Guest Post by Matthew Owen
If you’re sick of hearing the daily onslaught from the TV bobble heads and verbose radio commentators of the latest presidential tracking polls “Romney surging in Rasmussen Report poll” or “Obama gains back ground in CNN poll”, I hate to tell you but it’s all noise. The presidential election is not a national popular election (just ask Al Gore), but rather 50 separate super-charged state races. However instead of voting for governor, each state is voting for President of the United States. In nearly all 50 states, the state’s elector votes are awarded on a winner-take-all basis to the candidate who wins the most votes in each state.
The presidential race is a game, and much like poker, chess or Monopoly, it has its own distinct rules. Our founding fathers set up the Electoral College for each state to have electoral votes based upon their number of Congressional members plus their two United States Senators. This way the lower populated states would have a minimum of three electoral votes. Today we have 538 electors, based on the total voting membership of the United States Congress (435 House of Representatives and 100 Senators) plus three electors from the District of Columbia. Hence we always hear about the magic 270 number to win President (538/2 + 1).
Barring some voter turn-out debacle or miracle, 41 states are already decided. California and their 55 electoral votes are going blue (Democrat) and Texas and their 38 electoral votes are going red (Republican). This leaves nine states, of which five (North Carolina leaning Romney; Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Iowa and Nevada all leaning Obama) are trending one direction or the other. So it doesn’t really matter what national tracking polls show. The 2012 presidential election will come down to four states: Florida, Virginia, Ohio and Colorado.
Nate Silver is now one of the most hated people in America by Fox News and AM Talk Radio because he is predicting a President Obama reelection victory. In defense, Silver is a statistician who started off as a baseball stat geek who created the PETCOA (Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm) system for evaluating baseball players. He now writes the “538 Blog” for the New York Times. In 2008 he correctly predicted the winner in 49 of 50 states for the presidential election and all 35 U.S. Senate races. In 2010 he correctly predicted the Republicans taking control of the House of Representatives. He is a non-partisan math genius who follows trends and numbers, and unlike certain aspects of our media, he doesn’t have a propaganda agenda.
Silver is predicting an Obama victory simply because the President has a higher percentage chance of winning the Electoral College (270+ votes) with a lead in more of the battleground swing states (see above). Mitt Romney would have to run the table, winning 4 out of the 4 remaining swing states to get 270+ Electoral College votes. The odds of that happening are slim. Possible, but slim.
To put this in a baseball analogy, would you rather be the San Francisco Giants having a 1-run lead in the bottom of the 10th of the World Series or the Detroit Tigers coming up to bat in the bottom of the inning? Statistically speaking, which team has a higher chance of winning?
Another thought to keep in mind is that as a presidential candidate you have to take your home state. Even when George McGovern (D-South Dakota, 1972) and Walter Mondale (D-Minnesota, 1984) lost the Electoral College state races 49-1, they at least took their respective home states. This year Mitt Romney will lose Massachusetts and Paul Ryan, his Vice President running mate will most likely lose Wisconsin.
Election Day is the one day that each one of us has the same power in this country. Whether you are white or black, young or old, rich or poor, we all have one vote on Election Day. Please exercise your privilege as a United States citizen and vote on Election Day (if you haven’t voted early already).