April 9, 2008


Can Obama change U.S. political map? (JOHN FORTIER, 4/8/08 , Politico)

In a recent study of presidential elections since 1944, my colleague Tim Ryan and I found that states’ partisan leanings tend to move with the national popular vote rather than change wildly based on the candidates. Imagine a state that leans 10 percentage points toward a Republican when the national popular vote is 50-50. If a Democrat wins the national vote by 15 points, he or she will likely win that state by 5 points. If a Republican wins the national vote by 10 points, he or she will win the state by 20 points.

There are some exceptions to this rule. The South was particularly volatile before the 1980s, shifting its votes to Republicans, Democrats and Dixiecrats. Presidential candidates can affect the voting patterns of their home states. And states can change their political allegiances over time, but it’s usually through a slow process of political evolution, not a dramatic shift.

There is really only one recent example of a significant map shift that had major consequences: West Virginia in 2000. Prior to the Bush-Gore election, West Virginia had been a very safe Democratic state, voting 3.5 percent to 8 percent over the Democratic national average. In 2000, George W. Bush won West Virginia 53 percent to 47 percent.

In 2004, West Virginia was even more solidly in the Bush camp. If Gore had won West Virginia in 2000, he would have been our 43rd president. In a nutshell, Bush and Karl Rove saw that West Virginia was a heavily white state with socially conservative values and worries that environmentalism might do further damage to the coal industry. In hindsight, this makes perfect sense, but in election after election, both parties assumed this was a safe Democratic state.

So can Obama change the partisan leaning of states in 2008 like Bush did in West Virginia? Probably not.

...is that all the Blue states are in play and none of the Red.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 9, 2008 7:58 PM
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