Articles and Analysis


Why Obama Won

One week ago today Barack Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States by taking advantage of the economic issues facing the country and outperforming John Kerry's 2004 vote share with key demographic groups. Forget all the nonsense that has been written about this being a revolutionary, web-based, text messaging, new generation campaign. Those things were certainly helpful, but their import has been exaggerated. Rather, the Obama team won this election the old fashioned way: they defined themselves and their opponent, they made few mistakes and they got out their vote.
Seven days gives us a bit of perspective on some of the often misguided and extreme ideas that have been bandied about in the last week. The following are some observations on these first impressions:

  • The Obama win was neither as big as some Democrats and members of the media have made it out to be nor as small as some of the GOP faithful would like to think. The problem is that the last two elections were fairly close, so Obama's win seems like a landslide...when in reality it was not. It was however, decisive. History is helpful here. Obama's popular vote percentage is approximately 52.6% as of today. This represents the first time a Democrat has reached the 50% mark since Carter in 1976 (50%), and the highest for a Democrat since Johnson in 1964 (61%). While it is a point and a half more than George W. Bush received in 2004, it is below George H. W. Bush in 1988 (53%) and far below Reagan in 1984 (59%) and Nixon in 1968 (61%). Reagan, Nixon and Johnson were blowouts; this was not.
    • The electoral vote victory was not a blowout either. Assuming Obama wins NE's 2nd Congressional district, he will finish with 365 electoral votes. This is far better than Bush received in 2004 (286) but below Clinton in 1996 (379) and far below Bush in 1988 (426), Reagan in 1984 (525), Reagan in 1980 (489), Nixon in 1972 (520) and Johnson in 1964 (486). Again, it was a strong electoral win for Obama but not a crushing defeat for the GOP.
  • The Obama campaign team was neither as brilliant as the news analysis articles have made them out to be nor was the McCain campaign team as inept as some stories have portrayed them. During the coming weeks, months and years, thousands of pages will be written about this election. It almost goes without saying that virtually every post-mortem will speak glowingly of the Obama effort (sometimes deservedly so) and disparagingly of the McCain campaign (ditto). However, winning campaigns always look like they were smarter than losing campaigns, whether it's true or not. Team McCain had several shining moments including the stretch in late August and early September when several ads (including the much discussed "Celebrity" ad) ran and had Obama playing defense. We are certain that these spots threw the Obama campaign off stride. However, the financial meltdown came and the 2008 electoral environment hugely favored the Democrats. Obama took advantage of that environment and ran a good, virtually mistake-free campaign (and make no mistake: this is rare). They should have won and they did.
Here is our take on what happened last Tuesday and how the results should be interpreted. This is based on an analysis of both the actual results and the exit polls.

First, let's look at the actual results. Obama won by flipping nine Bush 2004 states in three different regions of the country. He flipped three in the West (Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico), three in the Midwest/rust-belt (Iowa, Indiana and Ohio) and three in the mid-Atlantic/Southeast (Virginia, North Carolina and Florida). Demographic changes are part of the reason. All of these states have gotten younger, more urban and more diverse in the last ten years. Of course to flip those states the Obama campaign had to flip counties first. Some notable ones include Wake County (Raleigh) in NC (57% Obama), Jefferson and Arapahoe Counties in CO, Pinellas County in FL (54% Obama) and Loudoun County in VA. And of course Obama also expanded on Kerry's margins in hundreds of other key counties across the country.

Having said that, McCain still won 22 states and lost 5 others (totaling 86 electoral votes) by four points or less: Indiana (-1), Ohio (-4), Virginia (-4), North Carolina (-1) and Florida (-2). Of the states he won, 18 were by 8 points or more.

Second, let's take a quick look at turnout. According to Curtis Gans at American University, turnout was approximately 127 million - way below what was predicted. Perhaps the biggest underreported story of this election is that the reason turnout was essentially flat (up approximately 1-2 points from 2004) is that some of the evangelicals/GOP base stayed home and there was a corresponding increase in the black/youth vote. Some key data points to focus on are that self-described evangelical turnout was down three points. Conversely, the African American vote was up two points and 18-29 year olds were up approximately one point. This is, of course, imprecise because not all evangelicals vote Republican and not all blacks and youth vote Democratic, but if one goes down three points and the other two groups go up three points, the net is a six point change. It is not a coincidence that Obama won by about six points.

Third, let's take a look at the exit polls. We take the exit polls with a grain of salt but it is the best we have for understanding how segments of the electorate voted (and why). While it is true that McCain underperformed Bush among a number of different subgroups it is more instructive to focus on the groups where Obama over-performed John Kerry's numbers. The following stand out:

  • Men (+5)
  • Women (+5, and Obama beat McCain by 13 points)
  • Blacks (+5)
  • Latinos (+14, and Obama beat McCain by 36 points)
  • Asians (+6)
  • Whites (+2)
  • All income groups (+5 to +8)
  • Independents (+3)
  • Conservatives (+5, this represented a 20% defection of conservatives to the Democratic candidate compared to 15% in 2004)
  • All religious groups (+4 to +8)
  • Married and unmarried voters (+5)

The fact is that the Obama victory was pervasive and cut across almost all demographic subgroups. However, there are some prominent groups that warrant examination. A glance at the below chart comparing the 2004 results by race with those same results from 2008 shows how the Obama victory was a balance of winning more white voters than John Kerry and doing substantially better with African Americans and Hispanics.

exit poll race.png

Given the demographic trends in the country, the GOP is unlikely to win any future Presidential elections if it is losing 95% of the black vote and 67% of the Hispanic vote

It is also worth noting that Obama did something unique in this election by winning men. There has been a structural gender gap in place since the early 1980's, when men gravitated to the GOP primarily because of Reagan and never left (until now, at least temporarily). Women tend to find the GOP less appealing - driven largely by GOP positions on education, health care and the environment - and tend to have more allegiance to the Democrats. People always talk about the gender gap in terms of women preferring Democrats, but it is really more about men and the GOP. Note that in 2004 John Kerry beat Bush among women by three points but it was the Bush win among men (nine points) that was stunning. In essence, Obama flipped men in this election, winning them by one point; that, combined with his overwhelming lead with women, helped him secure the Presidency.

exit poll gender.png

The following is our assessment of the 2008 campaign with an eye to why Obama won:

  1. It was simply the right time. This election took place during a financial meltdown and one of the longest sustained periods of voter dissatisfaction ("wrong track" at 85%, the President's approval at 27%) in modern history. For McCain, this was not the right time to be running for the third term of the incumbent party.
  2. Obama had a singular, consistent theme from day one and he ran on it for two years: "Change." He was in the right place at the right time. One of those times in history when the person and the idea are in alignment with the attitudes of the country. Obama was about change - and what that meant was never ambiguous. It was the opposite of George W. Bush and the Republicans. It was clear and simple...and that is how you win elections.
  3. By contrast, John McCain never settled on an agenda-setting national theme or message. Go ahead, ask yourself what McCain stood for. Sure, during the last week it was for cutting taxes and in opposition to a socialist governing philosophy (this was the only period over the final two months that the McCain campaign exhibited air-tight message discipline). But before that they ran through a dozen campaign themes. In fact, at times it seemed that the candidate himself evolved during the campaign. There was McCain the fighter, the "surge" McCain, McCain the reformer, McCain the maverick, McCain the earmark guy. Yes, by virtue of the position they were in (i.e. the hostile environment and running behind in the polls) they had to try some different things to break through, but that is not an excuse for failing to settle on a campaign narrative in April and sticking to it. There was never a consistent theme and they paid the price for it.
  4. The ultimate irony is that Obama defined McCain rather than the other way around. We all thought it was the Republican who would define Obama. But the Obama campaign defined McCain as "erratic" and "confused" at various points during the campaign. Of course, McCain contributed to this impression by suspending his campaign during the financial crisis/bailout negotiations and seeking to cancel the debate (and then failing to negotiate a deal and attending the debate). Once the word "erratic" entered the public lexicon the media latched on to it. Whether it was Obama focus group research that unearthed it or not is moot: the Obama campaign discovered that the impression of McCain as "erratic" stuck and that was all they needed.
  5. Without Hillary Clinton, there probably would not be a President Obama. The primary battle with Hillary Clinton helped Obama in three specific ways: it vetted (and probably took of the table) the biggest political skeleton in his closet, it gave him a chance to blunder and learn from it and, finally, it made him and his campaign better.
    1. Jeremiah Wright. It was hugely helpful for Obama that the Wright tape was released in the spring of last year. It was a big political issue and his numbers went down. His denouncement of Wright and his major speech on race was a defining moment in the primary campaign. It also, to some extent, took the issue off the table for Republicans in the fall because to raise the issue - without the newsworthiness - may have seemed racist (or desperate). Certainly one can argue whether McCain could have engaged on the issue given the state of the economy, but the best thing for Obama was when it happened. It took the surprise out of it and inoculated him against its future use.
    2. Bitter-gate. Obama's comments in early April 2007 at a San Francisco fundraiser were a major tactical error and halted much of his momentum at that point. Again, the campaign team was able to right the ship and the candidate learned from the mistake. From that point forward his performance on the campaign trail was nearly flawless.
    3. Preparation. The primary battle with Clinton honed the Obama message and campaign apparatus and emboldened the Obama team to stick to their campaign strategy. The fight with Clinton did not weaken them, it made them stronger.
  6. Palin did not make a difference one way or another. The Palin pick was purely tactical and not based on any specific strategy. Sometimes a good tactic can have a short-term benefit but little long term effect. Such was the Palin choice. She energized the base and became a fundraising generator but the choice diffused the McCain argument that Obama was unprepared for the Presidency. Our sense is that Palin was a net positive because of her impact on GOP fundraising and its volunteer apparatus. For those who say that she took away the experience argument - and we agree-- we are doubtful that this election would have turned on "experience." Otherwise, the Newsweek and Time magazine covers this week would have Hillary Clinton's picture on them.
  7. Obama won the middle. Elections are about 50.1%; it is about putting together a minimum winning coalition. Obama's coalition was clear: win almost all the black vote and two-thirds of Hispanics, win young voters 2 to 1 and hold down your losses with white voters to less than 15 points (it was -12 points, but far better than Kerry in 2004, who lost white voters by 17 points). They put enough pieces of their coalition together to get to 50.1%...and then some.
  8. McCain had three shots to change the trajectory of this election and he failed in two out of the three. Presidential candidates who are behind in the polls really have only a few chances to get a game-changer: the selection of the running-mate, the convention speech and the debates. The selection of Sarah Palin gave McCain a short-term bump and a temporary lead. While her interview performances caused a drop in her favorability, it was the financial crisis that drove down the McCain vote in mid-September. McCain's speech at the convention was neither memorable nor persuasive. Finally, as we have said before, Obama flat out won the debates on both style and content. Obama's debate performances (especially in the first debate) allowed him to cross the acceptability threshold for many voters.
  9. Obama won the big moments. Perhaps the biggest moment of all was the financial bailout debate. The financial crisis created a Presidential moment for the candidates and Obama appeared sober, thoughtful and smart. His behavior during this period seemed presidential. On the other hand, McCain's suspension of his campaign, his dash to Washington and his failure to get Congressional action was a major campaign blunder and, more importantly, cemented the notion that McCain was "erratic."
  10. Obama had a lot more money and used it. The decision by the Obama team to go outside of the public-financing system may have been a no-brainer but it was also the single most important one the campaign made. According to the Center for Responsible Politics, through October 15th John McCain raised $360 million (including $84 million in federal funds) and spent $239 million while Barack Obama raised a staggering $639 million and spent $537 million. President-elect Obama raised and spent 75% more money than Senator McCain.

    Financial data on the political parties for the entire election cycle is available. The Democrat Party raised $749 million and spent $669 million, while the Republican Party raised $720 million and spent $619 million. While it is unknown precisely how much of that money was spent assisting the presidential candidates, it is clear that Obama and the Democrats possessed a tremendous financial edge and, given the minimal political fallout, Obama's decision to forego public financing was prescient.

    This forced McCain to put money and personnel into previously solid GOP states like Virginia, North Carolina and Florida. In October, Obama was up on the air with 3,500 rating points a week (according to an Obama campaign official). This means the average voter saw an Obama ad approximately 35 times a week (and that doesn't include what the DNC was doing). The GOP was able to come close to that spend level in the campaign's last two weeks but was still probably outspent 2 to 1 in key states. Obama was running 2,000 points a week in Montana and, although they narrowly lost the state, it forced McCain to spend resources in a state where he shouldn't have needed to.

  11. McCain's defense of the economy was the beginning of the end. We said it back then: the campaign turned on a single turn of phrase. When McCain said that "the fundamentals of the economy are strong" it told voters that he was out of touch. Obama pounced and McCain's vote share dropped.

  12. McCain's support of the bailout was the end of the end. This is not an indictment of the policy decision, but rather the political effect. When McCain announced his support for the bailout it robbed him of any chance to differentiate himself from Obama.

  13. The battlefield favored Obama overwhelmingly. However, if the issue landscape had been foreign policy and terrorism instead of the economy, McCain could have won. The economy was overwhelmingly the most important issue to voters but if this election had been fought on different terrain the results might have been different. Among those worried about terrorism McCain was almost even, losing by only 2 points.

exit poll terrorism2.png



CORRECTION NEEDED: In your section referencing past presidential election results, you reference Nixon's 1968 percentage as 61%. This is incorrect. His percentage in 1972 was 60.7, while his percentage in the 1968 squeaker over Hubert Humphrey was 43.4. Please fix!


2008 Election Model: Predicted the Electoral and Popular vote…but not the True Vote

Nov. 11, 2008

The Final 2008 Election Model (EM) projection exactly matched the 365-173 electoral vote and recorded popular vote. The model projected that Obama would receive 365.3 expected electoral votes with a 53.1- 44.9% share. He has a 65.3-57.4m recorded vote margin.


But the true landslide was denied . Obama did better than the EM and recorded vote indicates. Only 124m votes have been recorded; 140m were forecast. According to the 2004 U.S. Vote Census, 122.3m votes were recorded of 125.7m cast; in 2000, 105.4m were recorded of 110.8m cast. Democrats traditionally win 70-80% of the uncounted vote.

Obama’s expected EV is calculated as the product sum of the state win probabilities and corresponding electoral vote.
In equation form: Expected EV =å Win Prob(i) * EV(i), for i= 1,51 states.

The state win probability is a function of the final 2-3 average polling spread and 3% margin of error (1200-1800 total sample). These parameters are input to the Excel normal distribution probability function to calculate the win probability.

The expected 365.3 EV was close to the 365.8 average EV obtained in the Monte Carlo simulation. Obama won all 5000 election trials; his total electoral vote win probability was 100%.

The EM projected that Obama would win by 75.9-64.2m out of 143m total votes cast and capture 60% of undecided voters (the base case UVA scenario). The 75% UVA scenario gave him 53.9% (or 55.0% of the two-party vote) and 379.5 EV.

The 2008 Election Calculator (EC) is a complementary True Vote model based on an estimated, feasible returning 2004 voter mix. It projected that Obama would win the True Vote with a 54.5-44.4% share (78.3-63.8m).

The EC model also projected a fraud scenario: 3% of votes cast are uncounted and 3% switched to McCain. Obama’s True Vote margin would then be reduced to a 52.2-46.8% share (72.8-65.2m).

Right wing pundits are claiming that Obama’s 8 million vote margin is not a mandate, unlike the Bush 3m “mandate” in 2004. But we know that Obama won by even more than 8 million votes. The True Vote will only be revealed if there is a real investigation by the courts, Congress and/or the Media. Don’t hold your breath.

2004/2008 Election Model and Election Calculator
(input assumptions and base case scenario results)

EM - Obama 53.1%; 365.3 expected EV; 60% UVA.
EC - Obama 54.5%; feasible mix of returning 2004 voters and 12:22am NEP vote shares.

EM - Kerry 51.3%; 337 expected EV; 75% UVA; unadjusted state aggregate exit poll: 52-47%.
EC - Kerry 53.2%; feasible mix of returning 2000 voters and 12:22am NEP vote shares.


Gary Kilbride:

I think we should wait a few weeks or a month for the official vote count to settle. Then we can match the fraud scenario precisely to how much it differs from the election model. At this point there's still too much uncertainty in the final tally, and we don't want the fraud crew to look bad by missing the mark by a few hundred or slightly more.

Anyway, Steve Lombardo's summation was very impressive. I can still look brilliant off the tee with a gale at my back on every par 5. That's essentially where Obama was in fall 2008. Every description of the campaign is destined to under value that aspect and overstate the brilliance, of Obama and his handlers. There's a very good piece from Newsweek detailing how Hillary's strategists essentially blew it.

But I completely take issue with no President Obama without Hillary Clinton. Cut the margin but the outcome would not have varied. All the pro-Democratic situational advantages would have been too much for McCain to overcome.

That being said, the single most inept prediction of the 2008 political season was that the elongated primary was a disaster for Obama, and made McCain the beneficiary and the November favorite as a result. Rachel Maddow was particularly weak by grasping that angle for months, in fact whining pessimistically through the final week leading to election day. It's incredible she has educational background in politics. I've never seen anyone so poor at applying variables to outcomes. The extended primary was a surreal gift for Democrats, in every respect. It was the heavyweight battle and whomever emerged was guaranteed to receive tremendous respect and credit for defeating such a high caliber opponent. And since it was always certain to be Obama, given the numerical realities, there was no threat of the bitter feelings or shady aspect that would have accompanied a Hillary triumph via super delegates.



I first started posting here in July. At first there were lots of PUMAs railing against Obama in their bitterness and vowing to sink his candidacy. After the convention I noticed they were declining in number. By the late October they had almost all disappeared (I can only think of two). Obama was lucky in the timing of the economic crisis. I still think he would have won without it but it would have been much closer.



Hello Steve and the Pollster.com Team:

Thanks for another illuminative piece.

One question - can you assemble a break-down, based on exit polling and whatever other helpful information can be gleaned from 1) pre-election surveys in the final weekend, and 2) precinct-based analysis, do an assessment comparing the approximately 122.3M whose votes were counted in the 2004 presidential election and the approximately 127.5M whose votes for president will have been counted in 2008 when all is said and done.

Specifically, in 2008, to a best approximation:

1. How many people who voted for Bush in 2004 -a. voted for Obama in 2008?
b. voted for McCain in 2008?
c. didn't vote in 2008, though legally eligible?
d. died prior to the 2008 and thus did not vote?

2. Same questions as to Kerry voters from 2004;

3. How many new voters:
a. Voted for Obama in 2008?
b. Voted for McCain in 2008?

4. Respectively, how many of 3a and 3b were new registrants?

5. Is there any notable trend as to 2004 voters who failed to vote in 2008? Particularly, is there any substance to the claims by some that evangelical white voters sat on their hands in large numbers this year? Is there any evidence any geographically or demographically discernable groups of Democrats who failed to vote, having voted in 2004 or in the 2008 primaries?

Please excuse me if such an analysis has been assembled elsewhere and I simply have missed it.

Appreciatively yours,

-Chris Stratton



Given that Lombardo is a Republican pollster, it's not surprising that he has attempted to minimize the historical significance of Obama's win.

One of his risible assertions is that Obama's vote percentage is modest when compared to the blowout victories of Reagan (1984), Nixon (1972) and Johnson (1964).

Notice how Lombardo cleverly compares Obama to INCUMBENTS. Clearly, an incumbent has political resources and electoral advantages not available to Obama. If instead, we compare Obama's winning percentage to the percentage of votes Reagan received in 1980 and Nixon in 1968, when they FIRST ran, we see that Obama beats them handily.



Interesting article, but I think you might want to look at the final 'Concerns about terrorism' graph again. Unless I am mistaken, the numbers would indicate a 5 point Kerry win.



Interesting point of view. I think you underestimate the negative impact of Sarah Palin on the ticket. She may have rallied the base but she scared the hell out of the moderates.

Also, you made a common Republican mistake and referred to the Democratic party as the "Democrat" party.



Last night I heard a commentator state that if only white people had voted McCain would have won. I wondered if this was true. If one were to look state by state it seems that Obama won quite a few state with (as far as I know) low numbers of blacks: IA, VT, NH for example. He also lost many with notably sizable black populations: LA, MI.

I haven't really looked into this but it is interesting.


Judy Shapiro:

Good analysis! I would say, though, that the primary battle with Hillary Clinton helped Obama even more than this article notes. Before the primaries, Obama was virtually unknown. Even worse for his political prospects, he had a "foreign" name, and many voters weren't used to the idea of a Black presidential candidate. The battle with Hillary kept Obama's name and face constantly in the news, giving voters the opportunity to get to know him, and become more comfortable with his ethnic background. It was basically free advertising for him -- and lots of it.

As for Sarah Plain, I think she hurt McCain quite a bit. As a previous poster noted, she scared the heck out of moderates. She also had an extreme effect on the PUMAs, who saw the pick as an attempt by McCain's to substitute an anti-abortion right-wing woman for Hillary. I don't think the PUMAs were ever very numerous to begin with, but they were VERY politically active -- and picking Palin made them ardent Obama supporters.


Judy Shapiro:

(Sorry, saying Sarah PLAIN instead of Sarah Palin was unintentional -- my spell-checker keeps trying to substitute "Plain" for "Palin".)


Vicente Duque:

I visit Pollster.com everyday and consider this the best for Election Statistical Information. I hope you continue working, even if there is no election in sight. Count on me as visitor.

I sometimes place links to the pages of Pollster.com from my site and extract a few paragraphs or "excerpts" from your site. I try to cut as much as possible from the text, in order not to be a thief, and also because I try to help readers that are Foreigners, or very Young Students, or Low Information People for any valid reason. And long texts can be boring and heavy to that public.

Thanks Steve Lombardo for your excellent articles, including this page that I linked in :


I am also operating other two sites on Young People and "Raciality" in order to pinpoint the best liberal articles of the World Press on these topics :



Vicente Duque



I dread so much of the post-election analysis, but this was a fantastic read.



What is this DEMOCRAT party you speak of? I have voted for members of the DEMOCRATIC party, but I might also be interested in candidates of this other party you reference. Is it regional or something?


All this analysis would be much more useful if it recognized the one fact that Axelrod apparently understood better than anyone else. As we have been since the civil rights movement led to the Southern Strategy, we are recognizably two countries; the south and the rest of us. What Axelrod understood is that election by election Virginia and North Carolina are becoming less and less part of the south and more and more part of the rest of us. It was for that reason that his initial expansion of the map centerd on Virginia. McCain's margins in the interior south (Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana and parts of texas and Oklahoma) were just as high as ever, and all the Republicans running for senate in the interior states won (unlike those in Virginia and North Carolina). Thus, Hillary's margins in Kentucky and Tennessee were really Republican (might I say anti-black) margins while her margin in Pennsylvania (and what she would have won by if her people had not totally erred in allowing Michigan to opt out) were based on union oriented voters (and thus reversible by Obama).

In my opinion, any analysis (for instance of how much Obama won by) of how the election was fought out that doesn't separate out these two countries misses much of the point. It leads to people ignoring Obama's second greatest triumph (after winning despite being black); namely that he is the first Democrat from outside the south to win since John Kennedy. Clinton and Carter won by breaking the south as southerners (in 1980 when Carter was perceived as a non-southerner, he lost all but Georgia, and lost the election).

This was a redefining election not because a Democrat won, but beause the south simply isn't solid anymore (e.g. the new Senators Warner and Hagen).


Vicente Duque:

I like this analysis of Steve Lombardo and I also like the last comment of MikeR. Thanks for the knowledge you share with us.

I want to add this to MikeR : that the Modern United States of America, the Obama Nation and Mr Obama are the creation of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.

They made a revolution with Civil Rights and with IMMIGRATION REFORM.

That Immigration act of Kennedy-Johnson is what creates the Minorities Power that we now see.

Previously the U.S. was Eugenesic pro White Race and Immigration was a hurdle against Africa and Latin America.

And Obama also owes friendship to Ted, Caroline and Robert. And to other Camelotians.



Vicente Duque


With almost 100% of precincts reporting, the latest election results show Obama leading by 8.4m votes with a total of 126.5m recorded. That’s a solid mandate, but his True Vote was better than that. The tremendous GOTV and new registration effort has not resulted in the expected increase in the recorded vote from 2004. Remember the 17m net increase from 2000 to 2004 (105m to 122m)? The media should be asking the questions. Why is the recorded count at 126.5m, when a 140m+ turnout was forecast? How many voters were told they had to complete provisional ballots?

Obama currently leads by a 66.6-58.2m, a 52.6-46.0% share. On Election Day, he led by 63.4-56.1m (52.3-46.3%) with 121.2m votes recorded. Therefore, he has a 59.2-39.2% share of the last 5.29m votes. Déjà vu. Gore and Kerry also won the late 5m votes with margins which far exceeded their initial vote shares. How does one explain this pattern?




As a historian, I am fascinated that analyses like these seem to *settle the question in terms of simplistic demographics, and unproven assumptions about the nature of self-interest (rational and materialistic -- like economic "logic" - we've seen where that leads).
Notably what the detailed discussion leaves out is two "mobilization" factors: leadership and organization. After a cursory wave to getting out the vote, the author does not say much about the Obama ground game. You don't have to take a gee-whiz attitude about technology to say that in terms of both mass-money (not the whole story) and armies of volunteers, who were deployed to strategic places to actually get out the vote -- Obama's campaign FAR out-performed McCain's.
-- Obama used the Internet, not to snow people, but to enable his millions of supporters to "own" the campaign -- just as he said from day One -- this is not all about me, it's about You/Us.
-- Just as will be the Early Days of the Admin - will Obama people demand that the CONGRESS, esp. the Senate -- actually follow through with bipartisan, pragmatic problem solving, based on the best analyses -- that Obama advocated from the beginning? Or will we (and the short-sighted media) allow them to settle back into election-cycle gotcha politics?

-- Again the condescension of the media and analyses like these -- that voters only decide on the basis of immediate self-interest, and are not very smart - may needed to be tempered by talking to real people, messy though the analysis then becomes.
--To put it more plainly -- many of the millions who chose Obama are not starry-eyed about hope, or simply voting for change stupidly, but voted for a leader with attractive approaches to the problems they thought important.

I realize that one cannot be so assured with this kind of argument, as the author reasoning about people as though they were puppets of their self-interests, but those of us who were on the ground saw people of diverse kinds (and demographics) voting because of factors like these.
It's not either-or -- it's a missing layer to the predominantly demographics approach.

-- If you have ever led a movement that helped bring change, you can understand these mobilization factors. If not, not.


Vicente Duque:

Reply to OldBoh :

I appreciate your point of view and your love of History and the desire to explore the Human Heart, like Leadership values, Hopes, The best love of country, human, humane or humanistic considerations. I share those interests that you show.

These sites like pollster.com, are highly oriented towards statistics, mathematics, simulations, etc ... Many visitors should be young professionals working in computers, engineering, sciences, technology or similar areas. Human Material for modernization and change.

I am only a visitor here and share that love for statistical detail, and I am enthusiastic about the Obama Election and consider him a figure with a Great Potential for Greatness and History Making.

But I think that many visitors here, like me, have to avoid heavy partisanship and that is why we go into detailed polls and numbers.

Consider Protectionism and Trade Agreements : I think that the Obama Coalition has to change the stance on this subject. But in order to do so we have to work through statistics, numbers, tons of cereals, pharmaceutical sales numbers, property rights, royalties and so on. ( including polls )...

I am sure that the main guys here in pollster.com have many emotions about this election but their professions force them to hide those passions and be more numerical and statistical and less political or historical.



Vicente Duque


Arkie-in CT:

What were the Obama and McCain shares of returning and new voters?

We can estimate the components of the 66-58m recorded vote using the following input assumptions to the Election Calculator model:

1) 8% new voter increase in 2008 (over 2004 voters still living)

2) 3% uncounted vote rate (2.74% in 2004)

3) 75% of uncounted votes to Obama (majority of uncounted votes are in minority districts)

4) Obama and McCain closely matched Kerry and Bush shares of returning 2000 voters (National Exit Poll):

2000 2008 2004 NEP
Obama Est. Prelim Final
DNV 57% 57% 54%
Kerry 90% 91% 90%
Bush 9% 10% 9%
Other 50% 64% 71%

DNV 40% 41% 45%
Kerry 9% 8% 10%
Bush 91% 90% 91%
Other 10% 17% 21%

DNV 3% 2% 1%
Kerry 1% 1% 0%
Bush 0% 0% 0%
Other 40% 19% 8%

The output from the model matches the current recorded vote (as of 11/14):
2008 True and Recorded Vote

...... Obama McCain Other Total
True Vote 69.6 59.3 1.7 130.5
VoteShare 53.3% 45.4% 1.3% 100%
Uncounted 2.94 0.90 0.08 3.91

Recorded 66.5 58.4 1.7 126.6
Vote Share 52.6% 46.1% 1.3% 100%



Thank you, Steve, for this analysis. It is one of the better ones I've seen. A couple of points: first, the 13 factors you describe need to be weighted. Factors 1 and 13 were extremely important, for example, while I doubt that 12 was very important at all. At the same time, some of the points are primary and some secondary. For example, while Obama's money advantage was a key factor, one has to ask why he was so successful at fund raising. That is, his cash advantage depended on other factors.
Second, I would argue that another crucial factor needs to be added as #14, namely Obama's personality including his interpersonal and communication skills. His sense of humility, which comes through even when he is on an ego trip, is also important. We saw his personality and style on display again in his recent interview for 60 Minutes. We see it in his choice of Lincoln as his political hero & model.
In any event, thank you for your analysis. It makes an excellent jumping off point for further reflection.


Does anyone care to comment on the National Exit Poll returning 2004 voter mix anomalies?

Obama must have done much better than the official recorded 10 million vote margin.

Consider two scenarios of returning 2004 voters:
Scenario 1: Assume the 2004 recorded vote was correct (Bush 50.7-Kerry 48.3%)

Scenario 2: Assume the 2004 unadjusted exit poll (WPE method) was the True Vote(Kerry 52.0-Bush 47.0)



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