October 29, 2008

November 4: What The Math Tells Us

As we wrote two weeks ago, the race is indeed tightening, but any forecast about the Presidential and Congressional elections of next Tuesday must be based not on the last maneuvering of the candidates, but on long-term political trends. All the more so, given the fact that an important fraction of the electorate already cast their ballots, or decided to do so before November 4. Whatever McCain or Palin could say between today and next Tuesday, about one voter in five already voted, and those who did so largely broke in favor of Obama, particularly in the West and in the South, where the opposite should have happened.
The key point we must bear in mind is that the political trend in recent years has been a strong polarization of the electorate, a factor that was central to Karl Rove's successful strategy. About 90 percent of those identifying with a political party vote for that party's presidential candidate. The exit polls in 2004 showed that John Kerry had won 89 percent of the Democratic vote, George W. Bush 93 percent of the Republican vote. As it is, this translates in a huge advantage for the party that is ahead in what political scientists call "party identification," simply because the pool of voters is larger. 
And what is the situation on this front? The Democratic advantage in September was about 4 points, according to Rasmussen. That disparity is now probably larger because early September was the moment of McCain's convention, the high tide of Republican fortunes this year.
However, imagine that in November the gap remains the same, and that the same 120 million Americans who voted in 2004 will vote (there will be more voters, but we'll talk about that later). If Obama will keep the share of 90 percent of the Democratic vote, that translates into an advantage of several million votes for him. The math is quite simple:
90 percent of 46.8 million votes for the Democratic standard bearer (total: 42.1) against 90 percent of 40.8 million votes for the Republican one (total: 36.7). In a moment of painful economic hardship as this one, there is no way the so-called Independents would split 50-50 between the two parties: more probably they will go 55-45 for the Democratic candidate. That means another 4 million votes in the democratic column (Independents are about a third of the voters, as of today). As there will be new voters, a large majority of them pulling the lever for the democratic candidates because of superior field work by the Obama's campaign, this will bring another 2 million votes net advantage to him.
Question: Can the voters who secretly cannot bear the idea of voting for a "nigger" reverse a 11.5 MILLION VOTES ADVANTAGE on November 4th? The answer is: "No, at this point in the game that is not possible." 
Obama has been excellent in reassuring independents about his ability to tackle the economic crisis, and he can count on the traditional Democratic constituencies now pouring into the voting boots, especially women, Latinos and young people: they will give the Democrats a comfortable edge. Right now, calculations about the electoral college give the Democratic candidate a solid majority, but the victory might be much larger, with Obama collecting more than 300 votes in the electoral college. His supporters should work hard, but can sleep well.