Quick Hits

Here are some other stories making the rounds today:

As I reported last week the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was looking at altering how it awards its Electors. Today, the Massachusetts Legislature approved a new law intended to bypass the Electoral College system and ensure that the winner of the presidential election is determined by the national popular vote. The full story in the Boston Globe.

In the wake of the largest leak of military-related documentation in history, the Congress approved funding for the wars in South & Central Asia. To his credit House Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Obey, who had managed the $59 billion war funding bill, voted no in a final protest and helped to take another 101 Democrats with him but the bill still passed by a 308 to 114 margin. Twelve Republicans voted against the measure. As Politico reports "the scene was in stark contrast with just a year ago when but all but 32 Democrats supported a still larger $105.9 billion war funding measure for Afghanistan and Iraq operations." Still, the Obama Administration officials said the outcome showed that the classified leak had not jeopardized congressional support for the war and noted that the Senate had passed the money with no objection. The New York Times has more on the story.

The financial editor of The Telegraph, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard writes on how British bankers are buying up rare copies of an obscure book on the mechanics of Weimar inflation published in 1974 looking for clues on financial behaviour and the velocity of money. The great fear is really a deflationary asset spiral but these are preceded by inflationary spikes.

Over at The New Republic, Noam Scheiber does the calculus and finds that it points to the confirmation of Elizabeth Warren as head of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Yesterday, Matt Yglesias argued that nominating Elizabeth Warren would go a long way to breaching the gulf between many progressives and the Obama Administration.

Hail the size of golf balls fell across parts of South Dakota today. Pictures from the NOAA.

The Obama Race to the Top education program continues to move forward. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia were today named as finalists on Tuesday in the second round of a national competition for $3.4 billion in federal financing to support an overhaul of education policies. More from the New York Times.

Cigarette sales in California continue to plummet reports the Los Angeles Times. Californians bought 8.1% fewer cigarettes in fiscal 2009 — which ended June 30 — than in fiscal 2008.

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

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/



Red California Death Watch

In 2007, right-wing political operatives tried to place a measure on the June 2008 ballot that - if successful - would have awarded California's electoral votes by Congressional District.  Democrats and progressives strongly opposed it, because everyone assumed it would give the G.O.P. presidential nominee an extra 19 votes.  California is a deep blue state, but parts of Orange County and the Central Valley are still reliably Republican.  New data from last November's election, however, suggests that "Red California" is becoming less and less relevant.  Barack Obama carried eight Congressional Districts that had long voted for Republican presidential candidates, and John McCain came close to losing three more.  All these districts are currently represented in Congress by Republicans, but a few incumbents came close last year to losing to Democratic challengers.  It's only a matter of time before some of these districts will eventually flip.  None of this is a surprise, however, because the state's Republican base is older, whiter and shrinking in size.  But the rate of this change is quite staggering, which explains why Republicans in the state legislature have clung to the "two-thirds rule" for passing a budget.  After all, it's the only reason they have any power left in the state.

There's more...

Presidential elections are being completely transformed, and you don't even know about it!

As I write, an effort is underway to entirely transform the way presidential elections are conducted.  The Electoral College is slowly being picked away at, and hardly anyone realizes it's happening.

There's more...

365 to 173

Per the Associated Press, it's official:

More than 131 million voters cast ballots -- the most ever in a presidential election. But Obama's election is not complete until Congress tallies the outcome of Monday's Electoral College vote at a joint session scheduled for Jan. 6.

Monday's voting was largely ceremonial, the results preordained by Obama's Nov. 4 victory over Republican Sen. John McCain. Obama won 365 electoral votes, to 173 for McCain. With every state reporting, all the electors had cast ballots in accordance with the popular votes in their states.

Unlike the last two elections, there do not appear to have been any faithless or mistaken electors, keeping the electoral college tally as expected. As mentioned in the article, Congress still has to tally the vote from the electoral college, so not every step in the process has been completed. But for now we're one step closer to Barack Obama becoming the 44th President of the United States.

There's more...


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