Thursday, November 8, 2012

On Second Thought...

    Wednesday, I posed the following rhetorical question on Twitter:
For all of us who wrote extensively about why Romney would win: why should anyone take seriously our thoughts on why Romney lost?
     In my spectacularly wrong prognosticative postings, I based my Pollyanna predication on the following premise:
Given the popular vote margin of victory for Obama in 2008,  only one in fourteen Obama voters needs to change his/her vote, all other things being equal, to give Romney the presidency.  As I put it in January, I ask you: Is there anything that has happened in the last four years that could lead anyone to credibly argue that less than one in fourteen voters will have changed their minds?
     As it turns out, I was right.  As the numbers currently stand, President Obama received 60,899,400 votes in 2012 (likely to increase some as remaining ballots are tallied, especially in the hurricane ravaged Northeast.)  In 2008, he racked up 69,456,897 votes.  That difference of 8,557,497 means that about one in eight voters didn't pull Obama's lever the second time around.  For simplicity, I am assuming 2008 Obama voters who died would have been offset by newly qualified voters either by reaching age 18 or achieving citizenship, although I'd imagine the latter group outnumbers the former.

     Where my thesis went wrong was assuming those Obama voters would switch to Romney.  But that is where the eggs I was counting never hatched.  In fact, John McCain received 59,934,814 votes in 2008 compared to Romney's 57,960,985, a loss of about 1,973,829.   (Frankly, any drop in GOP voters in this election is enough to make most conservatives consider strapping on a tinfoil hat and shouting "conspiracy!", but we'll just have to wait for the analyses of the final data to see who sat out.  And then those folks will be hunted down and horsewhipped.  But I digress.)  Now as others have pointed out today, votes will continue to be tallied over the coming days and weeks from absentees voters and probably also some delayed returns from the hard-hit areas in the Northeast.  Depending on how many votes, it could substantially affect this analysis.

    But in the meantime, despite a billion dollars, incessant pandering to voter groups, obsessive fund raising, ubiquitous social media, and the fabled "ground game", the Democrats' voter loss from 2008 to 2012 was 434% higher than the GOP's loss.  This does not sound like a nation that is becoming bluer.  Indeed, below are some interesting maps.  The first is from the New York Times and shows the change in voting patterns across the country from 2008 to 2012.

    Here is a similar presentation from the Wall Street Journal.  The first showing where the Republican ticket gained in the percentage of the vote from 2008 to 2012.

    Now here are the gains by the Democrats, the party with the much ballyhooed "ascending demographics":

    One final map.  That 3,000,000 popular vote margin?  See the really big blue circles?  Those are popular vote margins of victory by Obama over Romney by county.

    Just five of those big blue circles, five counties out of more than 3,000 counties in the United States, can account for more than the 3,000,000 vote difference:

    But what about the 100+ electoral vote difference, give or take, depending on which way Florida goes?  That margin is a mile wide and an inch deep (OK, maybe two or three inches.)  A good number of those swing states ended up with 100,000 vote margins or so.  If 50,001 voters had switched from blue to red in several of those states, we'd be talking about how Obama's team blew a race they'd been leading for the entire election cycle and what a brilliant job Romney's team had done.

     Soul-searching after a loss is always appropriate for the side that came up short.  But it will be vital to learn the right lessons if 2016 is to be different.  When the numbers have all been crunched and analyzed, understanding who voted will be interesting, but understanding who didn't vote and why may turn out to be the key to regaining the White House in four years.

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