Even before debates, electoral map appears largely written in stone (Originally posted on Yahoo!'s "The Signal" Blog)
DavidMRothschild on October 02, 2012 @ 3:06PM
Many see potential for Wednesday's presidential debate to be a deciding moment in the 2012 election. From the our perch here on Forecasting Mountain, we don't see a whole lot left to be decided.
Since we posted our first forecast of the state-by-state presidential election on Feb. 16, 2012, six months before the Republican Party even had an official nominee, only three states have flipped camps at any point in time. Virginia pointed toward the Republican nominee for several months during the summer, while both Florida and North Carolina have recently shifted to President Barack Obama's column. Almost all of the other 47 states have moved further in whichever direction they were leaning in February as the game clock has ticked down from more than 250 days to fewer than 40 until the election.
DavidMRothschild on September 25, 2012 @ 3:12PM
There are five states that have a double digit number of electoral votes, where Obama and Romney each still have a decent 15 percent shot at winning: North Carolina (where Obama has a 31.8 percent chance), Florida (57.9), Virginia (73.6), Ohio (77.3), and Wisconsin (83.9). There is something striking when you look at a chart of the likelihood of any of them voting for Obama since August 1; there is a lot of movement, but very little crossing.
States respond to local shifts. Wisconsin's dip started just after their native son Paul Ryan joined the Republican ticket. We also know that the candidates' fortunes in states correlate with local economic trends, and that the huge differential across swing states in spending on advertisements and get-out-the-vote initiatives impacts the support and turnout in those states as well.
Yet trends still tend to be more national than regional or local. Year after year, granular predictions of the state-by-state outcome over the months preceding an election look similar to the above chart with few states cutting dramatically across the other states.
The likelihood of Romney winning North Carolina and Ohio is not much greater than the likelihood that he will win Ohio. Because the most likely way for Romney to win Ohio is a national trend that moves all of the states between North Carolina and Ohio into his column, picking off Ohio before states that currently favor Romney more is very unlikely. Conversely, the likelihood of Romney winning Ohio and losing North Carolina is almost negligible. (I am further examining the nature of these state-by-state relationships in a prediction game on my website, which readers are encouraged to play.)
This method of determining joint probability is called the ranking method and it has proven surprising difficult to beat this simple/transparent and reliable method. Drawing this method out to all states in the Electoral College, if you list all states from most likely for Romney to most likely for Obama, it is unlikely that any state moves more than a few points in rank. Thus, the quick and easy estimate for the likelihood of any candidate reaching 270 electoral votes is to figure out the state that flips the election if every state stays in their order. Below is the key section of the states 23-32 in that list:
If Romney takes Missouri he has 191 electoral votes, 206 electoral votes with North Carolina, onward until he crosses 270 with a victory in Ohio. Similarly, Obama has 243 electoral votes if he takes Nevada, 253 with Wisconsin, and he crosses 270 with Ohio.
The flip state is Ohio at 77.3 percent for Obama and 22.7 percent for Romney. This is a great, simple approximation for the likelihood of the election. It has tracked my more complex model of electoral victory, within 2 or 3 percentage points, for the entire election cycle.
This article is syndicated on the Huffington Post.
The downside of outside spending: Candidates are hard to shop for (Originally posted on Yahoo!'s "The Signal" Blog)
DavidMRothschild on September 25, 2012 @ 11:37AM
Mitt Romney's campaign understands that almost every reasonable scenario for victory includes winning Ohio, Virginia and Florida—a troika that, along with all the states safely in the Republican column, would award the challenger 266 electoral votes, four shy of the magic number. Campaign spending figures published by National Journal verify this in no uncertain terms. Since May 1, the Romney campaign and its allies have spent more on advertising in these three states than in all other competitive states combined. The same is true of the Obama campaign, whose clearest path to victory involves denying Romney any one of these battlegrounds.
Where the campaigns blow their overflowing fountains of cash is only half the story, of course, due to the torrents of outside spending flooding this campaign. Overall, the Republicans and their supporters have outspent the Democrats $256 million to $217 million since May. This is a little misleading, however, because of a simple economic fact: The marginal value of a campaign dollar is significantly higher if raised by the campaign than if raised by a super PAC.
Outside spending groups are not allowed to coordinate with campaigns, though they can coordinate with one another and operate in the same political reality. In an era of incredibly precise political targeting, however, outside spending that is not privy to the campaigns' precise strategies and messaging is not as effective. Consider the difference between spending $100 on yourself and having a friend buy you something for $100, especially if this well-meaning friend is not legally permitted to ask you what you want. Economists call this the "deadweight loss of Christmas."
DavidMRothschild on September 24, 2012 @ 6:05PM
We are very excited to introduce to you a new feature of PredictWise, called WiseQ Game. WiseQ Game - Elections 2012 is the first of a series of games that will allow you to place your own predictions on politics and economic indicators. Over the next few months the selection will expand to entertainment, sports, and finance. We have created this game for our users for a few reasons:
PredictWise is dedicated to providing the most accurate and meaningful predictions possible, on a real-time updating basis. We hope that these games will delight our readers and provide us with a new source as well that will let us both improve and expand on our predictions.
1) You follow predictions and we want to give you an opportunity to "comment" in the most interesting and meaningful way possible. Go into the game and wager that the current odds should be higher or lower for a particular event! Can our readers "beat" our aggregated predictions?
2) We spend a lot of time aggregating the available data in the world, but we see limits to that data. This project will provide us with new a data source that will allow us to create even more accurate and meaningful predictions.
3) We also follow markets and prediction games closely, and we are really excited about some of the market design innovations we have created including simple front-end wizards for making predictions and really complicated back-end market makers to keep track of all of the predictions.
Democrats likely to retain Senate as four critical races shift in their favor (Originally posted on Yahoo!'s "The Signal" Blog)
DavidMRothschild on September 24, 2012 @ 1:31PM
After weeks in which the fate of the Senate simmered at nearly even odds of flipping for Republicans or remaining in Democrats' control, the outlook has shifted dramatically in the Democrats' favor. The incumbent party now has an 80 percent chance of retaining its majority, according to the Signal's prediction model.
The break is largely due to critical races in Missouri, Wisconsin, Massachusetts and Virginia, all of which have favored the Republican at some point in the past month and now favor the Democratic candidate.