December 23, 2010

Coming to Our Census

Hatched by Dafydd

I've been toying with the reapportionment numbers triggered by the 2010 Census, and it's rather interesting. (Well, interesting to math folks.)

My first curiosity was how the current reapportionment (and the 2000 one) would have altered the 2000 election. In that contest between George W. Bush and Al "Lawfare" Gore, Bush prevailed by an electoral score of 271 to Gore's 266. (In 2000, one of D.C.'s three electors abstained instead of voting for Gore, who won the District; thus Gore only got 266 votes instead of the 267 he actually earned.)

But following the two reapportionments -- that is, adjusting the states won by each party according to the newest electoral-vote count for each state -- the result in 2012 would be 285 for the Republican and 253 for the Democrat; in other words, Gore could have won up to 15 more electoral votes than he did, one or two (or three or four!) extra states, yet still have lost by a clear majority of electoral votes, 270 to 268... that's how much strength the Republicans have gained since 2000 by population growth and shifting alone.

Side issue: I just read a risible article on titled Census Won't Help GOP in 2012 Presidential Race, the take-home of which is this:

Any gains that flow to Republicans in Congress because of redistricting after the 2010 census are not likely to carry over to the 2012 presidential race, The New York Times FiveThirtyEight political blog reports. President Barack Obama, for example, would have won the White House in 2010 even if the electoral college then had looked like it will in 2012.

In fact, FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver writes, “the outcome of every presidential election in the past century would have been the same had the new numbers been used.”

This has to be one of the stupidest articles ever written. What the headline writer actually meant was not that reapportionment "won't help GOP in 2012," but rather than reapportionment has never been determinative... which is trivially true, as it's rare that the electoral college vote is so close that a swing of fifteen electoral votes (EVs) would switch it; and in the 2000 election -- when it was that close and even closer -- the winning party is also the party that saw electoral improvement due to reapportionment.

But consider: If any small states (adding up to 15 or fewer EVs) on Bush's side had fallen to Gore, then Algore would have won the electoral vote by 269 to 268 or better. And if that had happened, then had 2011's electoral numbers been in effect, they would indeed have reversed the outcome. So it's not only possible that reapportionment could make the difference, it could have done so in an election we all vividly remember!

In the 2008 election, Barack H. Obama won a lot more states than did Al Gore -- 28 states (not counting the one Nebraska electoral vote that went to Obama), eight more than Gore; and of course, several of those states were very significant: Virginia (13 EVs), North Carolina (15), Ohio (20), and the whopper, Florida (27). This propelled the Democrat to a resounding victory of 365 to 173.

But with the 2010 shift, those same states would have given Obama an electoral-college count of only 359 to 179, making it a little easier for the Republican to make up the difference in 2012.

The states that flipped between the razor-close 2000 election and the substantial Democrat victory of 2008 were:

  • Colorado - 9
  • Florida - 27
  • Indiana - 11
  • One electoral vote from Nebraska - 1
  • Nevada - 5
  • New Hampshire - 4
  • North Carolina - 15
  • Ohio - 20
  • Virginia - 13

The six (out of nine) states depicted above in bold italics enjoyed major Republican gains in the 2010 election, making them very strong candidates for flipping back to the Republicans in the 2012 presidential election. As you can see, those states would yield an electoral GOP pickup of 84 electoral votes, based upon their EVs in 2010; when we add in the changes from the 2010 reapportionment, that EV switch drops to 83: Florida gains two seats, but Ohio loses two, for a wash; then Nevada -- which I assume doesn't switch and stays with Obama -- gains one. If these six states actually switch back to the Republicans in 2012, that would make the total 275 (Dem) to 263 (Rep).

This still leaves the GOP slightly short; but flipping just seven electoral votes would bring victory to Republicans and defeat to Obamunism. For example, flipping any one of the states of Iowa, North Carolina, or Pennsylvania would do it, three states that Obama won (relatively) narrowly.

So perhaps that's the GOP game plan: Focus on the states that flipped from R to D between 2000 and 2008 and go after those that seemed to be returning to the fold in the 2010 mid-terms; then try to pick off at least one other state whose devotion to Obama looked a little weak in 2008.

That scenario also implies that a victory over Obama in 2012 is likely to be pretty thin... which not only means the reapportionment is likelier to be determinative but also raises the specter of the Hewitt Hypothesis Corollary: If it is close, they can cheat.

Unless of course the electorate has soured even more on Barack H. Obama and Obamunism two years from now than they did in the elections this November, in which case a myriad of viable routes to Republican victory present themselves. But that happy thought requires, I believe, at least one of three extraordinary circumstances:

  • Obama manages to economically infuriate voters even further -- perhaps by vetoing many attempts by the GOP to improve the economy, followed by an anemic rise in employment (or even a further drop), so that Obama takes the blame for it.
  • We suffer a huge terrorist attack that the American people blame on Obama's feckless national-security policy.
  • Or a hitherto unknown Republican presidential candidate rises who truly captures the imagination of the voters; not another Ronald Reagan, who would already be known right now, but perhaps a Republican version of Obama -- though with more and better substance, one hopes!

Naturally, none of these three is predictable or reliable; and if the last is to occur, it must begin within the first couple of quarters of calendar 2011. At this point, I would put my money on a very close presidential election in 2012... with the result unknown right down to the wire, and in which we'll be very glad for those extra few EVs from reapportionment.

And rampant Democratic cheating, of course. Keep watching the skies.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 23, 2010, at the time of 1:13 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Captain Ned

Don't forget that if the Goreacle had managed to win his "home" state of Tennessee, we would not be talking about this.

The above hissed in response by: Captain Ned [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 23, 2010 2:48 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

Captain Ned:

Don't forget that if the Goreacle had managed to win his "home" state of Tennessee, we would not be talking about this.

If Gore had won Tennessee, the Democrat would have prevailed in 2000 by 277 to 260 (TN has 11 EVs then and now). But if Barack H. Obama won the exact same states as Gore, then also won Tennessee, he would nevertheless lose reelection by 264 to 274 for the GOP nominee.

In 2000, those states would have won the presidency; in 2012, the identical states would lose the presidency.

So much for the risible Newsmax article!


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 23, 2010 4:25 PM

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