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.


Anonymous said...

Basically, Obama's "prediction" was bound between 40-65%. They didn't conceive of big wins or big losses.

socaldr said...

Obama under-performed in WV and KY because these races were essentially uncontested on his part. IMHO, the O campaign decided that major efforts in these states were unwise given the greater-than-anticipated delegate lead.