The math: Obama has the better GE viability.
by TCQuad, Thu May 29, 2008 at 04:17:30 PM EDT
I, the great Quadrino, shall now look into the crystal ball and... OK, I'm only marginally adequate with basic writing and really bad at sarcastically dramatic writing. But I'd like to talk about the current polling with regards to the general election.
As I mentioned previously, Kerry had a substantial electoral college lead, almost identical to Hillary's current lead, on this date four years ago. Arguments have been made that Clinton's lead is significant. But substantial movement from voters led to that-which-shall-not-be-named in 2004. What would happen if the same movement occurred today? Is Hillary Swift-Boat safe? What about Obama?
The math is based on three assumptions:
- The lead Kerry had on Bush moved based on a number of factors, however the likelihood of a voter switching their vote (the tenuous Democrats or Republicans) is constant. Assuming a similar campaign with a similar attacks, the movement would be similar.
- There haven't been any significant demographic movements since the last election that would affect the first premise (that is, all the switchable voters didn't move from Texas to Oklahoma).
- To allow for the different focus, campaign strategies and associated error, any differences less than three percentage points is considered to be within the margin of error (MoE) and up for grabs.
To justify the assumptions, (1) is the assumption that the math is based on, with the second part based on the premise that every candidate has potential lines of attack open against them, no matter how much they've been vetted or how electable we think they are (see: Swift Boats and a candidate that's been in the public eye for 20 years). (2) is arguable, especially the effect of Katrina, but it does not affect the math except to move Texas to MoE for Obama. Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana stay deep red, Florida moves to the MoE for Hillary and stays red for Obama. (3) is to allow for the fact that all the data is in integers (no decimals) and for GOTV efforts in newly contested states that could make differences.
If we take the movement seen in the Kerry election and apply it to this election, what is the net result? Here's the spreadsheet output (and, for those who are allergic to spreadsheets, a very brief summary follows immediately thereafter):
The first three columns are the Kerry polling numbers (negative indicates Bush leads; positive indicates Kerry leads), the movement in the polls (negative indicate Bush gains, positive indicates Kerry gains) and the expected result. That's followed by Clinton's current and theoretical numbers as well as Obama's. All data was pulled from electoral-vote.com's archive for May 29th for all candidates.
For instance, Georgia polled Kerry -3 in May, but ended up -18. That's a -15 point difference for Kerry. Both 2008 candidates trailed currently, so with extrapolating, they really, really trail McCain in Georgia. If we apply this method to all states and count electoral votes as mentioned, you can project what the current leads would manifest as in the general election.
The summary: McCain leads Clinton 221-202 (115 in play) while Obama leads McCain 250-235 (53 undecided).
Clinton's lead is significantly more susceptible to Kerry-style Swift Boat ads or those states that she trails in are less likely to break Democratic. As such, Obama's currently the more insulated, safe candidate in the general election.
Personally, I think using polls this far out is ridiculous and not particularly useful. However, for those who would like to give weight to these numbers, remember to take into account previous trends between now and the election.
It's completely up to the individual how to use polls this far out. Either they're completely meaningless or they indicate vulnerability for Clinton. It's completely your call, as the independent reader, to decide which.[editor's note, by TCQuad] D.C. and Delaware were alphabetically inverted at some point between now and 2004, so the numbers (and six electoral votes) between them were slightly different. It's been fixed.