Saturday, May 31, 2008

Democratic Delegate Projections Under Post-RBC Meeting Numbers and Other Thoughts

(Note: I updated the delegate totals in this post to reflect MSNBC's count).

Well, with the conclusion of the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting, the delegate numbers have just changed. It is unclear whether the Clinton campaign will seek to appeal these decisions at the convention, but until then, these new rules stand.

According to MSNBC, the magic number for winning a majority of the total delegates to the convention is now 2,118. Obama picked up 68.5 delegates (actually, delegate votes) today, 63 pledged and 5.5 superdelegate votes (from 10 supers who have endorsed him) from MI and FL. The figure below shows how Obama's delegate allocation changed as a result of today's meeting. It also uses our projections to determine how close Obama will come to the new majority number of 2,118.

According to MSNBC, Obama now has 2055.5 delegates (pledged and superdelegates combined). That puts him 62.5 short of clinching the majority. Based on our projections, Obama will pick up 23 delegates from Puerto Rico, 10 from Montana, and 9 from South Dakota. This would leave him just 21.5 delegates shy of a majority. You can bet that the Obama campaign is going to be working as hard as possible to roll out 20-25 superdelegate endorsements by Tuesday evening so that the voters in Montana and South Dakota will put his campaign over the top.


Though some of the numbers are a bit dated, this post is worth re-visiting in the wake of today's decision. It is an analysis of what the popular vote in Michigan would have been if Obama and Edwards' names had been on the ballot.


One other thing to note about the decision on Michigan. The 69-59 division of delegates means that Clinton received 54% of the delegates while Obama received 46%. However, if you take just those who said, in the exit poll, that they had wanted to vote for either Obama or Clinton (in other words, you exclude those who wanted to vote for Edwards or other candidates), Clinton carried 56% of that vote to Obama's 44%. Thus, the 69-59 split was more than just a tabulation based on exit polls. If you split the delegates 56%-44%, that would come out 72-56. It appears that the Michigan Democrats were making allowances for the fact that Obama's name not being on the ballot meant a lot of his supporters stayed home.


Finally, it seems to me that the Obama campaign totally mismanaged this entire episode. My guess is that two or three months ago, the Clinton campaign would have agreed to today's outcome. Obama could have gotten out in front of this issue back then and said he thought half of Florida should be seated and that something like a 69-59 compromise on Michigan would work for him. Even then, he had the delegates to spare to offer such a compromise and that move would have likely killed the whole story, rather than allowing it to build up over the last few months and come to a head like it did today. Of course, campaigns tend to be very risk averse and I'm sure the Obama campaign didn't want to risk any delegates at the time. But I'd bet they wished they had after seeing how that meeting ended today.

Live from the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee Meeting - Session 2

7:10 The Michigan motion passed, 19-8. So Michigan and Florida will have full delegations, with each delegate having a one-half vote (which is what I guessed would happen in my 2:00 pm post). But what I did not expect is how quickly these votes were moved along.

The discussion went so much faster than I thought it would. I expected much more debate and a fuller airing of the pros and cons, more on the history of the fair reflection rule, more discussion of the importance of following the rules to keep order in 2012, just more. I think the interruptions from the crowd impaired the debate today. How ironic, since allowing people to attend the meeting is a democratic principle, but isn't a full debate even more important?  I think a more reasoned debate today, more discussion, more time for consensus, would have made it less likely that there will be a credentials fight at the Convention. The way this meeting ended, I don't feel confident that this is the last time we will hear about the Michigan delegates. 

7:09 The room is going crazy. If they can't maintain control at a Rules and Bylaws meeting, what is going to happen in Denver?

7:00 It has been a long day at the RBC and it seems as though people are starting to get restless and downright rude. It seems like a totally different crowd from this morning. Chairman Roosevelt keeps telling people to stop interrupting, and that their disruptions are reflecting poorly on their candidates. 

The Florida motion to restore the full delegation with 1/2 vote each passed easily. The committee is now considering a motion to restore Michigan's full delegation with 1/2 vote each (69 Clinton, 59 Obama). The big point of contention here is that the 69-59 split is based on an estimate by Michigan Democratic party officials for the Obama vote, since he was not on the ballot. And that does not reflect the "fair reflection" of presidential preference of the actual votes that were cast.  Clinton supporters want the "uncommitted" voters to stand (and be translated into uncommitted delegates) so the candidates can go back and try to persuade those uncommitted voters at a future state convention.

6:30 The meeting is (finally!) back in session. They are considering a motion to reinstate all of Florida's delegates with full voting rights.  It is highly unlikely that the committee will support this, it would be a complete reversal of their earlier decision. Maybe they just want to get on the record why Florida needs to be punished in the first place, since it did violate the rules.  Next we should expect to see a motion to seat the pledged delegates with 1/2 vote each. 

5:03 Marc Ambinder reports on his blog that committee members are behind closed doors arguing about a resolution for Michigan, and that they've already agreed to a resolution on Florida. Not surprising, given that the problems in Michigan (as I noted earlier) are so much more complicated due to the inability to accurately estimate a delegate allocation for Obama, based on the vote (since he was not on the ballot).

4:50 In my experience as a staff member to the RBC in the 2004 cycle, the chairs would not typically let a meeting go so far after the scheduled starting time, even without so many cameras anxiously waiting (Jim Roosevelt was co-chair during my tenure, and Carol Khare Fowler - still a member of the committee - was the other co-chair). My guess is that they are trying to work out some kind of consensus as to how to proceed, trying to get some agreement (perhaps from the campaign representatives) on the wording and substance of the motions that will be introduced.

4:30 We are waiting for the RBC members to take their seats after the lunch break. These people have got to be tired - their schedule started at 8:30 or so this morning, and last night they met at an informal dinner that according to some reports lasted until close to 2:00 am.

More on those Michigan "Uncommitted" Voters

Mark Brewer noted earlier the efforts that his party made to direct Obama and Edwards supporters toward the "uncommitted" line on the ballot in the primary. Here is the evidence from the Michigan Democratic Party's voter guide (and in a FAQ):

"Supporters of Joe Biden, John Edwards, Barack Obama and Bill Richardson are urged to vote “uncommitted” instead of writing in their candidates’ names because write-in votes for those candidates will not be counted under state law."

And even a video posted on December 18th:

Live from the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee Meeting

Just about to break for lunch, I wonder if the cable news networks will return this afternoon? I hope they do. If you thought the presentations today have been interesting, you will probably find the debate later riveting. 

Sec. Herman said they will reconvene at 4:15 pm. 

2:45 Donna Brazile just said she will support the proposals to give the states' their voices back. "My mama always taught me to play by the rules, and to respect the rules... and my mama taught me that when you decide to change the rules - especially in the middle of the game - that's called cheating." But who is trying to change the rules? Both Clinton and Obama are advocating positions not totally based on the outcome of the actual election. And everyone in the room is cheering - I guess both camps think they are playing by the rules (or maybe they just love Donna?). Maybe what Donna really means is that Michigan and Florida broke the rules (not the campaigns), and that is why she will support reinstating some - but not all - of the states delegates.

2:30 Jim Blanchard, former governor of Michigan, is speaking now on behalf of the Clinton campaign. He just made a good point that is often overlooked in this discussion of Michigan and Florida - Florida has a state law that makes it almost impossible for a presidential candidate to take his/her name off the ballot. Basically a candidate has to end his campaign nationwide in order to be removed from the Florida ballot. Michigan should have made its ballot access law as strong, and they would not be in this mucky position today about how to allocate the delegates fairly according to presidential preference.

2:10 The discussion about Michigan is wrapping up, but the real action will take place after lunch. It is amazing to me that so many people are still in the room - it seems like no one has left since 9:00 this morning, even though it is now after 2:00 pm. 

The committee members will have lunch in a private room - more for logistical convenience, not so they can retreat to some back room (smoke-filled or not) to decide in private what decision they will make publicly this afternoon.  Chances are that some negotiations will take place over lunch, but anything could happen when the committee reconvenes this afternoon. I think the proposals (with a chance of success) on the table will be:

- Seat the full Florida delegation with 1/2 vote each.
- Seat the full Michigan delegation with 1/2 vote each, allocated according to the 69-59 compromise (although there will be more debate about the validity of exit polls in determining this).
- What will they do about the superdelegates? Part of Jon Ausman's proposal was that it was against DNC rules to sanction superdelegates. But will the RBC members halve the pledged delegate votes while giving full votes to supers?

1:50 David Bonior is speaking on behalf of the Obama campaign. Right now he is denying that it was Obama's fault that there was no "do-over" primary in Michigan. I happened to be in Michigan at the time that the do-over primary was being discussed in the legislature, and it was reported at the time (as I remember) that the Obama campaign would not comment on the legislation until they read it, but that the legislators drafting it would not put anything in writing until they got an agreement from the Obama campaign - a kind of chicken and egg problem. Hillary, on the other hand, made an appearance in the state to try to get the second primary to happen. In any case, a do-over primary would have been terribly problematic, since who knows how many Democrats voted in the Republican primary (like my Dad) and those voters would not have been allowed to participate in the second Dem primary.

1:35 "Fair reflection" -- Harold Ickes has mentioned this concept a few times, and Elaine Kamarck referred to it too. This is an important part of the DNC delegate selection rules (Rule 13). It means that the pledged delegates in a state must be allocated according to the "fair reflection of the presidential preferences" in the state - so 55% of the vote Hillary should translate to 55% of delegate, and 40% for "uncommitted" (which is a real line on the ballot, and comes from the tradition of allowing voters to participate in the primary even if they don't have a candidate they want to support). Harold says "as a matter of law" the committee must respect the sanctity of those uncommitted votes, "this resolution as drafted is not even legal under the rules". He is really drilling into Sen. Levin. 

Sen. Levin: "Let me clarify, you are calling for a fair refection of a flawed primary?" (Applause)
"How do you have a fair reflection of a flawed primary?"

1:27 Anyone interested in the protest that happened (maybe is still happening?) outside the hotel, check out the HotlineOnCall blog for a few updates on that. They say it was a "lovefest" - no serious squabbles between Clinton and Obama supporters. 

1:15 The issue of the timing of Michigan's primary has been a passionate project of Sen. Levin's for years. He was the one who instigated the creation of the DNC Commission on Presidential Nomination Timing and Scheduling (the commission that added Nevada and South Carolina to the front of the calendar). Kind of ironic, but maybe it was because of his voracity on the issue that Michigan earned a reputation on the committee for being a trouble maker, and because of that they probably never had a real chance of getting one of the early calendar spots they applied for. Terry McAuliffe tells a great story in his book about a shouting match with Carl Levin over the timing of the state's 2004 primary... basically McCauliffe and the DNC promised the commission to Levin in exchange for Michigan staying put in the calendar well after Iowa and New Hampshire. 

1:05 Sen. Carl Levin is presenting now. "The Democratic Party has achieved unity... we are asking you to preserve it." What he means is that the Michigan Democratic Party and both candidate representatives in the state have all agreed to this position. What they are asking for is a 100% reinstatement of the state's delegation, based on the 69-59 allocation of pledged delegates that Brewer described. My guess is that the RBC is in no mood to completely go back on its previous decision to punish Michigan... a more viable solution is to seat the delegation 69-59 (as they are asking) but with each delegate getting just a 1/2 vote each (just like I think they will do for Florida). 

12:56 Brewer's proposal has been endorsed by the Michigan State Party, Sen Carl Levin, and other elected officials in Michigan... but he seems to be having a hard time convincing the committee members of its value. Don Fowler's reference to this feeling like "Alice in Wonderland" has I think led committee members to think the 69-59  proposal is based on a fantasy... but really the whole primary process in Michigan was the Alice in Wonderland scenario; this compromise proposal is really not that wild and seems to me to be the best legitimate way to divvy up the delegates between Clinton and Obama.

Democrats do not like exit polls (I guess this is from Florida 2000 and the perception that the exit polls showed Gore winning?)... I hope they do not let their bias against exit polls get in the way of using them for a fair solution to the Michigan problem.

12:45 Yesterday on this blog, Brian Schaffner offered a good analysis of the "uncommitted" voters in the Michigan primary. He rightly points out that there is no way to determine how many people stayed home because they couldn't vote for Obama, Edwards, etc (rather than casting a vote for uncommitted), but exit polls can help show who people supported.  Mark Brewer is explaining that the exit polls are being used in their analysis that gives them the 69-59 delegate split for Clinton-Obama.

One thing that I haven't heard discussed much is how many Democrats voted in the Republican primary, since they viewed the Dem primary as invalid. My dad - a lifelong Democrat - voted in the Republican primary, just to "screw up their election" as he puts it. How many Dem voters in Michigan acted like he did?

12:40 The Michigan problem is much more complicated than Florida, since Obama took his name off the Michigan ballot. The Clinton campaign will remind you that Obama did this proactively - he and the others who removed their names from the ballot (Edwards, Richardson, etc) had to take specific steps to do this; the default position would have been to stay on the ballot and just not campaign in the state (as Clinton did). The ballot game was motivated by political calculations on both sides: Clinton thought she could win Michigan, Obama and the others thought they couldn't, and bargained that they would get extra favor with the voters in IA and NH for dissing Michigan (remember Iowa and NH voters viewed Michigan and Florida as trying to encroach on their territory as first in the nation caucus and primary)

12:30 Sec. Herman is reviewing the long and sordid history of the 2008 Michigan primary. This is particularly painful for me, as a native Michigander, and also because my dissertation research is on the use of Internet voting in the 2004 Michigan primary. The state party was supposed to use Internet voting again in the 2008 primary, which would have given scholars (like me) an invaluable opportunity to study online voting in the US.

Mark Brewer - one of the longest serving state chairs of one of the best organized and most effective state Democratic parties (Michigan has turned from a swing state to a fairly solid blue state under his leadership) - is presenting now.

12:25 We spent the whole morning on Florida, and have gone waaay over time. Alexis Herman just announced they will hear from Michigan before lunch -- this is important, because the committee members will meet informally at lunch and discuss possible courses of action based on the presentations. There is a mass exodus of the Florida people from the room.

12:20 Alan Katz (RBC member and Obama supporter) is speaking now. The chair confirmed that he will not be allowed to vote on the Florida matter. (But presumably he can vote on Michigan, and Mark Brewer of Michigan will be able to vote on Florida)

12:08 Committee member Tina Flournoy (Clinton supporter) is pressing Wexler to say whether he would support a full restoration of Florida's delegation... she is putting him in a hard place, because as a congressman from Florida he needs to represent his constituents - who surely want a full delegation - but he is here for Obama, who would be harmed by seating the full delegation.

He is really in a tough spot, and the crowd is starting to get a little ugly... shouts for him to "answer the question" (from the Clinton supporters) met with "shhhs" from the Obama supporters. But he just keeps saying he endorses the Ausman position, which is the 50% reduction in delegates. 

11:58 Cong. Robert Wexler is speaking for the Obama campaign, and he is getting the loudest applause of the day so far. He is endorsing the 50% reduction in delegates. Is anyone here not endorsing the 50% reduction in delegates? (Except the Clinton campaign folks, even President Clinton is reportedly supporting it). There seems to be consensus on this, and that is probably what we'll see the committee decide this afternoon.

One area of contention for Florida is what to do with the superdelegates. Wexler just asked for a 1/2 vote for each super... and was met with the first boos of the day from the crowd (I guess since so many of the people here are superdelagtes? Pretty funny). 

You can watch the meeting on C-Span here

11:38 Applause in the hotel lobby (where people are gathered around the TVs watching C-Span) for the conclusion of the remarks from the FL state representative (Arthenia Joyner) who was representing the Clinton campaign. The people here in the lobby must be Clinton supporters hanging out after their protest this morning in front of the hotel. 

11:15 For those not watching on TV, the room is packed with about 300 people in the main audience, which is positioned in front of a u-shaped conference table at which the 30-member committee is seated. There is a balcony overlooking the ballroom, where about 2 dozen bloggers are seated all in a row (and almost all with glowing Apples in their laps). I am sitting in a chair on the floor.

The room is incredibly calm (incredible to me, given the number of people), no protesters - just supporters who interrupt occasionally with applause. I just took a walk out into the main area of the hotel, and nearly ever seat is taken at the bars and lounges with folks watching the proceedings on C-Span. So far it is a very civil meeting (and maybe even a bit boring, even for a rules junkie like me). Boring because there is nothing yet that we haven't heard before... 

10:55 Some things to note:
- Jim Roosevelt (co-chair of the committee) is the grandson of FDR.
- The other co-chair, Alexis Herman, was labor secretary in the Clinton administration.
- Watch for comments/questions from committee member Don Fowler. He is a former chairman of the DNC and had a hand in writing many of the rules.
- Harold Ickes and Donna Brazile are also committee members to watch. Harold is a top adviser to Hillary, but he is also a longtime RBC member and knows the rules perhaps better than anyone. Donna is uncommitted in the race, but her voice is always influential - on the committee as well as in the party.

10:30 Sorry for my late start. I have been working for my credential to get in the room here today... my (small) job was to help get the briefing materials to the members this morning before the meeting started.

If you have been following on TV (assuming it is still being covered, even though it has been about as exciting as a session of Congress on C-Span, complete with charts on poster board) you know that right now we are in the middle of hearing the first challenge, which deals with Florida. The DNC member who presented the case for Florida (Jon Ausman) is basically asking to restore 50% of the state's delegates and all of the supers (he argues that the charter of the DNC does not allow superdelegates to be part of the sanction).

The discussion is really getting into the weeds of the rules, I can't imagine that many in the general public - even those who have been paying unusually close attention to this race - are finding these proceedings very interesting. what we are seeing today is really a legal proceeding, but instead of referencing the US constitution or state statutes, it is the rules of the Democratic National Committee.

Friday, May 30, 2008

New Feature: You Choose the Topic, I do the Analysis

There are so many things about the 2008 race to analyze that sometimes it is hard to decide what to blog about or, more importantly, what you want me to blog about. So, in a new feature that I hope to make a regular one, I'm letting you make the call. On the right sidebar there are three topics that I'm prepared (with a little work) to analyze and blog on. Vote for which one you'd like to see most and I'll blog on the winning topic at the end of next week. The other two topics will cycle into the next week's options and I'll add a new option to the mix to replace the previous week's winner. And if you have ideas for topics that you'd like to see that aren't on the list, leave a comment here and I'll add the feasible ones to the options.

What Should the RBC Do With those Michigan Delegates?

Is Harold Ickes correct? Are the intentions of the "uncommitted" Michigan voters really all that much of a mystery? Well, not really. In fact, we can get a pretty good sense of the preferences of Michigan voters from the exit poll that was conducted in that state on the day of its primary in January. In fact, one of the questions on the exit poll asked which candidate the respondent would have voted for if all the candidates had been on the ballot. We can look at these figures in two ways:

1) The simple way to read the exit poll is to look at how these voters broke down in terms of their preferences. When asked who they would have voted for if all the candidates had been on the ballot, 46% of Michigan Democratic primary voters said that they would still vote for Clinton, 35% would have voted for Obama, and 12% would have voted for Edwards. Let's say you split the Edwards vote evenly between Obama and Clinton; then the vote would be 52-41% in favor of Clinton. ("But wait," you are probably thinking, "we all know that Clinton got 55% of the vote in Michigan, not 52%. Why would she have gotten less of the vote?" Good point, I'll get to that in a second.) Turns out, this is the most favorable reading of the exit polls as far as the Clinton campaign is concerned. If you look at things this way, giving Clinton a small majority of the delegates makes sense. (Alternatively, you could give Clinton 46% of the delegates, Obama 35%, and keep the rest (19%) truly uncommitted.)

2) Another way to look at the exit polls is to use them to get a sense of how many uncommitted voters wanted to vote for Obama (or Edwards) and whether any Clinton voters would have voted for a different candidate if they had the opportunity. This information is presented in the figure below, which shows the composition of Clinton and uncommitted voters depending on which candidate those voters actually wanted to vote for:

Now you can see why Clinton's support dips down to 46% when the exit poll asked respondents who Clinton voters would have voted for if all names had been on the ballot. A non-trivial share of her voters actually preferred Obama or Edwards. Of course, Edwards is not in the race anymore, so we'll let her keep those votes. But, based on the exit polls, about 6% of the electorate voted for Clinton, but would have voted for Obama if they had been given the opportunity to do so. This means that Clinton's vote would have been right around 50% if Obama's name been on the ballot. Thus, it is not simply the case that Obama didn't get any votes because his name wasn't on the ballot, but it is also evident that Clinton got more votes than she would have because some Obama supporters went ahead and voted for her. (As an aside, I'd love to know how many of those Obama supporters would do the same thing now.) If you look at the exit polls that way, then a 50-50 split of Michigan's delegates doesn't seem so far off base.

Two last thoughts on this issue, because it really will be the thorniest one the Rules and Bylaws Committee (RBC) has to tackle (halving the Florida delegation's votes is a pretty obvious and easy call at this point). First, a good share of the delegates who have already been selected to fill the "uncommitted" slots have already stated that they intend to vote for Obama if seated. So, even if those slots aren't dedicated to Obama specifically by the RBC, it is likely that Obama is going to get the lion's share of those votes. Second, what the exit poll cannot tell us is how many people stayed home and didn't vote in the primary because their favored candidate's name was not going to be on the ballot? Most likely, many supporters of both Clinton and Obama failed to turn out to vote because they didn't think the primary was going to count for anything, but the drop off might have been even greater for Obama supporters. Ickes is overstating things when he claims that we can't possibly know who the uncommitted voters really supported; the exit poll gives us some pretty solid evidence that most of them supported Obama (along with some of Clinton's voters). But what we can't really know is how many people might have gone out to vote for both candidates if all the candidates' names were on the ballot.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

This week's big event: DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee Meeting

Although there isn't a primary or caucus taking place, a huge number of delegates - 366 - will be potentially up for grabs on Saturday. That's more delegates than Pennsylvania and Ohio combined, and many more than the 63 at stake in Puerto Rico's primary on Sunday. The group deciding the fate of these delegates is the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee, which will meet on Saturday in Washington, DC. I described the responsibilities of the RBC in an earlier post on Michigan and Florida, and when I blogged from the RBC meeting in August 2007, when the committee voted to sanction the Florida delegation.

I'll be at the meeting Saturday as a volunteer for the DNC (I worked as staff to the Rules and Bylaws Committee during the 2004 election). The meeting will likely be covered by C-Span and some of the cable news networks including CNN and MSNBC, so even though space in the meeting room is limited, anyone can watch the proceedings. I will also post updates as often as I can, but be forewarned that this meeting could last all day Saturday (and could possibly go into Sunday... rumor has it that RBC members were asked to stay in DC Saturday night just in case).

According to the Committee's schedule, they will hear oral arguments from the interested parties in the morning (that probably means separate presentations from the Florida and Michigan state parties, and representatives of the Clinton and Obama campaigns). Then after lunch, the committee will discuss and debate the options. The Democratic Convention Watch website has a good analysis of the possible scenarios for allocating the delegates, which ranges from seating all of the delegates according to the election results in the states (this is what the Clinton campaign is asking for), to sticking with the current sanctions that strip both states of all their delegates. According to their analysis, the only scenario that strengthens Clinton's position is seating all of the Michigan and Florida delegates. All of the other scenarios, which involve some decrease in the state delegation size or voting strength, will allow Obama to claim a majority of pledged delegates. That doesn't mean the contest is over, since there may still be enough unpledged delegates for Clinton to make up the difference, but Obama's ability to claim a majority of pledged delegates will be a very strong argument.

The Clinton-Obama breakdown on the 30-member committee is 13 Clinton, 8 Obama, and 9 uncommitted. There is also one committee member from Michigan (Mark Brewer, the State Party Chair, uncommitted) and one from Florida (Alan Katz, Obama supporter), who may not be able to vote on the fate of their own state delegations, but even they could vote we should expect they will support fully restoring the delegates (consistent with the Clinton position, even though Katz publicly supports Obama). So the number in favor of the Clinton position could be as high as 15 votes, and Obama's support as low as 7.

But even though Clinton has an advantage, I wouldn't expect to see members' votes guided only by their candidate preference. In addition to their publicly-expressed candidate loyalties, these committee members - many of whom helped write the delegate selection rules and are guided by decades of experience in presidential nominations - will be guided by their commitment to the party's chances of winning in November, and also with an eye towards the 2012 nomination process.

Delegate Predictions for Puerto Rico, Montana, and South Dakota

Amazing to think that the final three primaries are less than a week away. I mean, it seems like the cold dark night of the Iowa Caucuses was just the other day. Or is it just me?

One thing I've neglected to do over the past month or so is go back and check on how well the polls have done in predicting the delegate break downs in the last several primaries. Let's take a look:

Indiana prediction: 38-34 Clinton.
Indiana actual: 38-34 Clinton.

North Carolina prediction: 62-53 Obama.
North Carolina actual: 67-48 Obama.

West Virginia prediction: 20-8 Clinton.
West Virginia actual: 20-8 Clinton.

Kentucky prediction: 35-16 Clinton.
Kentucky actual: 37-14 Clinton.

Oregon prediction: 29-23 Obama.
Oregon actual: 31-21 Obama.

Using the poll averages, I got Indiana and West Virginia exactly correct and only missed Kentucky and Oregon by 2 delegates. In North Carolina, the polls were off significantly, which meant Obama performed 5 delegates better than I predicted.

Now on to the final three primaries. I know it is hard to believe, but there have not been a whole lot of polls conducted for the last three primaries. Perhaps, as Mark Blumenthal points out, it has something to do with one island's Spanish-speaking population and the tiny share of delegates at stake in Montana and South Dakota. Nevertheless, we do have at least one survey in each of the last three states, and we'll have to rely on those polls to generate the final delegate predictions of the race. These predictions are below.

As expected, Clinton should take a significant delegate total out of the Puerto Rico primary on Sunday. On the other hand, Obama is expected to continue his strong performance in the Mountain West by winning more delegates in both Montana and South Dakota. When all is said and done, these projections have Clinton cutting all of 4 delegates off Obama's lead.

Later this week, I'll lay out how the various proposals that the RBC is considering will influence the end game scenarios faced by the Obama campaign.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

High Gas Prices Don't Help McCain

The high gas prices are one tangible way that the public feels the bite of a weak economy and those gas prices are doing no favors for McCain. Using data from the American Automobile Association and state-by-state polling data available on*, I examined the relationship between the average price of a gallon of regular gasoline and the polling margin between Obama and McCain in each state. You can see how the states plot on these measures in the figure below.

Notably, there is a significant increase in how Obama fares against McCain as gas prices in a state increase. The regression line indicates that for each 10 cent increase in the cost of a gallon of gasoline in a state, Obama's margin against McCain improves by approximately 6.7%. In other words, Obama does well where people pay more to fill up their cars while McCain fares better where gas prices are lower.

Of course, the relationship is far from perfect as there are several outliers. Vermont gives Obama his biggest advantage over McCain despite the fact that the state pays slightly below the national average for gas. On the other hand, Alaska has some of the most expensive gas in the country, but also tilts strongly in McCain's favor.

Nonetheless, a struggling economy can effect people in many ways and one of the most obvious is at the pump. Filling the tank may serve as a frequent reminder about the economic state, something that doesn't help any Republican candidates, including McCain, in this election.


*When available, I used the averages for each state. When there were not enough data points to generate an average, I used the most recent available poll.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Dramatic Erosion of the Republican Brand

There has been a lot of discussion recently about how the Republican brand is in trouble. There are a variety of ways of quantifying what this means--fewer are identifying themselves with the Republican Party and Bush's approval is at historic lows--but one important thing that brands are meant to engender is trust. In politics, a party brand is strongest when citizens trust that party to handle a wide array of issues facing the country. The brand is weakest when there is little trust in the brand.

Generally, citizens trust one party to handle some issues while they have more confidence in the other party on another set of issues. For example, over the last few decades, Republicans have been more trusted on issues involving taxes and national security while Democrats have fared better on domestic policy issues such as health care, social security, and education. However, as the figure below indicates, Republicans are no longer trusted more than Democrats on any of these issues. (This figure was based on a national ABC News/Washington Post survey conducted in early February.)

As the figure shows, Democrats are far more trusted by the public on issues such as the economy, the budget deficit, and health care. But Democrats also now have a narrow edge on issues Republicans have traditionally owned, including taxes, the conflict in Iraq, and even the campaign against terrorism.

The decreasing trust in the Republican Party (and increasing trust in Democrats) on Iraq and terrorism has been one of the most notable changes over the past six years. The figures below track the public's trust of the parties on these two issues since 2002. Note that at the beginning of the period, Republicans held about a 20% advantage over Democrats on these issues. However, in the course of just a few years, Democrats are now significantly more trusted on handling the situation in Iraq and slightly more trusted on handling terrorism.

Last week, the Bush and McCain went up against Obama on national security issues, something that Republicans have consistently used to their advantage over Democrats in the past. But the shifts I've outlined below suggest that these themes may not be as successful as they once were. The public no longer trusts Republicans substantially more than Democrats on these issues. On the other hand, Republicans have to choose from a bad lot when it comes to the issues they stress. After all, they no longer seem to have a definitive advantage on any issues. And, as the figure below shows, the other major issue in this campaign, the economy, strongly favors Democrats at an even greater rate than it did in 1992 when George H.W. Bush lost his bid for a second term.

Ultimately, the erosion of the Republican brand has been dramatic. In the current climate, there are no strong issue areas for Republican candidates (presidential or otherwise) to focus on. Rather, there are simply some issues that are not as bad as others. Currently, it appears as though terrorism may remain a target issue for Republicans if only because their brand isn't as weak on this issue as it is on most others now.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Comparing the Obama Campaign's Predictions to Reality

As I noted in an earlier post, we can gain some interesting insight from comparing how the Obama campaign thought they were going to perform in states to how they actually did. It is not all that often that you get such a clear sense of how a campaign thinks it is going to do in a series of primaries, but thanks to a memo the Obama campaign accidentally sent a reporter for Bloomberg, we can do precisely that.

The figure below plots the percentage of the vote that the Obama expected to get in each state (based on their memo released just after Super Tuesday) against the percentage of the vote Obama actually received. States falling along the line would be those in where Obama did just as his campaign expected him to do. States falling above the line are those in which Obama's actual voted total exceeded his campaign's expectations, and those below are where he failed to meet those expectations.
Several interesting patterns are evident from this plot. The most obvious is that Obama over-performed in every primary and caucus held between Super Tuesday and March 4th. This is the period during which Obama won the nomination by accumulating a much bigger delegate lead than even they expected, one that became so insurmountable that the Clinton campaign was never able to recover. It has often been repeated by reporters and pundits that the Clinton campaign was not prepared with a post-Super Tuesday strategy, and Obama's over-performance in these is strong evidence of this dynamic.

The second point that stands out from the figure is that Obama has under-performed (relative to his campaign's expectations) in seven of the 13 states with caucuses or primaries on or after March 4th. He did just as his campaign expected in TX and MS, and better than expected in VT, WY, NC, and OR. Once again, this very much reflects the dynamics of the race, with Obama suffering from the Jeremiah Wright remarks and the general scrutiny involved with being the nominee while Clinton regained her footing on March 4th and began a relatively effective two months of campaigning as the front-runner turned underdog.

Finally, on the "under-performing" side of the line, note WV and KY as the real outliers. Why did the Obama campaign think that they would do about 10-15% better in these states than they actually did? Did the underestimate the role that race would play in these primaries? Did they not anticipate Clinton's increased appeal to working class whites? Did the Jeremiah Wright hurt them more in those states than in other places?

By the way, just for the record, the Obama campaign predicted that they would have accumulated 1,605 pledged delegates by today compared to 1,536 for Clinton, a lead of less than 80 delegates. Instead, Obama's lead in pledged delegates is nearly twice as large.

Assessing the Accuracy of the Oregon/Kentucky Predictions: The Big Winner was

While there are still votes to be counted in Oregon, it looks like Obama's margin in that state will be 18%, while Clinton won Kentucky by 35%. So, who came closest to getting the margins correct in both states? The figure below plots the predictions from three survey firms that released polls from both states during the last week of the campaign, along with Poblano's predictions based on demographic models and's poll averages.

While each of these organizations underestimated the size of the Obama margin in Oregon, came closest to getting the results correct in both states. The averages had Clinton winning by 35% in Kentucky (which she did) and Obama winning by 12% in Oregon. Among the individual pollsters, it appears as though Survey USA came closest on the pair of margins. While American Research Group was closets on Oregon (they predicted a 36% margin for Clinton), they greatly underestimated Obama's margin of victory in Oregon. Survey USA came closest on the Oregon margin and were only off on the Kentucky margin by 4%.

Unlike two weeks ago, when he nailed the NC and IN outcomes, Poblano's model was the farthest off last night. To his credit, Poblano did state that he thought his predictions for Kentucky were likely to be understating Clinton's support. He was right, he missed that margin by 16%. Poblano's model did come much closer on Oregon.

UPDATED: Post was updated at 2pm on May 21st to reflect the fact that Obama's lead in Oregon is now 18%.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Kentucky/Oregon Primaries Live Blog

12:46am: Well, as promised, that was a watered-down version of the traditional primary night live blog. Frankly, I'm not sure what else there is to say at this point. This is getting a bit redundant. Obama struggles in the Appalachia region (WV, KY, central PA, southern OH, etc.) but there is no way he isn't going to be the nominee at this point. Frankly, anyone who was really doing the math has known since the end of February that Clinton was facing a very difficult climb; it is no surprise that she fell short.

The only truly interesting thing is to see how Clinton exits. My guess is that FL and MI get half their delegates back when the Rules and Bylaws Committee meets on May 30th. Even when that happens, Obama will still have a majority of the pledged delegates and will not be too far off of the overall delegate majority. In the meantime, I'd expect to see a fair number of superdelegates coming Obama's way in the next, many of whom may make the the point that he was the pledged delegate winner so he should be the nominee. (Not to mention that Chuck Todd just made the point that a majority of the uncommitted superdelegates are from states Obama won). Then, on the night of June 3rd, after the final votes are cast, I'd expect a gracious concession speech from Clinton and an equally gracious victory speech from Obama. But that is just a guess. The only thing I know for sure is that this has been a crazy ride (and a political scientist's dream, in many ways). It is kinda sad that it is winding down.

Democratic Convention Watch points out that not only has Obama won the pledged delegate majority if you do not include FL and MI, but he has also clinched a majority of pledged delegates under almost any compromise that is likely to pass out of the Rules and Bylaws Committee at the end of the month. The only way he hasn't clinched it is if you seat MI and FL delegates "as is." There is no way that the DNC is going to do that and allow MI and FL to send delegates without any penalty.

The "exit poll" out of Oregon is showing a 56-42% Obama margin. If that is correct, then the average will have nailed the margins in both states almost perfectly. But let's see if that is really the Oregon margin.

Nevermind on that whole "gun shy" thing. They called for Obama right away.

By the way, there will be six add-on superdelegates chosen between today and June 3rd. All six come from states Obama won and will, therefore, likely be Obama supporters. If that is the case, then Obama need only about 20 more superdelegates endorsements to be able to claim an overall delegate majority on June 3rd (though the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee may change the magic number when it rules on the FL and MI challenge on May 30th).

Ten minutes from the Oregon "polls closing." Will Obama get an immediate call there? The difficult part of calling Oregon is that there isn't really exit polling. Rather, the "exit poll" is just another poll that has been conducted over several days leading up to the election. May mean that the networks are slightly more gun shy on the call.

Interestingly, CNN and MSNBC seem to have slightly different pledged delegate counts. CNN says he has already captured a majority of pledged delegates while MSNBC says he is one shy and will have to wait until the Oregon delegates are allocated.

Democratic Convention Watch lists superdelegates who are members of the "Pelosi Club." This refers to a group of superdelegates who have said that they will vote for whichever candidate wins the majority of pledged delegates. The question is whether the "Pelosi Club" will make their endorsements tomorrow, now that Obama has clinched this metric. My guess is that, at the very least, its namesake will not endorse until after June 3rd.

Votes won't be reported out of Oregon for another hour still, but the Obama campaign has sent out an email with the following:

The polls are closed in Kentucky and votes are being counted in Oregon, and it's clear that tonight we have reached a major milestone on this journey.

We have won an absolute majority of all the delegates chosen by the people in this Democratic primary process."

9:55pm: Clinton's victory in Kentucky is certainly large in terms of sheer numbers. Although the state is much smaller and has fewer delegates, the number of votes she will win by is larger than her margin in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

7:47pm: This post is about right. I would add that the Clinton campaign could have said similar things at any point over the last few months and been very wrong. The crystal clear pattern throughout has been that the later a superdelegate has made an endorsement, the more likely that endorsement was for Obama.

Check out the Clinton margins in the counties in eastern Kentucky. She is winning a lot of those counties by a margin of 85-10% or more.

As expected, Clinton will win Kentucky by a significant margin. I'd imagine that her margin will continue to grow as the western part of the state comes in.

I probably won't be blogging as much as usual tonight for two reasons. First, we pretty much know who the nominee is going to be, so the only thing that is really left to determine is how this is going to end, not what the ending will be. Second, there are four hours between when the Kentucky polls close (7pm) and when the Oregon "polls close" at 11pm (I put that in quotes since this is an all mail election). I doubt there will be an abundance of news to discuss during these four hours.

I assume that the networks will be calling Kentucky right at 7pm. If not, then that will be the first surprise of the evening.

Oregon and Kentucky Delegate Estimates and an Update on the End Game

Another Tuesday brings another pair of primaries. And it appears as though it will also bring another split, with Obama holding a strong lead in the polls out of Oregon while Clinton holds a commanding lead in the polling out of Kentucky. Three pollsters (Survey USA, ARG, and Suffolk) have conducted surveys in both Kentucky and Oregon over the past several days. The figure below plots the margins these polls found for Obama in both states along with the averages (the margin is just the percent for Obama minus the percent for Clinton). (UPDATE: I have now added Poblano's predictions to the figure). ARG has the best case scenario for Clinton--a margin of greater than 35% in Kentucky and only a narrow win for Obama in Oregon. Survey USA predicts a bigger (double-digit) margin for Obama in Oregon, as does the average.

As always, I will use the averages to generate predictions for today's primaries. Because of the enormous margin that Clinton has in Kentucky, she is poised to pick up a net gain of more than 19 pledged delegates in that state. Obama will only be able to partially off-set Clinton's Kentucky gains with his win in Oregon, meaning that Clinton should gain about 13 delegates on Obama tonight.

Despite the fact that Clinton will win more delegates on Tuesday night, the 45 delegates that Obama is poised to win should be more than enough to allow him to clinch a majority of elected delegates. According to the Democratic Convention Watch site, Obama currently holds 1,612.5 pledged delegates, just 15 shy of a pledged delegate majority (a benchmark I predicted Obama would reach on this very date back in March).

But what about the magic number of 2,025 total delegates? Well, Obama is not too far from that benchmark either. If you add the 302.5 superdelegates that Democratic Convention Watch tallies for Obama, then he is just 110 delegates short of 2,025. If he captures 45 delegates in tomorrow night's primaries, that will put him within 65 of a majority. However, as the figure below shows, there aren't quite enough pledged delegates left to get him there.

Based on the only poll out of Puerto Rico (showing Clinton with a 50-37% lead), Obama would pick up 23 delegates in that primary on June 1st. I have not seen a poll out of Montana, so let's split those 16 delegates evenly, giving Obama 8. In South Dakota, the only poll I've seen puts Obama up 46-34%, which would give him 9 more delegates for a total of 17 on June 3rd.
If not a single superdelegate endorses Obama between now and June 3rd, he would fall 25 delegates shy of the magic number when all the voting ended. The question remains, can the Obama campaign line up enough superdelegates so that the pledged delegates from the June 3rd primaries are the ones that put him over the top for the nomination? Even though we know who is going to win, it should be interesting to see how it ends.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Is Obama Relying on Late Ballots in Oregon?

Oregon's vote-by-mail system may make polling a little more tricky close to election day. After all, a substantial portion of the electorate have already cast their ballots, while there are many who wait until just before the election to vote.

On this front, one interesting finding stands out when it comes to the surveys out of Oregon over the past week or so. According to polls from Survey USA and American Research Group, Obama has a significant lead in Oregon among those who intend to vote, but he is in a dead heat with Clinton among those who say they have already voted.

In the Survey USA poll (conducted 5/9-11), 43% reported that they had already mailed in their ballots and Obama's lead in this group was just 49-48% (well within the margin of error). On the other hand, among those who intended to vote but had not yet done so, Obama a 58-38% lead. Similarly, the American Research Group survey (conducted 5/14-15) indicated that Obama was tied with Clinton at 49% among the 58% of Oregon Democrats who already mailed in their ballots (the higher figure for those who had already voted makes sense given that the poll was conducted a few days later than the Survey USA poll). Among those who intended to vote but had not yet done so, Obama led 52-40%. Thus, if these two polls are correct, Obama and Clinton are in a dead heat among the votes that are already in and Obama is relying on those who have not yet cast their ballots to generate the big margin he is expected to win by.

Two things are notable about these findings from those who have already voted. First, Obama has generally performed better among early voters in other states, which might have led us to expect him to over-perform rather than under-perform among those who had already mailed in their ballots. Second, Clinton is the candidate who has generally done better among Democrats who made their decisions in the last few days of the campaign, yet she appears to be doing better among those who have already cast their ballots.

Survey USA is set to release a new poll out of Oregon on Monday. It will be interesting to see whether these patterns persist in their last poll before election day. Stay tuned...

UPDATE (5/19, 3:00pm): Survey USA has now released their final Oregon poll (interviews conducted 5/16-5/18). It shows that 77% of Oregon Democrats have now cast their ballots and Obama now has a significant 53-44% lead among this group. Of the 23% who had not yet cast their ballots but intended to, Obama led 62-34%. The size of Obama's victory in Oregon will likely depend on how many of those 23% actually do get their ballots in on time.

The figure below shows the amount of support Obama and Clinton have in both polls from those who had already voted and those who intended to vote:

UPDATE 2 (5/19, 11:55pm): Public Policy Polling also released a survey today showing Obama with a comfortable lead among both those who had already voted and those who had not yet mailed in their ballots but intended to do so. Thanks to "x curmudgeon" for pointing out the poll.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Mississippi Special Election: Outlier or Continuation of a Trend?

Republicans certainly seemed a bit rattled after they lost their bid to retain a seat that they had previously held in Mississippi's first congressional district. Part of the reason for being so worried is that the district they lost on Tuesday was not just one that they had previously held, but also one that Bush had carried with over 62% of the vote in 2004. But was this just an outlier, or a continuation of what happened with Republicans in 2006?

The figure below plots each congressional district contested in 2006 based on the percentage of the vote Bush won in the district in 2004 and the percentage of the vote the Republican candidate won in the district in 2006. The plot is divided into quadrants. Districts in the top left quadrant are those where the Republican House candidate won a majority despite the fact that Bush did not carry the district in 2004; districts in the bottom right are those where Republican candidates did not win a majority of the vote despite the fact that Bush did carry the district in 2004.

Note that very few districts fall in the top quadrant as very few Republicans over-performed in 2006. Far more of the districts fell in the lower right quadrant with many Republican candidates losing districts that Bush carried in 2006. I added the Mississippi special election outcome to this plot to give some perspective of the extent to which this result followed what happened in 2006. The district also falls in the lower right hand quadrant, in close proximity to dozens of other districts where Republican candidates under-performed.

Of course, many of those districts in the lower right-hand quadrant are those where Democratic incumbents were running, therefore making it more difficult for the Republican candidates. Therefore, it is also instructive to look just at open seat contests, which the figure below does.

Note that when it came to open seats, not a single Republican candidate carried a district that Bush did not win in 2004. On the other hand, more than a half-dozen districts were won by Democrats in 2006 despite the fact that Bush had carried those districts two years earlier. The Mississippi special election, which was also an open seat contest, stands out as a bit more of an outlier here. There were only three open seat contests in 2006 where the Republican candidate under-performed by as much as Greg Davis did in the Mississippi 1st district this week.

Thus, the special election isn't a dramatic outlier when compared to other House elections in 2006. However, the result does suggest that prospects are not improving for Republicans; indeed, they may very well be getting worse. This is particularly true when you consider that Republicans are going to be defending a lot more open seats in 2008 than they were in 2004.

For the most recent ranking of House races by the Cook Political Report, check out this helpful chart.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Are Superdelegates Afraid of Obama at the Top of the Ticket?

If you watch too much cable news coverage of the campaign (as I do) then you'll notice that one theme the pundits like to return to repeatedly is the question of whether Democratic office holders are worried that Obama will be a drag at the top of the ticket. Yesterday's special election victory for Travis Childers (D) in Mississippi seemed to temper these arguments somewhat, but it is surely something that the Clinton campaign hopes is weighing on the minds of superdelegates. After all, most of the superdelegates have to win reelection in the fall and who the Democratic nominee is may affect their prospects. Superdelegates from states and districts that tend to be more Republican may be particularly concerned with which Democratic presidential candidate their opponent will attempt to tie them to during the general election campaign.

So who do these red state/district superdelegates see as the safer choice? Well, based on those who have already declared their support, it appears as though Obama's superdelegates actually come from slightly more Republican areas than those who have endorsed Clinton. The figure below shows the percentage of the vote that Bush won in the state (or district for House members) of superdelegates who have already endorsed. In each category, Obama's superdelegates, on average, come from areas where Bush fared better in 2004 compared to Clinton's supers.

The same general pattern holds when you look at who superdelegates from strongly Republican states or districts are endorsing. The figure below presents this information. Of the senators and governors who come from states that Bush carried with more than 55% of the vote in 2004, Obama has received 17 endorsements from this group while Clinton has received the support of 12 of these superdelegates. Obama also leads among House members from districts that went 55% or more for Bush in 2004.

However, what might be most notable is that of the 28* House member superdelegates who come from districts where Bush won at least 55% of the vote in 2004, only 11 have endorsed either Obama or Clinton. The remaining 17 in this group are still undeclared. Perhaps they have decided that the safest thing for their reelection prospects is to avoid being tied to either candidate for as long as possible.

* This does not include the new House member from Mississippi, Travis Childers.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Pledged Democratic Delegate Projections: West Virginia and Beyond

Even though the race for the Democratic Nomination is winding down, there are still 6 primaries left to contest. While there hasn't been the same abundance of polling in the remaining states as we've seen in places like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, and North Carolina, there has been at least one recent poll in 5 of those states. Based on the polls, today's primary in West Virginia looks to be a blowout in Clinton's favor. If you average the four surveys released in May from that state, you get a 61-24% advantage for Clinton. If you allocated the pledged delegates accordingly, Clinton would receive 20 delegates compared to 8 for Obama (a net gain of 12).

You can see the estimates for West Virginia and the other 5 states here:

On May 20th, the polls estimate that Obama and Clinton will split Oregon and Kentucky, with Clinton taking 3 more pledged delegates than Obama. The one state without a poll is Montana, where Obama is expected to fare well. Overall, Clinton should pick up between 122 and 124 of the remaining pledged delegates while Obama should accumlate between 93 and 95.

So, how close is Obama to actually hitting that magic number? The figure below starts with Obama's delegate (both elected and superdelegates) support as of this morning and then adds to that total the projected elected delegates he would pick up in each state (assuming an 8-8 split in Montana). As I estimated back in March, May 20th is the magic date when Obama will have a majority of the elected delegates. If he doesn't pick up one more superdelegate between now and May 20th (which is obviously very unlikely), he will be about 100 delegates shy of the 2025 figure he needs to clinch the nomination (assuming you don't include Michigan and Florida). If he didn't pick up a single superdelegate between now and June 3rd, he would end up just 66 delegates shy of the magic number.

Even though Obama has picked up at least 25 superdelegates in the past week, it seems unlikely that another 100 would endorse between now and next Tuesday. Nevertheless, I'm sure his campaign is working hard to accumulate enough superdelegates so that he will clinch the nomination after winning a state's primary rather than doing so when some unknown DNC official pledges his/her support on some random Thursday in June. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out, even if we do already know who the winner is going to be.

The End of Our Superdelegate Predictions?

I got an email over the weekend that made me laugh:

"You have done great work with your superdelegate predictions. However, I think I have a model that I would bet a buck will outperform your model going forward: Model definition: if (superdelegate), then prediction = Obama"

The email was funny, particularly since I had already been mulling over whether to continue generating predictions for this very reason. Since Obama's big win in North Carolina, 21 previously unpledged superdelegates have made endorsements (not including add-ons). You can see the names along with our predictions here:

As you can see, we've gotten 17 out of these 21 endorsers (81%) correct. This would generally be very good for the model, which has usually hovered around a 70% accuracy rate since we started generating the predictions in early February. However, 81% isn't so good once you realize that if somebody had guessed that everyone was going to endorse Obama, he/she would have gotten 18 right (86%). This clearly reflects the status of the Democratic nomination race at this point: it doesn't take a statistical model to estimate what the remaining undeclared superdelegates will do at this point.

Just for fun, I did add the newly committed superdelegates to our dataset along with a variable capturing the change in dynamics after the May 6th primaries. The predictions generated by the model appear to largely match reality. There are only 31 superdelegates left on the Clinton side of the distribution with most siding with Obama:Of course, it is hard to say that even the few superdelegates falling on the right side of the distribution will actually endorse Clinton now. In short, unless something changes, from here on out I'd also take our reader's model over the one we have been using.

We began generating these predictions on February 8th and 9th. The idea behind the model at the time was to examine whether one candidate was likely to pick up more superdelegate support than the other over the coming weeks and months. Our underlying assumption was that superdelegates were politicians who were accountable to various constituencies. As such, we believed that their behavior would be relatively predictable. Based on those first predictions, I wrote:

"The pattern in the figure is pretty clear: our model estimates that there are a lot more unpledged superdelegates who are likely to support Obama over Clinton than vice versa. In fact, the Obama advantage is about 2 to 1. This is significant since Obama presently trails Clinton by nearly 100 superdelegates."

Indeed, three months later, it appears that our predictions were borne out. Obama has now passed Clinton in superdelegates just as we have always predicted he eventually would.

Despite the fact that the model seems unnecessary at this point, I will continue to update the data and check how we are doing from time to time. And if something changes in the contest and superdelegate endorsements are again up for grabs, we will be ready to jump right back into business. But, for now, I will be spending much less time focusing on the model.

I want to thank the Democratic Convention Watch website for supporting our efforts to generate these predictions and for maintaining such helpful information on the superdelegates. I also want to thank Alicia Prevost and Caitlin Zook at CCPS for working hard to collect the data we used in the model. And I definitely want to show my appreciation for all of the readers who posted comments that helped us refine and tweak the model.

For those of you who missed out on all the superdelegate prediction fun over the past few months, check out the archives of this blog and see Carl Bialik's post on it here.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Mr. Super Endorses, and We Predicted Him Correctly!

UPDATED (5/10)

The superdelegate behind the blog was revealed in the past few days to be Ed Espinoza, a member of the DNC from California. Several weeks ago, when he was still anonymous, Mr. Super expressed interest in this web site's predictions, even noting that he had found his own name in our list of estimates.

Well, Mr. Super has evidently declared his support for Barack Obama and guess what? The model predicted his endorsement correctly! He was actually in the "unclear" range for the model, but the estimate was that his probability of supporting Obama was .56.

By my count, 15 (updated from 10) previously undeclared superdelegates have announced their support since May 6th and the model has gotten 12 (updated from 8) of them correct so far.* Here is the list:

* Two other superdelegates who had already declared for Clinton switched their endorsement to Obama. However, the model is not set up to predict who will switch sides, just to predict who undeclared superdelegates will support. There is also some debate about whether Ellsworth had endorsed Clinton or not. For now, I'll punt on this one.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Recommended Reading:'s Primary Predictions

Mark Blumenthal has a nice column on the statistical models generated by Poblano that out-performed the pollsters. It is worth reading.

Also, if you want to see me speaking with Australian Broadcasting about the NC and IN primary results, you can visit this site and click on the relevant story. The interview is about 9 minutes in length. If I look tired it is because I did the interview at 7:30am after staying up until 2am waiting for Lake County the night before.

Which Superdelegates Are Most Likely to Desert Clinton?

Yesterday, Jennifer McClellan, a superdelegate from Virginia, switched her support from Clinton to Obama. A week earlier, Joe Andrew did the same. With Clinton's chances of winning the nomination shrinking even more after Tuesday, we may begin seeing even more superdelegates fleeing the Clinton campaign to support Obama. But which of Clinton's supporters are most likely to switch their support?

My model for predicting who superdelegates will endorse is not really built to estimate which superdelegates would change their endorsements. After all, making an endorsement is a very different process from choosing to switch an endorsement. However, what the model can do is provide a list of superdelegates who appear to be most mismatched. In other words, I can use the model to identify which superdelegates have endorsed Clinton when the model would've predicted that they would endorse Obama.

Here is the list of superdelegates who have endorsed Clinton despite the fact that the model suggests that they would be better matched to Obama (these are the 25 most mis-matched Clinton endorsers):

Two interesting things stand out on this list. First, most of these superdelegates come from states that Obama won. It makes sense that these superdelegates would be under some pressure to desert Clinton first given that their state went with Obama. It will be interesting to see if any of them do abandon her campaign in the coming days/weeks.

Second, several names on this list include superdelegates that have endorsed Clinton very recently. For example, Governor Mike Easley (NC), Rep. John Tanner (TN) and Rep. Tim Ryan (OH) all endorsed Clinton in the last few weeks. In the case of Tanner and Ryan, the decision to endorse Clinton is understandable given that Clinton did win their states. Easley's state went definitively for Obama, but he is term-limited and will be leaving office at the end of this year, so his endorsement of Clinton will probably not cost him much.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The (Very) High Turnout in North Carolina and Indiana

One thing about yesterday's primaries that deserves further attention is the high turnout for the Democratic primaries in both states. Generally, primary turnout tends to lag far behind general election turnout. Therefore, one statistic really jumped out at me about yesterday's primaries: in both contests, turnout in the Democratic primary exceeded the number of votes Kerry won in the states in the general election. In North Carolina, over 67,000 more voters voted in the Democratic primary than cast votes for Kerry in 2004. This is particularly impressive given that North Carolina has a semi-closed primary, where Republican registrants could not participate in the Democratic primary. In Indiana, which has an open primary, over one-quarter of a million more Hoosiers voted in the Democratic primary than voted for Kerry in 2004. And Rush Limbaugh can't take credit for this gap. The exit polls indicated that 10% of Democratic primary voters identified themselves as Republicans. Even if you subtract this group from the turnout figure, Democratic participation still would've out-paced Kerry's vote by well over 100,000.

How did this play out in other primaries? The figure below plots these numbers. The diagonal line shows the point at which Democratic primary turnout and the 2004 vote for Kerry are equal. As you can see, Texas is the only other state where Democratic turnout exceeded Kerry's 2004 vote, though many other states had totals that approached the 2004 Kerry vote.

Comparing Early Voters to the Overall Electorate in North Carolina

I blogged several times over the past week about the composition of early voters in North Carolina. I speculated that the demographics of early voters strong favored Obama and had likely put him firmly in the lead going into election day. The only question was whether the composition of the complete electorate would differ substantially from that of early voters. Well, the answer to that question appears to be no. Here is the comparison of early voters and the full electorate (including early voters) as provided by the exit polls. (The exit poll figures may be adjusted over the next few days).

% of Early Voters Exit Poll
Men 38.7% 43%
Women 60.8% 57%

White 56.5% 62%
Black 39.9% 34%

White Women 33.2% 34%
White Men 23.1% 27%

African Americans voted early in larger numbers than they did overall, suggesting an impressive organizational effort to bank their votes. White women, the core Clinton constituency in most states, made up one-third of early voters and not much more of the electorate that voted on the day of the contest. White men appeared to be the least likely to take advantage of early voting, as they made up only 23% of early voters but 27% of the electorate overall.

All told, 404,599 North Carolinians voted early in the Democratic primary compared to 1,188,370 who cast their ballots on the day of the election. Thus, early voters made up about one-fourth of the electorate in North Carolina.

On a related note, I have already said this several times, but kudos go out to the North Carolina Board of Elections for having one of the best websites out there. The early voting figures on the site were updated constantly and on election night the site reporting of the results was particularly well done with tons of great features. Whoever their web designer is deserves a big raise.

Zogby is One of the Night's (Other) Big Winners

Certainly the news media is emphasizing that Obama is the night's big winner. But as I noted earlier, there were five pollsters who released polls in both states in the last few days and they didn't always make the same predictions. I've reproduced the figure from that post here, but added the actual results from tonight's voting (at least as they stand now, with 99% reporting in both states).

As you can see, Survey USA was the night's big loser, at least as far as pollsters go. They were estimating a good night for Clinton, including a 12% win in Indiana and a mere 5% win for Obama in North Carolina. On the opposite end, Zogby was the big winner. Zogby came closest to the North Carolina result by predicting a 14% victory for him in that state. Zogby was also the only pollster to have predicted an Obama win in Indiana, though Clinton ended up winning by about that margin. Of course, lest any pollster get a big head, these pollsters have been in the opposite positions (Zogby as the big loser and Survey USA as the big winner) in earlier primaries this year.

UPDATE: I should've added that Public Policy Polling was also fairly accurate relative to the other pollsters and, unlike Zogby, they had the winner right in both states.

UPDATE: Who needs polls? As one of our readers points out:

"Probabay the best prediction was Poblano at the 538 website, who's demographic model predicted Obama +18 in NC (final was +15), and Clinton +2 in Indiana (right on). Poblano also came very close in Penn."

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

May 6th Primaries: Live Blog

1:22AM: Looks like Lake County fell short for Obama and Clinton will have won Indiana by about 20-25K votes. This victory, however, is much smaller than most expected and Obama's margin in North Carolina was bigger than most estimates in the last few days. Clinton will possibly take a net gain of 1 or 3 delegates from Indiana while Obama will likely take a net gain of more than 10 delegates from North Carolina. All in all, Obama's big night allows him to cancel out the gains (in delegates and popular vote) that Clinton made in Pennsylvania two weeks ago.

Clinton has canceled her morning talk show appearances and is said to be contemplating what her next move is. Obama, in the meantime, is evidently planning to take on the air of a presumptive nominee.

This is a split decision that clearly favors Obama. Now, will large numbers of superdelegates begin falling in line behind his campaign? It may not take too long to find out the answer to that question.

Thanks for everyone who followed this blog tonight. According to Google Analytics, there were well over 1,000 visitors on this blog today and that number should increase since we are still waiting for the numbers to come in from Lake County.

Just noticed that the exit poll estimates have been revised (as they typically are to come in to line with where turnout is greater) and African American turnout in Indiana is now estimated to have been 18%. That is up from a 14% figure reported earlier. As I noted a few days ago, assumptions about African American turnout were driving the different poll figures we were seeing in the state. Blacks turned out at a greater rate than most pollsters expected in Indiana and that significantly affected the outcome.

The early voters in North Carolina went a little more strongly for Obama than did those who voted today, but the difference wasn't huge. With just a few precincts left, Obama won 59% of the early vote and 55% of the votes that came in today. As it stands now, 25% of the total vote came from early voters.

I think the networks are so focused on Lake County that they forgot about Monroe County. With 97% of the precincts in there, Obama won the county by a little over 5k votes. That is 1k more than the network sites are currently showing.

Tim Russert just said, pointedly, "We now know who the Democratic nominee is going to be and nobody is going to dispute it."

The CNN discussion right now is focusing on whether there is some conspiracy behind why it took so long for the Lake County returns to be reported. The Hammond (also in Lake County) mayor is on saying he turned in his vote hours ago.

Worth noting now that things has closed is that there are a small number of uncounted votes in Indianapolis and 1/3 of the vote still out in Bloomington.

Also worth noting is that Obama's margin (in total votes) in NC looks like it will be slightly bigger than her margin in Pennsylvania, wiping out any gains Clinton made in the popular vote gap two weeks ago.

It is important to note at this point that who wins or loses Indiana has little practical importance when it comes to delegates. It may mean the difference between one delegate. The only reason we care about this is will drastically effect how her candidacy is viewed by the media and superdelegates in the coming days.

Lake County is beginning to come in and it is already making a difference. Obama just cut Clinton's lead in half, from about 40k to about 20k.

Evidently the mayor of Gary is saying that there may very well be enough votes for Obama to take over the lead.

Turnout in the Democratic primary in NC has already topped 1.5 million. That is as many as voted for John Kerry in the 2004 general election. To get that kind of turnout in a primary is truly impressive.

Tim Russert reports that there are still 220k votes uncounted in Indiana. Clinton's lead is about 40k. If Russert is right, Obama needs to win about 60% of the outstanding vote to win Indiana. Certainly a possibility.

Clinton holds about a 40k lead over Obama and Lake County still has not come in. At this point, I'd say that it is unlikely that there are enough votes there for Obama to overtake her lead. Not impossible, but unlikely.

Oops, rest of Tippecanoe County just came in. It went 58% for Obama (he picked up about 5k votes there).

Here are the counties that still have significant votes that haven't been reported:
Porter County (about 30% missing) going 58% for Clinton so far.
LaPorte County (about 50% missing) going slightly for Clinton so far.
Tippecanoe County (about 50% missing) going 60% for Obama so far.
Monroe County (about 50% missing) going 66% for Obama so far.
Hamilton County (about 10% missing) going 60% for Obama so far.
Lake County (100% missing) supposed to go for Obama.
Union County (100% missing) not much vote there, even when they do come in.

Key statistic on Lake County: about 25% of the population there is African American. Is that, and its closeness to Chicago, enough to produce the big margins that Obama needs there?

Just to give you a sense of how many votes could be in Lake County, in 2004, about 115K voted for John Kerry in Lake. If there are 100K votes there, Obama needs to win about 2/3 of them to have a shot at pulling out a win.

Tim Russert now says that Lake County may not be in until 11pm. Evidently extra ballot counters were brought in to count the votes (are we doing this the old fashion way?). In the meantime, Clinton is supposed to be teaching soon, but what can she say without having won anything yet?

Evidently Lake County will begin reporting at 10pm. That county is going to decide Indiana. But even if Obama comes up short, he appears to be the clear winner tonight, at least as much of a winner as one can be when they lose one and win one.

There was a lot of Zogby bashing going on by the readers at and other sites over the last week or so. But at this point, it looks like he is going to be closest to getting both NC and IN right.

9:42PM: Chuck Todd says the Obama campaign thinks that they will come up just short (by about 10-15k or so). If it ends up that close, then there is no way CBS could've confidently known that he was going to win the state an hour ago. Unless something odd happens and it doesn't tighten significantly, the call was a mistake, regardless of whether or not they end up being wrong at the end of the night.

9:25PM: Here is why Indiana is now too CLOSE to call:
Monroe County (Bloomington) is only 10% in.
Marion County (Indianapolis) still has about 1/4 of the vote not in.
Hamilton County (Wealth suburbs of Indianapolis) is only 1/3 in.
Lake and LaPorte Counties (Chicago area) are reporting nothing.

These should all be Obama areas. Clinton is up by less than 50k votes now. Are there enough votes for him in these counties? Quite possibly.

Obama just congratulated Clinton on "what appears to be her victory" in Indiana. Does he know something we don't or is he unaware of how things are tightening there?

Will CBS end up with egg on its face? MSNBC just changed its IN statement from "too EARLY to call" to "too CLOSE to call." The change is important, because it reflects that the vote there is tightening and still not a single vote in from Gary.

This is a rare night (at least compared to the last several election nights) where Obama gets to come out early to celebrate while Clinton sits back and waits out "her" state's results.

CBS was too early in calling Indiana. Only about half of the Marion County vote is in, and he is winning that by about 25K votes. If he wins the second half by the same margin, that cuts her lead in half. And not a single vote has come in from Gary yet. IF Clinton wins this state, it is going to be fairly close and I think the votes are out there for Obama to catch up. I'm not saying it WILL happen, but it certainly COULD and the early call from CBS was probably too soon.

The NC Board of Elections has a top-notch website complete with county maps and all sorts of other tools for looking at the primary results. The IN Secretary of State site struggles to calculate percentages. I'm just saying...

Wow, quite an exchange between Paul Begala and Donna Brazile on CNN. The long primary campaign appears to be wearing on even them.

On MSNBC, Howard Fineman just said that the Obama campaign now thinks that May 20th will be the day they wrap up the nomination because that is when they will have a majority of pledged delegates. Sound familiar? Well, I blogged this very point on March 31st. This is what I wrote then:

Based on the delegate totals that Obama's campaign thinks he will win in the upcoming states (from the memo that the campaign inadvertently sent to a Bloomberg reporter), Obama would pass this milestone on May 20th, after picking up 28 delegates in Oregon and 23 in Kentucky. ... If he does clinch this on May 20th, might Clinton call it quits at that point? Certainly she would be facing increasing calls to get out of the race if she stayed in. In addition, on the 20th, she will likely have won Kentucky but lost Oregon. Thus, she would be able to leave the campaign on a day that she carried a state. The only states voting after the 20th are Puerto Rico and then Montana and South Dakota. She could win Puerto Rico, but she is likely to lose Montana and South Dakota and none of these states will do much to change the delegate count. If she left the race on May 20th, she could do it on a relatively high note and on her own terms, whereas anything after that may make it look like she was forced."

The NC Board of Elections breaks out the early vote differently from those voting today. It appears as though they've counted a little more than half of the early vote so far, and Obama leads with 61%. His percentage among election day votes counted so far is 54%.

Good thing Obama was in North Carolina this afternoon. He wouldn't have been able to do this in Indiana this afternoon. Bars in Indiana are closed while the polls are open. Wouldn't want anyone drinking and voting.

Evidently CBS called Indiana for Clinton. I would imagine that the other networks will follow soon. But still no vote in from Gary.

Here is the comparison between early voters and the racial and gender composition of the NC exit polls:

% of Early Voters Exit Poll
Men 38.7% 43%
Women 60.8% 57%

White 56.5% 62%
Black 39.9% 33%

White Women 33.2% 35%
White Men 23.1% 28%

19% in North Carolina are voting in their first primary...they favor Obama 68-28%.

Clinton holds a comfortable lead in IN right now, but only 11% of Marion County (Indianapolis) is in and nothing in yet from Lake County (Gary).

Some talk on MSNBC right now about whether Superdelegates will start flocking to Obama (and calling on Clinton to leave the race) if Obama wins as big as it appears in North Carolina tonight.

The early exit polls are showing a 55-41% lead for Obama in NC. Usually, his lead shrinks, but I'll be curious to see if it does this time. We already know that the exit polls are overestimating the percentage of early voters who were white women, which would seem to inflate Clinton's support.

The initial exit polls indicate that blacks were 33% of the NC Democratic electorate. Will be interesting to see if that number creeps upwards closer to the 40% figure for early voters. But the work that the Obama campaign and other groups did in getting African Americans out early in NC is one of the most under-told stories of the campaign.

At the minute the polls close, most networks call NC for Obama. That's big for him, since it likely means a big victory. No unpleasant surprises for Obama tonight.

Apparently Romney and Huckabee were both on the IN Republican ballot. What will a strong second place showing mean for Huckabee's VP chances? What does languishing in 4th do for Romney's? Probably nothing at all!

Candidate Vote %
John McCain 42,744 76.4%
Mike Huckabee 5,990 10.7
Ron Paul 4,354 7.8
Mitt Romney 2,841 5.1

Question: will the networks be able to call NC right away? If not, how long will it take?

21% of those voting in the IN Democratic primary were voting in a primary for the first time ever. That group went for Obama 59-40%.

According to early exit polls, 14% of IN voters were black. That is slightly higher than most pollsters were estimating, but lower than the Howey-Gauge poll that showed Obama ahead. (See here)

Networks say Indiana is too EARLY to call. Suggests Clinton wins by 5-10%?

MSNBC notes that exit polls show that 37% of early voters are white women. That figure is actually higher than the actual number, which is 33%.

The New York Times, perhaps inadvertently, has put the following exit poll data from Indiana online:

% of total Clinton Obama
14 17-29 years old 42 58
23 30-44 years old 43 57
34 45-59 years old 51 49
29 60 years old and older 67 33
85 Less than $100,000 52 47
15 $100,000 or more 52 48
17 Today/In the last three days 62 38
82 Sometime last week or earlier 50 50

Based on these figures (particularly the income figures) it looks like Clinton is up 52-47% in the early exit polls. Keep in mind, as well, that Obama usually does better in these than he ends up doing in the actual vote totals.

Obama did well among younger voters, but the 60+ crowd remains a tough group for him.

Interesting that the networks are expected to wait to call states until everyone has voted, yet election boards in Indiana are already reporting their vote totals. Ah, the ethical questions raised when your state spans time zones.

In case you hadn't noticed.

The polls just closed in most of Indiana. However, the areas near Chicago are on central time, so they have another hour to vote.

Some things to think about tonight:

1) Beware of early vote totals, particularly in NC. We already know that Obama is going to win big among early voters in NC. In Texas, the early voting returns were the first to come out, so Obama held a lead for the first few hours after the polls closed there. Eventually, Clinton overtook Obama based on the vote from the day of the primary.

2) For the same reason as above, be especially skeptical about the early exit polls. These have tended to favor Obama, but will they in NC when so many Obama supporters voted early?

3) The memo accidentally released by the Obama campaign after Super Tuesday projected that he would win Indiana 53-46% and North Carolina 53-45%. The IN result seems doubtful, the NC prediction may be closer to the mark.

4) What will African American turnout be in NC and IN? In NC, 40% of early voters were black, but pollsters have been estimating that African Americans would make up about 30-35% of the NC electorate. If it is closer to the 40% figure, it should be a blowout for Obama. Closer to the 30% figure, and it is a tight race. In IN, black turnout will also be very important. Most polls were estimating that African Americans would make up about 10-12% of the Democratic electorate. If that number climbs higher, the chances of an Obama upset increase.