Still based on previous elections John McCain should have won handily in terms of electoral votes. Presidential elections are won in the so-called battleground states as illustrated in Presidential Elections in a Nutshell. Once a Republican has the usual red states, all he needs are the Republican leaning purple states of North Carolina, Missouri, Virginia, Florida, Colorado and Ohio to achieve a tie in electoral votes. To win the Republican must pick off one of the Democrat leaning purple states of Nevada, Iowa, New Hampshire, Wisconsin or New Mexico. George Bush won in 2004 by picking off Nevada, Iowa and New Mexico. He won in 2000 by picking off Nevada and New Hampshire.
Obviously that is not what happened in 2008. Barack Obama won by holding all of Democrat and leaning Democrat states and picking off Ohio, Colorado, Florida, Virginia, and North Carolina plus the red state of Indiana. So what happened in these six states that they switched sides? One theory is that the Obama campaign managed to greatly increase the turnout of minority voters and voters under 30 years old. Perhaps they did manage that in some states but all we care about is what happened in the battleground states since the results in red and blue states would still have been the same. We have prepared a table of the battleground states plus Indiana using voter turnout figures from the census bureau for the 2004 and 2008 elections by various demographic groups.
|2008 in 1000's ||2004 in 1000's |
While the numbers of these various groups did change as a whole in these 12 states, they were not evenly distributed. Still overall, the number of Blacks voting increased by about 592,000, the number of Hispanics doing that increased about 521,000. Unfortunately, the Census Bureau does not break out turnout by age by very small groupings so we were forced to use 18 to 24 and 25 to 44 groups. In the former the numbers voting increased about 231,000 and the latter about 311,000. The question now is whether these groups changed any of these states from the way they usually vote all by themselves or even in combination. We have another table below comparing the change in voter turnout to the margin by which Obama carried that particular state.
|State||~ Black||~ Hisp||~ 18-24||~ 25-44||~ Totals||Margin||Differs|
When the figure in the differs column is plus, these demographic groups did explain the result in that particular state. In particular, the increase in the black vote almost by itself explains why Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia flipped to the Democrats. The big increase in the Hispanic voters explains what happened in Florida although Hispanics in the Miami area do tend to vote Republican if the are from Cuban families. It is interesting to note that these groups actually decreased in Missouri which allowed McCain to hang on to that purple state. What is puzzling is that these groups also decreased in turnout in Ohio and yet Obama won handily.
All of these groups together explain why McCain did not carry Nevada. Nevada has been tending more Democrat as the minority population has increased significantly and as liberal voters flee the high taxes in California for the no state income tax in Nevada but still take their voting habits with them even though those habits are what caused the high taxes in California. It would appear that Iowa, Wisconsin and New Mexico may have simply gotten out of reach for Republicans.
The 2010 Census will likely add 6 more electoral votes to red states at the expense of blue states so this could help offset negative demographics for the Republicans in the purple states. The Republicans cannot win the Presidency if they lose any of the purple states that tend Republican with the possible exception of Colorado. They would need to carry New Hampshire or Nevada to make up for losing Colorado.
What happened in Colorado, New Hampshire and Ohio in 2008? New Hampshire voted for Obama because its voters were enamored of the idea of having a black President. We suspect that factor also contributed to what happened in Indiana, Colorado and Ohio as well but only time will tell if that is a correct hypothesis. If it is incorrect and these states are simply becoming more Democrat then the Republicans could be in a world of hurt in Presidential elections from this point on.