Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Obama and McCain Can Both Win Big

I just did a little electoral college exercise. Using excel, I checked whether it is possible that Barack Obama will win a majority of the popular vote, with a margin of a few million, and still lose the electoral vote by a large margin. Based on results from 2004 and some basic knowledge of the political leanings of the different states, I wrote down a possible scenario for popular vote results in every state and counted how many electoral votes each candidate would win.

According to my made up, yet not all that implausible, election returns, John McCain wins the presidency with 379 electoral votes, compared with 159 for Barack Obama. That's a 220 vote difference, despite the fact that Obama won the popular vote by more than 4 million votes and 3 percentage points (65 million to 61 million, and 51.15% to 47.98%).

This is in no way a prediction. It would be extremely stupid to actually guess what the election results would be in every state, especially the exact number of votes. Think of it as a quantitative political science experiment. I'm sure the actual results in November will be much less extreme.

Here is the data and number of votes I gave each candidate in each state, so you can decide for yourself whether or not my results make any sense. By the way, I decided to split Maine and Nebraska's electoral votes between the candidates, 3-1 and 3-2.

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