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.