Friday, November 07, 2008

Was It Worth It?

That's what Helen Jones-Kelley must be asking herself.

The director of the Department of Jobs and Family Services and Obama campaign contributor came into the news when she admitted she approved the background checks on Joe the Plumber.

She has now been suspended for possibly using a state computer and e-mail account for political fund raising.

UPDATE: The Dispatch has now obtained the emails in question.

The state e-mails show that Jones-Kelley provided the Obama campaign with the names of 17 potential Dayton-area contributors ahead of the candidate's July 11 appearance there.

On July 8, the director offered to write a $2,500 check to the campaign to join Obama at his appearance, volunteered to contact would-be contributors and offered to help arrange an event for Obama's wife, Michelle.

At least one of the potential donors identified by Jones-Kelley contributed $9,600 to the Obama Victory Fund and Obama for America on July 31, according to Federal Election Commission records. Jones-Kelley also gave $2,500.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Ohio Election Post Mortem

Twenty four hours after the Ohio polls closed, with 98.76% of the precincts reporting, a clear picture of the 2008 election is beginning to emerge. And reality is going to go against the conventional wisdom on a number of fronts.

Ohio had record turnout in 2008. FALSE.
Ohio had a turnout of 71.59% in 2004. In 2008, turnout was a little over 65%. To put this in perspective, Bush/Gore in 2000 had a turnout of 63.6% and Clinton/Dole in 1996 had 67.8%.

Ohio had a record number of votes cast in 2008. FALSE.
There were almost 400,000 fewer votes cast in 2008 compared to 2004. Ohio had 5.6M votes cast in 2004 compared to 5.2M this year.

Residents in Democratic counties were motivated and had a turnout similar to the Republican counties. FALSE.
Turnout in Democratic counties was 62.9% vs. 67% in Republican counties for a gap of 4.1%. This was even worse than the 3.4% gap in 2004.

Obama won Ohio thanks to his large margins in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincy, and the other big cities. FALSE.
Obama expanded his victory margin in the Democratic counties from 38.5% - 61% in 2004 to 36% - 62.6% this year. This was offset, however, by the larger turnout gap described above, especially in Cleveland where turnout was only 58%. These two factors essentially canceled each other out. In the end, Obama's performance in the Democratic counties ran within 10,000 votes of my projections he needed to tie Ohio, not to win it.

McCain's GOTV effort was outperforming Bush's in 2004 in the last week of the campaign. FALSE.
Despite an additional 165,000 registered voters in Republican counties, 100,000 less votes were cast in these counties. Turnout dropped from 72.2% to 67% in these counties. McCain's margin of victory in these counties dropped from Bush's 21% to 14%. In the end, this lower turnout combined with the smaller margin of victory in Republican counties cost McCain 200,000 votes. This essentially was the margin of Obama's victory.

Obama won Ohio in the Republican counties. TRUE.
This was absolutely the case and was one of the keys to the election I noted on Sunday.
Rural Counties – This is where the election will be won. More than have of the new registered voters came from Republican counties. If we start to see Obama really closing the gap on Bush's margin of victory in 2004 in the rural counties, this election is over. This basically means Obama went into the heart of Republican counties and got new voters. If you don't see Obama making inroads here, the election is going to be very tight.
In the end, lower turnout and a smaller margin of victory in these counties combined to cost McCain the election. McCain had a very small margin of error in these counties and in the end, he couldn't duplicate the results of 2004 and it cost him the election.

A summary spreadsheet of all of this analysis is here.

UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt points out a similar observation that Obama basically ran even in the traditionally Democratic counties.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Real Time Ohio Election Results & Projections

This post will contain real-time election results for the 2008 Ohio presidential election as well as my projections for the final result.

7:35 - awaiting results from Ohio Sec of State...
7:56 - still waiting...
9:00 - still nothing from Cleveland, Columbus, or Cincy... McCain holding in rural areas.
9:19 - Fox just called Ohio for Obama. Interesting..
9:46 - Yep, Obama vote really developing now. Sandusky county went for Bush now went to Obama, other counties w/ similar trends
10:30 - McCain underperforming in all completed Republican counties. Minimal reporting from Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincy.
11:25 - Calling it a night. Will update final info in the next day or and take a larger look.

Wed 9:20 - Final analysis published.

Full County Projection Method: Projected Obama Victory / (Defeat) Margin

Partial County Projection Method: Projected Results

Got questions, read the FAQ.

Here is a link to the detailed Ohio Election Projection Spreadsheet which will be updated in real-time as the Ohio Secretary of State releases results. It provides the projected results as well as detailed comparisons to the 2004 election.

Ohio Early Voting Results

The Cleveland Plain Dealer is reporting that 25% of registered voters in northeastern Ohio have already voted early.

The Columbus Dispatch is estimating that the early votes have gone to Obama by a 56% - 42% margin.

With a little over 8 million registered voters, that would mean around 2 million Ohioans have already voted and have give Obama a lead of around 280,000 votes before the polls opened today.

If turnout runs around 75%, there will be about 4 million votes cast today. That would mean McCain has to win today by a 53% - 46% margin across the entire state.

I'll be updating the Ohio Voting Results projecting the final vote totals this evening as they come in.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Ohio Voter FAQ

What is the basis of your projections?

My projections are based on past turnout and margin of victory trends for each of Ohio's 88 counties. The Cleveland Plan dealer has an excellent overview at which illustrates quite well how the individual counties in Ohio trend. The accompanying article at is also a very good rundown of the Ohio counties and their trends. I don't buy into their bellwether counties however.

I use similar data from the Ohio Secretary of State website to build customized targets for each county. Then, if McCain or Obama outperform their targets, they start to gain an advantage.

What's the difference between Full and Partial county projections?

The Full County projection doesn't give McCain or Obama an advantage for a county until 100% of the precincts for that county are reported. This provides a much better basis for determining whether or not McCain or Obama is outperforming their target for a county. Full County projections are slower to develop but should be more stable. The Full County projections predicts the net number of votes Obama will win or lost Ohio by.

The Partial County projection doesn't wait until 100% of the precincts for a county are reported to give McCain or Obama an advantage. It uses a combination of past performance and the actual results of reporting precincts to project a vote total for each candidate. This projection assumes all precincts in a county behave the same and this is not correct. For this reason, it will develop quickly but can have a lot more variance. Obviously as more precincts report, the stability increases. It starts out assuming Ohio is a tie until either McCain or Obama begin to outperform their targets and then adjusts their totals accordingly. Absentee ballots may also cause these results to swing.

How the heck can McCain be leading in the raw vote totals and Obama be projected as having a winning margin, or vice-versa?

Go back and look at the Cleveland Plain Dealer link in question #1. There are counties where McCain must win big to have a chance at winning Ohio. It's possible for him to win these counties, but still not win them by enough, and then when the Obama county results come in, Obama will probably take the lead. The same is possible for Obama, although in 2004, the rural county results (which favor McCain) came in quicker than the urban counties (which favor Obama).

What assumptions did you build into your projection model?

I developed my projection model so that it at the start, it projects Ohio to end up in a tie. Then, as results come in and McCain or Obama outperform the model, it projects them to win Ohio. I started the projection using the individual turnout and margin victory ratios for each of Ohio's 88 counties.

Turnout in Democratic counties has traditionally lagged Republican counties but I adjusted it up in my model to the same level as seen in Republican counties. My model assumes a turnout ratio of 72.3% in all counties, which is higher than 2004's turnout of 70.5% but lower than Ohio Secretary of States estimate of "up to 80%." If actual turnout is lower in Democratic counties compared to Republican counties, my model will over forecast Democratic strength until more results come in. This only amounted to 25,000 votes so it won't make much of difference and will self correct as actuals come in anyway.

After I adjusted for increased turnout in Democratic counties, I then reduced Bush's 2004 margin of victory (or increased Kerry's) by 0.85% in each county. At that point, Ohio became a tie. What this means if McCain has to be within 0.85% of Bush's margin of victory in each county to win Ohio. If Obama eats into it more than that, he will win.

How will early and absentee voting impact the projections?

This is the big question mark and why the partial county projections could have large swings. The Columbus Dispatch has early and absentee voting going to Obama 56% - 42%. Estimates are that 20% - 30% of the votes were cast early, so these votes will have an impact on the results.

The county election boards will not be counting the early and absentee ballots in a consistent manner. Some of them will count them first, and then begin reporting other precinct results. Other counties will report the precincts first, and then include the early and absentee ballots at the end. This could cause Obama to take large leads in early results, or it could give McCain a large early lead that he will have to defend as the absentee votes are counted. The problem is, it will be tough to tell whether the absentee votes will be counted first or last for each of the counties. This is why the full county projections may be more stable and telling.

Can't you just project at a precinct level instead.

I could, but there are over 11,000 precincts in Ohio and it would be a nightmare. Besides the same problem with absentee ballots still exist. Also, I can't remember if the Ohio Secretary of State publishes results at a precinct level in real-time.

What impact will provisional ballots have?

Provisional ballots have tracked traditional ballots to within 0.1% of a percent. They should not come into play and my methodology does not do anything special for them.

Why do you have the Full County projections based on Obama's margin of victory/defeat instead of McCain's?

The graph came up with a blue bar and I couldn't figure out how to change it's color. Blame Google Docs.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Keys to the Ohio Election

I'll be focusing on setting up things to project the results for the Ohio election over the next day but wanted to post a couple of quick thoughts on the Ohio election and results.

If the polls prove out, it could be a very quick night. If not, watch for these items.

  1. Turnout – Turnout will be higher in Democratic counties from a percentage perspective. This won't be that big of a deal. Turnout was lower in Democratic counties than Republican counties in 2004 but this was driven by a lot of invalid voter registrations that have since been purged. That means the same number of voters could turn out and it would still result in a higher percentage turnout. Even bringing the turnout up the the level's seen in Republican counties only nets Obama 25,000 votes. This isn't where the election will be won.

  1. Rural Counties – This is where the election will be won. More than have of the new registered voters came from Republican counties. If we start to see Obama really closing the gap on Bush's margin of victory in 2004 in the rural counties, this election is over. This basically means Obama went into the heart of Republican counties and got new voters. If you don't see Obama making inroads here, the election is going to be very tight.

  2. Provisional Ballots – If Obama's team is talking about provisional ballots, that's a good sign for McCain. Provisional ballots mimicked traditional ballots within 0.1% in 2004. If either side wants to win the election by counting on provisional ballots, it's over.

  3. Absentee ballots and early voting – In the past, absentee ballots also mimicked the general election results. This was the first year where early voting was encouraged and the Democrats focused on it extremely hard. This is the big unknown this year and we will have to watch.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

McCain's Army Unleashed

The ground war has begun. And in full force it appears. The robocalls have been going for quite a while but now but this weekend has brought calls from local McCain supporters combined with a visit to the house as well.

Unseasonably warm 80 degree weather in November will only help the foot soldiers.

Biden In Town? Yawn!

Joe Biden wasn't exactly packing them in during his tour of midwest Ohio yesterday.

The Lima News reports on the "crowd of hundreds"...
A crowd of several hundred people slow to warm in a chilly Lima Senior High School roared into gear this evening for Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden.
The Dayton Daily News notes a half-filled high school gym...
Biden drew a crowd of about 1,600 to the arena, which seats 3,600 and can hold 4,500 if people are standing on the floor. The crowd was much smaller than a Monday event at the arena with McCain, which drew an estimated 3,600.
Biden would have had bigger crowds if he'd have crashed the football fields hosting the first round of Ohio's high school playoffs.

The Polls Must Be Tightening: R Word Is Coming Up Again

The polls must be tightening, after a several week absence, the "R" word is starting to show up again:

The only way all these polls could be that far off is if people are lying in numbers never before seen in American politics.

Why would they do that?

You tell me it has nothing to do with race. I'll laugh. What else could it possibly be?

Oh brother!