Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Closer Look at the Numbers

Editor's Note: Yesterday we published an entry on some numbers from a website that uses a map and poll results to show how each Democratic candidate would do against McCain. A Medina County Democrat who pays close attention to such things sent us the following response to that post. We think you will find it very interesting.

A Closer Look at the NumbersThe headline numbers posted on this linked site do indeed show that Clinton wins more electoral votes than Obama in a race against McCain, but a close look at the state-by-state polls aggregated on this site may well support the conclusion that Obama is actually a stronger candidate than Clinton against McCain. While it is true that the top- line numbers show Clinton beating McCain by 289 to 239 electoral votes (with the other 10 electoral votes, which belong to Wisconsin, being tied) and while Obama only beats McCain by 269 to 254, with NC’s 15 votes being tied, the underlying numbers on the site tell a different story about the relative strength of our two candidates in a match-up with McCain.

This can be seen by looking at the margins of support that Clinton, Obama, and McCain garner in each state in their races against each other. It is in this area that Obama fares better than Clinton. Clinton arrives at her 289 electoral votes by combining the votes of 74 strong Dem, 98 weak Dem, and 117 “barely Dem” states. Obama arrives at his 269 electoral votes by combining the votes of 67 strong Dem, 144 weak Dem, and 58 barely Dem states. (The site calls a margin of 10% or more “strong”, a margin of 5 to 9% “weak”, and uses “barely” to describe a margin of less than 5%)

It is also worth looking at McCain’s margin of victory against each of them in each state. In his match-up against Clinton, McCain has strong Republican support: 137 strong GOP electoral votes, 89 weak GOP electoral votes, and 13 barely GOP electoral votes. In his match-up against Obama, this calculus changes, as now McCain’s Republican support appears to be much weaker: these polls show that he has 134 strong, 44 weak, and 76 barely GOP electoral votes.

In sum, Obama, while only being ahead of McCain 269 to 254 on the headline number, appears to be in a position to put many more states into play against McCain than does Clinton, since McCain’s margin over Obama is less than 5% in states with 76 electoral votes. Indeed, in Texas (34 electoral votes) and New Mexico (5 electoral votes) his margin over Obama is only 1%. At the same time, Clinton’s margin over McCain is only 1% in the following “barely Dem” states: Florida (27 EV’s), Missouri (11 EV’s), Oregon (7 EV’s), and Nevada (5 EV’s). Obama, on the other hand, has no “barely Dem” state where he has only a one-point margin, though he does have several where the margin is only 2 points: Michigan (17 EV’s), New Jersey (15 EV’s), and Massachusetts (12 EV’s).

Other people looking at these polls may reach a different conclusion than I did, and I’d be interested in reading their own analysis of the polls. In any case, while I think the polls show that both Clinton and Obama are strong candidates and that the Democratic Party can proudly support the one of them who emerges with the nomination, these current state-by-state polls show Obama to be a potentially stronger candidate against McCain.


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