Computers & Politics

A lot of political junkies follow PhillipsBillBoard.  One of them is Jim Lees (former WV Democrat candidate for Governor).  He has offered a window for political junkies into what to watch in the upcoming presidential election. 

Computers & Politics

By Jim Lees

      For those interested in Presidential politics two economists affiliated with Yahoo Labs have created a pretty sophisticated computer model using scientific algorithms derived from the past ten presidential elections to predict the final electoral vote count in this coming November’s presidential election.  The model predicts the percentage of votes President Obama will receive in each state and then awards the electoral votes from that state based upon his projected vote total.  Interestingly the model also assigns odds to the President’s chances of winning each particular state.

     For example the computer model predicts that President Obama will receive 42.8% of the vote here in West Virginia, thus resulting in our State’s five electoral votes going to the Republican nominee.  Given the past three presidential elections here I would guess 42% of the vote for Obama is about right unless there is some dramatic shift between now and November.  More interesting is that the computer assigns the President only a 5% chance of winning West Virginia this fall.  Don’t therefore expect to see the Presidential candidates making any significant appearances here in West Virginia (perhaps an airport stopover) nor should you expect to have an up-close seat to the ad campaigns that will be waged in the battleground states.  And prepare to watch some Democrats running for state-wide office place some distance between themselves and the President.

     The computer model is excellent at showing which states will be contested in November and surprisingly the number is very small.  Right now the computer model awards 235 electoral votes to the Republican nominee including the state of Florida.  Surprisingly of the states that comprise those 235 votes the only state in which the computer model gives the President a chance of winning is Florida and there his chances are only a bit more than 35%.  His chances of winning any of these other states are much less than 35%, meaning that the Republican nominee is pretty solid for at least 235 electoral votes assuming they can win Florida (Florida is probably the only one of these states where the President may make a serious run at winning).

     The computer model has 303 electoral votes going to President Obama which of course would make him the winner in November (270 is needed to win).  But unlike the solid win margins and percentages for the Republican the computer is predicting the President to win Virginia with 50.2% of the vote and Ohio with 50.3 percent.  His odds of winning each state are about 52%.  Meaning the Republican nominee has a 48% chance of winning each of these states.  These are the states where you need to rush out and purchase a newspaper, radio, or TV station so as to watch the advertising dollars start rolling in.

     The stunning thing to me however is that if the President loses Florida (which the computer certainly believes he will), Virginia, AND Ohio, he still wins by a count of 272-268 (California, New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois, all solidly in the President’s column, account for 124 electoral votes alone).  So what other state might the Republican nominee win to assure the election?  As crazy at it may seem that state is….New Hampshire.  The computer model projects Obama the winner with only 50.8% of the vote and assigns him a 57% chance to win the state.  The reason here is that the computer model assumes Romney is the nominee and Romney puts New Hampshire in play (Santorum and Gingrich do not).

     So how many electoral votes does little New Hampshire have?  A grand total of 4.  Meaning if the Republican can win Virginia, Ohio, AND New Hampshire, the Republican wins 272-268.  The next best shot for the Republican is Colorado but there the computer assigns the President a 67% chance of winning.  All other states appear out of reach for the Republican nominee.

     If you are in the business of betting that you know who the Republican Vice-President Nominee will be you may want to learn a bit more about a guy named Bob McDonnell.  He happens to be the governor of Virginia.  Oh yeah…….he is also a Republican.

The PhillipsBillboard welcomes commentary from readers.





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