What Past Election Results Tell Us to Expect This Time

There’s no shortage of opinions on how the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election will turnout, and a lot of the disagreement  comes from the different landscapes presented by the National and State polls.  Romney supporters are encouraged by clear and substantial leads in the Gallup, Rasmussen, ABC News/Washington Post, and NPR polls.  Obama supporters point to the CBS News/NY Times and Politico polls, but they also point to the state polls, observing published leads for Obama in Iowa, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania.  There’s too many states on Obama’s side, they say, for Obama to lose.  The problem is, the math just does not work.  Either most of the national polls are wrong, or most of the state polls are wrong.  And things just get messy from there.

There’s all kinds of anecdotal stories to read and hear, but there’s also a record we can check.  Generally, there is a relationship between how a candidate does nationally and how he does in a given state.  As his national support rises, his support in each state rises to some degree, not at the same rate of course but the better a candidate does nationally, the states have to reflect it.  So we can look at past state results in relation to national results, to give us an idea of what should happen.  To keep it simple, for here I will just address battleground states.

First, to identify the battleground states.  I disagree a bit with RCP, I don’t think anyone can seriously pretend that Arizona, Missouri, or Oregon are in play this year, but I will take the rest:   Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.  Here’s how each state performed, by party, relative to the national election results for the last four Presidential elections:

Colorado:  Democrat candidates average 2.81 points lower in Colorado than their national support, while Republican candidates average 2.01 points higher in Colorado than their national support.

Florida:  Democrat candidates average 0.97 points lower in Florida than their national support, while Republican candidates average 1.61 points higher in Florida than their national support.   Also, Republicans ALWAYS produced slightly higher results in Florida than their national support.

Iowa:  Democrat candidates average 0.80 points higher in Iowa than their national support, while Republican candidates average 0.62 points lower in Iowa than their national support.   Also, Democrats ALWAYS produced slightly higher results in Iowa than their national support.

Michigan:  Democrat candidates average 3.20 points higher in Michigan than their national support, while Republican candidates average 2.90 points lower in Michigan than their national support.   Also, Democrats ALWAYS produced slightly higher results in Michigan than their national support.

Minnesota:  Democrat candidates average 1.35 points higher in Minnesota than their national support, while Republican candidates average 3.26 points lower in Minnesota than their national support.

Nevada:  Democrat candidates average 1.45 points lower in Nevada than their national support, while Republican candidates average 0.16 points higher in Nevada than their national support.

New Hampshire:  Democrat candidates average 0.44 points higher in New Hampshire than their national support, while Republican candidates average 1.02 points lower in New Hampshire than their national support.

North Carolina:  Democrat candidates average 4.56 points lower in North Carolina than their national support, while Republican candidates average 6.31 points higher in North Carolina than their national support.   Also, Republicans ALWAYS produced slightly higher results in North Carolina than their national support.

Ohio:  Democrat candidates average 1.21 points lower in Ohio than their national support, while Republican candidates average 0.92 points higher in Ohio than their national support.   Also, Republicans ALWAYS produced slightly higher results in Ohio than their national support.

Pennsylvania:  Democrat candidates average 1.60 points higher in Pennsylvania than their national support, while Republican candidates average 1.49 points lower in Pennsylvania than their national support.

Virginia:  Democrat candidates average 2.76 points lower in Virginia than their national support, while Republican candidates average 3.67 points higher in Virginia than their national support.   Also, Republicans ALWAYS produced slightly higher results in Virginia than their national support.

Wisconsin:  Democrat candidates average 0.95 points higher in Wisconsin than their national support, while Republican candidates average 1.80 points lower in Wisconsin than their national support.

What this tells us, is the likely result of three different conditions in the national popular vote:

If Barack Obama wins the Popular Vote, he will definitely win Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, and would likely win Nevada and Ohio .  Romney could still claim Colorado, Florida, North Carolina and Virginia but that would not be enough.  Obama would win re-election by 281 EV to 257.

If Romney wins the Popular Vote with 51.5% or more, he could win all of the battleground states but Michigan; that state seems out of reach in any scenario.  That could mean a Romney win by an Electoral  margin of  331 EV to 207.

If the two candidates are essentially tied in the Popular Vote, Obama would claim Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, while Romney would claim Colorado, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia.  That would produce a 281-257 Electoral win for Romney.

The actual results will be sure to include some changes from the script, of course.  I think, for example, it’s more likely this year that New Hampshire would go to Romney and Nevada would go to Obama than vice versa, but we shall see.  The point is that the last several elections do give us an idea of how things turn out relative to different levels of polls and voting, and that’s something to keep in mind.

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  • jim_m

    Here’s my prediction: If Romney wins 331 to 207, the media reports it as a narrow victory and a deeply divided nation.

    If obama wins 281 to 257 the media casts it as a decisive victory and affirmation of public support for obamacare, amnesty, and a socialist state.

    • herddog505

      I agree. I seem to recall Slick Willie’s victory over Bush Classic in ’92, in which he only got a plurality of the popular vote, as a “decisive mandate for change”.

      Bah.

  • retired.military

    The final tally will be 54 – 46 ROmney popular vote 320 – 218 EV for Romney.

    Chris Matthews will keel over from a heart attack. Maddow, ABC, CBS, and NBC along with the entire dem establishment that there is massive voter fraud (even though there is no voter fraud nor need of Voter ID prior to the election).

    PA, WIS, OH NH to Romney

    Michigan will be to close to call

    Nev will go to Obama but by no more than 2% points.

    • jim_m

      obama loses and the dems foment rioting in the streets. The media reports it as a just reaction to an electoral miscarriage. Some dem governors advocate imposition of martial law (pace Gov Perdue of NC who suggested that these elections be suspended), obama seriously considers but stops short.

      • http://wizbangblog.com/author/rodney-graves/ Rodney G. Graves

        Target

        Rich

        Environment
        .

  • Vagabond661

    If Romney wins in a landslide, the Dems will be the first to cry voter fraud.

    • retired.military

      Republicans can shrug their shoulders and say “We told you we needed voter ID ” LOL

      If Romney narrowly wins than we will have litigation and vote recounting for months. Obama will never concede and it iwll have to go to SCOTUS again. And I dont trust SCOTUS to do the right thing since Obamacare.

  • Meiji_man

    Here’s my take FWIW…
    You can pretty much tell whats going to happen by watching the East coast.
    New Hampshire Goes Romney – Romney Win
    Pennsylvania goes Romney, – Rommey Blowout, Tingles has a stroke.
    Virgina goes obama – obama wins
    Florida goes obama – obama blowout.
    If it is a split in the east, with NH and Penn going to obama and VA and FL going Romney, then we go to the Central Front where it gets complicated.

  • sprag

    Romney wins and then we can spend the next 4 years wondering which Romney won. The real conservative one at the RNC, or the I’ll change up and say whatever u guys wanna hear(“I love 100% of the people”) to get ur vote. Well, except for my tax plan. They all lie, but Romney takes the cake.

    • retired.military

      Whichever ROmney shows up will be light years better than Obama. At least we wont have to hear “Let me say this…. ” . And if Romney wins we wont have to hear charges of racism for the next 4 years except for liberals saying ;”If only those damn racists hadnt cheated and stole the election from my dear Obama”

  • sprag

    Romney wins and then we can spend the next 4 years wondering which Romney won. The real conservative one at the RNC, or the I’ll change up and say whatever u guys wanna hear(“I love 100% of the people”) to get ur vote. Well, except for my tax plan. They all lie, but Romney takes the cake.

  • stan25

    I still say that Romney will take all 50 states. The state controlled media will have a total nuclear meltdown dwarfing the reactor meltdown in Japan. The whole PMSNBC on air staff will be reduced to blithering idiots (more so than now). It will be so bad that someone will have to call Bellvue hospital to send out the psycho squad

    • http://www.outsidethebeltway.com rodney dill

      what about the other 7?

    • Jvette

      LOL, I was thinking last night how funny it would be if the only state Obama won is Oiho.

    • retired.military

      I will drink to that.

  • stan25

    I still say that Romney will take all 50 states. The state controlled media will have a total nuclear meltdown dwarfing the reactor meltdown in Japan. The whole PMSNBC on air staff will be reduced to blithering idiots (more so than now). It will be so bad that someone will have to call Bellvue hospital to send out the psycho squad

  • JWH

    I would not be entirely surprised if Jill Stein or Gary Johnson steals enough votes to be decisive in at least a couple states. Any thoughts there?

    • Jwb10001

      At least 1 vote for Gary Johnson will work against Obama, right Chico?

    • retired.military

      I dont think they will be a factor. People saw what happened with Gore and lyndon Larouche (was it him or someone else?) and Bush and Buchanan. Along with 8 years of Clinton thanks to Ross Perot.

    • http://opinion.ak4mc.us/ Scribe of Slog (McGehee)

      Oregon?

  • Brucehenry

    DJ was telling us 4 years ago that he knew better than 538 and the other pollsters, especially Gallup.http://wizbangblog.com/2008/10/21/gallup-and-new-coke/

    He didn’t.

    • retired.military

      Bruce. I made a bad prediction 4 years ago as well. I didnt think there were that many (left blank in order to not offend) people in the country. I was wrong. If Obama gets reelected my hope for the country will be lost as well.

    • djdrummond

      I had never heard of Nate Silver in 2008 Bruce, I was right in a number of my observations about poll weighting (just wrong about the GOP collapse in enthusiasm), and this year Gallup agrees with me.

      • Brucehenry

        Well, the point is you were saying on Oct 29 of ’08 that the polls were wrong, and they weren’t, and you’re saying on Oct 31 this year that the polls are wrong, but are they?

        In both instances you wrote looooooong articles explaining in detail why the polls were wrong. Well, why Gallup was wrong last time, and is right this time, or something. As a Democrat, I hope and expect your record will stay intact.

        But, fair enough, you never mentioned Silver. My bad.

        • djdrummond

          You know Bruce, you’ll do a lot better if you read more than the headline. If you look at the support numbers, especially the state polls, then compare them to the election results, you will see that the polls were indeed off. Yes, Obama won, but that does not mean the polls were “right”, because polls have to be measured by accuracy. IN this election, for example, close poll results could mean a tight race, if the polls are accurate, or the polls could be misleading if they are inaccurate.

          If I predict my company will make $1 million EBIT and it only produces half that, I’d be a loon to pretend I was right just because I predicted a profit.

          All you are doing is showing your lack of comprehension.

          • Brucehenry

            OK, OK, you were right as usual in 2008, when the polls predicted an Obama victory and you said, in boldfaced type, “the polls are wrong.”

            All sarcasm aside, I get your point. Forget I said anything.

      • joeyangtree

        Technically, this statement may be true, but you had most certainly heard of 538, Nate Silver’s website back in 2008. Here is a response from you dated Oct. 26th, 2008:

        The monte carlo analysis is only valid by compensating for all historical and empirical variables. Simply running the same scenario thousands of times is not sufficient, nor is it generally useful in experiments involving human behavior (no deterministic algorithm exists in that context). How then does 538 apply the monte carlo simulation method effectively to a condition which is unprecedented in some of its variables, and which has heretofore never produced a viable probabilistic analog?

        This is comment 8 in the story “The Two-Track Hypothesis of Voter Decisioning,” dated Oct. 25th, 2008.

  • Paul Hooson

    “Gone With The Wind” might best describe what is highly likely this time around despite the polls today. Mitt Romney had momentum up until very recently, then this late storm blew his campaign off course, where the President was able to use all of the tools of FEMA to put disaster relief efforts on the ground, while Romney was forced to collect some cans of soup for a much smaller disaster effort instead. This good PR for the president could translate into narrow wins in some states like NH which were on the ropes only days ago for the Democrats. Couple this with big endorsements from opinion leaders such as Gen. Colin Powell, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and leading newspapers like THE NEW YORK TIMES which blasted Romney’s economic views as more likely to “hurt” rather than “help” the fragile economic recovery, and you might have to say that Romney’s hopes are being swept away by a “perfect storm” of late events not at all in his favor. Can Romney really weather all of this?

    • http://opinion.ak4mc.us/ Scribe of Slog (McGehee)

      Okay, you had me going until I got to this part:

      Couple this with big endorsements from opinion leaders such as Gen. Colin Powell, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and leading newspapers like THE NEW YORK TIMES

      Man, that is comedy gold.

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