Wednesday, August 18, 2004


Both candidates have what it takes to figure out the Electoral College formula

(A gratitude of thanks to Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections for the following information. By the way, the map above has Bush states in blue and Gore states in red. Until 2000, Republican states have historically been colored blue and Democratic states colored red)

The Galvin Opinion takes an in depth look at the states that will choose their electors for president and how voter turnout is essential in winning the presidential election.

The Democrats have the electoral college math on their side. There are 20 states plus the District of Columbia that have voted for the Democratic nominees in each of the last 3 general elections (1992, 1996 & 2000). They now account for 260 electoral votes. A total of 270 electoral votes are needed to win the presidency. If those 20 states and Washington, D.C. stay in the Democrats column (and they most likely will) then John Kerry only needs to pick up 10 electoral votes to become president. Kerry and the Democrats have an excellent electoral base to work with.

President Bush has to fight harder to win the Electoral College. There are 16 states that have voted Republican in each of the last 3 presidential elections. However, they only account for 135 electoral votes. In order to win the electoral college without breaking the Democratic strongholds, President Bush has to find another 135 electoral votes among the various 14 states that have swung to both the Republicans and Democrats in the last 3 elections.

The 14 swing states are similar but different in subtle ways. There are 2 swing states comprising 37 electoral votes that voted for President George H. W. Bush in 1992, President Clinton in 1996 and Bush in 2000. There are 9 states comprising 79 electoral votes that voted for Clinton twice but for Bush in 2000. There are 3 swing states comprising 27 electoral votes that voted for Clinton in 1992 but for Bob Dole in 1996 and Bush in 2000.

Here is a chart showing how states have voted in 1992, 1996 and 2000 for the 5 men that ran for president in those elections - current electoral votes are in parentheses...

CLINTON 1992, CLINTON 1996, GORE 2000
California (55), Connecticut (7), Delaware (3), District of Columbia (3), Hawaii (4), Illinois (21), Iowa (7), Maine (4), Maryland (10), Massachusetts (12), Michigan (17), Minnesota (10), New Jersey (15), New Mexico (5), New York (31), Oregon (7), Pennsylvania (21), Rhode Island (4), Vermont (3), Washington (11) and Wisconsin (10). (20 states plus Washington, D.C., 260 electoral votes)

CLINTON 1992, DOLE 1996, GORE 2000

BUSH 1992, DOLE 1996, GORE 2000

BUSH 1992, CLINTON 1996, GORE 2000

BUSH 1992, DOLE 1996, BUSH 2000
Alabama (9), Alaska (3), Indiana (11), Idaho (4), Kansas (6), Mississippi (6), Nebraska (5), North Carolina (15), North Dakota (3), Oklahoma (7), South Carolina (8), South Dakota (3), Texas (34), Utah (5), Virginia (13) and Wyoming (3). (16 states, 135 electoral votes)

BUSH 1992, CLINTON 1996, BUSH 2000
Arizona (10) and Florida (27). (2 states, 37 electoral votes)

CLINTON 1992, CLINTON 1996, BUSH 2000
Arkansas (6), Kentucky (8), Louisiana (9), Missouri (11), Nevada (5), New Hampshire (4), Ohio (20), Tennessee (11) and West Virginia (5). (9 states, 79 electoral votes)

CLINTON 1992, DOLE 1996, BUSH 2000
Colorado (9), Georgia (15) and Montana (3). (3 states, 27 electoral votes)

In the 2000 election, no swing states went to Al Gore. In fact, Gore lost 9 states that voted twice for Clinton. However, Kerry inherits the 20 states plus Washington, D.C. that make up a very strong base of 260 electoral votes.

One question is whether or not Kerry can hold on to some of his "base" states that are considered tossups in 2004 - Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Oregon. Another question is whether or not Bush can hold on to the swing states that he won in the 2000 election.

The answers to both of those questions may lie in one word - turnout.

While George W. Bush won the electoral college, Al Gore won the popular vote. Although the margin was narrow, an incumbent president is in a weak political position if he won the electoral college but lost the popular vote. Only a handful of presidents have won the office in that manner and none of them were reelected.

Gore 48.38%
Bush 47.87%

Gore 51,003,926
Bush 50,460,110

Those numbers do not come as a surprise to those who closely and even remotely follow the political process and our elections. However, further inspection of those numbers result in an interesting revelation. Al Gore was helped in the popular vote by virtue of the fact that the states he won saw a higher voter turnout than the states that Bush won.

Total voting age population of states that Gore and Bush won
Gore's states 94,604,542
Bush's states 98,772,433

Total voter turnout of states that Gore and Bush won
Gore's states 54,278,352
Bush's states 51,138,906

It is remarkable that while the states Bush won were more populous, there were more votes cast in the states that Gore won. Gore was helped dramatically, in the popular vote total, by virtue of voter turnout. Bush was dragged down the lower voter turnout in the states that he won.

Percentage of voter turnout in states that Gore and Bush won
Gore 57.37%
Bush 51.77%
National 54.5%

There is an incredible difference of 5.6% voter turnout between the "red states" and "blue states." The gap between voter turnout percentages definitely lifted Gore over Bush in terms of the popular vote.

Some may argue that Gore's margin of victory in his states was higher than the margin of victory that Bush garnered in the states that he won. However, the margins of victory in "red states" and "blue states" are fascinating.

Blue states (Gore states)
Gore 53.73%
Bush 41.79%

Red states (Bush states)
Gore 42.71%
Bush 54.32%

The numbers are fascinating because Bush and Gore enjoyed nearly identical margins of victory in the states that they won. This is another example of how higher turnout in Gore states (and/or lower turnout in Bush states) were the deciding factor in the 2000 election's popular vote.

If the Bush states had the same percentage of voter turnout that the Gore states did (57.37%), the final popular vote would have looked like this...

Gore 53,363,899
Bush 53,463,209

Therefore, if the turnout percentages were the same, Bush would have beaten Gore in the popular vote. Not only that but Bush's popular votes margin of victory would have been even closer than what Gore's was in 2000. Gore won by about 500,000 votes, Bush would have won by less than 100,000 votes - 99,310 to be exact!

If the Gore states had the same percentage of voter turnout that the Bush states did (51.77%), the final popular vote would have looked like this...

Gore 48,157,185
Bush 48,245,125

Once again, Bush would have won the popular vote. If the national turnout was only 51.77%, the margin of victory would only be 87,940 votes.

There is plenty of information to hearten supporters of both John Kerry and President Bush. The Democrats have a strong foundation with which to work on winning the electoral college. If they feel confident in maintaining their core 260 electoral votes, they can be able to challenge Bush in the other swing states that he won in 2000. However, the Bush campaign should see that they have a lot of room to grow and expand their support. If the Bush team is able to increase voter turnout in key states then they will be able to match the Democrats relatively high turnout in the last election. The big unknown is whether or not these electoral college votes and voter percentage turnouts are the floors and ceilings of potential for both parties.

We will find out all of the answers in November!

Add THE GALVIN OPINION to your Favorites

Add THE GALVIN OPINION to your blogroll


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?