Politics and Public Opinion, Elections

Romney 338, Obama 200?

Barone Theory Electoral College

Map created using Neil Stevens's "Swingometer"

A few weeks ago, I posted a somewhat controversial electoral prediction: Romney 322, Obama 216. For those who don’t want to click through and read the whole piece, here’s the key point and map:

In 2010, the popular vote for the House was 52% to 45% Republican. Compared to 2008, Democrats lost eight points and Republicans gained six, for a combined “swing” of 14 points. So if we want to get a good prediction of what the electoral college map will look like in 2012, we just need to shift each individual state’s vote by about 14 points.

Here’s what the map looks like with a 14-point swing from 2008 (light red states are those that flipped from D to R):

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “What are you, crazy?”

Well, probably. But I’m not the only one. I based that 14-point pro-GOP swing on an electoral theory by none other than Michael Barone—the guy who literally wrote the book on American politics.

Here’s Barone explaining his theory back in 2011:

The Democratic percentage of the vote for president and for the House of Representatives have differed by no more than 1 percent starting in 1996.

In addition, the percentages for the two parties in the popular vote for the House in the last three off-year elections have been almost exactly the same as the percentages for the parties in the vote for president two years later.

Well, it’s been almost a year since that article and yesterday, Barone reexamined his theory with some current poll data:

… in the last three presidential elections, the winning candidate has won a percentage of the popular vote identical to or within 1% of the percentage of the popular vote for the House of Representatives in the election held two years before.

To gauge where the race is now in the various states I have prepared the following table. It lists the 16 states where Obama’s 2008 percentage was between 49% and 57%, ranked by Obama percentage. I have added Arizona, which the Obama campaign has reportedly been considering targeting…

The “Obama % 12″ number is based on current polling data. Barone points out four key takeaways from these numbers.

1) Obama’s current percentage is closer to the 2010 Democratic numbers than his own 2008 numbers in almost all these states.

2) Obama is only at or above 50% in four of these states in current polls.

3) Indiana, Missouri, and Arizona (32 EVs) are all out of Obama’s reach.

4) 11 of these 17 states are in play, i.e. it’s possible right now to imagine either candidate capturing them. They combine for 146 electoral votes. (Although Obama is weaker in the other 6 than his 2008 result, he has a comfortable lead over Mitt Romney in current polls). If Romney were to take all 11, he’d actually surpass the map I created above and win a massive electoral victory 338 to 200. Here’s Barone on the likelihood of that happening (emphasis mine):

Republicans won the popular vote for the House in 2010 in every one of these states, and Obama is at the 50% mark in only one, Nevada. Perhaps more important, Obama’s current poll numbers in each one but Florida is closer to or equally far from the Democrats’ 2010 percentage in the House vote than Obama’s 2008 percentage. Although one suspects that the two candidates will split some of these 11 states, it’s possible to imagine Romney—or Obama—carrying every one of them.

So, the GOP won each of those 11 states in 2010 and the current incumbent only manages a 50% approval rating in one of them? In 2008, he captured 50% or more in all but two! I’m starting to wonder if my prediction wasn’t so controversial after all. Granted, as Barone says, it’s logical to assume that the candidates will split some of these states. But if the European economy blows up, I’d say Obama can kiss all of them—and the election—goodbye.

Henrik Temp is the deputy editor of AEI’s Enterprise Blog. You can follow him on Twitter @HenrikTemp.

2 thoughts on “Romney 338, Obama 200?

  1. You know of course that you are very likely insane. Obama will take Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Nevada, Colorado, & New Hampshire. At that point he only needs to take one more that as he would have 265 votes. Romney could run the tables but he would have to take all four remaining questionable states of Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, and Ohio. He could do it, but it will be very close. It’s a long way from the election, but at this point Ohio is a tossup, Carolina is barely leaning towards Romney, Florida leans towards Obama and perhaps most significantly Virginia remains week after week pro-Obama by anywhere from 3-6 percentage points. Romney could win, but your numbers are absurd.

  2. Oregon should be added to this list. Obama is polling below 50 and the Dem House vote was 51. It also nearly went to Bush twice.

    @Gary – the Obama campaign is putting relatively little money into Florida and the polls show North Carolina will be as steep a climb as Missouri or Arizona. They know that neither of these states will go their way unless they are already winning by a solid margin. OH and VA are battlegrounds, but so are WI and MI which aren’t even included in Barone’s analysis. If the race is close then Obama will have to thread the needle as much as Romney. But fundamentals suggest it won’t be close.

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