Friday, June 20, 2008

CCPS Blog on Vacation Again

I'm leaving for a week at the Outer Banks tomorrow morning, so I will be off-line for the next week or so. I'll use my time at the beach thinking of some great new stuff to post on when I get back (or maybe I'll try to forget about politics for an hour or so).

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Webb, Sebelius, and Strickland: Who Offers the Most to a Democratic Ticket?

Three of the more prominent names mentioned as potential running mates for Obama are Jim Webb (D-VA), Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS), and Ted Strickland (D-OH). On Monday, I posted about which groups Webb would help Obama with. Today, I thought I'd expand the analysis by comparing Webb's performance among particular key groups with the performances of Sebelius and Strickland in 2006. To do this, I examine the 2006 exit poll data from each race.

First, I should caution that one major challenge in comparing these candidates is that each faced a different opponent in a different state, meaning there are a lot of factors at play here. These differences are evident from the fact that each candidate was supported by a different percentage of exit poll respondents--54% for Webb, 61% for Sebelius (who was running for re-election), and 64% for Strickland. Despite these limitations, it is still interesting to examine which groups each candidate performed better or worse with in their own states in 2006. The figure below summarizes these patterns:

One key group to look at is white women, a key swing group. Webb actually performed worse among white women than he did overall in winning his senate seat in 2006. Strickland won about the same percentage of white women (65%) as he did overall in his gubernatorial bid, a level of support similar to what Sebelius captured in her bid for re-election in 2006. Based on these patterns, Strickland and Sebelius appear to be more likely to help Obama with women than Webb.

Working class whites are another key group that Obama may wish to reach out to with his vice presidential selection. If that is the goal, then Strickland seems to be the clear favorite among this group. Neither Webb nor Sebelius performed very well with low-income or non-college-educated whites, particularly compared to their overall support (both did worse than their baseline support with these groups). On the other hand, Strickland won a great deal of support from these groups, near or above his total support. Strickland also performed very well among rural voters, though Webb also excelled with this group. Sebelius's support, on the other hand, came more from urban areas (where Obama tends to run strong anyway).

Thus, each of these three candidates offers different pluses and minuses for Obama. If Obama is concerned with making a pick that would win support from white women, then Sebelius or Strickland seem like a safer bet. If Obama wants to make inroads with working class whites, Strickland runs very strong with that group, even relative to his overall support in 2006. Strickland and Webb also both run well in rural areas, though Webb does exceptionally well in rural areas relative to his overall support.

Monday, June 16, 2008

What Does Jim Webb Add to (or Subtract From) a Democratic Ticket?

I am back from a week away and am ready to start tackling the first of what I hope will be several installments looking at possible vice presidential choices for both Obama and McCain. In this installment, I will look at what Jim Webb might bring to the Democratic ticket.

Webb's name has been a popular one with many pundits because he seems to bring a lot of strength among groups where Obama may be weaker. Generally, Webb is viewed as someone who can help with working class white voters, especially those in rural areas. On the other hand, there is some concern about Webb's image among women voters.

To get a better sense of how Webb stands among these various demographic groups, we can look at his performance in the 2006 Senate race (when he upset George Allen) compared to the performance of other Democratic Senate candidates nationwide in that same year. This comparison is shown in this figure:

First, Webb did under-perform among women when compared to other Democratic Senate candidates in 2006. He won just 46% of the vote among this group compared to other Democrats who won 51% of white women in 2006. He also did not make this disadvantage up with a stronger performance among white men, as he won the same share of the vote from white men as other Democratic Senate candidates did in 2006. Webb's problems among white women could be decisive in leading Obama toward another choice, because Obama cannot afford to alienate women who are already disappointed with the way the Democratic primary turned out.

Webb also does not necessarily bring the advantages among "working class whites" that pundits have been quick to attribute to him. In fact, he won just 47% of the vote among whites making less than $50,000 per year compared to 52% for other Democratic Senate candidates. He also won just 32% among whites without a college education, far below the 47% baseline established by other Democratic candidates.

So, what up-side does Webb bring? He did out-perform other Democrats among voters 60 and older, a group that Obama did not fare as well with during the Democratic primaries. He also did 8% better among frequent church-goers and 6% better among rural voters than other Democrats did in 2006. These are groups that the Obama campaign would certainly want to reach out to, if only to minimize the size of McCain's advantage among those demographics.

Finally, there are two things we can't really get a handle on with these exit polls. First, Webb does bring some national security experience that could be important for the Democratic tickets. Second, Webb hails from Virginia, a state that Obama intends to doggedly contest in 2008. The question is, are these advantages important enough to out-weigh concerns about Webb's image among women? My guess is no. The Obama campaign simply cannot afford to alienate white women, no matter what other advantages they think they pick up by doing so.


Which potential VP candidate would you like me to analyze next? Vote on the right side bar to make your pick!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

CCPS Blog on Vacation

After a killer 5 month primary season, I'm in some desperate need of political decompression before the general election campaign shifts into full gear. Fortunately (for me, at least), I've got a couple of trips planned over the next few weeks. I won't be posting at all next week, though Alicia or Mike may blog here during the break.

That said, I've put up a new choice of topics on the sidebar. Voting will be open for a week and then I will blog on the winning topic next week. In the meantime, I'll be trying to see if I can survive without my daily dose of CNN and MSNBC.

In the meantime, here are some things worth looking at:

The John McCain Campaign's blueprint for victory.

Marc Ambinder says that Barack Obama solved the collective action problem.

Mark Blumenthal examines what happens when Astrophysicists moonlight as political scientists.

The New York Times keeps up its good work on producing interactive graphics, this time an interactive electoral map.

Nate Silver argues that, in this election, the electoral college is biased against Republicans.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

How Obama Can Win Back Women

As Obama wraps up his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, he faces a serious problem with women, a constituency that has been central to every Democratic presidential candidate’s electoral success since 1980. According to the latest poll from the Pew Research Center, only 47% of women currently say that they would vote for Obama over McCain (42% support McCain). This figure has to be a major concern for the Obama campaign. Every Democratic presidential candidate since 1980 has done better among women than their Republican competition. In fact, Democratic candidates do not need to simply win a majority of women, but they need to win them by a significant margin. In 2000, Al Gore won the popular vote because he carried women by a margin of 54-43%, an 11% advantage. In 2004, John Kerry’s advantage among women shrunk to just 3%, the smallest advantage for a Democratic nominee since Michael Dukakis in 1988. Had Kerry carried women with the same percentage of the vote that Gore had in 2000, Kerry would have cruised to victory. Instead, Kerry lost the election by more than 2 million votes. Obama is currently faring worse among women than Kerry was at this same stage in 2004. No matter how many new voters Obama brings into the electorate, his prospects in the general election will ultimately depend on how he fares with women voters.

Obama’s problems with women are at least partly attributable to the long primary campaign against Clinton, which has alienated some of Clinton’s female supporters. According to the Pew Research Center, 58% of women who supported Clinton had a favorable opinion of Obama in March, but that figure dropped to just 43% in May. With the nomination race coming to a close, Obama needs to reach out to these women; but how can he go about repairing his image among women who were so invested in Hillary Clinton’s campaign to become the first female president? Some have suggested that the choice of a female running mate would be an important symbolic gesture that would help Obama gain support from women. While a female running mate (perhaps even Clinton herself) would go a long way toward helping Obama with women, the most important weapon Obama has for tackling this problem is substance, not symbolism. Obama needs to emphasize issue that are important to women and delineate how his views differ from McCain’s when it comes to these concerns.

My research examining dozens of campaigns over several years has indicated a clear pattern: when Democratic candidates know that they need a good showing among women to win a race, they turn to a set of issues that help them attract that support: education, health care, and child care. Democrats seeking support from women emphasize these issues because they tend to be particularly important to women and women’s views on these issues place them much closer to the Democratic Party. As a result, when these issues become a significant part of the campaign agenda, women are much more likely to vote Democratic and the electoral prospects for Democratic candidates improve markedly.

So far, the debate between Obama and McCain has centered on the economy and foreign policy. To These issues are certainly important, but issues like education, child care, and health care are especially salient to women and, so far, those issues have largely taken a back seat in the general election campaign. If Obama wants to improve his standing with women, he needs to talk to women about the issues they want to hear about, drawing clear differences between what an Obama presidency would accomplish for women and what a McCain presidency would mean for them. If not, he may very well fail to attract the overwhelming support from women that he needs to win in November.



I actually wrote most of this post yesterday. Then, today, I noticed that in his first event as the presumptive nominee, Obama was standing at a podium behind a sign I had not seen him use before. Look for him to push the health care issue early and often in this campaign; it is one issue where he can win over a lot of those women who may currently be on the fence.

Coming Soon: How Obama Wins Back Women

You, the readers, voted pretty overwhelmingly for me to post about how Obama can win back women during the general election. I will be posting on that topic later this evening.

In the meantime, here are some interesting nuggets to chew on:

The Politico writes about the amazing discrepancy between the amount of money that Obama and McCain will be working with.

Some early rankings on the Senate races this Fall and National Journal polls the insiders to get a sense of how many seats they expect Democrats to pick up.

Mark Blumenthal points out that American Research Group was off...again.

Carl Bialik profiles Nate Silver, the statistics-minded blogger at

And a cool interactive graphic from the New York Times.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Clinton Concession Watch: Worth Remembering

In 2004, the early exit poll results suggested John Kerry was going to beat Bush. For at least part of election day, Kerry thought there was a pretty good chance he was going to win based on these early numbers. The election itself was not called until late on election night. Of course, the vote did not go his way and he came out early on the following afternoon to make a gracious concession speech.

Not sure how good a comparison this really is. Clinton supporters would probably point out that nothing is official until delegates cast their ballots at the convention and Clinton does have the popular vote argument to make (not to mention a spot on the ticket to try to negotiate for). Obama supporters would probably point out that Clinton has known since late February (and certainly since early May) that she was probably not going to be the nominee, so it shouldn't have been as hard for her to "come to grips" with the loss as it was for Kerry.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Last Day of the Democratic Primaries Live Blog

1:52am (Final Thoughts): Sorry about the somewhat limited blogging tonight. There was a lot going on (including storms in the area) and I had a hard time getting to the computer as much as I would've liked.

It looks like Clinton will take a 9-6 delegate advantage from South Dakota and Obama will likely get a 9-7 split in Montana. That will give her a 16-15 win on the evening with pledged delegates. Unfortunately for her, Obama picked up about 60 superdelegate votes today while Clinton lost a few. So, Obama passed the 2,118 bar with plenty of room to spare.

I have to say that even though we were told all day that she would not concede, Clinton's speech still struck me as a bit odd given the context. To simply pretend as though the networks weren't all naming Obama the nominee was strange, and asking her supporters to go to her website and let her know what they want her to do seemed to be firing up the troops rather than asking them to stand down.

In the meantime, Obama's speech contrasted quite favorably with those delivered by Clinton and Obama. He began in a very gracious way, which was a bit different from Clinton's speech, and the energy of the event just overpowered McCain's speech earlier in the evening. All in all, it seemed to be an effective pivot to the general election.

I've been trying to figure out the VP situation for quite a while and am still not entirely sure what to think. In my mind, the way this day panned out seemed to make it much less likely that Obama would offer the position to her. The question is whether there are enough superdelegates who have already endorsed Obama who would push him to take her on the ticket. If that happens, then things could certainly get a bit messy and perhaps this is what the Clinton campaign is trying to . But I'd guess that most of the superdelegates don't want any part in pushing something like this.

So, where do we go from here? The Obama campaign will now be trying to move as quickly as possible to leave the primary campaign far behind. There are lots of interesting questions that we will likely be getting answers to soon. The first, of course, is when and where will Clinton concede and will there be a big joint appearance to symbolize the unity? Will Clinton's superdelegates begin flipping their endorsements to Obama en masse even before she officially concedes? And how hard will Clinton work for the Obama campaign once she does accept him as the nominee?

Will Obama get a "bump" in the polls from having wrapped up the nomination?

And, finally, the other big question that doesn't have to do with selecting a running mate is when will the Obama campaign announce that they intend to forego public financing in the general election? And, relatedly, what is the over/under on the amount of money Obama will raise for the general election (assuming he does forego public financing)?

In some ways it is hard to imagine that this nomination race went on for 5 months from Iowa until today. This is truly unique in the modern era of presidential nomination politics (and it will provide a lot of fodder for the next edition of my book, which, unfortunately, means a lot of work in the revisions for me). Yet, in other ways it really makes a lot of sense that this went on so long. You knew when Obama was raising tons of money last summer that this nomination race could go on for quite a while; after all, how else was he going to spend all that money? But people always expected that Obama would be the one chasing Clinton, not the other way around. The bottom line is that the Obama campaign out-maneuvered the Clinton campaign throughout. They raised more money, energized citizens who had previously eschewed politics, built a superior grassroots organization, had a superior online presence, and, most importantly, they understood the importance of running up big margins in caucus states and having an organization to compete after Super Tuesday. In fact, that last point is just it. When they were raising all that money in 2007, they knew that they could use it to extend the campaign into February and beyond and that was their plan all along. The Clinton campaign wasn't ready for that and, as a result, even though it went on until June, this race was won by Obama in February.

So, does his campaign have anything left for an encore in the general election? We have the next five months to find out.

With all the "Clinton on the ticket" talk tonight, it seems worth asking how many votes Obama would pick up by not picking her? We are no longer in a primary campaign and the playing field has changed now. How many independents and Republicans are out there who might vote Obama unless he takes Clinton as a running mate?

Here are the Clinton talking points distributed to surrogates tonight. These are not the talking points of a candidate who is conceding. In the meantime, Obama is going to earn more popular votes tonight than Clinton. Her net in South Dakota is somewhere between 10 and 12k, whereas he already has a 15k lead over her in Montana with only 25% in.

Rendell, one of the biggest Clinton supporters, is on MSNBC saying that Obama can definitely carry Pennsylvania without Clinton. However, he does think it would be a good ticket and that it would help in New Jersey, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

I'm not quite digging the John King replacement on CNN...not nearly as great with the futuristic big board as King is. After some digging, we've figured out that King and Dana Bash are evidently on their honeymoon (if they announced this earlier on CNN, I missed it).

The CNN crowd is noting that with the Clinton campaign basically demanding a spot on the ticket, they have probably hurt her chances of getting it. I agree, it seems now that he really can't choose her, because it would make him look weak and the choice would seem far too forced and unnatural.

11:04pm: In her speech, Clinton asked the 18 million people who voted for her to go to to tell her what she should do now. For what it's worth, one friend of mine who voted for Clinton said she wants to go to the website and tell her, "I'm one of the 18 million, and I want out." It is going to be very interesting to see how this progresses in the next several days.

The Montana exit polls show a 56-39% breakdown in favor of Obama.

In case it wasn't clear from her speech that Clinton wants to be on the ticket, there is this.

10:02pm: The networks call Montana for Obama on the hour. And that's all we have left folks. No more states, no more territories, just the official casting of votes in Denver in August. I'll update the delegate tracker in a few minutes.

MSNBC has called South Dakota for Clinton.

The early tabulations of South Dakota exit polls indicate a 54-46% edge for Clinton. In most cases, early exit poll tabulations for Clinton have held up throughout the night, though Indiana was one case where her early exit poll lead shrunk throughout the night.

According to MSNBC, Barack Obama has enough delegates to put him over the top. The announcement steps on the end of McCain's speech. Obviously this is a historic moment in so many ways. I'm not sure we'll ever see anything like the campaign that we witnessed over the past 5 months.

8:00pm: MSNBC did not add any delegates to Obama's count between 7 and 8pm. Is that because everyone's at dinner or has the Obama campaign told everyone to stop endorsing so that he can win it when they call Montana? I wouldn't be surprised if it was the latter.

Here is some useful information about the large number of House and Senate primaries happening today.

The superdelegate endorsements are coming so fast now that I'm updating by the hour at this point. The only real question remaining is whether Obama will go over before the networks are able to call either state. The other questions is what these speeches will look like tonight. Should be VERY interesting to watch.

5:25pm: There is no doubt about it now. Obama WILL cross the threshold of 2,118 tonight. MSNBC now says he is 19.5 short. Between South Dakota and Montana's elected delegates and the five Montana delegates that have committed to voting for the winner of that primary, he should pick up at least that many delegates tonight.

5:15pm: I've updated the delegate totals, though things are moving so quickly that I'm having a hard time keeping up.

Lots of talk online and on the networks about the possibility of an Obama-Clinton ticket, including some suggestion that Clinton herself has told superdelegates she would serve if asked. I was looking at Survey USA's VP poll tests last night and was interested to find (a) that they didn't bother testing an Obama-Clinton ticket and (b) Edwards seems to help Obama in nearly every state they've polled.

Several more superdelegate endorsements in the last two hours. Obama is probably about 7 or 8 away from the number he needs to allow himself to go over the top when the polls close tonight. By the way, MSNBC announced that Jimmy Carter will endorse Obama tonight.

2:05pm: The Associated Press is evidently calling the race based on "new math," to paraphrase Ben Smith at the Politico.

Just to give you a graphical idea of how Obama piles up superdelegates throughout the day, I give you this chart that I'll continue to update every couple of hours based on the MSNBC count.

I figured I'd make this an all-day running blog since we may very well see Obama win more delegates before the polls close than he wins after. As expected, it seems as though his campaign is trying to bring in as many superdelegates as possible to make sure he can clinch with delegates elected in today's primaries. So far, depending on which count you look at, Obama is either 33.5 or 34 delegates away from 2,118. He will win AT LEAST 13 delegates tonight* (most likely a few more than that) meaning that, to be safe, he needs at least 20 more superdelegate votes in the bank before tonight.

*Five Montana superdelegates are set to endorse the primary's winner as soon as that is announced. Thus, assuming he wins in Montana, he will get at least 13 delegates from that pick-up. Thus, assuming he thinks that Montana is in the bag, he really only needs to pick up about 15 more superdelegates today to be safe.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Projecting Delegate Allocations in the Final Democratic Primaries: How Many Superdelegates Does Obama Need to Clinch?

First things first. As the Puerto Rico result made very clear, the delegate projections for the last few primaries are going to be pretty rough estimates simply because there are not very many polls in any of these states. In Puerto Rico, I projected a 32-23 delegate split in favor of Clinton, but Clinton won a much bigger margin, taking 38 delegates to Obama's 17.

So, with that said, the projections about delegate allocations from the South Dakota and Montana primaries differ quite a bit depending on which polls you look at. Last week, our projections based on the latest polls had Obama winning 10 delegates in Montana (to 6 for Clinton) and 9 in South Dakota (to 6 for Clinton). Overall, that would give him 19 delegates tomorrow night compared to 12 for Clinton.

However, American Research Group released surveys from Montana and South Dakota today suggesting a very different result. These surveys give Obama just a 48-44% edge in Montana and put Clinton ahead by a 60-34% margin in South Dakota. If these polls are correct, then there would be an 8-8 split in Montana and South Dakota's delegates would be allocated 10 to 5 for Clinton. Overall, that would give Clinton 18 delegates tomorrow night compared to just 13 for Obama.

Why does this matter? The Obama campaign would love to line up enough superdelegate endorsements tomorrow to allow them to pass the 2,118 mark and have a victory party tomorrow night. But they might need a few more than they had initially thought they did if the American Research Group polls are accurate. Here are some graphics showing how close Obama will be to 2,118 after either scenario (assuming no more superdelegates endorse before tomorrow night):

Depending on which polls you believe, Obama will either end up 20.5 or 26.5 votes short of the nomination. So, if Obama wants to go over the top tomorrow night based on the results of the primaries, he needs at least 21 superdelegate endorsements between now and tomorrow night and to be safe he'd like to have 26 or 27 endorsements to bank. It will be interesting to see if he can pull together two dozen endorsements in the next 24 hours.


Ok, so which projections am I going with. Well, frankly, I don't trust these American Research Group polls for a couple of reasons. First, in Montana, we had a poll conducted last week by Mason-Dixon that showed a very different picture. This survey put Obama up 52% to 35% over Clinton. In the American Research Group survey, Obama was winning 18-49 year olds by a margin of just 48-43% while the Mason-Dixon poll had him winning that age group 56-30%. Second, there seems to be little reason to think that South Dakota would be a huge blowout for Clinton. As Nate Silver at notes:

"But South Dakota isn't all that idiosyncratic a state, and 26-point win just doesn't make any sense in the context of what we know about the demographics of this race. The national tracking polls are fairly stable, and the campaigns aren't behaving like South Dakota is a 20-30 point Clinton win."

Nate predicts a 5% edge for Obama in South Dakota.

Of course, one problem in pegging the expectations in South Dakota is that every state that South Dakota borders held a caucus. The only primary we have for comparison is the beauty contest held by Nebraska (on South Dakota's border) which Obama narrowly won, 49-46%. Nevertheless, the 60-34% margin just seems way off base. So I'm sticking with the projections from last week.

Worth Re-visiting: Popular Vote Claims and the Michigan "Primary"

Since the Clinton campaign is gong to be pushing hard on the "popular vote" argument for the next 48 hours, I thought I'd link to this analysis that I conducted several weeks ago.

Bottom line: the Clinton calculation of the popular vote in Michigan nets her campaign 328,151. However, based on the exit polls, it is safe to say that this is not an accurate reflection of her support among Michigan voters. Instead, that margin is something more along the lines of 65,000.

Here are the key passages:

Of the 593,837 Democrats who turned out to vote in the Michigan primary, 55% (328,151) cast their vote for Clinton. But what would have happened if all the candidates' names had been on the ballot? Fortunately, we have exit polls from Michigan which can give us some insight here. On the exit poll survey, voters were asked who they would have voted for had every candidate's name actually been on the ballot. Here are the results:

Clinton: 46%
Obama: 35%
Edwards: 12%

So, what happens if re-allocate the Michigan vote accordingly? In Michigan, the vote would have broken down as follows:

Clinton: 273,165 votes
Obama: 207,843 votes
Edwards: 71,260 votes

Thus, had Obama's name been on the ballot, Clinton's margin in the state would have been much smaller. Of course, there is no really good metric for measuring the vote in Michigan. Even in this scenario we have to assume that turnout wasn't suppressed by the fact that Obama's name wasn't on the ballot. Yet, you can imagine that many Obama supporters (and some Clinton supporters) may not have bothered to turn out to vote given that they knew that their votes were not likely to count. Nevertheless, this metric probably comes closest to capturing the actual preferences of those who did turn out to vote in Michigan.

UPDATE: This post from Mark Blumenthal regarding the accuracy of the exit polls for making such judgments is definitely worth a read.