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Catfish and Cod
Saturday, May 22, 2004
Electoral College update.
(Link path: Election Projection - 2004 Edition)

So what's the effect of all the recent foofooraw on the 2004 election?

It is, of course, a long way to Election Day. But that doesn't stop people of all persuasions from trying to prognosticate the results of the election. That's why we have election prediction polls, for instance, and job approval ratings, and right track/wrong track predictors, and so forth.

Now these indicators are all very nice, but when evaluating the election of a President, the only thing that matters is the Electoral College. And with a winner-take-all system such as we have had for over a century now, only the states that might go either way have a real say in who the next President will be. That's why neither party is spending any money on ads in Massachusetts or Mississippi. What's the use? Massachusetts will vote Democratic; it would if the nominee were a potted plant. Mississippi would vote Republican even if the potted plant switched parties and became the Republican nominee instead. Only the "battleground states" matter.

Election Projection is an attempt to project, based on state-by-state data, the 2004 election. Now, bear in mind that EP is run by a Bush supporter, so if there were any bias (and I don't think so, his methodology is open and honest), it would be towards Bush.

His current projection?

Electoral Votes: Bush 211, Kerry 327
Popular Vote: Bush 45.48%, Kerry 52.69%

Wow. The popular vote totals aren't impressive by themselves; they continue to reflect the 50/50 Nation so discussed in 2000 and 2001. But on electoral votes, Kerry blows Bush away.

This goes against conventional wisdom. Bush does better in sparsely populated rural states and Kerry does better in densely populated urban states. Now, rural states have a larger say than urban ones in determining the Presidency. How's that? Well, let's consider the least and most populated states, Wyoming and California.

WYOMING. Population: 493,782 Electoral Votes: 3
CALIFORNIA. Population: 33,871,648 Electoral Votes: 55

Each electoral vote of Wyoming's represent 164,594 people. In contrast, each of California's electors represent 615,848 people. It is easy to see, then, that Wyoming's voters get more say in who the President will be than California's. Of course, these are the two most extreme cases; the bias towards rural votes is much less than the three-to-one spread shown here. Nonetheless, the bias is real and is built into the Constitution, as a protection against the tyrannny of the majority.

Now, since Bush is a rural and suburban candidate, and Kerry is an urban candidate, Kerry must overcome this rural bias in the Electoral College to be elected. In other words, Kerry should be fighting an uphill battle.

But according to Election Projection, he's not, because a large number of small, rural states are going Democratic. Among them are the Northeastern swing states of New Hampshire and Maine; the corn states of Iowa and Missouri; and Southwestern states like Nevada and New Mexico. These states add to Kerry's small-state bastions of southern New England and the Pacific Northwest, which are long-time Democratic strongholds.

A coalition of urban states cannot alone command the country. The Founding Fathers were deeply concerned about that possibility. Then, it was intended to prevent economic and demographic powerhouses like New York and Virginia from dominating the Union. Today, it serves to prevent a left-liberal coalition of the West and East Coasts from commanding an increasingly conservative heartland.
But a coalition including the coasts and a selection of rural Midwestern and Southwestern states will just do the trick.