisted on balancing a budget heavy on government spending.

It was not until Nixon that Republicans truly became the conservatives we know today. Economic conservatives, who believed in small government and low taxes, had been with the party more or less since Franklin Roosevelt drove them into opposition; social conservatives whose sensibilities were offended by the 1960s (either its excesses or its genuine progress) joined in; and security conservatives who believed that the Republican Party could justifiably claim the title of pro-military and pro-soldier (and anti-communist) in view of the Left’s increasing anti-militarism turned up as well. Some Democratic Party loyalists are wont to describe these three constituencies as the Intolerant, the Insecure, and the Greedy. Marcus suggested that recent market events require this be updated to the Intolerant, the Insecure and the Insolvent. I could not possibly comment.

Nixon himself wasn’t solely responsible for the rise of modern conservative Republicanism – William F. Buckley Jr. deserves his share of credit, among a host of others – but his election was the first one based on the three pillars. That he then became embroiled in the greatest political scandal in American history and forever tarnished the Office of the Presidency was a bit of a setback, but it was only seven years after his resignation that conservative Republicanism reached its apotheosis in the form of the Reagan Revolution, a dominating political performance based on the promise of low taxes, a muscular military and foreign policy, and rhetoric strong in the language of socially conservative values.

To understand how dominant this ideology has been, consider that of the seven presidential elections between 1980 and 2004, more voters cast their ballot for left-of-center candidates than right-of-center candidates only twice (1996 and 2000), and one of those was the reelection campaign of a president whose middle-of-the-road liberalism prevailed in 1992 only because the 56% conservative vote was divided between two candidates. Even that mid-road liberalism was rejected by voters a scant two years later in the Republican Revolution of 1994.

By 2000, though, the stool appeared ready to weaken. Democrats had gained in 1996, 1998, and would go on to win the popular vote in 2000. That the presidential election of 2000 was decided under rather dubious circumstances is a matter of public record. It is also a matter of public record that George W. Bush prevailed. Low-tax conservatives responded to his talks of tax cuts. Security hawks had never been crazy about Bill Clinton and did not much like Al Gore. More importantly, though, social conservatives responded to his Born-Again background and rhetoric; his “restoring dignity to the White House” line was a huge hit, and Bush became the first president elected by a Republican Party dominated by the religious right.

Even so, the dodgy circumstances of his election, coupled with his loss of the popular vote and the defection of Senator Jim Jeffords from the Republican Party, returning power over the Senate to the Democrats, left Bush without much clout for the first year of his Presidency. September 11, 2001 sent security voters hurrying for authority, and Bush’s Reagan-esque, moralist, us v. them foreign policy was just right for the moment. The Republican Party leveraged it into a crushing electoral victory in 2002 when security-minded voters were so alarmed that they were even persuaded that Max Cleland, who lost three limbs in the service of his country in Vietnam, was somehow disloyal to the American military. The Republican House had never been more imposing.

Four years later, its modern maker had badly weakened it. Six years later, he had destroyed it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Here's your starter for ten...

Whilst Frank, John and myself write our pieces on the state of the GOP, the battleground map and a strategic score card for the campaigns in their totality I'd be interested in your desires for election day. Presuming 270+ EVs, rank the following states in order of your desire to see them won by Obama on November 4th: Colorado, Florida, Ohio, Nebraska 2, West Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, Missouri, Nevada, Indiana, Virginia.

My starter:
1) Ohio (personal revenge for my '04 defeat)
2) Nebraska 2 (proof of detailed oriented strategy)
3) Indiana (proof of strategic ambition)
4) Georgia (proof of work + luck = victory)
5) West Virginia (proof of a well timed exploitation of a target of opportunity)
6) North Carolina (as a screw-you to OH and FL)
7) Florida (political revenge)
8) Missouri (personal revenge for my '02 defeat)
9) Colorado (Conventions work!)
10) Nevada (so Harry Reid can be a Blue state Majority Leader of his 61 Senators)

Monday, October 20, 2008


Obama raises $150mn. Colin Powell endorses. The DSCC reaches for 60 Senate seats. West Virginia, North Dakota and Georgia are in play. McCain's path to 270 is near non-existent.

Belatedly, the McCain campaign will embrace an all out attack on Pennsylvania (at the likely cost of Colorado!) creating an electoral map (and math) that is even more improbable then Gore's Florida-only path, or Kerry's Ohio-only path. In fact, it may just be simpler in future elections to ask 'who has the more realistic paths to 270?' and declare them the winner (as glimpsed here 10 weeks ago).

Meanwhile, the media has already begun discussing everything from the Obama cabinet to his first hundred days.

So whilst the grand strategic narrative seems set, there are still some points of real interest in the last days of the campaign such as: the prospective end of the Nixon/Reagan/Bush GOP, the Revolution in Political Affairs that is the Obama ground game, the ultimate manipulation of the angles of approach (message, ground game, candidate) to smash the enemy's centre of gravity, as well as the serious foriegn and domestic policy challenges that President Obama awaits. On Politik will, naturally, be exploring these.

(And this doesn't even include the more meanspirited, if enjoyable, musings of John who wants to consider: why Palin not Ridge? Why couldn't the McCain campaign keep a consistent message for just a day or two? And, of course, our all-time favourite: "I'm afraid Senator Obama doesn't understand the difference between a tactic and a strategy." Bliss.).

So, even though we know the end of the game, we hope you'll stick with it 'til it's game over.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Analysis of State Pollsters

There are two main types of state pollsters: Public pollsters who are usually sponsored by news channels and university pollsters, who have one key advantage in the form of cheap labour, students.

Most multi-state public pollsters try and cut costs by using automated calling service (i.e. without a live interviewer), called Interactive Voice Response (IVR). While some pollsters object to this, in the 2004 they performed better than the more traditional methods as shown here, and fivethirtyeight has two of the largest IVR pollsters, SUSA and RasmussenReports, very near the top of his pollster ratings. Nate Silver at 538, ranks pollsters in order of their perfomance in past elections compared to their competitors.(Actually it's a little bit more complicated than that, here is full description with the warning that it becomes quite technical.)

For a more detailed analysis, this article lays outs the benefits and possible problems of IVR. There are also campaign pollsters who occasionally release their results, usually when they just complete an especially good poll for their candidate, or a bad set of public polls come out against their candidate.

Here is a quick rundown of the main public and university pollsters:

Rasmussen Reports: Rasmussen does the most amount of state polling of all the pollsters and despite that volume is ranked an impressive 3rd on 538. Like his national tracker Rasmussen does weigh his state poll by party-id. He does this by adjusting the party weighting given in 2004 and 2006 state exit polls, by the difference between the 2004 and 2006 national exit polls and his current numbers for his tracker. He also keeps track of his previous polls from the same state and may do some fine tuning if the numbers do not match.
His sample sizes can be quite small at 500LV (although his weekly 5 battleground polls which are sponsored by fox are a more respectable 1000LVs), this combined with the large number of poll he commissions is bound to lead to some outliers. For example, last month his New Mexico poll had McCain up by 2 or in July his Ohio poll had McCain up by ten, but these are relatively rare.
Compared to the average of all pollsters Rasmussen tends to lean a couple of points towards McCain. That’s not to say Rasmussen is necessarily biased or wrong (indeed if 2004 is anything to go by then he is more likely to be right) but just relative to the average of all pollsters, his poll tend to lean slightly to McCain. This is not a uniform leaning across all the states, so while rasmussen’s polls are near the average in Florida and North Carolina, they tend to lean McCain in Virginia and Ohio. Despite this Rasmussen polls are certainly important polls to keep an eye on.

SurveyUSA(SUSA): Does the second most state polls, but unlike Rasmussen does not weigh for party-id. After weighing for the usual demographic factors, (gender, age, race, geographic location), SUSA just lets the party-id fall where the sample happens to come up. Much like in the national polls this leads to a somewhat more variable poll but prevents one source of bias entering. SUSA was the most accurate pollster during the primary season, often and (rather eerily) predicting the exact result. However the same caveats apply that applied to Rasmussen applies to SUSA, that any pollster which does a large number of polls with a relatively small sample size will have some outliers such as this Minnesota poll. SUSA deserves much credit for releasing arguably the most detailed internals of all pollsters.

Insider Advantage: This pollster is run by an ex-republican Georgian congressman Matt Towery. I/A polls tend to have small samples and do weigh for party-id. While there does not seem to be a systematic bias towards either candidate, their poll's internals can be very erratic. Throughout the primary season they substantially underestimated Obama support among african-american voters, (to some extent all pollsters did this, but I/A were the worst) and have continued in the general election.

(Note: As of late I/A have stopped releasing their internals)

Strategic Vision (SV): This is a pollster which is associated with the republican party. It does not release details of their internals or for that matter their methodology. However it does use relatively large sample sizes, usually 1000+. Their poll tends to lean to the republicans by a couple of points from the average pollster.

Public Policy Polling (PPP): This pollster is associated with the democratic party but unlike SV, does release all their internals and methodology. PPP subscribes to a system known as Aristotle which provides a list of registered voters with key demographics (Gender, age, race, location, party-id) so they can create a proportionate voter pool of what they predict the electorate will be on election night, and hence can then randomly pick from this pool for their poll sample. It has a relatively large sample usually 1000+LVs. Intriguingly, PPP runs a blog which allows for Tom Jenson (the communication director of PPP) to explain his methods and interesting findings. The blog also allows for those interested to post questions, comments and very recently, once per a week, to actually vote on where PPP should poll next. PPP polls do not weigh for party-id and tend to lean to the democrats by a couple of points from the average of pollsters.

: A generally well-respected university pollster. It has large sample sizes of over 1000LVs and does not weigh for age. It tends to lean to the democrats by two or three points.

Research 2000 (R2000): An independent pollster which like SUSA releases almost complete internals to their polls. It tends to be sponsored by relatively small companies (small-ish tv stations or quite often daily kos) and hence usually has relatively small polls (around 600). It does weigh it polls by party-id and it tends to lean to the democrats by a couple of points.

Mason-Dixon: A well-regarded independent pollster who much like R2000 tends to be sponsored by small companies. It has a small sample size and weighs it’s polls by party id. It tends to lean to republicans by a couple of points.

Selzer: The oracle of Iowa. Selzer has the highest ranking on 538. Only polls Iowa and some of the nearby states (Michigan and Indiana). Selzer has an interesting method for dealing with the expected higher turnout of the youth in 2008. She records the response rate and likelihood of adults, of varies ages, of actually voting, and then multiples the prospensity to vote of these age groups by the demographics of the state. (Rather than just looking at the results of previous election.) Due to this method, she is predicting a younger electorate and hence tends to lean to the democrats by a couple of points.

CNN/TIME/ORC: Unfortunately release very little about their polls. They have moderate sample size (about 700LVs) and tend to lean a couple of points to the democrats. (The polling company ORC is also commissioned by fox to do their national poll)

Marist: Another respected university poll. It has moderate sample sample (about 800LVs). Marist does weigh by party-id. Strangely while Marist demographic weights would imply a republican leaning, the outcome leans to democrats by several points.

Big Ten: Universities of ten battleground states came together in order to provide what was meant to be a good look at the upcoming election, however the results were mixed with some odd results such as Iowa poll showing the race tied while all other poll have had Obama with a double figure leads. There were other oddities among the internals of these polls. Hopefully they will be able to work past these teething problems.

American Research Group (ARG): An independent pollster, which had a torrid primary season often missing the actual results by more than ten or even twenty points. Even the normally innocuous Mark Blumenthal felt the need to repudiate ARG. Moreover the editorial comments bring into question whether they are competent (or perhaps honest) enough to be in the industry given such absurd assertions as their explanation that the reason why their polls leaned to Clinton during the primary by 4-5 points was due to undecideds going uniformly to Obama, despite the exit polls showing that if anything they tended towards Clinton. Do not trust these polls.

Zogby Interactive: The internet poll, which gives all other internet polls a bad name. Whether it is zogby’s weighting or some problem with the methodology, these polls are more erratic than a drunk dart’s player. Sometimes they hit the board but are of extreme danger to those who analysis the state of the race by taking averages of all available polls. Some of the more absurd results were Obama leading by 3 points in Arizona and giving Barr 15% in New Hampshire. They have one of the lowest ratings on 538.