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Who cost McCain the election?

Posted by Richard on November 10, 2008

While catching up on Big Lizards, I learned some other interesting things about the election. The first post debunked the myth of a big surge in registrations and new voters. It seems that, for the umpteenth time, media pundits were wrong about this being the year when young people would finally flock to the polls.

According to Dafydd, most of the new registrations (8.7 million out of 10 million) are explained by the population increase since 2004. Of the 1.3 million "extra" registrations, only about 300,000 showed up to vote — 0.2% of the vote (emphasis in original):

Bottom line: New voters, felons, and bums did not impact the vote in any significant way. ACORN failed; Obama won the election not by bringing "new blood" to the voting booth but by doing a better job than McCain at wooing the traditional voter, the guys and gals who always vote.

So if McCain didn't lose because of a surge of new voters, which traditional voters cost him the election? According to Dafydd, it was conservatives. He quoted the Associated Press (which I won't do, since they don't recognize fair use and have threatened those who don't pay them for quotes): according to exit polls, they said, the percentage of voters calling themselves conservative was the same as four years ago.

Dafydd then argued (emphasis in original): 

Let's hop aboard my Syllogismobile and go for a ride…

  1. 34% of voters called themselves "conservatives."

  2. Of that 34%, 20% voted for Barack H. Obama; that means 6.8% of the electorate both called themselves conservatives and also voted for Obama. (Would that include Christopher Buckley and his ilk?)

  3. Contrariwise, only 10% of self-dubbed liberals voted for John S. McCain. Conservatives defected at twice the rate of liberals.

  4. Suppose, just for a giggle, conservatives had only voted for Obama at the same percentage that liberals voted for McCain… in other words, that conservatives were no more likely to defect than liberals. In that case, half of the conservative defectors would have remained loyal, and 3.4% of votes would shift from Obama to McCain.

  5. According to the most recent quasi-official unofficial tally, the popular tallies for the two nominees were 52.6% for Obama and 46.1% for McCain.

  6. Switching 3.4% from left to right yields 49.2% for Obama and 49.5% for McCain. (Note McCain number higher than Obama number.)

  7. Conclusion: Had conservatives defected at the same rate as liberals, instead of twice the rate, then John McCain would have won this election.

Thanks, guys!

That's a bit of over-simplification. It looks only at the popular vote, not the Electoral College — which would make the analysis much more complicated. But as a rough approximation, it sounds about right. It's very likely that Christopher Buckley and those like him elected Obama. 

Bill Buckley is spinning so fast in his grave that it may warp the space-time continuum.

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