SixFifty

lessons from America

Ground game gains

I haven’t yet had a chance to search for turnout figures state-by-state and to look at whether battleground states had noticeably higher turnout (or experienced a greater % increase in turnout since 2004) compared to non-competitive states.  However, what I have found is a neat post on 538 using exit polling to analyse in swing states whether the side which contacted the most voters won. 

The upshot: yes, the ground game is important and is one of the factors why Obama did so well in certain states. Of the 12 battleground states polled, in all but West Virgina more people had been contacted by the Obama campaign than the McCain campaign.  And of the 12, Obama only lost in West Virginia and Missouri (just). 

Nevada, Colorado and Indiana were all places where Obama actually did much better than polls had predicted.  These were states with by far the highest reported gap between people being contacted by Obama campaigners and McCain campaigners.  Conversely, in West Virginia and Wisconsin there was the smallest margin between voter contacts and Obama did less well there than polls would have suggested.

Nate offers some good interpretations of the data:

“Wisconsin was also relatively close, perhaps because Obama redirected its legion number of Illinois-based volunteers from Wisconsin to Indiana a couple of weeks in advance of the election.”

“Although Obama’s field operation was good, Kerry’s was pretty good too; the difference [this eledtion] may be that while Bush’s field operation was also good, John McCain’s was not.”

“It is possible that Obama’s field operation was more efficient than Kerry’s, as the contact rate gap was larger in battleground than in non-battleground states. I have heard multiple stories of voters in states like Indiana receiving as many as three or four in-person contacts from the Obama campaign on Tuesday. This is a sign of a campaign that knew where the tipping points were, rather than (say) sending volunteers to Michigan on Election Day just to play it safe.”

So putting resources into local organising and gotv activities does work.  But Nate’s final point also shows the limits of a 50 State Strategy when push-comes-to-shove in the closing days of a campaign. The choices still have to be made and under a winner-takes-all system it mitigates against pushing for every last vote in places you are likely to win anyway.

One additional comment from Nate worth mentioning, as it helps explain why Democrats (and the same could be said of the Labour Party) need to work extra hard each election on gotv efforts: 

“Democrats are in fact relying upon lower-propensity voters like youth and minorities. Therefore, it is more incumbent upon the Democrats to have a strong ground game to turn these voters out.”

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November 10, 2008 Posted by | 50 State strategy | , | Leave a comment

Nebraska a major headache for networks

Once again – as on so many occasions this election cycle – the blogosphere and the number-crunching experts on sites like 538, DailyKos, electoral-vote et al are way ahead of the game.  And the TV networks and even 24/7 news channels like CNN are failing to either be accurate or informative.  What is the cause of this?  It is Obama winning one of Nebraska’s 5 electoral college votes – an event which joins the long list of records broken this year.  

As electoral-vote explains:

“Nebraska is one of the two states (along with Maine) that awards one electoral vote for each congressional district carried plus two for the statewide winner. It now appears that Obama won NE-02 (Omaha) and picks up another electoral vote. This is the first time in history that either state has split its EVs.”

CNN and other major news networks just can’t cope with this fact and don’t – at least as yet – show it on their maps.  And there has been very little mainsteam discussion of even the possibility of it happening, as far as I can tell.  Where as Nate, Kos and others (including me!) have been talking about it for a while and following the vote count in Nebraska closely.

Proving the rule that incumbents when they keep winning under a system don’t want to change it and then look like sore losers when they immediately reverse their position upon losing (even just one electoral vote),

“Nebraska Republicans have reacted to this development with dismay and intend to introduce legislation in 2009 to go to a winner-take-all system like 48 other states. Although technically the (unicameral) legislature is nonpartisan, de facto, the Republicans control it and also the governor’s mansion, so they will probably succeed.”

And going back to one of my favourite subjects, reforming the electoral college, electoral-vote.com some great analysis of how Nebraska may prove a fillip to the national popular vote movement: 

“An indirect effect of Obama winning the electoral vote is to provide a solid precedent for allowing a state to allocate its electoral votes as its state legislature determines by state law. This issue could come up again if the Interstate Compact is adopted by states with 270 electoral votes. If this happens, then those states will cast all their electoral votes for the winner of the national popular vote (not the state popular vote), de facto eliminating the electoral college without a constitutional amendment. Currently four states (Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, and New Jersey) have passed it. If another dozen or so blue states were to pass it, it would come into being and there would surely be court fights about the right of a state legislature to determine how its electoral votes were cast (even though the constitution is pretty clear it is up to the states to choose their electors as they wish). Having a precedent for something other than winner-take-all would strengthen that court case.”

November 10, 2008 Posted by | systems | , , , , | 1 Comment