Popular Vote Projection

by: fladem

Fri Apr 04, 2008 at 15:56

Michael Barone wrote a piece this week  where he suggested that Clinton could still win the popular vote.   I took this as a challenge: how would I predict the popular vote contest, and what margin would Clinton require in order to take the popular vote lead.

Before I begin my analysis, I want to make clear that I think this is the wrong standard to apply.  In my review of past close primary fights (1976 GOP, 1980 and 1984 Democratic) the standard has always been pledged delegates.  This makes sense: if popular vote were the standard no state would ever choose to elect delegates by caucus.  In fact, applying the popular vote standard is tantamount to disenfranchising caucus states, some of which are true swing states (Iowa, Minnesota, Colorado).

Having said this, let's start by trying to predict the popular vote outcome.  The hardest part is predicting turnout.  Barone used the Kerry turnout in 2004.  However, if you bother to examine the turnout to date, you find this reasoning fundamentally flawed.   To try and predict the turnout in the remaining 10 contests, I began by examining the turnout in the primary contests to date.  This allowed me to arrive at a turnout prediction for each of the remaining states.  I then used an average of recent polling (data from realclearpolitics.com and pollster.com) to predict the results.

As this table shows, Clinton would need a 14 point average margin in the remaining states to overtake Obama (9% if you include Florida).

How did I get these numbers?  This table shows predicted turnout, and the results (based on the most recent polling data).  Note that I could not find recent polling in Oregon. More on the flip..

fladem :: Popular Vote Projection

One of things this analysis shows is the relationship between North Carolina and Pennsylvania.  Based on current polling Clinton only nets about 8,000 votes between Pennsylvania and North Carolina.  Moreover, there are solid reasons to suggest that my predictions are at the high end for Pennsylvania and the low end for North Carolina.  As Chris noted today, Pennsylvania was an extremely hard fought state in 2004.  Conversersly, North Carolina was conceeded early in the process.  As a result, one would expect turnout in North Carolina to be much closer to Kerry's '04 number than turnout in Pennsylvania.  

To estimate turnout, I compared the Kerry 2004 turnout versus the primary turnout in 2008.  Here is what I found:

Obviously the relationship between the Kerry turnout and the 2008 primary after the Super Tuesday primaries is the more relevant since
the GOP contest was essentially resolved on Super Tuesday.  Perhaps the best states to use for predicting the Pennsylvania turnout are Ohio and Wisconsin.  Both of these contests were strongly contested in 2004, and both were the focus of significant efforts by Clinton and Obama.  Total turnout in the Ohio primary was 81% of Kerry's vote in 2004 and turnout in the Wisconsin primary was 74% of Kerry's total. However, unlike Ohio and Wisconsin, Pennsylvania is a closed primary.  

My state by predictions are based on assuming that Pennsylvania turnout is 75% of Kerry's, and for the rest of the primaries I assumed turnout of 80% for open primaries and 70% for the remaining closed primaries.

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How did you count Texas? (0.00 / 0)
Just the primary?

I counted just the primary in Texas (0.00 / 0)
and counted just the caucus in Washington.

[ Parent ]
Can you explain this? (4.00 / 1)
"In fact, applying the popular vote standard is tantamount to disenfranchising caucus states..."

How would they be disenfranchised? If there is any disenfranchising in caucus states it is to those who cannot participate because of the time and location restricted format of caucuses which severely limit the number of people who can participate.

For instance in Texas approx 1.1 million participated in the caucuses - where in the primary 2,865,945 participated which is more that double that of Caucus participation. I think Washington was about the same.

So when we are talking about disenfranchising let's look realistically who is being disenfranchised.

As for the popular vote if more Nevadan's been able to vote and if in Washington the Primary would have been the only mode of participation then Clinton would be closer to the popular and delegate lead. And I'm sure that extends to other states as well.

So instead of caucuses possibly being a victim of disenfranchisement in the case of a popular vote they actually represent a model of disenfranchisement to millions of votes who can't have a say in this contest. Caucuses are the polar opposite of representing the popular vote by design.

[ Parent ]
Here's why (4.00 / 2)
Had caucus states known that the metric was not going to be delegates, but rather the popular vote, many of them would have held primaries instead - they want their state to have as much influence as possible, and primaries have higher turnout (but cost more to run).

By changing the metric for the nomination after the fact, these caucus states are disproportionately diminished because their influence is not proportional to their state's population, as it should be.

[ Parent ]
The caucus states (4.00 / 1)
have been caucus states for a long time and they have never changed their undemocratic method. The rational for changing should not be to get a certain candidate elected or to have more of a say in a contest. The rational for changing to a primary should be to make sure that every citizen of that state who wants to vote gets to vote be that by going to the polls held from a.m. to p.m., or mailing in an absentee ballot, or voting from overseas or their hospital bed.

That so many here don't get that alarms me to just how much democracy really  means to them.

[ Parent ]
Re: The caucus states (4.00 / 2)
I agree fully.  Caucuses are fundamentally undemocratic, and I am amazed that there is not more of an outcry against their use.  There are many arguments to be made against them.  Also, many of their benefits could be implemented with instant run-off voting in a primary.  

However, the issue here is whether you can fairly numerically "count" the voters that participated in the caucuses this year, and I don't think that it is possible to come up with an accurate metric to do so.

[ Parent ]
Good Point (0.00 / 0)
From all that I have read Washington didn't even report the actual numbers of caucus participants, they just reported delegates elected which in my opinion is very suspect. isn't that how third world countries do it?

So I don't see how you can accurately count exactly how many to count in a popular vote count when there are no actual official numbers.

[ Parent ]
Disenfranchisement of Caucuses (0.00 / 0)
I agree with B.

Each state party had the right to chose how to express the popular will:  caucus, primary, or some combination.  Each was permissible, and the process that selected which avenue to take was democratic in nature.  

To go back now and say that caucus states with strong democratic traditions and importance in November (like, for example, Washington, Minnesota, and Maine) should count for less because of this choice is not fair.  They followed the rules.  Democrats selected delegates.  Those delegates are the measure.

I am sympathetic to the voters in FL and MI.  But their state governments broke the rules with full knowledge of the consequences.  Those are the folks that need to be held accountable, not Barack Obama.  

[ Parent ]
No one is suggesting (4.00 / 1)
that the rules change. And the rules won't change so I don't get your point.

The only rational to the popular vote argument is how it affects the Super Delegates who can use any criteria they chose in making their independent judgment.

And yeah, spare me. Had Obama won Florida and it would expand his slim lead then 99.99% of his supporters would be arguing that those voters should not be disenfranchised. That's a no brainer.

[ Parent ]
Thanks for this (0.00 / 0)
I've been making the same sorts of arguments out there on the intertubes.  It's going to be difficult to make up the full 500K, even including Florida as is.

Not to mention, as you have said, that by not offering even a projection of popular vote estimates for caucus states, you are effectively disenfranchising those states, in relation to the popular vote.  Example:  If Hawaii had voted as a primary state, Obama would have gained at least 50K votes.  While not as much in other states, you can make an argument that 100k-150K Obama would have netted, in those caucus states, based on past voting patterns, and reducing the Obama caucus win in a 10-15% direction, more towards Clinton.

So the popular vote mandate is simply untenable, unless Clinton blows out Penn, IN, and ties in NC.

nice (0.00 / 0)

I would be consistent on how you count things. You might as well count the Washington primary #'s since it gives a larger sampling of votes and since you're doing the right thing by counting Texas's primary.

Washington Primary (4.00 / 2)
The Washington Primary was meaningless.

[ Parent ]
Which is why I counted the Caucus numbers (0.00 / 0)
But really, the difference really isn't material.

[ Parent ]
in terms of delegates (0.00 / 0)
but let's not start with votes being meaningless. I think that the contest that has the most votes should be the one counted.

close to 670k votes in the WA primary. +38k for obama.
32k in the caucus. +12k for obama.

[ Parent ]
Counting (4.00 / 1)
If voters are told beforehand that a vote is meaningless, then of course it's meaningless. It's ridiculous to tell voters that a vote isn't going to count and then use the results after all, especially in the case of the Washington primary, where there was never any suggestion that it would count. You can't assume that the voters who turned out for an imaginary contest are the same numbers and breakdown of people who would turn out for a real one.

[ Parent ]
Great counter-argument (0.00 / 0)
There is no "correct" number for popular vote, but if I were Obama I'd include this in any total that includes Florida.  Tit for tat.

[ Parent ]
Washington primary assigned no delegates (4.00 / 1)
So yeah, in the context of the Democratic nomination battle, it was pretty meaningless.

Caucuses are worse at gauging overall popular support, but when they're the contests that count you really have to go for them rather than beauty contests.

Forgotten Countries - a foreign policy-focused blog

[ Parent ]
What counts: an argument (0.00 / 0)
I agree that Clinton needs the popular vote to win over the super delegates, but it needs to be remembered that this is only a condition for an argument, not the actual conclusion itself.  In other words, it all comes down to convincing the supers.

I bring this up because it really gets down to "what counts".  Whether the Florida and MI delegates are seated should make no difference, because the supers know the results either way.  Final values both with and without them are tainted.

Also note that this is only a precondition for an argument, necessary, but not sufficient.  I personally think Clinton will also need to be winning in the national polls at the time to really make her point that she is the one the people want.

I think she needs (0.00 / 0)
to lead by 10 or more in the national polling and have a meaningful lead (at least 500k) in the popular vote.

I really don't see I how she gets there.

[ Parent ]
Questionable metrics (0.00 / 0)
I agree that one needs to count the caucus states if you are going to try to make any arguments based on the popular vote.  The question is how to do it.  Given that they do not think that such numbers matter, there is no effort to collect the information (which would need to be done, in my opinion, on the first round voting).  Just extrapolating final results does not give you a real sense of things because of issues with viability and the horsetrading that goes on.  So, any attempt to do so now is fundamentally flawed.  

That being said, there was nifty chart at RCP that allows you to play with these numbers under multiple scenarios.


I am worried, though, about potential for claims of mixed results -- Obama winning the pledged delegate vote and Clinton winning the popular vote.  Too reminiscent of the 2000 election.  Indeed, the Clinton team has been invoking 2000 recently by stating in an e-mail to supporters on April 1st:

"The last time that we were told we'd better cut the process short or the sky would fall was when the Supreme Court stopped the Florida recount in 2000. But Chicken Little was wrong. What was true then is true now: there is nothing to fear - and everything to gain - from hearing from all of the voters."

I, for one, do not like the direction this is heading.

Puerto Rico shouldn't be included (0.00 / 0)
Neither should other non-state contests.  Sure, they counted from a delegate perspective, but the Clinton campaign is the one that's pushing the popular vote/electoral college argument, and that reasoning conflicts with including non states in the metric.

I didn't include Puerto Rico (0.00 / 0)
in my estimates.

I agree with you.

[ Parent ]
Ahem (4.00 / 1)
There is one non-state that has electoral votes (though we didn't get them until the 1964 election). It's the one place where Americans pay federal income tax but have no vote in the Congress that decides how those taxes are spent.

[ Parent ]
And DC (0.00 / 0)
is in the numbers above.

[ Parent ]
they should be included (0.00 / 0)
Puerto Rico's delegates will count for the nomination so why shouldn't its popular vote? Anyway we know Clinton will include Puerto Rico in her arguments to superdelegates so if our purpose is to estimate whether she will make up enough ground to be able to argue she won the popular vote, we should include it too.

[ Parent ]
Logical inconsistency (0.00 / 0)
I know that Clinton will make the argument if it helps her candidacy, but at this point, it seems her campaign would be happy to use the number of voters named Smith who voted in primary states that begin with "N" as a metric if that was best for her.

My point is that her arguments are logically inconsistent: arguing for the electoral vote but simultaneously arguing for a popular vote count that includes territories doesn't make sense.

[ Parent ]
doesn't look like she can pull it off (0.00 / 0)

Obama winning the popular vote seals the deal (0.00 / 0)
To avoid having the election stolen from him, I think Obama is going to need to win the popular vote (as fuzzy as that metric is). This is because the wavering Clinton superdelegates are using it as a standard (Murtha, for example).  If Clinton loses the popular vote, they won't back her.  If she wins it, they'll have a case to make to the undecided superdelegates, and even if they fall short, it will tarnish Obama's nomination if the bitter-enders make a case that he doesn't deserve the prize.

If Clinton should have an amazing surge and win the popular vote under some metric (say, with Florida included), she'll have a case to make to the superdelegates.

I have an uncomfortable feeling, though, that she'll fall short with Florida included, and then argue that she won the popular vote by counting her Michigan votes, giving Obama zero Michigan votes.  That would give her another 328K votes.

Or she could try to claim that even if you count the 238K votes for Uncommitted as Obama votes, she still gets 90K net votes.  Even with that 90K it wouldn't be enough according to your popular vote projection, so she'll go with the "no votes for Barack" formulation.

Since I wrote this (0.00 / 0)
more recent NC polling shows Obama with a 15 point lead.  If Obama nets more votes out of NC than Hillary does out of Pennsylvania - which seems likely to me - she will not be able to catch Obama even if you include Florida.

As you write, they may try to include Michigan, but I just don't think that will work.  

[ Parent ]
The Will of Only the (Healthy) People (0.00 / 0)
To add to Super Delegate's info re the shameful anti-democracy scandal of the Caucuses.

15% of Hillary's voters have been cheated of their rightful share of the so-called earned/pledged delegates & popular vote. Note that in Texas, Hillary was plus 4 in the primary & minus 12 in the caucus on the same day. A 16% swing! What's the diff between primary & caucus? No, NOT "superior organization" or more passionate voters.  It's The Absentee Ballot, Dumb-ish Folk!

Of thousands of volunteer calls into caucus states, every 8th phone call got me "Oh no, honey, I can't caucus, I'm off balance." No ride helps these folks who dare NOT go out because of a dread of falling. There is an epidemic of older women in this country with a terrible fear of falling. I was shocked. I had no idea of the extent of these invisible folk. "Just because I'm sick doesn't mean I can't think!"

If you also find this 15% Caucus Skew amazingly offensive & unfair, there is much more info at http://caucusdebacle.blogspot....

These keen Hillary supporters were silenced by the shameful caucus system. This is exactly the kind of grotesque anti-democratic injustice that the (non-lemming) superdelegates were designed to account for.



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