I normally do analysis here of the mobile industry, digital
tech and social media. But I have a passion for the US politics (totally just
as observer, I am a Finn so I can't vote) and am quite puzzled now, in the US
election aftermath of 2012, in why and how the numbers and facts seem to be
actively ignored. Its not like its a secret - there is a wealth of data on what
happened, from the election results, votes, and the Exit Polls. And because
some of the 'obvious' reasons why Romney lost - and why President Obama
obviously won re-election - are being ignored, and some wild theories are now
being suggested as to why it happened, I do want to put my analytical thinking
to this matter. What do we learn from the numbers. What do the facts tell us.
We know Romney lost, but why, where and how. Could it have been avoided and if
so, how. Join me in some numbers-oriented hunting and analysis. Also - warning to my regular readers, there is no tech/mobile/media story here, this is purely about hte US elections and I promise, I will stop with Romney-Obama and get back to our normal topics). Oh, and get yourself a cup of coffee, this article runs over 9,000 words, it will take you about 15-20 minutes to read. But if you want to see the real mathematical analysis of what decided the election of 2012, based on the election results and exit polls - it was not Hurricane Sandy, it was not the 47%, it was not Obama's turn-out machine. Follow me after the jump to read all the analysis how 2012 was won and lost. The Myths, Misconceptions, Math and Mistakes of this election cycle.
SHORT US ELECTION OVERVIEW
So, once again, a quick overview, very quick. US elections tend to be reasonably close. The country tends to find most elections close to 50/50, the main elected national bodies tend to be relatively even over time, the Presidency swings pretty regularly on a 2 year cycle, the Senate and Congress are divided roughly in half and either side might win some seats for a modest majority for a short period of time. There are 50 states and the District of Colombia that decide the election, roughly 40 states and DC tend to be well 'decided' and remain with their party usually for decades, there are roughly some 10 states that are 'swing states' that might then be decisive from one year to the next, for example Ohio, which often is the tipping point in the election.
This year 23 states were 'red' reliably Republican, by all pre-election polls safely in the camp to vote for Romney, and 18 states plus DC, that were reliably 'blue' ie would vote Democratic, and be safe for Obama. These were so well known, neither party ran any major advertising campaigns in most of those states, and didn't do major campaigning in those 41 states. There were 9 so-called 'battleground states' Colorado, Iowa, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin - where the real election action happened this year. Yes, at the end, Romney made a desperate push to try to fight for Pennsylvania, but that was utterly hopeless and Obama didn't even bother to go campaign there to defend Pennsylvania. They knew it was not 'in play'.
So there were 9 states that would decide the election. There were also pre-election polls that suggested how tight those races might be. North Carolina was slighly but consistently trending towards Romney in most polls out of that state. Obama team decided not to make a serious play for North Carolina, spending only small amounts on TV advertising there, and with President Obama not doing even one live campaign event in the state in the last two months of the campaign, after the Conventions. Romney knew it was going to be won by them, and saw Obama deserting the state, so Romney's campaign team even moved some of its assets out of the state by early October. So while yes, it was a 'battleground state' - for all practical purposes, Obama had abandoned hope of winning it.
The polls for North Carolina were close, however, and there were the occasional surprise poll that had the race even slightly in Obama's favor. The polls for Nevada were never that. They did not suggest any chance for Romney. Nevada did go quite early and strongly for Obama in the election and Team Romney did pretty much quit trying to fight for the state early. There was Iowa, Wisconsin and New Hampshire, where both sides did engage and campaign, but all pre-election polls were quite brutal about Romney's chances and towards the end, he pulled out of Wisconsin, even as his Vice Presidential pick, Paul Ryan, is from Wisconsin. They knew they could not win the state. And while Romney did campaign in New Hampshire till the last day, and poured a lot of money into TV advertising, that state also was a lost cause. So too was Iowa. All these states, Nevada, Wisconsin, Iowa and New Hampshire - were very reliably trending to Obama in the polling, and ended up with Obama winning them with better than 5% winning percentage. Yes, Romney and the Republicans fought for those states, but they were not realistically viable.
The real battle this year 2012 was four states, and four states only: Colorado, Florida, Ohio and Virginia. Both sides fought for those states heatedly, spent most of the candidate time in those four states, and by far the most of their TV ad spend was in those four states. That was for the victory. And this year, due to the make-up of the 'red states and blue states' with Obama coming off his huge victory in 2008, the reality was, that Romney would have to win all four of these states. If Obama was able to capture just one, he would be re-elected President. But also, that Obama did have to win (at least) one of these, else Romney would be President now.
That is how US elections work, and how it emerged this year. The campaigns knew by June of 2012, what were the nine states that were in play. They knew after the Conventions, what were the four states that would be decisive. It would not matter who would win Texas or New York (those were not in doubt), the decision was up to four states. So there were last Tuesday essentially five elections. There was, what amounted to a 'beauty contest' on who would win the popular vote in the other 46 states and District of Columbia. That would only be 'bragging rights' (President George Bush 2 did not win the popular vote in year 2000, Al Gore won that, but President Bush 2 won the required states, to become president - haha, with a little bit of help from the Supreme Court).
And there would be four distinct elections for the decision. One for the state of Virginia, one for the state of Ohio, one for the state of Colorado, and one for the state of Florida. If Romney could win all four of those separate elections, he would become President. If Obama won even one of those four, he would be re-elected. The real national popular vote count is irrelevant to the decision. This year, it came down to those four states. They have about 34 million people, and they cast about 20 million votes this year, out of 330 million total US population in all 50 states, and about 127 million total votes cast (they are still counting the last votes, we are past 125 million by now as I write this on Sunday). So about 16% of the actual voters who actually voted this year, got to decide the election for US President in 2012.
MYTH 1 - SANDY DID NOT DECIDE THIS ELECTION
Hurricane Sandy did come right before the election and disrupted the campaigning on both sides. Sandy did actually influence voter turnout in the heavily affected Atlantic states that were severely flooded like New York and New Jersey. But it didn't change the Presidential election in any state directly by influencing the turnout or preventing voters from either side from voting. No expected state changed its choice of President due to Sandy aftermath.
What about how President Obama was perceived as 'presidential' and the Chris Christie endorsement and how 'Romney momentum was stalled' etc. That sounds good, but lets now go to the numbers. There is first of all, a very glaring, obvious and attractive data point in the Exit Polls on this very issue. Voters were asked if President Obama's handling of Sandy was the most important factor in their vote - and 15% of the total electorate said yes - thats big - and out of those, 73% voted for Obama and only 26% for Romney. Obama's margin was 47 points, and out of 15% of total voters, it would mean that 7% of the total vote was due to how voters approved of Obama's handling of Sandy. To put it another way, the Exit Poll says, that for 8.8 million people, Sandy was the biggest reason - and those people voted for Obama. This, compared to his winning margin of under 4 million votes - suggests that obviously Sandy was what decided it for Obama and against Romney.
Now that has gotta be proof right there. Except that it isn't. This is out of all voters. So its perfectly possible, that someone who was already an Obama supporter, would have voted for Obama anyway, then saw the President act in the Sandy aftermath, and remembered President Bush 2 after Hurricane Katrina, and decided 'this is the most important thing'. But that it did not change the minds of the voters.
Now, that may sound like nit-picking, but lets explore if we can find some insights, from the Exit Poll. Hurricane Sandy hit one week before the election. How many voters had already made up their minds before Sandy appeared? The Exit Poll tells us the answer, it was 3% who decided on election day, and another 6% who decided in the last days before the election. Only 9% decided after Sandy had appeared and thus 91% of the voters could not have been persuaded to change their minds, after seeing President Obama deal with Sandy, and all the Chris Christie hugging etc. How did those 9% vote who decided in the last week? They went 50/45 for Obama, ie the margin was 5 points. That, out of all votes, when only 9% were available, means that the maximum effect of Hurricane Sandy, that could possibly help President Obama, was 0.45%. Less than half of one percent. Obama's winning margin was over 3%. No. Sandy did not decide the election of 2012. Yes, it no doubt influenced it, but there were many other things that also happened in the last days, from General Powell's endorsement of Obama (he is a registered Republican) to Romney's feud with Chrysler and GM about his misleading Jeep ad. The real effect of Sandy will have been less than that maximum of 0.45% in Obama's victory margin.
But Hurricane Sandy did disrupt the campaigning, and Chris Christie's kind words about President Obama were no doubt painful for the Republicans to hear so close to election day, so this hurts. But the math is clear, that did not decide the election. It was not even close. Yes, no doubt, there was an effect. But this did not decide it. Many do know this, and many do talk about it, that Sandy is a red herring, but let me now offer you a bombshell
MYTH 2 - ROMNEY DID NOT LOSE THE GROUND WAR WITH ORCA
This goes against all conventional wisdom. We all know - even I wrote about it on this blog - how powerful and effective, Obama's Get-Out-The-Vote ground game was, with their voter database called Narwhal and their nerdy data analysis team which so much outperformed the Romney team rival called Orca. We have seen some numbers and probably more will come out later. Clearly Obama's team was able to catch more voters directly than Romney's team, and Obama's team was able to talk to their supporters more times and were able to create astonishing successes in voter turnout. Yes. Nationally. Yes.
But this battle was not won on a national vote! This battle was won in four states. And Romney also had a turn-out effort. And both sides also had surrogates, like Democrats had the labor unions and Republicans had evangelical churches etc. The proof is in the pudding. This is the turnout success, by the latest numbers we have now, Sunday, 12 days after the election, based on the latest updated vote counts on Wikipedia for 2012 (some states are still counting including Ohio) and the full count from 2008 also via Wikipedia. Look at turnout:
TURNOUT 2012 VS 2008 IN 4 BATTLEGROUND STATES
State, Party . . . . . . . . . 2012 . . . . . . 2008 . . . . . . Change
Colorado Democrats . . 1.27M . . . . . 1.29M . . . . -1%
Colorado Republicans . 1.15M . . . . . 1.07M . . . . +7%
Florida Democrats . . . . 4.25M . . . . . 4.28M . . . . -1%
Florida Republicans . . . 4.16M . . . . . 4.05M . . . . +3%
Ohio Democrats* . . . . . 2.70M . . . . . 2.94M . . . . -8%
Ohio Republicans* . . . . 2.60M . . . . . 2.68M . . . . -3%
Virginia Democrats . . . 1.97M . . . . . 1.96M . . . . +1%
Virginia Republicans . . 1.82M . . . . . 1.73M . . . . +6%
* State of Ohio has not finished its vote count yet
Source: Wikipedia (retrieved 18 Nov)
You didn't expect that result? But the numbers don't lie. Obama's highly-praised GOTV effort with their data-mining Narwhal project, resulted in 'flat' turnout, no significant decline but no growth either (except Ohio, which likely will be very similar to the other three when the Ohio count is finished). Meanwhile Romney achieved a considerable jump between 3% and 7% actual increase in these states (except Ohio but that is likely to be also a jump when counting is finished).
While the Romney voter targeting system Orca crashed on election day, and they had no inputs from some states, etc, the actual GOTV effort in these four states, that decided the election, outperformed the highly-praised Obama GOTV effort by on average 5 percent! The margin in the election nationally was 3%. That was a heroic and highly successful effort by Romney, but - it ultimately failed, because it was 'just not enough'. Each of these four states obviously went to Obama. So Romney's team was able to energise 203,000 new Republican voters to show up in these four states, that McCain had failed to find, while Obama's team lost 296,000 voters now in 2012, out of these four states, that Obama had gotten to vote for them in 2008. In total. Romney's Get-Out-The-Vote effort in the four states that mattered, bested Obama's famous GOTV effort by half a million votes! And yet its called a failure?
How's that for some puzzling 'unconventional wisdom' for ya? Yes. Romney team's Get-Out-The-Vote 'ground game' did outperform - by a wide margin, 5% in the polls, half a million votes margin - where it counted, in those four battleground states. But it was 'just not good enough'. Romney still lost these four states by 450,000 votes in these four states. (Isn't math fun? I would love to see anyone else report on this, I mean the math is right there! Look at the numbers in that table!)
HOW THE WEST WAS WON - COLORADO
So lets see what won the four elections then. Lets start with Colorado. In Colorado 2.4 million votes were cast and Obama won by 123,000 for a victory margin of 4.9%. What decided it for Obama?
It wasn't the gender gap. Nationally, Obama had a female voting advantage of 9 points, a very deep gender gap. But in Colorado there was no gender gap at all - in favor of women. Actually Obama did better winning men than women. Surprising? This is what we learn, when we look at numbers.
Colorado was decided in the Latino vote, and on the issue of immigration. But before we look at that, check out this number. The Evangelical vote in Colorado was up 4% from 2008. Romney the Mormon had gotten a huge bump from the Evangelical community. After splitting some of the vote with Obama, it still netted him 52,000 votes. Almost half-way to the winning margin in Colorado. The Evangelical community and church-led GOTV definitely worked very hard for Romney in the state. But yes, the Latino vote also grew, by 1% which added 12,000 votes to Obama, and with an improving margin preferring Obama over Romney, than what they earlier preferred Obama over McCain in 2008, the Latino community added 91,000 votes for Obama.
The decisive factor in Colorado was the immigration question, should there be amnesty for illegal immigrants. Romney's 'self-deportation' points scored very badly and meanwhile Obama's Executive Order to allow illegal children of immigrants to pursue legal status through the Dreamers Act, helped decide the vote in Colorado. The split on immigration was 120,000 votes in Obama's favor. This is how Colorado was won, the most important issue for the state. But that was the 'how'. What about the 'when'. That is very interesting. Colorado voters did not have 9% undecided voters left a week before Election day. In fact, Colorado was effectively decided by the summer. 74% of voters in Colorado had made up their minds by the end of August! And they split to Obama already then by 6 points. There were not enough 'moderate' or 'independent' voters left in the state of Colorado for Romney to get the margins left to win in that state.
So that is perhaps why Obama was always Mr Cool and Axelrod and gang were always so smugly comfortable about their 'Western Firewall'. Remember, Narwhal was the most accurate voter measurement and targeting system ever devised, so Team Obama knew what was the real situation in Colorado, even if the occasional public poll might suggest the race was supposedly getting more tight. It wasn't. Colorado was decided on two moves. When Romney said 'self-deportation' in the Republican Primaries, and when Obama signed Dreamers. Colorado was signed, sealed and delivered.
Understand what the data now tell us. Colorado was not in play this Autumn. And Romney did not lose Colorado with his 47% comment or fumbling the Libya press conference or his silly Jeep ads on TV, etc. And Obama did not win Colorado with his Presidential actions around Hurricane Sandy or the endorsements from General Colin Powell and the Mayor of New York, billionaire Michael Bloomberg. Chris Christie saying nice things about Romney did not help Obama win Colorado. Romney lost Colorado ten months prior to that hurricane, in January 2012, at the Republican debate in Florida, when he faced his Primary rivals and wanted to appear tough, a 'severe conservative' and was picking fights with Texas Governor Rick Perry around immigration. Romney uttered that immortal phrase 'self-deportation'. Maybe Romney needed to make that kind of harsh statements just to win his Florida Primary - which Romney won by a wide margin, arguably this statement was not needed to win Florida at the time - but that statement did cost him Colorado in the actual election now in November. Obama very smartly sealed that fate, by capitalizing on the immigration issue in June, with his Dreamers Act.
The vote margin for Obama in Colorado ended up being 4.9% so of these four battleground states, it was the one that was most lop-sided. Romney's immigration statements and the tone also from the Republican party, in particular in that part of the USA - like the hostile treatment in Arizona, where obviously the white Republican supporters felt it wrong for Obama's administration to take Arizona to court about the 'Papers Please' law, but Latinos would see Obama the hero. And add to it the first Latina Supreme Court Judge, the Mayor of San Antonio, Mr Castro, giving the Convention Keynote Address etc. That is all only more to convince that Democrats were on the right side of the Latino issues and the Republicans were on the wrong side.
What could have Romney done to fix this? Gosh, obviously, he should have walked his 'self-deportation' comments back - come on, he said them in Florida - as soon as his pollsters reported to him, that the Hispanic community was in revolt. That would not have been hard, Romney flip-flopped on just about everything else he ever said. He should have adopted a far more friendly tone the rest of the Primary season, especially towards Latinos the moment Rick Perry had quit the race, even if that meant the fight would have dragged on a week or two longer with the pesky Rick Santorum. Romney shouldn't have thrown the Latin vote under the bus like this (as it would also impact him in Florida, obviously).
A Latin Vice Presidential choice could have gone a good way to neutralizing this mistake, selecting for example Marco Rubio as his VP would have been, in hindsight, a far better and useful choice than Paul Ryan who ended up not delivering any state, not even his home state of Wisconsin, and no other demographic that Romney hadn't already secured. Could it have erased 5 points? Maybe, maybe not, but if Romney also had adopted a softer tone and perhaps even gone after some extremist conservatives, like some talk radio celebrities, in a 'Sister Souljah' moment, it might have been recoverable.
VIRGINIA IS FOR LOVERS
Next lets go to Virginia. Virginia cast 3.8 million votes, the margin was 149,000 ie 3.9% in favor of the President. What decided Virginia? First, there was some very good news for President Obama. Virginia has a major military demographic. In 2008, in the national Exit Poll (but not asked specifically in the State of Virginia), McCain held a 10 point advantage among voters who had military background. In the Virginia 2012 Exit Poll, they asked if voters had family serving in the military (but this was not asked in the national poll now in 2012) and of that vote, Obama split with Romney 49/49. Obama had erased a 10 point disadvantage that usually goes to the Republicans. That was very good news out of Virginia to Team Obama and the Democrats.
It probably did not hurt, that Romney was a draft dodger in France rather than fighting in Vietnam. And obviously Obama had proven a good Commander in Chief, and had ended the war in Iraq, and caught Osama bin Laden and Michelle Obama had been looking after veterans and their families.
But there is a more troubling item in Virginia for Romney. The Evangelical vote deserted him where he really needed it. The Evangelical vote nationally was identical to what McCain got in 2008 and the proportion won by Romney was better than McCain got. And the Evangelical vote delivered 4 percent more for Romney in Colorado as we saw in the above. But in Virginia, there was a big drop of 5% lost in Evangelical voters, compared to 2008. Had Romney gotten just the same vote as McCain, he would have had 112,000 votes more in Virginia. Not quite enough to tie the state, but make it really close.
Virginia was won in the War on Women. The gender gap was the deepest of these four states (strangely, in none of these four states, was the gender gap bigger than the national average, but in Virginia it matched the national average). So Obama had a 9 point advantage just in that. And then there was abortion. Virginia has until quite recently been thought of as a good Christian-values 'red state' with conservative views, but recent trends have turned it more liberal. This year, the Virginia State legislature and the Governor Bob McDonnell passed a law requiring a medically unnecessary ultrasound, that the woman would also have to pay for, before getting an abortion. In the original bill it was even an intrusive 'transvaginal' ultrasound (thats a word I never expected to write on this blog). While the intrusive part was removed, the law went into effect and now McDonnell is assigned with the epithet "Governor Ultrasound" and it ended his chances of becoming Romney's Vice President. Nonetheless, this state law caused the womens' rights groups to be highly energized in Virginia and they marched and protested all through the year. It now can be seen in the Exit Poll for the state.
Nationally abortion rights found approval by 67% of the voters, in Virginia it was 70%. The margin for Obama among those who approved of abortion was nationally 23 points, but in Virginia it was 30 points. So Obama gained 7 points compared to the national average, out of the war on women, among those who approved of abortion. It meant 4.7 points in the polls. Well more, than Obama's winning margin in the state. And obviously, as Paul Ryan was known for his ultra-extremist views on abortion and authoring several bills he'd proposed to congress to limit abortion - including one co-authored with then Congressman Akin - yes Mr Legitimate Rape guy of Missouri who lost a sure Republican pick-up seat against highly unpopular Democratic Senator McCaskill trying to protect her seat in a safely Republican state that voted for Romney by 10 points over Obama - yes, Ryan's selection as VP damaged Romney in Virginia, it did not help at all. Had Romney not picked Ryan, but rather picked any of a number of moderate Senators or Governors (Portman, Christie etc) the choice would have helped at least mitigate some of this damage, not made it worse in Virginia, as Ryan's choice definitely did.
And again, that was the 'how' what about the 'when'. Virginia also was decided well before the Autumn full election cycle got under way. The Exit Poll reveals that 78% of Virginians had decided their vote before the end of August, and Obama won those voters by a margin of 9 points. For Romney to have recovered, he would have had to win a massive 67% of all remaining undecided voters between September, October and November in that state which had gone for Obama in 2008 by six points. Almost impossible.
Romney did not lose Virginia. The Republican party, in particular the over-zealous Tea-Party led Virginia state party and its extremist Governor, lost Virginia for Romney. I do not know why 5% of the state's Evangelical vote did not turn out for Romney, that would have helped a lot, but this was not a state lost by a bad candidate or bad message or bad campaign. It was lost by a bad party. Romney did not lose Virginia, the Republicans lost it for him. Meanwhile, what did Obama do? The first act he signed as President was the Lilly Ledbetter act about fair pay. He appointed women to the Supreme Court and the nation's most admired woman, his former rival, Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State. Obama regularly championed womens' causes including standing up to Rush Limbaugh with the 'slut' comments around Sandra Fluke. Obama has most definitely been the most feminist-issue supportive US President of all time, and while the Republican party nationally was also fumbling on all issues from the womens' contraception hearing in Congress where only men were allowed to testify, to silly comments like legitimate rape and that rape children are gifts from god, etc. And the Democratic party meanwhile had a female head of its Congressional delegation and fought for various womens' issues during the year.
What could Romney have done differently? Virginia is where he really could have used a female VP choice, like Condi Rice or Senator Kelly Ayotte or Governor Jan Brewer etc. But that would not have been enough, he would definitely have taken a vocal and strong position on behalf of women, against the extremist and bullying comments from 'slut' to 'legitimate rape'. Or imagine the Republican Convention, if rather than wasting one day on 'You didn't build that' they had instead held a Republican Women celebration day, featuring famous strong Republican leaders including.. dare I say it.. Sarah Palin.. That could have helped. And Romney should have spoken strongly against the Republican Party Platform that wanted to ban all abortions. He should have said openly it was wrong - in fact far better, would have been to have had a public debate and then - decide not to include the language. To show American women voters that the Republican party is not trying to take over abortion rights. This is an issue that weighs very heavily on the Republicans now, as they are clearly on the wrong side of history. But as Virginia was decided only on 3.9% - I do think a female VP choice could have erased much of the Republican party damage. But Romney would have had to then still stand up for women to make it work.
GIRL I'M JUST A JEEPSTER FOR YOUR LOVE - OHIO
So lets move onto Ohio. Ohio was not decided in the summer. Ohio was in play till the end. And it was decided by a thinner margin still, by only 1.9% (as of Sunday's count) and 103,000 votes out of 5.3 million cast. And while there was a modest increase in Youth vote for Obama in Florida, Virginia and Colorado, there was no Youth bump at all in Ohio. The Youth percentage 17% was exactly same as in 2008, and Obama's votes from that group were up 1% only, from 61% to 62%. Out of Ohio's 5.3 million votes, the 'improved' Obama vote out of the youth was yes, under two tenths of one percent. Far far too small to register even in the rounding-off error.
Ohio had a strange 'discovery' of 4% more black voters in 2012 than they had in 2008. Strange in that obviously Obama was the first-ever black Presidential candidate the Ohioans could vote for, four years ago, and you'd think just about anyone with any black history in their blood would have already voted for him. But no, the Obama Narwhal voter analysis system was able to find 4% more black voters in the state. That was huge. That was twice the winning margin right there and we could close the book on Ohio right here. Except lets not. Remember, that while Obama found 4% more blacks, they still lost 8% in total turnout from 2008 where Romney only lost 3% compared to what McCain achieved in 2008. No. There was something else that decided Ohio. It wasn't the Latinos and it wasn't the women. It wasn't amnesty for illegals and it wasn't the military. In Ohio, it was the auto industry bail-out. Of course.
Let Detroit Go Bankrupt. Yes, Romney did not write that headline, but he did foolishly appear on TV interviews admitting to that column and specifically admitting to that headline. Nationally, the labor union vote split 60/40 for Obama. In Ohio the labor union vote also split 60/40 for Obama. But what about people who had family working in the car industry (here, the Exit Polls actually do not report the number, they only report for those who do not have such family, but obviously the missing number is easy to calculate out). The split for car industry families was 70/30 in favor of Obama.
That is ten points out of 9% who have family in the car industry. The margin just there is 85,000 votes, nearly the winning margin. When you add the point of did the voter approve of the auto bail-out, Obama wins the issue by a wide margin.
Ohio was certainly close, and a diverse, large state with farmland and industry and universities etc, the race is always close for Ohio. And while the auto industry bailout was decisive, it could have been mitigated and other aspects could have come into play. But if you want an election to be decided on clearly defined, opposite issues, then you can't really get more opposite than what Romney proposed (originally, in his article, not the later flipflopping) and what Obama decided to do, where at the time public opinion was against the decision. It may be, that Romney thought when writing that article, that he was 'only' damaging his chances in Michigan, the car-making state, and that by writing such an article, being the son of a former car boss, he'd get a lot of visibility for it. That in turn, would help Romney - years before 2012 election cycle would be starting - to get the attention for the Republican party, that Romney was 'serious' and even as a kind of 'car guy' he 'stuck to his guns' and didn't 'cave' on the auto bail-out.
But it did come to bite him in the ass. He lost Michigan, it wasn't even in play, and the article damaged his chances in other industrialized states serving the car industry like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and yes, Ohio. Meanwhile, Obama could count on strong support of his rescue of the car industry in all those same states, in particular as the car industry had already recovered and generated new jobs, well-paying factory jobs.
Probably many of the election issues played in Ohio, from the negative TV ads to the 47% video to how Obama was perceived with Hurricane Sandy. But the one final nail in this very close election, that sealed Romney's fate, was a campaign mistake - the TV ad misleadingly suggesting Jeep was moving jobs to China. Romney was broadly ridiculed for that, it was in all local papers, and very unusually, several of the auto industry bosses reacted to it, calling the ad misleading. Where the support of the auto industry helped boost Obama votes, and the support of the auto industry bail-out was a vote-winner for him, the TV ad about Jeep no doubt only damaged Romney (the effect of that TV ad was not explicitly asked in the Exit Poll for Ohio).
Romney caused his own troubles with Ohio, with his original article. Obama took the opposite view and made a decisive Presidential action, and took a gamble it would work, which succeeded economically, and was seen as a triumph in the state of Ohio. If there was any room for Romney to pull out a thin victory in Ohio, that was sunk by his Jeep ad and that was the fault of his bumbling campaign.
What could he have done differently? Obviously not write that article, or at least, when interviewed about it on TV, to say the headline is not accurate.. But lets say its a given, that was water under the bridge. What could Romney have done now in 2012? Because this state was so close, I think the choice of Ohio Senator Bob Portman as Vice President, would have probably been enough. He is highly respected and spoke often about Ohio industry etc. And obviously not pick a fight with US auto industry with that silly Jeep ad. If the race was on 2%, those two changes would have delivered Ohio for Romney.
DON'T BLAME IT ON THE SUNSHINE - FLORIDA
Which brings us to Florida. The tightest of the four
battleground states, out of 8.4 million votes cast, the decision went by 73,000
ie less than one percent. What decided Florida?
First, the obvious, Latino turnout was up, the share of Latin voters selecting Obama was up, so this was huge for Team Obama. Except, that Team Romney had managed to increase retired age voter turnout - and increase their share of preferring Romney over Obama, above what McCain had managed in 2008. These two sides roughly wash each other out.
The Florida vote was decided on Medicare. First, yes, the elderly ie retired ie over 65 year vote did increase both turnout, and the share voting for Romney. But overall, the Medicare across all age demographics was a solid Obama win delivering 340,000 voter margin to Obama, four times his winning margin in the state. Medicare was a brave, bold risk that Romney took, when naming Paul Ryan as his VP, but it definitely backfired in Florida and cost them the state. If Romney had picked any other VP choice, then Medicare had not been one of the top issues of Florida and he'd be up 200,000 votes easily in the state of Florida now. And ironically, Ryan didn't deliver his home state of Wisconsin either, to partially compensate for causing Romney to lose Florida. Yes, selecting Paul Ryan was actually about as damaging to Romney's winning chances, as selecting Sarah Palin was to McCain's chances four years earlier (as Exit Polls 2008 show, more people voted against Palin than in support of her)
Obama's team and all Democratic surrogates in Florida were of course thrilled to see Paul Ryan the surprise pick as VP in the summer and proceeded to hit him hard, in particular in Florida, on being the poster-child for killing Medicare (turning it into a voucher) plus privatising Social Security and also damaging Medicaid. Obama would mention it in his stump speeches and the theme came up regularly in TV ads. Bill Clinton's nomination speech at the Convention took a hard hit at Ryan and Republicans threatening those three, etc.
What could Romney have done differently? This was damage done by his choice of Ryan. Had Ryan not been on the ticket, the Medicare issue would never have risen to national prominence this election cycle and he'd not have had to worry about Florida. If this issue was delivering 340,000 votes to Obama in a tight election of 8.4 million votes where the decision was down to 73,000 votes, yes, this was purely the damage done by Ryan. Any other VP would have been better and Romney would have been several hundred thousand votes ahead on election day winning Florida easily. It would not have 'needed' a Florida guy like Marco Rubio for example.
FOUR ELECTIONS AND A FUNERAL
So that was four elections. Colorado was decided early this year, on immigration. Virginia was also decided before the general election cycle even got under way, on the war on women and abortion rights etc. Ohio went down to the wire but was decided on the auto industry bailout and in the end, the Jeep ad. And finally Florida, was only brought into play because Ryan was named VP and what should have been a safe, but marginal Republican state this cycle, turned into a fully open race, due to Medicare.
John McCain lost these four states to Obama by 950,000 votes four years ago. Romney clawed back half that, and lost these same four states only by 450,000 votes. McCain lost Indiana and North Carolina to Obama, states that Romney flipped back to the Republican column winning those rather easily. Romney did not lose this election because he was a bad candidate (even though he was severely flawed). He did not lose because he was not 'conservative enough'. He did not lose the ground game and Get-Out-The-Vote - in these four states where it mattered, Romney's team outperformed Obama's team by half a million votes more than the election of 2008.
Romney lost four elections. In Colorado he lost, because he calculated early in the Republican primaries, way back in January, that he had to be a severe conservative against Latinos on immigration. We saw right at the last debates and the end of the election, that Romney was nothing like that, he was a moderate. But to win his party's nomination, in this year with the Tea Party so strong, he had to pretend to be something more extreme. It killed Colorado and Obama took advantage. In Virginia he was sunk by his party waging its bizarre war on women, compounded by the angry old white men's party image that his party was promoting everywhere. Obama was all to happy to provide the modern man as contrast. Romney lost Virginia months before Election day, and had a gender gap of 9 points in the final count for the state.
In Ohio, Romney did cause an unenforced error with his utterly unnecessary article suggesting Detroit to go bankrupt. Obama's decision to act in direct opposite did set up a clear contrast for Ohio voters, and Romney campaign's error to run the Jeep ad finally sealed his fate in that tightly contested state. And in Florida, the election was lost when Romney decided to pick the fresh-faced young 'policy wonk' extremist Paul Ryan as his running mate, which brought Medicare dead center into Florida politics, an issue they were to lose on. Obama and all Democrats in the state ran on the issue against all Republicans.
Romney was able to get more Evangelical voters in Colorado than John McCain. Romney was able to get more elderly voters to turn out in Florida than McCain did. Romney was able to totally neutralize the gender gap in Colorado. Romney argued for voucherizing Medicare, defended his position on the Detroit bankruptcy, and argued for self-deportation of immigrants, and suggested strongly growing the military. Romney stood firm on no tax increases, not even for millionaires ie 'job creators'. Romney and Ryan argued for wanting to end Roe v Wade through conservative nominees to the Supreme Court ie end the Supreme Court's protection of the right to abortion. These are all strongly conservative positions, not wish-washy moderate positions. Romney did not lose because he was not conservative enough. He was losing major issues where the Republican view was off the mainstream of America today.
On immigration, Romney and Ryan were on the wrong side of history. The national Exit Poll says 65% of Americans want illegal immigrants to be given a chance to apply for legal status. Only 28% are against it. Romney was on the wrong side. That cost him Colorado. On abortion, 59% think abortion should be legal and only 36% think it should be illegal. Abortion was the issue in Virginia. Romney was on the wrong side.
On the auto bail-out and Let Detroit Go Bankrupt, the question was not asked nationally, but in Ohio 60% of the voters thought the auto bail-out was good vs 36% disapproving. Romney was the poster-child for being against the auto bail-out, and in a state where 9% of the voters have family in the car industry and thus essentially everyone knows someone working there - you are on the wrong side of a critical state-wide issue. Romney was again on the wrong side of what decided the state.
And on Medicare, 52% of the voters felt Obama would be better at protecing Medicare, vs 44% for Romney. This issue was decisive in Florida and again, Romney was on the wrong side of history. But very very clearly, Romney was not vulnerable on this point, until he named Mr Voucherize Medicare Congressman Paul Ryan as his VP choice. Romney lost all four states, by being on the wrong side of history on the biggest issue of that state. He lost fair and square. His party lost too, Republicans took a beating all throughout the nation in Senate and Congressional races, often related to these four issues.
I have written several times that Romney was a flawed candidate - and he was. And that he had a bad message (mostly, a confused message, stemming from his continuous flipflops and deliberate lies). And that he had a badly run campaign. And that all is true. And those things all matter in the big election race that did not decide this election. The 'beauty contest' part, for those other 46 states. These four states were decided primarily on those four issues and that is why Romney lost and Obama won. So says the math. So says the Exit Polls and the actual vote counts.
Now Romney is not content in being the loser. He wants to become the dead man in politics. His commentary to his donors on the phone call, where he reprised his 47% themes now accusing the election for being stolen by bribes, again tells of the extent to which the conservatives are willing to go to delusion, to deny facing reality. What was Romney's promise of the navy bigger than in World War 1? A bribe to Virginia and New Hampshire and Florida, where large naval bases are and where ships are built.
What was Romney's promise of a tax cut to millionaires, and to the middle class taxes also, other than a bribe, vote for me, I will cut your taxes, Obama will raise your taxes. What was the promise that the Voucherizing of Medicare would not hit current seniors, only those under 55 years of age - other than a bribe to the elderly vote (one that worked too, for its intended age group, at least in Florida, but it backfired in the larger younger age groups obviously). Don't you go Romney calling the pot a kettle. All politicians pander and you did it just as happily as Obama did, from promising jobs in Pennsylvania to coal workers, to promising gas pipeline jobs in Colorado. Yes, now all Republicans are running away from what remains of the political stature of Romney. He is likely to become one of the most isolated political figures ever, in his last days, well, maybe not as much as Nixon haha, but close.
IMAGINE IF IT HAD BEEN CHRISTIE OR JEB BUSH OR JINDAL
Imagine if the Republican candidate this year had been someone with a strong Republican supporter base and history with the party. Romney was always the outsider. So imagine if this exact same result now, was with someone else on the top of the ticket, like a Bobby Jindal or Chris Christie or Jeb Bush.
The Republican party would be circling the wagons around their losing candidate, pointing out - that hey, you won more popular votes than John McCain the iconic war hero, against this populist sitting president (the votes are still being counted, but its pretty obvious by the time all votes are in, Romney will pass McCain with something like 100,000 more votes). Definitely, Romney lost no state that McCain didn't lose, but Romney stole two states back from Obama - Indiana and North Carolina. Romney did better, in what is a horrid year for Republicans all over, when facing a sitting president. This was a wave election against Republicans (a modest wave, not the Tsunami of 2008 for Democrats, nor the massive wave that Republicans had in the mid-terms of 2010, but a wave election nonetheless, Republicans lost in all three national races, the President, Senate and Congress)
If Romney was popular with the base, they'd now be cheering him, you clawed half-way back, now return to the race, lets work four years, and you'll win in 2016 ! Isn't that true? If it had been Christie or Jeb Bush or Jindal or someone of that calibre, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, whoever, who had lost by only 206 Electoral College votes to 332, and the national popular vote cutting the loss down from the 7% that McCain lost by, to only 3%. You know there would be a big chorus yelling '2016, 2016, 2016' - but none of that. They want Romney to vanish. The man who really threw it all away.
THERE IS NO ONE THING
Yes, there was a big youth support of Obama, and in many battleground states his support among the youth was up from the record-setting 2008. But it was flat in Ohio. The Youth did not deliver the election to Obama. Yes, there was a massive national gender gap, on average 9 points for Obama. But in Colorado, there was no gender gap at all, Romney tied Obama and Obama won the male vote, not the female vote in that state. The reason Obama won was not the female vote. There was a surge in Latin vote yes, in Florida and Colorado, but not in Ohio or Virginia. There was a surprising increase in Black turnout in Ohio but not in the other three battleground states that decided this election. If Hurricane Sandy influenced voters, it would be a tiny percent of the total national vote in 2012, but the decisive battleground states of Colorado and Virginia had long since decided who they would vote for and the election result was sealed long before those waves surged on the Jersey shore.
Romney was a flawed candidate. Romney had a confusing and often bad message. Romney ran a bad campaign. And Romney was stuck in a year when the Republican party was an anchor weighing him down unable to swim to his normal ability. But there was no one thing that decided this election, not two or three things. The election 2012 was decided in four states, that by election day would be decisive - Colorado, Ohio, Florida and Virginia. Romney had to win a sweep of those states, and of the five most contested states, these four were among the tightest of this election cycle.
Romney lost Virginia due to the womens' issues and a strongly energized womens' vote. His party did most of the damage there, led by Governor Ultrasound Bob McDonnell of Virginia, the Republican, himself. Romney didn't help himself by never saying if he was for wage fairness and damaged his position by naming Paul Ryan his VP.
Romney lost Colorado due to 'self-deportation' - a position Romney was forced to take in the prolonged and extremist Republican primary season, where Romney sealed his fate in the state by January of the year, in a televised Republican debate from Florida (another state where self-deportation would play badly).
Romney lost Florida, very very tightly, when he selected Paul Ryan as his VP choice, and suddenly brought Medicare dead-center to all state politics with high proportion of elderly voters. In Florida, the ticket did actually win over the retired vote but lost the Medicare fight with the youger middle-aged voters and younger voters, and it took away what otherwise would have been a relatively 'safe' Republican 'red state' of Florida this year.
And Romney lost Ohio with his editorial 'Let Detroit Go Bankrupt' and its aftermath including his silly Jeep jobs to China TV ad.
The Obama team knew what issues were relevant in these four states, as did Romney's team. Obama passed the Dreamers Act in June to further capitalize on the sentiment against self-deportation in Colorado (and helping also in Florida). Romney knew that the Medicare issue was threatening Florida and thus sent for example Paul Ryan (with his mom) to go explain to Floridians that they were not going to take their Medicare away from the retired people. Obama knew the women's issues were at play in Virginia, which is why he for example so visibly embraced Sandra Fluke in the Rush Limbaugh aftermath, to the degree of giving her a speaking slot at the Democratic Convention. And Romney knew that Ohio was going to be won or lost around the auto bail-out, which is why he tried everything he could to distance himself from the original editorial, including claiming at one point, that the actual government bail-out that Obama enacted, was only following Romney's advice. His Jeep ad was a cynical last-minute ploy to try to use propaganda, just repeating a lie hoping it will be believed, in trying to win Ohio.
The election was decided on four very distinct issues, each of which was relevant in one state and sometimes more than one, but none of which was relevant in each of the four final battleground states. There were five elections. The big sham election for the national vote, which also Obama won, the latest count says by nearly 4 million votes and a margin of 3%. And the real decisive four elections, one in Colorado and one in Virginia, which we now see, were decided months before election day; and one in Florida and one in Ohio, which were fought for very closely up until the end.
Did the 47% tape play in the election? Of course it did. It helped solidify the feeling that Romney and the Republicans didn't care for poorer voters like minorities, so it helped bring Colorado and Florida to the Democratic side. It directly hit retired people, some of whom voted for Obama no doubt because of the 47% tape - even as Romney won that age group in Florida. Similarly most of Romney's campaign mistakes from why was Chris Christie giving the keynote address for the Republican Convention? (New Jersey was never in play this year) Imagine if that speaking slot was instead given to Marco Rubio, the Latino vote in Colorado and Florida would have been less lop-sided. Or if the keynote had been by a strong female leader of the Republicans like Condi Rice or Kelly Ayotte etc, and helped diminish the Virginia vote split in women. Or given to Ohio senator Bob Portman, as New Jersey was never in play, why not let the Ohio Senator - after all he was a finalist for the VP slot - give his heartfelt reasons in the public arena, why Romney was a good man also for his state, inspite of some auto industry editorial once..
Imagine if instead of Clint Eastwood speaking to an empty chair, he would have re-shot his 'Detroit is back' TV ad, but with a 'I stand with Romney defending US car industry' as its theme. That would have received as much air play as the Chair Monologues but it would have been in a positive way, using the Hollywood legend to help Romney, not hurt him. Romney kept going back to Michigan and to Ohio giving speeches that the Trees Are The Right Height and how he loved American cars (and his wife drove two Cadillacs). Imagine if Mr Detroit TV Ad Eastwood would have been with Romney driving him in an open-top Gran Torino for example, haha.. But Eastwood became the butt of all chair jokes for two months. Probably the biggest Hollywood icon to publically support the Republicans, was now an untouchable. If he'd not been allowed to embarrass himself on prime time TV with the Chair Monologues, Clint Eastwood could have - and judging by his strong support of Romney, would have - been one of the Romney ticket's biggest visibility draws in any state, doing publicity, drawing crowds. Now he was off the radar, Mr Confused Old Man.
At the Convention, a whole day was wasted on the utterly ridiculous 'You didn't build that' meme. It was so useless, it was abandoned within weeks of the Convention. What clown approved that, should be forever exiled from the Republican party to go start his own party in the United States of Another Reality. But again, imagine if on that day, the GOP had instead ran a theme of 'We are an open tent' and celebrated major Republican representatives who were from minorities, from Bobby Jindal to the various Latinos and occasional blacks, to for example Dick Cheney's daughter who is openly lesbian. How much would that have diminshed the minorities voting gaps that the Republicans now faced. It could not have fared worse than having every speaker of the day force into his or her prepared speech the useless theme of 'You didn't build that' which obviously was so rotten, it was discarded. But while the Republicans are not currently known for being anything more than an old angry white guys' party, as Senator Lindsey Graham himself calls it, at least some of that gap could have been reduced by spending the day showcasing the ethnic diversity which still exists to some degree in the party (I find it astonishing that in this day and age, the Republicans actually lost women representatives in the Senate and House, ie becoming even more male. Wow.)
OTHER QUICK FINDINGS FROM NATIONAL EXIT POLL
A few other tidbits that hit me from the national Exit Poll. A huge gender gap, gosh, 9% more of women voted for Obama - and why is this worse than the 7% more men who voted for Romney? Because women vote more in general, than men, 53/47. The GOP has to solve its gender gap, and fast. Electing ever less women to represent them at the highest offices is NOT the way to win the women over, while the Democrats vote in ever more women, obviously.
Whites broke 59/39 for Romney, the white guy, against the black dude. Yeah, how solid would that white vote be, if the GOP nominated a brown guy (or a black woman) and next time the Dems nominated a white woman named Clinton, H. Meanwhile how is the future demographic shift setting its preferences? George Bush 2 got up to 40% of the Hispanic vote. This time? Hispanics went 71/27 for Obama! Asians (who certainly are not lazy or expecting gifts or handouts haha) went 73/26 for Obama and the Blacks, well it was a total bloodbath as could be expected, 93/6. Houston we have a problem.. The demographic shifts favor the Democrats and most alarmingly they shift ever more strongly towards the Democrats.
Did Romney win the electorate over as a competent foreign policy President? He was lucky this was not a foreign policy election and there was no Iranian or North Korean 'October surprise'. Voters preferred Obama on foreign policy by 56/33. Luckily for Romney only 5% of the electorate considered foreign policy as the most important topic of this election. Obama meanwhile lost the issue of the federal deficit by even worse numbers 32/66.
How did the 47% comment play in the electorate (and the other Romney gaffes like his wife's two Cadillacs, the $10,000 dollar bet, the 'I like to fire people' and 'Corporations are people my friend' etc)? On the question of 'Cares about people like me' Romney lost 18/81. Thats a 63 point difference! Luckily for Romney, only 21% of the electorate said that issue mattered a lot.. But consider, that is 13% of the total electorate there, 16.7 million people who voted against Romney because he did not care about people like the voter (combined, with obviously in parallel, that they felt the President DID care about people like the voter).
On tax increases, 47% wanted to raise taxes on those earning over $250,000 and 13% felt like taxes should be raised on all. So Obama's position of raising at least some taxes had support of 60%. Romney's position of no new taxes only had support of 35%. Here again, both Romney and the formal Republican position is on the wrong side of history (and current budget negotiations and comments by many Republican leaders attest to the fact, that they have heard how the electorate has spoken on taxes).
The biggest issue was obviously the economy. Romney had argued that the economy was worse now than when Obama took over (a point that, like many of Romney's arguments, was factually incorrect). On the question of how is the US economy, the electorate verdict was brutal to Obama: only 23% felt the economy was good or excellent, while 77% felt it was not good or poor. How did they think of the direction? Here Romney loses the argument, 39% felt it was getting better and only 30% felt it was getting worse, with the rest saying it is about the same. But in trying to blame Obama for the economic mess, Romney's team had failed, the electorate said quite clearly at 53/38 the problems were due to President Bush 2, not due to Obama. Romney had essentially lost the economic argument! Romney was the business man, this was by far the biggest economy election since Carter v Reagan in 1980, and Romney couldn't get to the winning side of the economy, against a Law Professor and Community Organizer? But this was the constant fumbling and misguided messaging, the Romney campaign could not stay on message for even one week at a time.
How did the Romney the millionaire tax-dodger plutocrat argument play for Obama? 55% of the electorate felt that the US currently favors the rich, vs 39% who felt it was fair to all Americans. (Romney, why didn't you release those tax returns immediately?)
President Obama had a positive personal rating, 53/46. His job approval as President almost identical, 54/45, which were well above the performnace approval given to his administration which was only even at 49/49. Obama had higher personal ratings than that of his administration.
Mitt Romney's personal approval ended up minus at 3 points, 47/50. Its very tough to get elected if the majority of the country doesn't like you, and here Romney's wooden personality, his frequent elitist gaffes and some of his peculiar decisions (like not releasing his taxes) were no doubt at fault, giving the impression of a disdain and even contempt of the electorate - which then was multiplied by the 47% video (and again, now, after the election, his recordings about the bribes by gift-giving Obama to the minorities)
The Anti-Obama vote, ie the Fox Viewer poll was surprisingly light, nationally, only 5.1% of the electorate voted against Obama, rather than for Romney (or for Obama or against Romney). Equally, nationally, only 4.1% voted against Romney, inspite of all the final talk of revenge etc. So even as Obama's big summer push to paint Romney as unelectable did no doubt take its toll, nationally it didn't even match the Fox Vote against Obama.
There was a myth that the final vote breaks against the sitting president and for the challenger. That has now been proven to be untrue. The vote on the last day (3% of the total vote) broke 7 points for Obama, 51% to 44%.
The 2012 election was not lost because Romney was not
conservative enough. It was not lost, because Obama's Get-Out-The-Vote machine
outperformed Romney's. It was not won for Obama by Hurricane Sandy, nor was it
stolen for Obama by Chris Christie's hugs.
The 2012 election was decided in four states, which had four local elections, decided each on a different issue. All Obama needed was to win one of those four. Romney, however, landed on the wrong side of history on all four of those four issues. Two of those four states were decided well before the debates or even the Conventions. In Colorado Romney lost because he proposed 'Self Deportation'. In Virginia Romney lost because the Virginia Republican party had angered and activated the Virginia voter base to come out in force on women's issues, including abortion.
In Ohio, Romney lost because of his earlier article suggesting to Let Detroit Go Bankrupt, and in Florida Romney lost by bizarrely raising the sleeping issue of Medicare, by appointing Mr Poster Child for Voucherizing Medicare, Congressman Paul Ryan as his Vice President. The Ryan choice would also energize Virginia voters even more against the Romney-Ryan ticket, due to Ryan's extreme positions on abortion.
Can another candidate, who is 'better at the message' do better than Romney? If the Republicans continue their wars against Latinos and an amnesty to them, and the war against women and abortion, and threatening Medicare, they cannot in 2016 win Colorado or Virginia or Florida, even as the Detroit auto-bailout as an issue will by then have receeded and other things might decide Ohio. If the GOP doesn't abandon its archaic positions on so many areas where history has moved on, they cannot win. Its not just about the demographics - which also are pushing the battle against the Angry White Man's Party.
So what do you think? Make sense? And will we see actual numbers-oriented reality reported in the news, about how this election was really won?
UPDATE 6 DECEMBER - I have also calculated the performance metrics and data on the Get-Out-The-Vote activities of both camps, and their giant databases, Narwhal and Orca. You may enjoy the blog article comparing these two systems and their performance.