It says something about polling methods and the choices people make regarding the reporting of those polling methods that the entire blogosphere (virtually) would agree with my long shot left for the left but that all three of the state that make my list of right-leaning long shot swingers would be viewed skeptically. RealClearPolitics does a poll of the polls and presents state and national polling data comprehensively. It’s very useful for picking out trends in the polling data, but I caution users not to real it too literally because, for a number of reasons, state poll averages have a tendency to be unreliable and most polls have a democrat bias due to the challenges of collecting a proper sampling of the likely-voting electorate.
Until a recent surge by Romney following a strong debate performance on October 3rd of this year, every one of these three states – North Carolina, Missouri, and Arizona – was considered potentially in play for Obama. After Mitt made his proper introduction to the American people to counteract the negative advertising, things seem to have returned to a more typical status quo entering a hotly contested election. But let’s tackle these states quickly here to show what it is about the population that makes them unlikely to flip without a huge nationwide or demographically driven political change.
ARIZONA – County by County
Representative County: Navajo (Largely unpopulated) – here’s the kicker though…Maricopa (Phoenix) is actually nearly as representative…with a LOW bias in slant (in other words, the biggest city in Arizona votes more conservatively than the state as a whole)
Who lives in Phoenix – let’s look at the demographics:
%WHITE: 77.4 (average US major city: 62.6)
%POOR: 11.4 (average US major city: 23.5)
%RETIRED: 20.5 (average US major city: 16.6 – retired folks rarely live in cities other than Florida)
%MILITARY: 2.5 (average US major city: 1.1)
%MARRIED: 58.6 (average US major city: 40.9)
Phoenix is not your typical big city. This town is older, more married, happier, wealthier, and less diverse than normal. And even the Hispanics of Phoenix vote more toward the political center than average.
It just does not play well for someone like Obama who relies heavily on client-specific interest-group politics.
If you can’t sway Phoenix and its’ roughly 60% of the state vote even to the CENTER..you can’t win Arizona.
MISSOURI – County by County
Representative County: Clay (Kansas City suburbs) – though this county has a roughly 3-point high bias, it manages to achieve this high bias largely in the Gore/Bush election of 2000 – otherwise it predicts electoral outcomes well. It should be regarded as conservative-tilting, rather than a pure swing county.
We’ve seen other swing states that have this look – the population centers lean left, the county is hard right – but Missouri’s suburban counties largely swing or lean right, rather than leaning left. Take a look at the slant grouping data by cycle:
The conservative parts of the state were unmoved by Obama’s national surge – if Obama couldn’t move them…I’m not sure who could. Those conservative parts of the state also push as far left as they can in most cycles within their respective slant groupings…so this isn’t just a large, lightly populated conservative leaning region…this is a VERY conservative area. A very conservative area that makes up 48%-49% of the state’s vote totals. So in half the state, you start out assuming you’ll give up 30 points…which means in the other half, you’d have to get back 30 points. But the other half includes swing counties that often lean RIGHT, not left…and only 17% of the popular vote in MO comes from areas that lean hard enough to the left to balance out conservative regions. In short – this state almost supported Obama…and he and McCaskill undertook a HERCULEAN effort to get out the vote here. That liberal wave election of 2008 was a historic event…one that is unlikely to be repeated at any point in the near future.
And finally…there is North Carolina.
One part Appalachian, three parts Southern, one part academic (the research triangle).Barack Obama won this state by getting an unprecedented turnout in the research triangle among youths and an evne more unusual African American turnout (26% of the state’s population, 21% of the popular vote – normal here has been 15-16%). But when you get right down to it…NC is a conservative (typically southern) state on the whole.
Here is the slant group tabular data:
There was a huge 10 point shift for Obama in slant group 4 (areas that have been swing counties in the past that suddenly voted like liberal bastions). Those kinds of shifts only sustain themselves if there was a wholesale change in the demographics of the region – which in this case there was not. The state is growing, but the proportions of the various demographic groups haven’t changed much. And once again, there is a near controlling interest in the state’s voting stock held by hard right and right-leaning regions. I’ll spare you the map, as this post is already of great length, but watch the Wilmington area – the county containing this coastal resort city (New Hanover) has represented the state well, and with very little slant bias. Polls show Romney running away with NC now and Obama has abandoned the state to concentrate on more attainable targets – for what that’s worth.