Diatribes of Jay

This is a blog of essays on public policy. It shuns ideology and applies facts, logic and math to economic, social and political problems. It has a subject-matter index, a list of recent posts, and permalinks at the ends of posts. Comments are moderated and may take time to appear. Note: Profile updated 4/7/12

10 February 2008

Winning Red States

Senator Obama continues to rack up impressive wins in red states. He’s not just winning by small margins. His string of 2-to-1 and better victories continues to grow.

Here’s the same table I posted after Super Tuesday, updated for Obama’s decisive wins in Louisiana and Nebraska and Clinton’s narrow win in New Mexico. The table is arranged in descending order of the decisiveness of Obama’s wins. As before, the blue rows show Obama’s wins, the pink Clinton’s, and the darker shades of each color wins by a margin of 2-to-1 or greater. (Obama’s landslide in Washington state doesn’t count, as Washington is a blue state.)

[Please scroll down to see the table. I can’t fix this gap with my knowledge of HTML.]

Red StateObama/Clinton
Vote (percent)
Idaho80/17 - >4 to 1 4
Alaska74/25 -  3 to 1 3
Kansas74/26 - >2.5 to 1 9
Nebraska68/32 - >2 to 1 5
Colorado67/32 - >2 to 1 9
Georgia66/31 2 >2 to 1 15
South Carolina55/27 18 2 to 1 8
North Dakota61/37 1 >1.5 to 1 3
Louisiana57/36 - >1.5 to 1 9
Utah57/39 3  1.5 to 1 5
Alabama 56/42 1  1.3 to 1 9
Iowa38/29 30  1.25 to 1 7
Missouri 49/48 2  1 to 1 11
New Mexico48/49 2  1 to 1 5
Nevada45/51 4  1 to 1 5
Arizona42/51 5  1 to 1.2510
Tennessee41/54 4  1 to 1.25 11
Oklahoma31/55 10 <1 to 1.5 7
Arkansas27/69 2 <1 to 2.5 6

Why is this table important? Because of the 2004 electoral map, which identified red (for Bush) and blue (for Kerry) states.

By definition, John Kerry won every blue state that Clinton has won in the primaries, plus those that Obama has won. But he didn’t win the general election. In order to win the general election, any Democratic nominee must win red states.

Here is a second table comparing the electoral votes of the red states that Obama has won in the primaries with those of the red states that Clinton has won. The second line compares the totals of electoral votes of red states won by a 2-to-1 or greater margin. The third column shows Clinton’s deficits in electoral votes.
Clinton EV Deficit
All red states won974453
Won by 2-to-1 or greater53647

As John Kerry proved to our chagrin, Democrats need some red states to win. But polls suggest that at least some of those red states are already purple and likely to swing blue.

Who is more likely to capture red states in a general election? Is it the Dem who won them by a small margin even among Democrats? Or is it the Dem who won them by a landslide in primaries or caucuses, showing both extraordinary enthusiasm among supporters and the ability to attract new voters, independents, and even some Republicans?

As the blue part of the first table above grows (and it will!), the advantages of nominating Obama will dawn on both Democratic voters and Super Delegates.


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