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February 2012

Gaming out Arizona and Michigan

OK, we have a couple states coming up in the next week, and a lot has been made about what happens if Santorum wins, etc.  Now, a lot of that analysis is based on the momentum Santorum would gain going into Super Tuesday, but lets just look at the delegates for a minute, and see what would happen under various scenarios.

First thing to remember for all this is the way the delegates are allocated.  Arizona is winner takes all with 29 delegates at stake.  Michigan is more complicated.  30 delegates are at stake.  A grand total of TWO delegates are determined proportionately based on the state wide primary results.  (So these will almost certainly just be 1 each to the top two candidates unless it is a blow out.)  The other 28 delegates are allocated winner take all by congressional district.  Michigan has 12 congressional districts, each district determines 2 delegates.  So in Michigan, the delegate result depends quite a bit on how candidate’s support is distributed geographically, the overall statewide numbers will not tell the whole picture.

Second item before we start looking at scenarios…  where we are in the polls right now:

And of course the starting point for all this is the current state (as of February 25th) on my Delegate Count page.  (Sources and methodology and such explained there.)

OK, so now looking at a few possibilities, in order from best for Romney, to best for Santorum.  Note that the actual results will not likely exactly match any of these scenarios, but rather these give several types of results that characterize the kinds of outcomes that might happen.

Scenario 1

First up, current polling, plus Romney’s support in Michigan is uniform across the whole state, so he wins all of the congressional districts too.  Result in this scenario, Romney gets 58 delegates for the night, Santorum gets 1.

OK, obviously Romney is the big winner here.  He moves down (toward the nomination) significantly.  He only needs about 48.6% of the remaining delegates to win.  The closest competition would still be Gingrich, although Santorum would only be one delegate behind.  Gingrich and Santorum would both need about 55.6% of the remaining delegates to catch up and win.  Still not an impossible number if Romney completely collapses, or even if one of them drops out and the other gets all their support (plus a bit).  And with some wins in big winner take all states, it could be done.  But 55.6% is starting to be a big number.  And it is a LOT more than the 14.5% of the delegates these two would have gotten so far.  The “catch up and win” possibility gets much further away with this result.  And even the “Stop Romney from winning” possibility gets further away, as Romney continues to pile up the delegates.

Scenario 2

OK, now lets take current polling, but pretend the results in the various districts is such that the districts divide in about the same way as the popular vote goes between the two top candidates.  Essentially in this scenario, Romney and Santorum split Michigan with 15 delegates each.  (And Romney still wins Arizona.)  So for the night, Romney gets 44 delegates and Santorum gets 15.  Please note, and this is important:  You get essentially the same result here regardless of who actually wins the state popular vote!  As long as it is close, and the candidates essentially split the congressional districts, you get this sort of result.  Depending on how many CDs are actually won by each candidate, you move the numbers a little, but the essential result is the same.  With this kind of result, the state popular vote bragging rights matter ONLY to the media narrative that will build (and therefore any effects on later contests)…   but they do NOT matter to the actual delegate numbers.

Romney is still the only winner here.  It is clearly not as big a win, but Romney still makes his “% of remaining delegates needed to win” go DOWN, and go down to under 50%.  Santorum, despite getting some delegates, is still in a worse position than when he started the night.  Before he needed 54.1% of the remaining delegates to catch up and win the nomination, now he needs 54.9%.  Santorum does pull ahead of Gingrich though, and put himself clearly into second place.  But the three non-Romney’s in this situation are still all heading upward (toward being mathematically eliminated), none of them has started to actually move down toward catching up and winning.  Romney in this situation does improve a bit here, but also still isn’t breaking out downward yet.  He is still hovering in the zone where his opponents (collectively) only have to do a little bit better to block him from getting the nomination.  Note that they do have to do better though.  Paul, Gingrich and Santorum could keep getting delegates at the same rate, and Romney would still get the nomination, it would just take awhile.

Scenario 3

OK, now lets say Santorum reverses the poll momentum and ends up winning the popular vote in Michigan.  As mentioned above, if his support is “lumpy” around the state, and both Romney and Santorum end up getting significant numbers of delegates, then we just have Scenario 2, plus or minus a few delegates depending on exactly how many congressional districts each candidate wins.  So for this scenario, lets pretend that Santorum actually wins with his support uniformly distributed across the state and Romney wins no congressional districts.  Then we have Santorum getting 29 of the state’s delegates, and Romney getting only 1.  So for the night that would make it 30 delegates for Romney, 29 for Santorum.  Note that despite Santorum “winning” Michigan, Romney still gets more delegates for the night because of Arizona and the 1 proportional Michigan delegate.

Romney is STILL the only actual winner in this situation…  although just barely.  He goes from needing 50.07% of the remaining delegates to win, to needing 50.05% of the remaining delegates to win.  Essentially he is flat.

Santorum, despite winning Michigan in a pretty convincing way, is still worse off than coming into the day.  Going in he needed 54.1% of the remaining delegates to win, now he needs 54.2% of the remaining delegates.  But essentially this is flat.  Once again though, Santorum does pull head of Gingrich (by an even bigger margin than Scenario 2 of course) and plants himself solidly in second place.  (Although still quite a long ways back from Romney).

This scenario does however keep Romney hovering around the 50% of remaining delegates needed to win line, while having gotten just 50% of the delegates so far.  This is the path to getting 1144 at the last possible moment before the convention.  Obviously Romney would like to do a bit better than that as just the slightest misstep at this rate of delegate collection could cause him to end up just short of the magic number.

Scenario 4

OK, now lets imagine that Santorum comes back from behind unexpectedly in Arizona, but at the same time Romney consolidates Michigan and wins there in every congressional district.  Since this involves momentum going in different directions in different states, this seems unlikely, but lets include it for completeness.

In this scenario EVERYBODY LOSES.  Nobody gets enough delegates to actually be on a pace to win the nomination.  Santorum does pull ahead of Gingrich, so there is that.  And he does win the night.  But just barely.  And not by quite enough to actually be catching up fast enough to get to 1144.

Scenario 5

Romney and Santorum split Michigan (either might win the popular vote, but they split the congressional districts), but Santorum does a come from behind victory in Arizona.  So for the night we get 44 delegates for Santorum and 15 for Romney.

We now for the first time have a situation where Santorum actually clearly wins the night.  His “% of remaining delegates needed to win” actually drops…  from 54.1% down to 53.4% of the remaining delegates.  Meanwhile, Romney gets knocked backwards.  Rather than needing just 50.1% of the remaining delegates he now needs 50.8%.

Now, Romney is still in the lead here, and by a decent margin, but with a result like this for the first time since Gingrich won South Carolina, someone would actually be improving their position in the race versus Romney.

Scenario 6

Once again we imagine the Santorum upset in Arizona, but this time combine it with the widespread win in all Michigan congressional districts.  This is Santorum’s dream scenario.  Here he gets 58 delegates for the night compared to only 1 for Romney.

Here Santorum wins the night decisively.

After a night like this, Romney would still be ahead, but would be back below 50% of the delegates allocated so far and he would actually be moving quickly away from the nomination rather than closer to it, and Santorum would be gaining at an alarming rate.  Of course, winning a winner take all state, plus almost all of the delegates from another state will do that.  Romney would be in deep trouble in this scenario and while sell behind, Santorum would now be nipping at his heels.


All the hype is about Michigan because it is close.  And because a Santorum win there will get everybody excited about “momentum”.  And indeed, that kind of victory followed by the media frenzy that followed, could indeed move poll numbers in the subsequent states, most critically the Super Tuesday states…

But in terms of where the delegate race stands today, Michigan is not enough.  For Santorum to actually get a substantive victory on Tuesday, not just one that he hopes will lead to bigger victories down the line, then he HAS to win Arizona too.  The only situations where Santorum is actually on a pace to win the nomination himself are ones where he wins Arizona as well as a substantial number of the congressional districts in Michigan.  Even with a widespread win in Michigan where Santorum wins all 14 congressional districts, if he loses Arizona, then Romney still gets more delegates for the night, and Santorum isn’t on a pace to catch up.

Of all the scenarios above, my best guess is that we will be closest to Scenario 2 than anything else.  Which would mean that regardless of the state wide popular vote winner, Santorum and Romney split the Michigan delegates, and Romney wins Arizona.  Which is a win for Romney in the delegate race, and by a decent margin.

Of course, if Santorum does win Michigan’s overall state popular vote, expect all the talk to be about that and the momentum he gets out of it.  We won’t hear much about how actually Romney is closer to the nomination than he was before, even despite the Michigan result.

If Santorum does pull off a surprise in Arizona though…  well, that is a completely different story.

Edit 2012 Feb 26 16:02 UTC for minor wording clarification.

Edit 2012 Fev 29 14L57 UTC to fix typo.

@abulsme Updates from 2012-02-24 (UTC)

@abulsme Updates from 2012-02-23 (UTC)

@abulsme Updates from 2012-02-22 (UTC)

  • Reading – Gvmt Pressures Twitter to Hand Over Keys to OWS Protester’s Location Data Without a Warrant (Hanni Fakhoury) #
  • Reading – Farewell to a Free Spirit (Bob Frump) #
  • Reading – The New Kremlinology, Ctd (Andrew Sullivan) #
  • Reading – Media Headlines Will Lead You To Ruin (Lance Roberts) #
  • Reading – Hubble Discovers Steam World ‘Like No Planet We Know Of’ (Carl Franzen) #
  • Reading – Cookiegate: Google Taking Heat For Tracking Users Online (Carl Franzen) #
  • Reading – Peter Gleick Confesses to Obtaining Heartland Documents Under False Pretenses (Megan McArdle) #
  • Reading – The MEK and the Warped Nature of the Iran Debate (Daniel Larison) #
  • Reading – Iran and “Rational” Regimes II (Daniel Larison) #
  • Reading – More contested convention thoughts (Matt, DCW) #
  • Reading – Opportunity Phones Home Dusty Self-Portraits and Ground Breaking Science (Ken Kremer) #
  • Reading – Dead for 32,000 Years, an Arctic Plant Is Revived (Nicholas Wade) #
  • Reading – Poll Analysis: Romney gains slightly on Obama (Darryl, HorsesAss) #
  • Reading – What we learned from the ‘Nightline’ report on Foxconn factories (Joshua Topolsky) #
  • Watching – President Obama sings Sweet Home Chicago! (TheObamaDiary) #
  • Reading – AWOOOGAH!!! Conservatives Start To Sound The Alarm Over Rick Santorum’s Extremism (Sarlin & McMorris-Santoro) #

Comparing 2008 and 2012 Again (Now With Graphs!)

OK, beating a dead horse a bit, but I finally made graphs, so one more look.  (Previous comments on this here and here, 2012 Delegate race here, 2008 Delegate races here.)

The key is that while if you look at the calendar, and say where were things on February 22nd 2008…

On the Republican side you’d see that McCain had for all intents and purposes wrapped things up.  On that date 60.4% of the delegates had already been allocated.  McCain had 63.9% of the delegates, while his closest competition (Romney) only had 19.9%.  In order to get to his magic number McCain only needed 29.0% of the remaining delegates.  For Romney to catch up, he would have needed 96.0% of the remaining delegates.  Romney was just days away from being mathematically eliminated (that would happen on February 26th).

Meanwhile on the Democratic side, 64.1% of the delegates had been allocated.  Obama had 50.8% of the delegates to Clinton’s 48.2%.  To win Obama needed 48.6% of the remaining delegates, Clinton needed 53.3% of the remaining delegates.  Clearly the Democratic race was still close (although from here on out, Obama just increased his lead, Clinton never really made up any ground except when Florida’s delegates were reinstated near the end).  But the Republican race was over.

You’d then compare to Romney today and build a narrative of Romney not being able to close the deal, of wondering why he can’t just wrap this up, after all McCain had wrapped this up by this time, right?

But this year, on the Republican side, as of today we only have 11.0% of the delegates allocated (and that counts estimates from caucus states, it is less without that).  So how does this year look and compare with 2008 when you look at it by % of delegates allocated instead of by date?

Well, here is the “% of remaining needed to win” chart with % of delegates allocated on the horizontal axis instead of date:

You can see clearly that Romney is well ahead of his competition, and while he isn’t yet diving down toward zero (indicating he is heading quickly to the nomination) he is holding steady, while everybody else is trending upward toward being eliminated.  Gingrich and Santorum are neck and neck for 2nd place and both need about 54% of the remaining delegates to catch up and win.  54% is not an impossible number in a two man race.  It is a lot better than either has done so far, but if one of them stops getting delegates and the other picks up all of their support, it is in the realm of the possible.  But it would be a significant change from what has happened so far.  Note, for instance, that even when Santorum won states, he didn’t win by a big enough margin to actually be catching up.  His line still went up.

Now what did this look like in 2008?  The closest comparison for the Republicans would be as of February 5th…  the day before Super Tuesday.  At that point 9.4% of the delegates had been allocated.

What do we see here?  A very different pattern.  McCain had only recently (in terms of % of delegates) pulled ahead, but Romney was still close…  and gaining!  We had a two person race where both were within shooting distance of each other, and neither were yet heading either rapidly up or down on this chart, indicating that they were either on the way to elimination or to the nomination.  In 2008 at this point, things really were still close.  The very next day, on SuperTuesday, McCain would essentially run away with it, and that would be that.  But comparing comparable points in the delegate race, Romney actually has a much bigger lead and advantage on his competition than McCain had in 2008.

One more comparison though…  The Democrats in 2008.  The comparable date there is also February 5th, the day before Super Tuesday.  10.3% of the delegates had been allocated on that side on that day.

There are a few oddities in the data from back then…  my sources had allocated some delegates, then backtracked, causing the little bit of backtracking on the chart, and when my tracking started on January 1st almost 7% of the delegates were already in place because of Super Delegates who had declared their preferences)…  but you can still see the trends.

So, most important thing you see here…  Clinton was still in the lead!  Obama didn’t catch her in delegates until significantly later.  But it is clear that both Obama and Clinton are still in contention.  Their lines are basically horizontal, and they were pretty close to each other.  Neither of them had started moving toward the nomination really, but neither was showing a pattern of getting eliminated either…  like Edwards and all the rest were.

In this year’s race, all of Romney’s competition are in worse positions than McCain’s competition was at the same time.  It is not yet too late for one of them to mount a push and catch up…  but it is getting close.  Even with the vastly stretched out schedule, there is still a big enough chunk of states coming up on Super Tuesday that we’ll probably see that day be the do or die day for all the not-Romneys.  At least for actually catching up and winning.  Blocking Romney from 1144 is a lot easier task than actually winning at this point.  We’ll know a lot more about how possible (or not) that scenario is after Super Tuesday as well.

OK, long post, but finally, for reference, here are the two races in 2008 in full as they played out (rather than just looking at the first 12%).

And here is this year’s Republicans at the same scale…

Just a little ways left to go, huh?

Curmudgeon’s Corner: Descent into Chaos

In the latest Curmudgeon’s Corner…

Sam and Ivan talk about:

  • Texas / Illegal Immigration
  • Mountain Lion / Useful Apps
  • Obama Frustration / Tea Party Frustration / Arizona and Michigan
  • Santorum on Contraception, Sex and Religion / Gaming the Race

Just click to listen now:

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@abulsme Updates from 2012-02-21 (UTC)

  • Reading – I tried to watch Game of Thrones and this is what happened (The Oatmeal) #
  • Reading – Why the AP is projecting all 37 MN delegates for Santorum (Matt, DCW) #
  • Reading – iPad improves Kindergartners literacy scores (Jim Dalrymple) #
  • Reading – GOP talks about a contested convention (Matt, DCW) #
  • Reading – Lab-grown meat is first step to artificial hamburger (Pallab Ghosh) #
  • Reading – Poll Analysis: Newt gains a bit but still loses 100% to Obama (Darryl, HorsesAss) #
  • Reading – How Seinfeld's Productivity Secret Fixed My Procrastination Problem (Adam Dachis) #
  • Reading – In Michigan, Momentum for Romney? (Nate Silver) #
  • Reading – Commentary: Some lies around Deep Throat exposed (Glenn Garvin) #
  • RT @ppppolls: Romney leads Santorum by just 3 in Arizona, 36-33. Gingrich at 16%, Paul at 9%: #
  • RT @ppppolls: Big thing to watch in AZ: can Newt hold his 16%? Weakly committed supporters could leave for Santorum- #
  • RT @neiltyson: Feb 20, 1962, The USA launches John Glenn into Earth orbit. Something America could do fifty years ago….but not today. #
  • Reading – We can do no Moore: a transistor from single atom (Matthew Francis) #
  • RT @Atrios: is newt still alive? #
  • RT @joshtpm: Romney campaign finds new secret weapon against Santorum: Santorum. #
  • RT @cpreksta: Drawing Muppets with my 2-year-old cousin Tabitha. #
  • MT @thinkprogress: Is @SarahPalinUSA launching a dark horse candidacy for a brokered conv nomination? (via @RyanLizza) #
  • MT @jbarro: A brokered conv should nominate a consensus candidate with the gravitas and experience to be ready to serve: George H.W. Bush. #
  • RT @wrct883: Our 500th follower will win a very special WRCT tshirt! #freeswag #
  • RT @gruber: Funny that the preference to turn off third-party cookies is a little hard to find in Google Chrome. #
  • Reading – Talk of Brokered Convention May Be Just That (Michael D. Shear) #
  • RT @thinkprogress: "You know how Mitt Romney celebrates Presidents Day? He straps his dog to the roof of a Lincoln!" — Dave Letterman #
  • Reading – Poll Analysis: Obama leads Santorum (Darryl, HorsesAss) #
  • Just completed a 0.78 km walk – Short walk with Roscoe. . #RunKeeper #
  • Reading – Breaking news: Heartland leaker is scientist Peter Gleick, says documents are all real (Phil Plait) #
  • Reading – Memo to Republicans: Obama Is Tougher on Iran Than George W. Bush (Jeffrey Goldberg) #
  • Reading – We, the Web Kids (Piotr Czerski) #
  • Reading – Office for iPad reportedly due in weeks (Megan Lavey-Heaton) #
  • Reading – MI Poll: Romney By Two (Kyle Leighton) #
  • Reading – Whooping cough just keeps spreading in county (Sharon Salyer) #

@abulsme Updates from 2012-02-20 (UTC)

  • Reading – A Very Rough Estimate of the Republican Delegate Math Ahead, Part Two (Josh Putnam) #
  • MT @natsecHeather: Santorum trifecta: Bible-not-science-based policy; prenatal testing=eugenics; BHO=Hitler. All in 1 weekend. Any I missed? #
  • Reading – Big data skills bring big dough (Barb Darrow) #
  • Reading – Amazon's big property deal: Seattle landowner Al Clise talks (Jeanne Lang Jones) #
  • Reading – The slow rise of the SoMoClo OS (Om Malik) #
  • Reading – Mobile Revolution (Josh Marshall) #
  • RT @ppppolls: Romney has chopped 11 points off Santorum's Michigan lead in the last week: #
  • MT @ppppolls: MI may be moving on a different track because our AZ numbers (tomorrow) and WA ones (Tuesday) are good for Santorum #
  • Reading – The Electoral Wasteland (Timothy Egan) #
  • Reading – So Much Harder Than It Looks (Josh Marshall) #

@abulsme Updates from 2012-02-19 (UTC)

Electoral College: Obama weakens a bit in Washington

Map from the 2012 Electoral College Prediction page.

So, a new poll in Washington state moves Obama’s 5 poll average from a lead just a little more than 10%, to a lead just under 10%.  To be fair, this is the 5th real poll I have, so this for the first time moves the 2008 election results used to seed the averages out, and makes this the first look that is based solely on Obama vs Romney polling.  It does though move Washington from the “Strong Obama” category down to my “Weak Obama” category.  I keep thinking maybe I should rename the categories, because a 9.5% lead isn’t exactly all that “Weak”.  But leads that size have been known to disappear via strong campaigning, major events in the campaign, etc.  The right way to interpret this category is “Candidate has a decent lead, but not so huge they can take the state for granted.”  My name just sucks a little.  :-)

In any case, since this doesn’t effect a swing state, this doesn’t move the basic numbers of the race:

Romney Obama
Romney Best Case 311 227
Current Status 210 328
Obama Best Case 170 368

This is the first movement on our charts toward Romney since January 11th though, so that is worth noting.

Chart from the 2012 Electoral College Prediction page.  Lines represent how many more electoral votes a candidate has than is needed to tie under several different scenarios.