Could there be an Electoral “Landslide”?

This was going to be a very wonkish post, but I realized that I didn’t have the time to do the hard-core research and citation for such a post.1 The basic theory I  have is a little complex and is premised on a lot of “If this…then that’s”, so rather than boring you with too much set-up for the punchline I will get right to the juicy details.

There are some indications that there could be an electoral “landslide” on Tuesday. While I am not ready to fully advocate this idea, it can fairly be argued based on the data we have. Even though most “National Polls” are calling the race as “close” and “tight” there is some evidence to suggest that there could be a big Romney victory coming. Personally, I consider a landslide either 330+ electoral votes, or >53.5% of the popular vote. But, for this argument let’s go with 300 EV’s and >51.9% of the popular vote.

So who is pushing the idea? Well, not a lot of people are but there are some conservatives out there, using sound logic, that think Romney wins quite handily. They wont go as far to use the terms “landslide” or “decisive” but they think that it is pretty much a done deal. The theory is premised on some pretty in-depth analysis of polls, but the major talking points are this:

  • Most national polls are quite even on “topline” numbers.
  • Independents are decidedly voting for Romney, in some cases – double-digits.
  • There is no evidence or reason to think that Democrat turnout will be as high as it was in 2008.
  • Combining these three factors means that Obama cant “make-up” the votes he “loses” from his 2008 count in any one area = Romney win.

This is my own overly generalized, and probably way to simplistic, analysis of the “numbers”, but it is arguably a fair argument for a Romney win. Where the landslide part would come in is quite complex, so I will give you my simple version.

The simple version is this: To argue legitimately that there is going to be a landslide, there needs to be some evidence of it, both currently and on election day. The current evidence would be the following:

  • Close “Early voting” numbers between the candidates.
  • Independents solidly in the Romney camp.
  • States in play that shouldn’t be.2

All three of these ideas come from date inside the polls. The early voting should be HEAVILY in favor of Obama for two simple reasons: 1) He is the incumbent and has a more coordinated ground game, 2) Democrat voters are more apt to vote “early.”3

Let me next address the states question, which is the least solid of these arguments. But take a place like Minnesota. Will Obama win it? Probably, but the fact that I am even mentioning it is perplexing. The same goes for Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. If Obama losses more than one of these, he almost certainly can’t win. Not only that, it means that we are probably talking about a “landslide.” Hence – the fact some of these states are in question, could be an indicator of the landslide theory.

To me, the strongest argument for a decisive Romney win, as indicated by numbers, is the “independent” vote.4

The fact they are breaking so heavily for Romney takes a big chunk of the pie away from Obama. Meaning he would need to make up those votes somewhere else. He doesn’t seem to be doing that, or capable of doing so. Here is another one of my overly-simplistic explanations of why.

First, the language here is based on how voting correlates to polls. So, think of “Toss Up” states as a group of 100 voters or percents. Better stated, let’s say that on average, 100 people vote in State X. That being the case, on an average election somewhere around 33 D’s will vote for the D, 33 R’s, and then you have the independents, which number around 29 and then you have 5% which are called “others.”5

The point is “partisan voting” gets you to about 66% of the vote, that means the two main candidates are fighting over 29 votes, trying to get somewhere around 16 or 17 of them. While most “independents” aren’t actually independent inside of this groups is the key to winning tight races – the “undecided.” Without getting too complex, some argue that if there are 29 independents, about 10 or so are actually independent-undecided. So really, campaigns are trying to convince about 6 or 7 people, out of 100 to vote for them. Crazy to think of it that way, isn’t it?

So, you might be thinking, “Well, if Romney is winning independents that doesn’t mean Obama can’t win, we are only talking about 1-3 votes.” The thing is, when you are talking percentages from a pie, if you lose votes, your opponent will most likely GAIN those. Meaning you have to make up the deficit and then “add.” Here is an example6 :

  • 33 D’s – Obama
  • 32 R’s – Romney
  • 15 I’s – Obama
  • 14 I’s – Romney
  • 6 O’s – Mickey Mouse
  • Total: Obama: 48% – Romney: 46% – Mickey Mouse: 6%

Now, when you swing independents to Romney, at the levels he is seeing in the polls, let’s see how this changes things:

  • 34 D’s – Obama
  • 32 R’s – Romney
  • 13 I’s – Obama
  • 16 I’s – Romney
  • 5 O’s – Mickey Mouse
  • Total: Obama: 47% – Romney: 48% – MM: 5%

All I did here was give Romney a decided edge in independents. In fact, not only did I give Obama a 1% bump in overall, in this second example I gave him 2% for turnout and from the “Mickey Mouse” others category. Romney still wins, with just a slight edge in Independents.

So there are two arguments I make from this. First, if Romney is winning independents by anywhere from 6-20% as say some of the polls, that means in our example he is getting anywhere from 3-6 votes more than Obama.7 What that means is that either the ballots that are 48%-48% are giving Obama votes somewhere. Even if you take out the “Mickey Mouse” and evenly split those, Obama is getting an edge in total D’s. Which takes me to my second point – Obama won’t see the turnout he had in 2008, for several reasons, and therefore can’t make up these votes. If Obama could “add to the pie” by getting an unexpected number of D voters out, he has a chance in these states. But, chances are that turnout will be low.

Therefore, based on the fact that Romney seems to be doing so well with independents, has some interesting states in play, and that Obama can’t make up the ground anywhere else, we could see a big Romney win.

For now though, I am in the 271-266 camp for Romney… but by Monday this picture could be much clearer with the final weekend push of polls coming out where final predictions tend to be a little more honest in their projections.

  1. Citations are important, and I wish more blogs did them at least for facts and figures. []
  2. By shouldn’t I mean based on both polls and political “common sense.” []
  3. This is statistically backed, but obviously not law. []
  4. For more analysis on why this is important, see Dan McLaughlin’s post. []
  5. These are usually third party voters or non-presidential voters – again, this is overly-simplistic. []
  6. I know that not all D’s or R’s vote for “their” party, but theCrossovernumbers don’t seem to have a huge affect on the overall results, therefore I list it this way to more easily focus on the independents. []
  7. I gave him 10%. []
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