The White Female Vote in 2008

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

What if only white females voted in the 2008 presidential election?

This is the type of question social scientists and individuals like me love to explore, and which everybody else presumably finds quite boring. More fascinating still, there is actually a somewhat reliable answer to the question. This is because, in every state of the union, there are exit polls of the white female vote in 2008.

It turns out that if only white females voted in 2008, Senator John McCain would have won the popular vote 53% to 46%, taking a comfortable eight-point lead.

Senator Barack Obama, however, would be president. He would win a razor-thin, 273 to 265 majority in the electoral college:

Map of White Female Vote in 2008

This is quite a remarkable result. Mr. Obama loses by eight percentage points amongst white female voters – yet still wins the electoral college and becomes president. Imagine if Senator John McCain lost the real 2008 presidential election by the exact same popular margin and then magically won the electoral college.

This is a graph Nate Silver once compiled of the chances this would happen in the real electorate:

According to the analysis, a four-point margin in the popular vote translates into a one percent chance of losing the electoral college. Notice how the graph does not even go beyond a seven-point popular victory.

So how does Mr. Obama lose so badly amongst white females yet still become president?

Here is the answer:

Table of Mr. McCain's Strongest Support Amongst White Females

As it turns out, white female supporters of Mr. McCain are distributed very inefficiently. They are packed in states the Republican is already winning, especially in the racially polarized Deep South – where Mr. McCain does so well it is quite amazing and sad.

The Democratic white female vote, while not as numerous, is far more efficiently placed. Democrats win white females where it matters – in thin but strategically located margins in enough states to win the electoral college.

This fact can be illustrated visually:

Detailed Map of White Female Vote in 2008

The map above constitutes the 2008 white female vote, except this time differentiated by margin of victory. Except in a few parts of New England, Democrats never win white females by margins greater than 20%.

Finally, this analysis also illustrates the continuing racial divide confronting the United States. More than a century after slavery and fifty years after Civil Rights, in too many parts of the country one can tell far too much – about voting habits or other behavior – just by looking at skin color.

P.S. For those interested, here is a full of table of the white female vote in 2008, by each state’s exit polling.

Full Table of White Female Vote




Analyzing Obama’s Weak Spots – Part 1

This is the first part of three posts analyzing the congressional districts President Barack Obama underperformed in. The second part can be found here.

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

Congressional Districts

By most accounts, Senator Barack Obama dominated the 2008 presidential election. He won an electoral landslide, winning Republican-leaning states such as Indiana and North Carolina which his campaign targeted. Compared to 2004, the nation shifted almost ten points more Democratic.

Mr. Obama improved from Senator John Kerry’s performance almost everywhere. He did better in the vast majority of counties and 45 out of 50 states (by margin). As for congressional districts: more than 90% of them voted more Democratic than in 2004.

Yet this means that at least several dozen congressional districts were more friendly to Mr. Kerry than the Illinois Senator. Using the amazing information found on swingstateproject and Dave Leip’s election atlas, I have mapped these districts below:

Map of Districts in Which Kerry Did Better Than Obama

There is a clear pattern here: Republican-shifting congressional districts are found along a diagonal line stretching from Louisiana and Oklahoma to southeastern Pennsylvania, roughly along the Appalachian mountains. This is not exactly startling news; ever since the primaries, Mr. Obama’s weakness in these regions has been well-noted. The five states that shifted Republican from 2004 – Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and West Virginia – are all located here.

The exceptions to this pattern, however, constitute items of considerable interest. Some of these have fairly simple explanations. Arizona’s 1st district voted more Republican, for instance, mainly because Arizona was Senator John McCain’s home state.

Other districts, however, go against commonly-held political wisdom. Take LA-2: a black-majority, inner-city district located in New Orleans (represented, ironically, by Republican congressman Joseph Cao). While LA-2 strongly supported Mr. Obama, black depopulation in the aftermath of Katrina made this support less than that in 2004.

Another example can be found in the northeast:

Map of Northeast Districts

Republicans do better in five Massachusetts districts and one New York district.

This movement stands in contrast to the narrative of Democratic dominance in the northeast. Most in the beltway have ignored this trend, or dismissed it as simply the loss of Mr. Kerry’s home-state advantage. Whether this is true or not, there is quite a lot of interesting stuff to be said on these districts. The next post will be devoted solely to exploring this pattern.




Wall Street reform passes, Boehner's Republicans immediately call for repeal

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform bill just passed the Senate, 60-39. It now goes to the President for his signature. The new law won’t do nearly enough to prevent another Lehman Brothers or Bear Stearns – for instance, there’s no practical way to break up too-big-to-fail – but it improves the status quo at least somewhat and was worth passage.

And yet, the man who would be Speaker if voters choose Republican this fall is already calling for the bill’s repeal. That’s right; John Boehner thinks the government should leave Wall Street in exactly the same regulatory position that allowed it to double unemployment and seize up credit.

I understand the politics of demanding repeal of the health insurance bill. The thing’s unpopular. But voters actually care about the economy; they don’t want to lose their jobs, and they understand that the financial industry is to blame for the economic collapse. What the hell is Boehner thinking?  

“I think it ought to be repealed,” Boehner said at his weekly press conference. “There are commonsense things that you should do to plug the holes in the regulatory system that were there, and to bring more transparency to financial transactions, because transparency is like sunlight. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

Boehner doesn’t get it. Transparency works when we’re talking about politicians. If we don’t like what we see, we can vote them out. That’s not true of private corporations. If setting up the economy to fail isn’t illegal, it doesn’t matter how transparent it is; there’s nothing the public can do other than yell louder and louder about completely legal activities. If ever there was an industry that screamed for regulation, it’s the financial sector. Under no circumstances can John Boehner be permitted to become Speaker of the House.

And yet, he’s not alone. Senators Thune, Shelby, and LeMieux:

“If we were in a position to do something, maybe [Boehner] is right," said GOP Policy Chairman Sen. John Thune (S.D.). "We'll see if we can do something about it after the next election."

Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.), the top Republican on the Banking Committee, said he “absolutely” agreed.

"If you vote against it, you know it should be repealed. It's the wrong bill. It's not reform. It ignores Fannie and Freddie. It's not going to create any jobs. It's going to create a huge bureaucracy,” Shelby said.

Sen. George LeMieux (R-Fla.) said he would look to repeal parts of the legislation.

Also Senators Graham, McCain, and Corker:

South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham called the bill a "missed opportunity" to control spending and set priorities. And Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was similarly underwhelmed, calling it "business as usual."

"No one can make a convincing argument that this legislation indeed prevents any institution from being too big to fail. You can't make that argument," he told reporters at the Captiol today. McCain's amendment, which would have mandated an end to government support of the failed companies within two years failed, 43 to 56.

Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, a top Republican player in the financial reform debate, slammed the Democrat-backed bill... One reporter noted that Corker had helped to craft the legislation, negotiating several provisions with Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, and Corker acknowledged his role but quickly pivoted back to his talking points.

(McCain is right that the bill doesn't end TBTF, but mandating that the government ignore rather than break up such institutions wouldn't solve the problem either.)

Senator Alexander and possible presidential candidate Rep. Mike Pence:

TPMDC asked Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the third ranking Republican in the Senate, whether Republicans would make a concerted push to repeal the financial reform bill.

"Well, that's a good -- that's a good, that's a good question," Alexander said. "We're very disappointed with this...If we have a Congress with a majority of Republicans, and there are ways to improve it or fix it, I imagine there'll be an effort to do that."

Pence suggested much the same... What elements of the law would need to be dismantled?

"There's several aspects of that, but I can break that down for you. Let's jump off that bridge when we come to it," Pence said.

What a message. I think Democratic chances this fall just got a lot better.

Failed Times Square Bomber's Guilty Plea Is a Win for US Justice System



After an initial delay, Faisal Shahzad, the failed Times Square car bomber, stood up today in a federal courthouse in downtown Manhattan andentered a plea of "guilty."

Though his expected court appearance had been widely publicized, there were no gunshots heard or bomb threats issued. Notwithstanding Liz Cheney's warnings that bringing suspected terrorists to a U.S. federal courthouse can only cause chaos, the proceeding was orderly, calm and peaceful. The dozens of reporters from around the world who packed the courtroom quietly hurried out to file their stories across the globe.

And the story that they now have to tell is a simple one: the U.S. criminal justice is working.

Since it happened in May, critics of the Obama administration have heralded the failed Times Square bombing attempt as proof that Americans are under constant threat from a powerful foreign enemy and must, in our vigilance, treat all suspected terrorists as enemy warriors -- throwing them in an offshore military prison and either detaining them indefinitely or allowing them only a trial by military commission.

But the careful handling of Faisal Shahzad by New York City police and federal law enforcement is proof of just the opposite. Whether the attempted mass murderer sees himself as aligned with a group of foreign jihadists battling American imperialism is beside the point. What matters is that good old-fashioned law enforcement -- police officers quickly responding to the observations of an alert pedestrian, and skilled FBI agents using time-honored interrogation techniques -- successfully averted disaster and, thereafter, gained critical intelligence to help thwart future attacks.

Shahzad, a Pakistan-born U.S. citizen, was indicted last week on 10 terrorism and weapons charges that accused him of using money and training from the Pakistani Taliban to plot his failed car bombing. His plea of guilty to all 10 counts (five more than originally specified) could land the 30-year-old father of two in prison for life.

Shahzad's plot fizzled, of course, when the gasoline-and-propane bomb he tried to construct failed to ignite in the SUV he'd parked near a Broadway theater. That's typical, say many experts, of bombing attempts in the United States. Among the challenges of detonating a bomb on U.S. soil are the difficulty of obtaining high-powered explosives and of fashioning an effective explosive from the sort of products that are easily available.

That Shahzad wasn't successful doesn't mean he's not a terrorist, however. And what's critical about this case is that skilled law enforcement officials knew that even though his attempt failed, Shahzad was a potential treasure trove of information about the Pakistani Taliban and their operations. And they've exploited that well: after his arrest, Shaizad reportedly cooperated with law enforcement and answered their questions for two weeks before even requesting a lawyer. His arraignment was postponed several times even after a lawyer was appointed to represent him, indicating that even with a lawyer he continued to cooperate, with the process culminating in today's guilty plea.

Shahzad's cooperation has so far lead to the arrest of a Pakistani army major in Islamabad who was allegedly in contact with Shahzad by cell phone. Three men have also been arrested in the United States on immigration charges for allegedly helping Shahzad import money from Pakistan.

Administration critics such as John McCain insisted after Shahzad's arrest that he should never have been read his Miranda rights or treated as a common criminal. Indeed, a bill McCain introduced in March, the Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention and Prosecution Act, would have prevented that. The bill would require all terror suspects such as Shahzad to be turned over to the military for interrogation and possibly indefinite dentition without trial. There would be no Miranda rights, no right to a lawyer and no right to remain silent.

Although it's theoretically possible that military interrogators handling a suspect that way could get useful information, it's not clear exactly how or why that would work. For one thing, military interrogators are trained to gather information on a battlefield, not for future prosecution. That means the evidence can easily be compromised, making it impossible to prosecute the suspect later. That also means the interrogator loses the leverage a future prosecution can offer.

The administration, of course, has said that it can hold indefinitely any suspects it deems "alien enemy belligerents." But that also works against encouraging cooperation. After all, if a suspect knows that acknowledging his participation in the plot could land him in indefinite detention without charge or trial, what incentive does he have to cooperate?

One reason the FBI has been so successful is terrorism cases is that by following the federal court rules, it reserves its ability to criminally prosecute any terrorism suspect. It doesn't have to worry that the evidence won't be admissible later. The suspect, meanwhile, knows he's headed to court, and that the person interrogating him can influence what the charges and the sentence will be. That provides a strong incentive to cooperate and provide as much information as possible, in the hopes of getting some sort of a break -- a few decades in prison, say, instead of life.

Still, critics such as Liz Cheney and Senators Lindsey Graham, John McCain and Joseph Lieberman continue to argue that treating suspected terrorists as criminals isn't being tough enough, and demand military detention.

But just because something's run by the military doesn't make it any tougher. On the contrary, the military commissions created to try suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay have managed to convict only three terrorists in eight years -- and two are already out free. The criminal justice system, on the other hand, has convicted some 400 terrorists since September 11, 2001.

Faisal Shahzad's guilty plea today is a perfect example of how the system works, producing valuable intelligence while still landing convicted terrorists behind bars.

The U.S. faces a very real threat of terrorism, whether at home or abroad. But the solution to the threat isn't to do away with the most effective means we have of combating it.

False hype about crime in border cities has tragic implications

From the Restore Fairness blog.

On June 7th, a Border Patrol agent allegedly shot and killed Sergio Adrián Hernández Huereca, a 14- year old Mexican boy in El Paso, Texas. While exact details of the incident remain murky, the FBI said that the shooting was prompted when border patrol agents were assaulted by rock throwers across the Mexican border. Even though no border patrol agent was injured, T.J. Bonner, the president of the union representing Border Patrol agents released a statement saying that given the common occurrence and potential danger of rock throwing incidents at the border, he classified it as a “deadly force encounter” that “justifies the use of deadly force.” Susan Lee, American director of Amnesty International condemned the shooting of the young boy saying-

This shooting across the border appears to have been a grossly disproportionate response and flies in the face of international standards which compel police to use firearms only as a last resort, in response to an immediate, deadly threat that cannot be contained through lesser means.

Following condemnation from the Mexican President and government and from civil rights groups in the US, the FBI has launched a full scale investigation into the shooting. At this point it is still not known whether the boy was even involved in the rock throwing. This incident comes only weeks after Anastacio Hernandez, a 32- year old father of five U.S. born children, was hit in the stomach with a baton and then shocked with a stun gun fired by a Customs and Border Protection officer at the San Ysidro border crossing when he resisted being deported. Once again, the officers involved were completely unharmed and insisted that their use of force was necessary given the situation. Last week, the San Diego County coroner ruled his death a homicide.

Speaking to CNN, State Department spokesperson P.J. Crowley acknowledge that the death of the young Mexican boy is not an isolated incident and committed to a fully transparent, large-scale investigation. He said that the only long-term solution to tragic incidents like these was the passage of comprehensive immigration reform.

Instead of working towards comprehensive immigration reform, the White House has succumbed to political pressure to increase immigration enforcement. This tragic incident occurs in the wake of the White House decision to add $500 million to border enforcement and send 1200 more troops to “secure the border” against so-called waves of violence at the border. Bipartisan members of Congress wrote to President Obama about the “urgent” need for increased border enforcement saying-

Violence in the vicinity of the U.S.-Mexico border continues to increase at an alarming rate. We believe that this violence represents a serious threat to the national security of the United States as well as a serious threat to U.S. citizens that live along the 1,969-mile long border.

In spite of numerous reports that constantly disprove such hype about increased border crime rates, politicians continue to take recourse to it time and again. As politicians like John McCain and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer insist on the need for increased enforcement at the border to protect U.S. citizens from crime committed by immigrants, a recent FBI report obtained by the Associated Press on the basis of the Freedom of Information Act has found that the top four safest big cities in the U.S. are all in the border states. According to the new FBI report, San Diego, Phoenix, El Paso and Austin are big cities that have the lowest rates of violent crime in the U.S. With respect to killings at the hands of U.S. Border Patrol it is important to note a Customs and Border Protection report that shows that Border agents face far less danger than local law enforcement in most U.S. cities. From the Associated Press:

The Customs and Border Protection study, obtained with a Freedom of Information Act request, shows 3 percent of Border Patrol agents and officers were assaulted last year, mostly when assailants threw rocks at them. That compares with 11 percent of police officers and sheriff’s deputies assaulted during the same period, usually with guns or knives. In addition, violent attacks against agents declined in 2009 along most of the border for the first time in seven years.

In the face of concrete research, evidence and admissions from U.S. Border and Customs personnel themselves stating that the southern U.S. “border is safer now than it’s ever been,” is it astonishing that politicians and lawmakers continue to use the myth of the “immigrant threat” to safety as justification for increased immigration enforcement. Arizona Gov. Brewer, who signed off on the draconian anti-immigrant law, SB1070, made numerous statements justifying the law that relied on the myth of widespread crimes being perpetrated as a result of immigration at the border. Before her meeting with President Obama to express her frustration at the Federal Government’s lack of action in securing the border, Gov. Brewer told the press-

We are out here on the battlefield getting the impact of all this illegal immigration, and all the crime that comes with it.

A few days ago we brought you concrete statistics proving that Arizona’s “crime wave” is nothing but racist hype and fear-mongering. Research released by the Immigration Policy Center proves that immigrants are, in fact, less likely to commit crime than non-immigrants, with crime rates being lowest in cities with El Paso, Texas, with a high population of undocumented immigrants. El Paso, where 14-year old Sergio Adrián Hernández Huereca was killed, is one of the poorest and safest cities in the United States.

It would be useful if lawmakers and politicians took note of police chiefs from around the country who have taken a stance against the implementation of SB1070, Arizona’s new law. 8 police chiefs, including two from Arizona, met with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on May 27 to urge the Department of Justice to put a stop to SB1070, which they believe will make their jobs harder by diverting resources away from policing actual crime and eroding the trust between the community and local police; trust that is necessary for effective law enforcement. It is surprising that more local law enforcement officials have not spoken out against laws such as SB1070. On June 10th, 55 organizations in NYC, including us at Breakthrough, signed a letter to NYPD chief Raymond Kelly urging him to break his silence and publicly condemn SB1070 just as New York Mayor Bloomberg and the New York City Council has done.

With states like Arizona taking immigration law into their own hands, and the Federal Government pushing an enforcement only approach appeases politicians and invests in border security and partnerships between Federal immigration officials and local law enforcement, valuable time and energy is being diverted away from the only sustainable solution- humane and comprehensive immigration reform.

Photo courtesy of the

Learn. Share. Act. Go to






Advertise Blogads