# The Swing States

## A Little Math

The further we get into the fall, the more meaningful the state-by-state polls become. But it’s nonetheless useful to bear in mind the hard numbers from past years to keep a realistic view of what the range of possibilties are in any given state. A few months back, I had gone through the Federal Election Commission website and put together a spreadsheet, which I’m only getting back around to now, tallying up all the votes for federal office (President, Senate, House) in the last four election cycles (2000, 2002, 2004, 2006) comprising two presidential elections, four House elections, and a full cycle and a third of Senate races. The chart below lays out the results.

Now, let’s be clear: while the underlying numbers are actual votes cast, basically what I’m doing here is using a metric, not a statistic; I’m combining different types of votes over time in a way that’s not scientific, but rather an effort to take disparate pieces of data and make them digestible. Obviously, there are a host of reasons why this isn’t science: turnout is much larger in presidential years, some incumbents in the Senate and House run unopposed (although this is itself usually a sign of strength), a third of the Senate seats are counted twice here, gerrymandering affects House races, and of course, there’s no fixed way to measure the relative probative value of 2006 results vs. 2000 results in measuring 2008′s political terrain. That said, using three levels of balloting over four election cycles does help give us a large enough sample size to get a look at the real, underlying partisan makeup of particular states, and limit the distorting effects of individual personalities.

Here’s the methodology. I present two sets of numbers: “raw” numbers that treat each of the four elections alike, and “weighted” numbers that give a larger weight to more recent results. For the raw numbers, I tallied up all votes cast for each of the two major parties (ignoring third party votes, for simplicity’s sake) in presidential, Senate or House races in 2000, 2002, 2004 or 2006. For the Weighted totals, I weighted the votes by year as follows:

2006=1
2004=0.75
2002=0.5
2000=0.25

i.e., a vote for a House candidate in 2006 was worth twice the weight of a vote for the same candidate in 2002, and four times the weight of a vote for that candidate in 2000.

The final two columns attempt to combine the electoral vote weight of each state with its partisan composition in order to put the closeness of the state in the context of the reward for presidential candidates of swinging it, dividing the number of electoral votes by the square of the margin separating the two parties (the sum is then divided by 100 just for ease of the reader). The equation is:

= (EV/(D%-R%)squared)/100

Without further ado, here is the chart:

State EV D-Tot R-Tot D% (Raw) R% (Raw) D%(W) R%(W) EV/Margin (Raw) EV/Margin (W)
CO 9 6382956 7020832 47.6% 52.4% 49.6% 50.4% 39.74 1752.24
PA 21 20641302 20552361 50.1% 49.9% 51.1% 48.9% 45048.06 469.80
SD 3 1299151 1475882 46.8% 53.2% 50.6% 49.4% 7.40 227.00
FL 27 23291638 25596752 47.6% 52.4% 48.1% 51.9% 121.45 177.99
ME 4 2716999 2607727 51.0% 49.0% 50.8% 49.2% 94.98 147.26
OH 20 18741091 21603342 46.5% 53.5% 47.6% 52.4% 39.74 90.15
NV 5 2666828 2971105 47.3% 52.7% 48.6% 51.4% 17.17 62.81
NC 15 10325146 12013306 46.2% 53.8% 47.1% 52.9% 26.26 43.66
MO 11 10839544 11849293 47.8% 52.2% 47.4% 52.6% 55.54 41.94
MI 17 18610217 16181348 53.5% 46.5% 53.7% 46.3% 34.88 30.36
TN 11 7667830 9245965 45.3% 54.7% 46.6% 53.4% 12.64 23.33
CA 55 50653333 37528032 57.4% 42.6% 57.9% 42.1% 24.83 21.99
NJ 15 13042173 11036751 54.2% 45.8% 54.3% 45.7% 21.62 20.04
WI 10 11604124 10209108 53.2% 46.8% 53.9% 46.1% 24.45 16.24
MN 10 11036669 9639891 53.4% 46.6% 54.1% 45.9% 21.91 14.92
DE 3 1228386 1382643 47.0% 53.0% 47.7% 52.3% 8.60 13.84
TX 34 20096791 28913484 41.0% 59.0% 41.1% 58.9% 10.51 10.66
AR 6 3537401 3099694 53.3% 46.7% 53.8% 46.2% 13.80 10.23
IL 21 20038400 14360894 58.3% 41.7% 58.8% 41.2% 7.71 6.71
WA 11 11697815 9317953 55.7% 44.3% 56.8% 43.2% 8.58 5.88
GA 15 8487883 11830352 41.8% 58.2% 41.8% 58.2% 5.54 5.62
IA 7 4449807 5481142 44.8% 55.2% 44.2% 55.8% 6.49 5.14
OR 7 6478957 5313080 54.9% 45.1% 55.9% 44.1% 7.16 4.99
LA 9 5619749 7391764 43.2% 56.8% 43.2% 56.8% 4.85 4.89
NM 5 2844838 2421980 54.0% 46.0% 55.2% 44.8% 7.76 4.68
VA 13 8614983 12151040 41.5% 58.5% 41.6% 58.4% 4.48 4.59
NY 31 30119490 18450310 62.0% 38.0% 63.8% 36.2% 5.37 4.04
IN 11 7456553 10423416 41.7% 58.3% 41.3% 58.7% 4.00 3.65
KY 8 4718604 6695051 41.3% 58.7% 42.2% 57.8% 2.67 3.31
SC 8 4237672 5992739 41.4% 58.6% 41.4% 58.6% 2.72 2.71
NH 4 1903485 2410498 44.1% 55.9% 43.9% 56.1% 2.90 2.68
MD 10 10555795 7176226 59.5% 40.5% 59.9% 40.1% 2.75 2.53
AL 9 4723688 7403321 39.0% 61.0% 38.8% 61.2% 1.84 1.80
WV 5 3026936 1936042 61.0% 39.0% 58.8% 41.2% 1.03 1.63
AZ 10 4902282 8749386 35.9% 64.1% 37.6% 62.4% 1.26 1.62
MT 3 1512690 1964935 43.5% 56.5% 43.0% 57.0% 1.77 1.53
CT 7 6535475 4380585 59.9% 40.1% 60.8% 39.2% 1.80 1.50
ND 3 1345405 1083121 55.4% 44.6% 57.8% 42.2% 2.57 1.22
OK 7 3435580 5692851 37.6% 62.4% 37.9% 62.1% 1.14 1.20
MS 6 2802212 4604631 37.8% 62.2% 37.4% 62.6% 1.01 0.95
NE 5 2005400 3618693 35.7% 64.3% 38.2% 61.8% 0.61 0.90
UT 5 2255544 4227791 34.8% 65.2% 35.1% 64.9% 0.54 0.56
KS 6 2488872 5157791 32.5% 67.5% 33.4% 66.6% 0.49 0.55
HI 4 2147579 1124171 65.6% 34.4% 65.1% 34.9% 0.41 0.44
MA 12 15605362 4213255 78.7% 21.3% 78.0% 22.0% 0.36 0.38
WY 3 604497 1219602 33.1% 66.9% 35.5% 64.5% 0.26 0.36
RI 4 2146589 1112476 65.9% 34.1% 67.1% 32.9% 0.40 0.34
VT 3 1634826 906494 64.3% 35.7% 65.6% 34.4% 0.37 0.31
AK 3 600268 1394004 30.1% 69.9% 32.8% 67.2% 0.19 0.25
ID 4 1081529 2750657 28.2% 71.8% 28.1% 71.9% 0.21 0.21
DC 3 966738 67883 93.4% 6.6% 93.8% 6.2% 0.04 0.04

A couple of things jump off the list:

(1) Yes, as we all know, Colorado and Pennsylvania are two of the really critical battlegrounds in 2008, and not only at the presidential level.

(2) Some states are genuinely competitive yet never become swing states at the presidential level. Maine has two Republican Senators because they are much more liberal than any national Republican; South Dakota has a Democratic Senator and at-Large Congresswoman because they are much more conservative than any national Democrat, and aren’t running for Commander-in-Chief.

• Tbone

But what time does the lander actually get to the moon?

OK, for all you liberal art majors that have absolutely no idea what the chart means, let me help you.

First, no one who voted for Bush in 2004 is going to vote for Obama in 2008.

Second, a whole bunch of people who voted for Kerry in 2004 are not going to vote for Obama in 2008.

Third, there aren’t going to be nearly enough new black voters to offset the number of lunch pail Democrats and Hillary supporters who will either vote McCain or stay home.

Fourth, the college kids will stay home and get drunk as usual.

PS: Dan, I did find one miscalculation in your chart, maybe you should go back and check your figures.

• PaRep

The Cliff Notes version Tbone !! LOL!!!

• Haley37

CO will stay red in November as will OH.
FL is pretty much a red state, voting Dem only once in the last many decades. At the end of the day, I think that NV stays red as well.
As for PA, I don’t know. Hillary won big there in the primaries and the metro areas – Pitt and Philly – are dark blue with millions of voters. I still give the edge there to the Dems. If McCain can flip PA from blue to red on election day, Obama and company are doomed.

• PaRep

And it’s a Horse race

• janis

of the matter in record time, as usual.

I’m sure that Dan appreciates your painstaking review of his lengthy chart. (You have been so missed, Tbone.)

• Tbone

But what time does the lander actually get to the moon?

OK, for all you liberal art majors that have absolutely no idea what the chart means, let me help you.

First, no one who voted for Bush in 2004 is going to vote for Obama in 2008.

Second, a whole bunch of people who voted for Kerry in 2004 are not going to vote for Obama in 2008.

Third, there aren’t going to be nearly enough new black voters to offset the number of lunch pail Democrats and Hillary supporters who will either vote McCain or stay home.

Fourth, the college kids will stay home and get drunk as usual.

PS: Dan, I did find one miscalculation in your chart, maybe you should go back and check your figures.

• Swamp_Yankee

Is that some of their local newscasts trickle into PA markets including Philidelphia. I dont buy NY or NJ, but it may give moderates a reason to believe McCain really is more of a centrist than the readical Obama

• Tbone

NT

• gamecock

than the average Dem. None of the dems are. Its all relative, and even then, if you take away a few votes from the so-called conservative dems, their voting records are nearly identical to The Swimmer’s and The One’s.

• gamecock

Brother where you been? I have needed allies until recently. Been saying what you said and more since Dec 2006 when I saw that the dems had been taken over by the far left; since Feb 2007 when I saw Obama; and since late 2007 and all 2008 as I have repeatedly tried to foster optimism among the poll obcessed that when

voters get attentive and see the lib, they will reject the lib.

All before Palin. I think Palin does put Congress in play.

Obama’s numbers are worse earlier since we got to know Rev Wright earlier than we met Willie Horton.

• PaRep

By McCain/Palin

http://blog.newsweek.com/blogs/stumper/archive/2008/09/15/swing-state-update.aspx

• Dan_McLaughlin

I got off the math train after the point at which the numbers disappeared.

• Uma_Richie

are you in, and what are you seeing election-wise?

• PaRep

In a small town of West Newton about 30 mils SSE of Pittsburgh, It’s as I posted here before a Reagan Democrat Area Hard Working Union workers who are Outdoors men & women & more conservative than a Normal Democrat, Normal democrat?? isn’t that an Oxymoron

Most cling to their Guns & their Religion you know the Bitter type

• Uma_Richie

I’m in south-central PA, but I was born in and still have strong ties with the northeast.

South-central is in good shape economically and is Red territory. Getting out the vote here will be crucial.

The northeast coal regions are the toss up. The economy has gotten worse and worse over the years, and the Change mantra works for many. I hope that Mayor Barletta and Gov. Palin will bring some votes back to the GOP.

• The_Rebel

in NY in the middle of September, 2004, but we all know he won the state by a landslide. If McCain actually takes the lead, then I will sit up and take notice.

• CincoSolas_del_Bronx

RS 3.0 doesn’t allow your

align=”right”

tags to be honored (at least for old IE folks). Please replace them with

style=”text-align:right”

to make the table visually convey the impact of place value.

(And when you do, the boner that Tbone found will jump out at you as well!!!)

• kyle8

If you look only at percentages of 52% or more as likely to go for one party. Then McCain has 216 likely votes and Obama has 239 votes.

So if Obama can get only forty electoral votes from the swing states he wins.

Of course if the economy continues to deteriorate his chances of being elected (representing change) go up.

• Tbone

The whole department was full of slackers but were too smart to be poli-sci majors, too well adjusted to be psychology majors and to lazy to read all the crap to be philosophy majors.

And, as I told my accounting prof when I dropped his course after 101& 102, “If I ever need the stuff in 103, I’ll hire someone who stuck around.”

• The_Rebel

I meant Bush closing.

• WoodstockRedCat

Minnesooota Update via NRO

Mark Hemingway presents some hard evidence that the state is in play.

Best evidence? Red Star Tribune has them tied 45-45.