Thursday, March 6, 2008

Who is Winning the Swing States?

Senator Clinton's campaign regularly notes that Senator Clinton is winning the big (re: important) states while Senator Obama is winning in places like Nebraska and Idaho: places not at all likely to turn blue on any television network's election night maps. What about this claim? The real argument should not be about state size, but about who is winning the swing states. Indeed, the argument also ought to consider whether the candidate is winning swing states that went the other way in 2004. When we do that, Sen. Clinton's argument evaporates to a point...but Senator Obama does not improve enough to answer the question, "but who is winning the swing states?" with a definitive pronouncement either.

First, 12 states fit into the 5% rule I have arbitrarily developed based on the Bush-Kerry vote difference in each state in 2004. The Democrats have six to hold and six to flip into their column. Leaving Florida and Michigan aside (at least until June!), Senator Obama has won primaries in swing states with 36 electoral votes (16 of which were in GOP hands in 2004). Senator Clinton has won primaries in swing states with 34 electoral votes (30 of which were in GOP hands in 2004). So, Senator Obama has won swing states with a larger number of electoral votes than has Senator Clinton, but Senator Clinton has more more swing states with electoral votes that can flip to the Democrats' side. As the whole race has been, it is pretty much even steven. This makes Pennsylvania, all the more important for each candidate. The same is true for potential do overs in Florida and Michigan.

Obama fans may point to my leaving of Missouri off of this list, which would give Obama 11 more electoral votes in the "Flip" column. Obamaniacs can also point to a new survey in the Lincoln Journal Star, which suggests that Obama would only narrowly lose Nebraska to John McCain while also winning two of Nebraska's electoral votes. Nebraska awards two of its five votes for statewide election victory and each of the remaining three for victory in one of Nebraska's three congressional districts. Obama is currently winning two of those districts, according to the poll. Interesting stuff.

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