Chris Muir, the Day-by-day cartoonist has the gubernatorial election result in Washington State to a tee.


Lead switches in Washington State

The counting is over.

Christine Gregoire, the Democrat candidate for Governor of Washington State has overturned a 261 vote deficit on polling day (November 2) to win by 130. The score is subject to final confirmation by the Washington Secretary of State's office and of course, the lawyers...

As a former candidate myself in three much smaller scale local elections, I can honestly say that Dino Rossi the Republican candidate must be absolutely gutted.

Having apparently won by 261 votes, Rossi saw his lead whittled to 42 by the combination of a machine recount and what to a British audience can only be described as bizarre election procedures. His lead then grew to 50, before King County's late return changed the outcome.

First, voters who somehow were not included on electoral lists were allowed to vote "provisionally". Bluntly, this is nothing less than an open-door to massive voting fraud or error. As a means of encouraging turn-out it is simply crazy. It encourages people to not bother registering to vote properly and gives election officials an easy excuse for lazyness ("Don't bother with that, Mr Smith, just show up at the polling station on the day and my colleagues will let you vote").

Second, those who filled in ballot papers incorrectly but made a "clear intent" were added. This procedure in isolation is perfectly legitimate, provided of course that the same standards are used in all polling stations. Given the bizarre fluctuations in recount scores from different counties, let's just say I think the process was run by incompetent amateurs or crooks.

Third, postal votes franked on the day of the election were allowed. If the US Post Office is as slack as its British counterpart, then the practice of posting letters with the wrong frank mark (i.e. posted the day after the date marked on the envelope) cannot be ruled out. Even if no fraud occurred, it is imbecilic to have an election held up by the post. There is no excuse for not having a cut-off of votes received before or on polling day.

Fourth, it appears that different standards were applied for accepting votes during the course of the recounts. It can't be fraud! It's too obvious, it must be incompetence.

Fifth, allowing King County to report after the rest of the State is ridiculous. It means that any corrupt practice in that district will automatically succeed in its object. If the King County favoured candidate needs 100 extra votes to win, no problem, they can be found... The truth is that no result where the lead changes once the last county declares a result several days after the others can be accepted without serious concerns for the propriety of the counting process.

Whoever lost this election has more than sufficient grounds for feeling cheated. How did over 500 ballot papers disappear for a month? If Rossi had won, Gregoire would surely want to know.

What really bothers me is the thought that the US government is supervising elections in civil war-torn Iraq in January 2005. How the hell will the Iraqi parties deal with this sort of incompetence?

Kos says shoot Kerry and his team

I am reminded of the poster in the Kingston-upon-Thames offices of a local branch of a British political party in 1987.

The Six Phases of an Election

1. Enthusiasm
2. Disillusionment
3. Panic
4. The Search for the Guilty
5. The Punishment of the Innocent
6. Rewards and Honours for Non-participants

Apologies for the relative dearth of postings this week. I'm waiting for news from Olympia, Washington about the gubernatorial race.


King County should fix it for Gregoire

With only one county left to report, from 39, the Democrat position in the Washington State Governor election seems unassailable. King County, which polls 3 to 2 for the Democrats against the Republicans is expected to find an extra 500 votes or more. In the previous re-count, 593 extra votes for the Democrat candidate Christine Gregoire were counted, compared with 348 for Dino Rossi, her Republican opponent. Because the result currently stands at at Rossi lead of 42, plus eight net votes added from the other 38 counties of Washington State, it would now be extraordinary if the King County manual recount does not produce a Democrat win, despite Gregoire being behind in both statewide tallies so far.

The conspiracy theorists don't have far to look for evidence that something odd happened between November 2 and December 23 2004. Consider the discrepencies between the standards of different counties. Not one county managed to achieve the same score in the original count, the machine recount and the hand recount. Cowlitz county managed to reduce the scores of both major parties in both recounts, whilst finding one extra Libertarian vote. Given that provisional ballots were being checked for possible inclusion this pattern is completely at odds with the rest of Washington state. Wahkiakum county produced the only figure that makes sense. There the machine recount added one vote to Rossi and the hand recount found one less, suggesting that the original count was good. It is obvious that the standards are either inconsistent from one county to another, or fraud is taking place under the noses of election officials. Reports of several hundred votes "forgotten" in King County suggest either a degree of open fraud that beggars belief, or a degree of incompetence that is simply awesome. Get FedEx in to run the polling stations and handle the delivery of ballot boxes!

For Rossi, defeat in these circumstances seems likely to propel him into a Senatorial campaign in two years time, a campaign he might well win.


Back in the Ukraine

According to Michael Fumento on TechCentral Station, Viktor Yushenko's poison was not as deadly as anti-chemicals activists have claimed. Bizarrely, Mr Yushenko may owe his life to the fact that his would-be murderers believed environmentalist propaganda!

"We don't know of a single person who has ever died of acute dioxin poisoning," says Robert Golden, president of the Maryland-based consulting firm ToxLogic.

It's also terribly rude to say dioxin is not a human carcinogen. The International Agency for Research on Cancer insists it is, and the EPA desperately wants to call it one but its own review panels keep getting in the way.

Yet in addition to the Ranch Hands, we have cancer data from throughout the world concerning workers or townsfolk exposed to dioxin through accidental releases. No type of cancer shows up consistently. As a paper in last December's Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology concluded, "The long-term accumulation of negative, weak, and inconsistent findings suggests that [dioxin] eventually will be recognized as not carcinogenic for humans."

The Ukrainian presidential election second round re-run will take place on December 26.


Spinning coin...

The Washington State gubernatorial election saga enters its eighth week and there is still no clear outcome. Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed believes he will be able to declare a result by December 23.

On the one hand, Democrats are cheered by news that 561 ballots that were "mistakenly rejected" not once but twice, should be included in the King County total. As King County (including Seattle) accounts for over 35% of the Democrat score and the Democrats there outnumber Republicans by almost 3 to 2, such a change would appear to spell doom for Dino Rossi's chances of holding his lead.

In the original count Rossi beat Christine Gregoire by 261 votes. After a machine recount which also saw many provisional ballots added to the toal, the Republican candidate's lead was cut to a mere 42 out of more than 2.8 million votes cast.

On the other hand my analysis of the corrections occuring in counties that have reported for the second and manual recount suggests that the picture is less rosy for Gregoire.

Across the whole State the average increase in the Democratic vote from the original to the first (machine) recount was 33.1 votes per county. For the 33 counties that have reported at the time of writing, the figure was 6.1 votes per county. So far in the second (hand) recount the number has incread to 6.1 per county, suggesting that the overall score could be 51.8 per county, or 1820 votes across Washington State.

However, the equivalent calculations for the Republican candidate suggest that his vote could increase by 2508 votes across the state, giving Rossi a majority in the region of 700 votes. The Libertarian candidate Ruth Bennett could add about 95 votes to an already impressive total of more than 63,000. Bennett scored more than five times the number of votes gained by Michael Badnarik (the Libertarian presidential candidate) in the State of Washington.

All this of course depends on the notion that the errors and challenges to disputed votes break evenly in the six remaining counties.

The coin is still spinning...

UPDATE: With results published for a 34th county (Skagit), a total of 24 ballots fewer have been counted. This marginally affects the calculations and does not alter the prognosis I have made above. It's still increadibly tight, but Rossi has picked up a thin advantage, with King county to come.


Bad for Rossi, Good for Gregoire

The hand recount in Washington State for the gubernatorial election of November 2, is underway, and is showing anomalies between the machine recount and the present check. As expected, the Libertarian candidate has been losing votes. Although the Republican Dino Rossi has (on paper) increased his lead to 43 over Democrat candidate Christine Gregoire, the signs are the King County will find sufficent extra votes to overturn the result. Some Republican activists have actually called on Rossi to concede in protest.

With 10 counties reporting, the discrepancies stand at: Democrat +28 votes, Republican +29 votes, Libertarian -2 votes. King County, which includes the city of Seattle, accounted for over 875,000 votes or over 30% of all votes cast. On current trends a discrepancy of over 800 would be consistent with 500 going to the Democrat candidate, sufficent to win the race for Governor. In the machine recount, King County found 971 extra votes of which 593 went to Gregoire.

Recounts in the US have a habit of boosting the Democrat score, whether in Washington, Ohio or Florida. Depending on one's political allegiance this is either cheating by Republicans who prevent good votes from counting, which is rectified in the recount, or cheating by Democrats who stuff the ballot boxes after the polls have closed. Either way, a bad taste is left by these lapses.


Was it the Guardian wot won it for Bush?

I just had a discussion about Operation Clark County, that fatuous attempt by the London-based Socialist-leaning Guardian newspaper, to persuade Ohio voters to back John Kerry in the November 2 election. The question being considered was: did the Guardian (nicknamed the Grauniad for its frequent typographical errors and its leftist obsessions) win the presidential election (accidentally) for George Bush? In 1992, the Sun newspaper proclaimed on its front page after the fourth consecutive defeat for the British Labour Party that "It Was the Sun Wot Won It". Did the Guardian's patronizing meddling produce a similar, if unintended effect?

The set-up was as follows. The Guardian calculated (correctly) that Ohio would be a key state in the presidential election. Ian Katz and Oliver Burkeman, the 'geniuses' behind the campaign selected Clark County on the basis that Al Gore had supposedly won that county by a mere 324 votes or 1%. The Guardian also claimed that George W Bush had won Ohio by 4%, but that polls were showing a tight race with a virtual dead heat expected.

The truth was slightly different. Clark County did go for Gore, but only by 0.56%, and Bush won Ohio by 3.51% in 2000. So the background information was slightly wrong to begin with.

Robin Grant of perfect.co.uk, went one better, not only claiming to have set up the campaign but actually collecting local press coverage, including expressions of outrage from Clark County residents. Grant's smug chuckles at the right-wing bloggers look funny now, but not the way that he had intended.

The result of thousands of Guardian readers sending letters to independent voters in Clark County was nothing less than dramatic. The campaign, despite being a "roaring success" was cancelled as soon as letters began to arrive in Ohio.

A typical report of the time reads:
The Springfield News-Sun also received about a dozen e-mails, starting early in the day, about the Guardian campaign, from places as diverse as New York, New Jersey, Georgia, Alaska and Switzerland, almost all of which expressed some degree of outrage.

The local paper ran a story with the headline "Butt out Brits, voters say". USA Today describing the Guardian as a "left-leaning newspaper", poured scorn on the campaign, portraying it as at best a publicity stunt.

Both local Republican and Democrat campaigns described the move as self-defeating. The scorecard shows the cost of Operation Clark County to John Kerry's hopes of winning Ohio.

Clark County20042000


Republican majority or deficit (%)
Ohio+2.12+3.510.7% to Democrat
Clark County+0.56-2.041.3% to Republican

So the Guardian swing was 2.0% from the Democrats to Bush. Clark County was the only Ohio county to switch from a Democrat majority in 2000 to a Republican one in 2004. In fact such a swing only occurred in 5% of the whole country's 3,113 counties according to USA Today. If we imagine what effect Operation Clark County might have had if the Guardian had run it across the whole of the USA we get some startling results.

Kerry would have failed to win the only State to switch his way from 2000, New Hampshire with 4 electoral college votes. Worse still, Michigan (17 votes), Minnesota (10), Oregon (7), Pennsylvania (21) and Wisconsin (10) would all have fallen to the Republican onslaught if the Guardian effect had been felt in those states. The final outcome would have been a 355 to 183 electoral college massacre for Senator Kerry.

It gets worse.

The Guardian ended up giving out contact details for 14,000 voters out of the 56,000 originally planned for. If these had been sent and they had achieved the same scale of effect then the swing would have been eight per cent more to Bush. So a nationwide Guardian campaign could have given a further eight states totalling 130 electoral college votes for Bush. At 485 to 53, the Democratic Party can only pray that next time round no progressive billionaire pays for such an operation.

The short answer to the original question is 'No', Operation Clark County cannot be credited with finding the 118,775 votes for George Bush that got him re-elected. In the event, the entire voting population of Clark County going for John Kerry would not have been enough. But the margin of victory, which encouraged Senator Kerry to concede gracefully on November 3, might not have been there without the efforts of Guardian readers. I understand that the local Republican campaign office wrote a letter of thanks to the Guardian.

One final question. Did the Guardian pay for the copy of the electoral roll, or do the taxpayers of Clark County have to find an extra $25? I hope Mr Katz pays up. It's the least he can do for the 'impoverished' masses of Ohio.



A federal judge has ruled that a full recount in the state of Ohio should go ahead, following lobbying by David Cobb, the Green Party candidate and Michael Badnarik, the Libertarian Party for US President.

To be honest the request makes no sense whatsoever for either candidate.

David Cobb wasn't even on the ballot and received 186 write-in votes, 11,721 less than the next placed candidate (Michael Peroutka, the Constitution Party candidate). He only got 72 votes more than Joe Schriner, a local independent. So for the Green candidate the only outcome that could change is that instead of finishing 5th, he could finish 6th.

For Michael Badnarik there is even less sense. As the Libertarian Party candidate, he might be expected to turn down a chance to waste taxpayers' money. Instead he demands a recount. As the LP candidate scored 14,695 votes in Ohio, or 2,725,357 fewer than John Kerry (Democrat), it does not seem plausible that Badnarik thinks he could finish second. On the contrary, the LP only finished 2,717 votes ahead of his nearest rival (Peroutka). So again there is only one plausible change, Badnarik could finish 4th instead of 3rd.

If there was any chance the result might give the minor parties automatic registration on the ballot next time, I could approve of the attempt.

Of course the real reason for the sudden enthusiasm of Libertarians and Greens for a full recount has more to do with the perception that if a recount lead to a Kerry win in Ohio, which overturned the presidential election, then both the Green and Libertarian parties could proclaim that they had achieved a massive impact.

However, unlike Florida in 2000, the gap between the Republican and Democrat candidates is greater than the total number of minor party votes combined (119,775). At 2.12%, the lead President Bush enjoyed over Senator Kerry was more than 230 times greater than that of Florida in 2000.

UPDATE: I found this news release from the Libertarian Party. It claims that the purpose of the recount is to "expose irregularities" in the election process.

More revealing of Michael Badnarik's agenda is the following quote:
In addition to other perceived fraud -- or at least irregularities -- in Ohio's presidential election, Badnarik pointed to the "disturbing" fact that exit polls in many states showed Kerry winning the race.

"The phenomenon that is most damaging, in my point of view, is that for 20 years now, the media have been doing exit polls and using that information to project who was going to win that election," he said. "And because people leaving the polling places are typically very candid, the exit polls have historically been within 1 percent of the actual vote totals.

"Now, all of a sudden in this election, the exit polls and the vote totals differ by a significant amount -- and the talking heads on television are looking at it and wondering why the exit polls were wrong in this election. From what I can see, there's no reason to believe the exit polls were wrong, and fairly good reasons to believe that it was the election process that was faulty."

So there we have it. Badnarik wants the John Kerry to win the presidency. And he is willing to waste $1.5 million of Ohio's taxpayers' money to try to achieve this aim. No amount of spin can dress this up as a vehicle for advancing Libertarian ideas.

A little overtime before Christmas

Latest from the Washington State governor election saga.

The hand recount order has been signed and sealed. The political parties are now trying to find volunteers to hang around for up to two weeks staring at piles of paper to a) deter the other side from voiding any of our votes and b) trying to spot void votes allocated to the other side. Details here.

Having done this sort of thing myself I can honestly say that I defy anyone to keep their mind on it for more than two hours, never mind ten days, knowing that the gap of 42 votes is 0.0015% of the total cast. Normally a scrutineer can comfort him or herself with the thought that a single error probably won't make a difference. In my experience we would watch the votes being counted for a couple of minutes, concentrating on small batches to watch for any discrepencies (votes for our candidate in the wrong pile, a stack that should have 50 votes with 51 instead). Added to the fun we can't touch the ballot papers in the UK, but have to attract the attention of the returning officer or a deputy to come over and check our query.

Having worked in banks with note counting machines, and hand counted £35,000 in small bills once, I would be amazed if a hand count failed to reveal more than 42 errors out of 2.8 million. Counting machines are built for speed. Ideally I would use them to double check a hand count. At a guess, the recount and the machines will have done a great job if fewer than 250 votes change hands across the state. Of course many of these errors would cancel each other out: there's no reason to suppose that Rossi votes stick together more than Gregoire's do.

Because the Libertarians may not have a full complement of volunteers for this hand recount, expect some of their votes to be challenged...


Cajun musical chairs

Results in Louisiana for the run-offs for the US House of Representatives, have left the Republicans winning a Democrat seat and the Democrats winning a Republican one. [Thanks to RealClearPolitics for the link.]

The elections are unique in the USA because Louisiana has the French electoral system of having no primaries, so all potential candidates stand in a first round of voting on general election day. If no candidate passes 50% of the vote, the top two candidates go to a run-off election the following month. This is the same election system used in successfully France and recently seen in the Ukraine (in less favourable circumstances).

With the final results for the US House of Representatives now in the score is:

2004Republican 232Democrat 202Independent 1
2002Republican 227Democrat 205Independent 1
ChangeRepublican +5Democrat -3Independent n/c

N.B. There were two vacant seats going into the 2004 election.

So the Republican Party has made its five gains after all, confirming that 2004 was a disaster for the Democratic Party across the board nationally. If the Washington State governor election re-count confirms a Republican gain there, then the Democrats will end 2004 with fewer presidential electoral college votes than 2000, fewer Senators and House Representatives than 2002 (already a bad year), and fewer Governors than in 2003 (which included the California recall fiasco for the Democrats).

And they probably outspent the Republicans this time, if we include outside supporters. Ouch!


Do all voters use public transportation and listen to their iPods after stopping by Starbucks?

The US Democratic Party is gearing up to change its national party chairman, a process that seems to have more significance to the party's members than worrying about who leads the party in the Senate (post-Daschle) or the House of Representatives.

Charlie Cook weighs in with advice for the Democrats, most of which I agree with.

Cook writes:
My friend and colleague, Hotline editor Chuck Todd, points out that with the exception of black radio stations, the Kerry campaign and the Media Fund bought virtually no radio advertising in this campaign, despite the fact that outside of the cities themselves, people drive cars (and even trucks!) and an important way to reach voters is when they are listening to their car radios. It would seem that many Democratic media consultants believe that all voters use public transportation and listen to their iPods after stopping by Starbucks. Democrats would be well-advised to study how the Bush campaign found new ways to communicate with voters, while Team Kerry relied too much on television. Having spent a considerable amount of time in purple states this year, I can say with a good deal of authority that the law of diminishing returns on television advertising was long past exceeded in this campaign.

One bit I don't care for is:

Fourth, the next head of the DNC needs to be someone who knows how to raise money and isn't afraid of getting their fingers dirty doing it.

I think the last thing the Democrats need is "dirty fingers". Stories are circulating about Marc Rich, whose wife made a donation to Hillary Clinton's Senate election campaign fund. Somehow Mr Rich got a presidential pardon as one of Bill Clinton's final gestures as President. It seems that Mr Rich may have been involved in the sorts of oil deals with Iran and Iraq that would normally fit a Bond movie super-villain's profile, not an upstanding member of the community famed for his philanthropy. Point taken about the need for an effective fundraiser.

I agree with two out of three of Charlie Cook's final requirements for a new DNC chairman:

And finally, Democrats must find someone who will adopt the following party bylaws: (1) Don't nominate anyone from the Northeast; (2) Don't nominate anyone with an Ivy League undergraduate degree; and (3) Don't nominate a stiff.

If they can find a former Governor of a Southern State who has actually eaten at Wendy's when not on the campaign trail and has an outgoing personality, I'm sure the US electorate wouldn't mind too much if he or she happened to get a scholarship to go to an Ivy League college.

"Seconds out, round three..."

The Washington gubernatorial election saga reaches a new stage: the second recount. This will be the third count for the election to replace Governor Gary Locke in the State of Washington since November 2 this year, but this time it will be carried out by hand.

Democrat Christine Gregoire's campaign has posted a certified cheque for $755,000 to pay for the recount. Republican Dino Rossi currently holds a lead of 42 votes out of over 2.8 million votes cast.

Daily Kos seems oblivious to this development. But then they're too busy discussing President Bush's share of the Latino votes in Texas last month and whether Democrats are superior beings for using non-Microsoft web browsers.


Shambles in Olympia

The election for Governor of the State of Washington (capital: Olympia) has been certified - for now.

As the Secretary of State for Washington, Sam Reed puts it: another recount is a virtual certainty.

This is just as bad as Florida 2000, a shambles caused by idiotic election procedures made worse by a culture of extraordinary complacency.

Because the presidency is not riding on this election, there is not the same degree of venom or media scrutiny. Yet it is unbelievable that for the same election, different counties can use different criteria for issuing provisional ballots, can define a valid ballot using different standards. It is incredible that someone can post a ballot paper on November 2, the day of the election, and it will be counted whenever the US Post Office deigns to deliver it. It is surely a grotesque opportunity for election fraud to allow people to cast "provisional" votes, who are not on the electoral register and may not even be required to provide proof of address, let alone identity.

US election staff do not strike me as achieving the levels of professional competence of those of their British counterparts that I have dealt with. Even without turnout figures that mean that in Washington State more than two and three quarter million votes have been cast, I would fear for the reliability of the system. Having used note counters in banks as a teller and found them unreliable, I do not put much faith in vote counting machines, even without corruption.

Add all of these factors together, throw in a habit of not waiting for polls to close before announcing results, give losing candidates opportunities to appeal to the courts or to politically biased assemblies and it is easy to see why US democracy looks shabby.

To be fair, there are voices for reform in the electoral process that could improve matters. Sam Reed, the Washington Secretary of State himself has outlined proposals that would have helped in 2004.

Also to be fair, no election process involving millions of ballots could stand the precise scrutiny of modern media and the blogosphere.

God help the Iraqi people if the sort of election process used in the US is adopted in Iraq next January. There would be "absentee ballots" turning up in June, legal challenges lasting for years, and even the most mild-mannered democratic politician would find it hard to accept defeat gracefully.

I wouldn't.


"Mano a mano" in Washington State

Some information about hand recounts in Washington State for the Governor's race that never seems to end.

Because the Republican majority is 42, if I've understood the regulations correctly, there are basically three options.

1) There is a recount by hand of the entire state, on the basis that the majority is less than 150 votes or 0.25 per cent.

2) The Democrat candidate concedes.

3) The two leading candidates have the option of agreeing a different method (for example selected counties only). If a recount in some counties leads to the result being overturned (i.e. the Democrat candidate takes the lead), then the whole state has to be recounted by hand.

At present the Washington Secretary of State's office (responsible for certifying election returns) believes that a definite result can be announced on December 2.

Another brief aside: Ukraine

I don't have any special knowledge about Ukraine, except to speculate that the cleavage between Yushenko and Yanukovych strongholds looks very much like the Western parts that were once part of Poland are voting for the opposition and the Eastern parts that were under Tsarist rule for longer are more pro-Moscow.

However, from Instapundit I found this link to some election statistics, including turnout changes between the two rounds of voting. This is apparently one of the pieces of evidence supporting claims of ballot-rigging.

The turnout rose sometimes considerably on November 21, in regions where Viktor Yanukovych the pro-Moscow candidate gained massive support. In areas supporting the opposition candidate Viktor Yushenko, turnout practically stayed unchanged from the first round of voting on October 31.


A brief aside: Palestinian Authority elections

The Palestinian Authority election for a new President to replace Yasser Arafat is due to take place on January 9 2005. Marwan Barghouti, described as a leader of the younger Fatah activists has announced his intention to challenge Mahmoud Abbas.

I am unfamiliar with the technical side of these elections so I have been doing some background reading.

For information from official Palestinian sources about the election process follow this link:

Various reports from:
Msnbc, Washington Times, Al Jazeera, and the Jerusalem Post.

For critical views about the likelyhood of elections taking place on schedule and fairly, as well as difficulties registering voters:
Little Green Footballs
Global Security
The Australian


It might all be over by Christmas

More on the Washington recount, including what could happen next here.

"...forty two..."

The results are in for the first recount in Washington state. Dino Rossi has seen his lead cut to just 42 votes after King County supplied 593 extra votes to his Democratic opponent.

The Democrats may request a hand count, which would probably take a couple of weeks. Because the result is supposed to be certified by today, this may require lawyers and a lot of money. Over at the Daily KOS, there seems to be something of a consensus that the problem was their candidate, Christine Gregoire.

The changes in the three counties not reporting back by yesterday were:

King: Dem +593, Rep +348, Lib +30
Kitsap: Dem +15, Rep -19, Lib -7
Whitman: Dem -9, Rep -4, Lib -1
Total for the three counties: Democrat gain 599, Republican gain 325, Libertarian gain 22 (Republican majority in the 35 other counties was 316 votes).


Waiting for King

With three counties yet to declare recount totals, Dino Rossi the Republican candidate for Governor in the state of Washington has seen his lead increase from 261 to 316. However King County accounted for over half a million Democrat votes in the first count, so it's too early for the GOP to start celebrating. It would take an abnormally high number of extra votes in King County to be attributed to Christine Gregoire, the Democrat candidate, for the result to be overturned at this stage. Assuming no abnormal behaviour in King County, there should be no more than 700 extra votes allocated. The Democrats would need about 80% of these votes to win. This would be extraordinary: in no other county where more than 20 votes have been added, have the extra votes broken down more than 3 to 1 in either main candidate's favour.

The table below shows the latest available update on the recount.

CountyChange from first count
AdamsDem +12Rep +27Lib +2
AsotinDem +1Rep -1Lib n/c
BentonDem +1Rep +2Lib -1
ChelanDem +3Rep +1Lib n/c
ClallamDem +1Rep +1Lib n/c
ClarkDem +3Rep +7Lib n/c
ColumbiaDem -1Rep n/cLib n/c
CowlitzDem -29Rep -40Lib n/c
DouglasDem +2Rep +4Lib +1
FerryDem +3Rep +2Lib n/c
FranklinDem -1Rep +1Lib +1
GarfieldDem +1Rep +1Lib n/c
GrantDem +26Rep +44Lib +1
Grays HarborDem +6Rep +5Lib n/c
IslandDem n/cRep +5Lib n/c
JeffersonDem +1Rep -4Lib +1
KittitasDem +19Rep +25Lib +2
KlickitatDem n/cRep +1Lib n/c
LewisDem +2Rep +4Lib n/c
MasonDem +1Rep +2Lib +1
OkanoganDem +1Rep -1Lib n/c
PacificDem +1Rep n/cLib n/c
Pend OreilleDem +6Rep +2Lib n/c
PierceDem +242Rep +261Lib +11
San JuanDem n/cRep -1Lib +1
SkagitDem +71Rep +89Lib +7
SkamaniaDem n/cRep n/cLib n/c
SnohomishDem +131Rep +130Lib +10
SpokaneDem +121Rep +134Lib +6
StevensDem n/cRep n/cLib n/c
ThurstonDem +2Rep +4Lib n/c
WahkiakumDem n/cRep +1Lib n/c
Walla WallaDem +59Rep +37Lib +5
WhatcomDem +3Rep n/cLib n/c
YakimaDem n/cRep n/cLib n/c
TotalDemocrat +690Republican +745Libertarian +48

Updates available on this page.

E&OE (2)

Yesterday's posting had a poor piece of layout: about 30 lines of blank text. The problem is now fixed and I now know how to avoid this in future.


Still Sleepless in Seattle...

With just over a quarter of the votes recounted, the Washington State recount for the gubernatorial election is showing the Republican lead as effectively increasing by 29 votes. If the other counties show the same broad levels of discrepencies from the original count but we assume they all go the Democrats' way, we cannot expect the Republican lead to be cut by more than between 150 and 200 votes in the remaining counties. Anything more would involve a major surprise.

With a 261 vote provisional lead to overturn, the intial result looks set to stand. A Republican win would give that Party 29 Governors to the Democrats' 21, a net gain of one for the GOP.

The table below shows the latest available update on the recount.

CountyChange from first count
AdamsDem +12Rep +27Lib +2
BentonDem +1Rep +2Lib -1
ChelanDem +3Rep +1Lib n/c
ClallamDem +1Rep +1Lib n/c
ClarkDem +3Rep +7Lib n/c
ColumbiaDem -1Rep n/cLib n/c
DouglasDem +2Rep +4Lib +1
FerryDem +3Rep +2Lib n/c
GarfieldDem +1Rep +1Lib n/c
Grays Harbour
IslandDem n/cRep +5Lib n/c
JeffersonDem +1Rep -4Lib +1
KittitasDem +19Rep +25Lib +2
KlickitatDem n/cRep +1Lib n/c
LewisDem +2Rep +4Lib n/c
MasonDem +1Rep +2Lib +1
OkanoganDem +1Rep -1Lib n/c
PacificDem +1Rep n/cLib n/c
Pend OreilleDem +6Rep +2Lib n/c
San JuanDem n/cRep -1Lib +1
StevensDem n/cRep n/cLib n/c
ThurstonDem +2Rep +4Lib n/c
WahkiakumDem n/cRep +1Lib n/c
Walla Walla
YakimaDem n/cRep n/cLib n/c
TotalDemocrat +60Republican +89Libertarian +7

[figures calculated by me based on these sources: original score and recount]


Errors and omissions excepted (part 1)

From time to time I take a time-out to check this blog for errors and omissions.

1) I have tidied up the spelling and the odd typographical error.
2) I have corrected a misunderstanding: I was under the impression that in 1916, Woodrow Wilson had failed to win the State of Missouri in his re-election campaign. This would have made him the only Democrat to ever win a presidential election against the Republican Party without holding Missouri.
3) I have deleted one posting (dated July 23 2004) in which I corrected another commentator (wrongly) for their mistake in reporting Missouri.

If any reader spots errors, omissions etc please let me know.

Recount in Washington State

The painful process of recounting over 2.8 million votes for the Governorship of the State of Washington begins.

In Klickitat, the only county to report back so far, Republican Dino Rossi has increased his vote by one, the other two candidates' scores remain unchanged.

The orginal total was:
Dino Rossi (Republican): 1,371,414 (48.8759%)
Christine Gregoire (Democrat): 1,371,153 (48.8666%)
Ruth Bennett (Libertarian): 63,346 (2.2576%)
Total votes: 2,805,913
Republican majority: 261 (0.0093%)

For British readers a 0.0093% majority would be equivalent to a parliamentary majority of about 4 votes.


Why Governors matter

Historically, being a Governor is a better springboard for presidential ambitions than either the Senate or the House of Representatives. Four of the last five US presidents, including George W Bush, previously held a gubernatorial office. From this perspective, the Democrats' outlook is gloomy: the four states with the largest number of electoral college votes all currently have Republican governors: California, Florida, New York and Texas.

In 2005, only two governorships are up for election, New Jersey and Virginia. Both are Democrat and neither can be considered very safe.

In New Jersey, the outgoing Governor Jim McGreevey resigned effective from midnight on November 16 2004. By doing so he avoided the need for a special election to find a successor. Given that Governor McGreevey resigned amidst allegations of a gay affair, and somewhat more lurid rumours, this was probably a wise precaution as far as the local Democratic Party was concerned. The acting Governor is New Jersey State Senate President Richard J Codey. In gubernatorial elections New Jersey is considered competitive between the two main parties, Mr McGreevey replaced Republican Donald DiFrancesco in 2001. New Jersey has 15 electoral college votes for the presidency.

In Virginia (13 electoral college votes), the Governor can only serve one four-year term of office. In recent years both Senators and the presidential race have produced Republican wins. The Governor's chair changed hands in the last election (2001). With the trend in the South away from the Democrats, Virginia must be considered a difficult hold, unless a strong candidate can be found.

The last two successful Democratic presidential candidates had previously held office as the governors of Southern states: Bill Clinton (1992 and 1996) in Arkansas and Jimmy Carter (1976) in Georgia.

If I were the Republican Party's election strategist, my worst fear would be another Clinton: a young, photogenic, amiable, Southern state governor.

Sleepless in Seattle

Seventeen days after polling has closed in the Northwestern state of Washington, we still don't know who the new Governor is going to be. A recount underway will determine whether Christine Gregoire, the outgoing State Attorney General (Democrat) or Dino Rossi, the Republican will take office in Olympia, replacing outgoing Democrat Gary Locke.

After counting more than 2.8 million votes, the provisional lead for Mr Rossi is 261 votes, or less than one tenthousandth of the turnout. The Libertarian Party candidate, Ruth Bennett has scored more than 63,000 votes, gaining 2.26 percent.

Details of the recount will be posted on this page.

Should the Republican win, it would be the first time a GOP candidate has held the governorship in Washington since 1980. It would also give a net gain to the Republicans in terms of governors nationwide. The present balance is 28 Republican and 21 Democrat, with Washington outstanding.


Pretty good forecasting

Looking back at my forecasting in July I find that my score was pretty good:

At this tentative stage, I put the presidency as marginally Bush, the Senate a Republican hold with an increased majority, the House of Representatives open but marginally Republican, and the Democrats to make no net gains in the governor stakes.

My electoral college analysis held up too. The six states that had every Presidential winner since 1972 had won came good for President Bush: Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee. The fact that the Democrat campaign was unable to focus on most of these states indicates the weakness of the Democratic Party in a purely demographic sense. It is strong mostly in parts of the USA that are stagnating. Unless the Republican Party loses its current drive to gain the support of Hispanic voters, which appears to be paying off, or does so at the expense of other demographic groups, the Democratic Party faces an uphill struggle to break out of its North East and Illinois stronghold. The inroads by Republican candidates in the West (Governor of California, possibly of Washington too) and the slide of Hawaii towards becoming competitive will not be halted by a repeat of the last two campaigns. Like the 1983 election in the United Kingdom, where the Labour Party was trounced, the margin between a close race and catastrophe can be a fine one. In 1983, the Labour Party gained one percentage point of the vote more than the Social Democratic Party and Liberal Party Alliance. It took two elections to return to some sort of electoral respectability.

For the Democrats this time, a lot of narrow wins in some states has masked the scale of defeat. With six states carrying 86 electoral colleges votes on majorities of 5 per cent or less the balance between a defeat that can be put down to Ohio and a landslide is a fine one.

In the Senate, the best win has to be that of David Vitter in Louisiana. According to Charlie Cook:

The two heroes for the Republican Party on election night were former Rep. John Thune, who unseated Minority Leader Tom Daschle, and Rep. David Vitter, who became the first Republican since Reconstruction to win a Senate seat in Louisiana. Both turned in extremely impressive performances as candidates and ran fabulous campaigns. Not to take away the other Republican victories, but there were some candidates who were more lucky than good.


On the eve of Election Day '04...

I have been conspicuously absent from this blog for too long.

At the eve of election day in the USA, it is worth looking at my initial observations and seeing how they stack up to three and a half months of campaigning.

On July 13, I wrote:

At this tentative stage, I put the presidency as marginally Bush, the Senate a Republican hold with an increased majority, the House of Representatives open but marginally Republican, and the Democrats to make no net gains in the governor stakes.

Given how close the election appears to be I am surprised to note that overall I consider that the Republican Party has improved its position since July.

The Presidential vote is going to hinge on which party has best organized a massive voter-registration campaign in the battleground states, although watch out for Colorado with the bizarre proposal to introduce proportional representation that if passed could give Bush 4 Electoral College votes (the proposition probably won't carry unless the Democrats have enough to support to win the state). It would be poetic justice if a blatant attempt to fix the electoral system by local Democrats caused the re-election of the Republican president.

Whoever wins, we can expect denunciations of fraud by the losers. From this side of the Atlantic the shambolic organization of electoral lists, of polling, and counting elections is astonishing. The behaviour of TV networks in declaring results (with errors, deliberate or otherwise) whilst voting is still going on is nothing less than a potential vehicle for fraud. Frankly, no ballots should be counted until all the polling stations have closed and all valid postal votes received. This means that postal ballots received after polling day have to be refused, and there is no doubt a constraint on those states that finish voting early to declare their results. That's just too bad. The alternative is a dirty mess that continue to feed accusations of bias and fraud.

Although the presidency will be determined by massive registration drives that may or may not involved ballot-rigging the picture in the other layers of American democracy is rather less murky.

As would be expected when one party has 19 Senate seats up for re-election, the Democrats have more to lose than to gain. Despite this, it seems likely that the Democrat candidates in Illinois and Alaska will be successful. Such joy in the Watergate building will be tempered by the loss of Georgia and real threats in both Carolinas, and Florida. As for Tom Daschle the Democrat leader in the Senate, he is staring at defeat in South Dakota against a strong Republican, former Congressman John R. Thune.

For neutral election watchers the biggest fun is to be had in Louisiana, a state where no Republican has ever won a Senate election. David Vitter has run an excellent campaign and is polling close to 50% against four Democrat candidates. Because of the particular election system in Louisiana, if Mr Vitter fails to secure an outright majority, he faces a run-off election against his closest Democrat rival. We could have not one but two nail-biters in Louisiana.

The main difference between my July analysis and tonight's is in the House of Representatives: because of boundary changes in Texas and an improvement in the national polls the Republicans look likely to gain Representatives rather than lose any.

So my gut tells me it's a toss-up between a re-run of 1996: Republicans hold both Houses of Congress by with a Democrat president, or the polls have done their usual job of missing the "silent majority" and its a 1988 Dukakis disaster for the Democrats. The Iowa Electronic Markets, reputed to be more accurate than opinion polls suggest that Bush will win over 51 per cent of the popular vote.

From a domestic policy point of view, a Democrat President with a Republican Congress would probably be about as acceptable to most Americans as any realistic available choice. I admit to being puzzled by polls that cite terrorism as the main problem, President Bush as by far the most publicly trusted candidate for dealing with it, but no clear leader in the race.

Sorry, but there's too much potential fraud and incompetence in Ohio and Florida to call this one right. In fact, I'm not sure I should trust any media call of any one of about 29 states until they have at least two thirds of the ballots physically counted.


The Maine equation

Probably the most complicated election of any state on November 2nd will be one of the first to call a result (assuming no glitches or disruption). The State of Maine, along with Nebraska, does not have the "winner takes all" system used in the other states. Instead of this, Maine is divided into two electoral districts.

The fun part is interpreting the election law that is not entirely clear.

In 2000 it was easy enough: the Democrats won a majority of votes in each district so they won the 2 district electoral college votes and the 2 "at large" ones. But if each district is won by a different party, then the issue of the 2 "at large" electoral college members becomes less clear. Some commentators imply that the 2 at large electoral college seats are shared in the event that each party wins a district. Others claim that the aggregate winner of the two districts gets the two bonus seats. The latter would mean that the Republicans could win a seat, without winning in Maine overall.

This split between district and statewide electoral college seats explains the decision by the Republicans to campaign hard in Maine: although a four seat total may not seem like much in relation to Florida's 27, the district setup means that the Democrats have to defend in depth, across the whole state. As electoral guerilla tactics go, this one is a peach.

Personally, I doubt that the Republicans will actually make any gains in Maine. But they will tie down campaign efforts that could have been used in New Hampshire by their opponents. Worth a try.


Battleground states: the US State Department view

The U.S. State Department has a web page showing the battleground states. The information is almost identical to the BBC's own information pages.

In a very bi-partisan mood, ten states are listed, five that voted for each Party in 2000. As a simplified guide goes it is not useless: on election night, checking out those states could be enough to tell who's winning. Yet the parties themselves are spending considerable sums of money campaigning in states not listed on these sites.

If I had to produce a list of 10 ten states to watch I would not have picked the ones the State Department has done. For starters I do not see how Minnesota is less of a target for Republicans than Pennsylvania. As for the Democrats, I am puzzled if they do not make a fight of it in Nevada and Tennessee. History suggests that the Democrats should be able to challenge in Arizona, Arkansas, Kentucky and Louisiana.

Perhaps the most amusing omission is Maine. This Democrat state has been the target of Republican campaigning, but the electoral system in that state is so complicated, that I have sneaky feeling that neither the U.S. State Department, nor the BBC, cared to include Maine and have to fit the explanation in a small text box.

UPDATE: Someone must be reading this blog! The site now lists 17 battleground states, including Minnesota and Nevada. Tennessee, along with Arkansas and Louisiana have been abandoned by the Democrats for presidential election purposes, which speaks volumes for their election prospects.


The "Doomsday Scenario"

This is not exactly, as one might imagine, a situation where we have Florida2000-style recounts in a dozen states, some favouring one candidate, some favouring the other. Instead, in the light of the March 11 2004 bombings in Madrid, the spectre of terrorist attacks on the Republican Party convention or disrupting the November 2 election is giving headaches to election officials and security teams alike.

To give an idea just how extensive preparations are for the Party Conventions, see this article concerning the disruption to railway services in Boston and New York.

There is as yet no clear indication as to how each state will react if there is a major terrorist disruption to the election day or the counting of ballots. To a certain extent, discussing the issue in public is seen as giving terrorists more power. Intriguingly, there is the prospect that some State Governors could appoint the Electoral College representation for respective states. With Republican Governors in the four biggest states (California, Florida, New York and Texas), we can expect lawsuits to fly.


Can Bush Mk.II suffer a "Perot effect" (2)

Last Thursday, I wrote about the reasons why Democrats could choose to highlight the disagreements that exist between many conservative and libertarian voters with the record of George Bush Mk.II. There is an important point to consider as to why the fringe parties may not actually affect the result.

"In November 2000, the Green Party - represented by Ralph Nader - took sufficient votes in Florida to ensure that the Democrat Al Gore would lose." This view is held almost universally among the Democrat campaigners and is the reason why they have made every possible attempt to stop Nader from standing in 2004. To the extent that many libertarians feel more at home with fiscally-responsible Republicans, one could imagine a similar problem for George Bush Mk.II this year. After all, that is exactly what Ross Perot is credited with: punishing Bush Mk.I and letting Bill Clinton in with a spectacularly low share of the vote.

However, there are two reasons why such an extrapolation may be unfounded. In the first place, the Libertarian Party has contested every presidential election since 1972. During this time it has never polled much more than one percent in a presidential campaign, although much higher scores have been achieved in statewide contests. It is probably fair to say that the vast majority of Libertarian Party voters in 2000 also voted that way in 1996, and that those that were eligible to vote also did so in 1988 and 1992. If they did not vote for Reagan in 1988, they would not vote for Bush Mk.II in 2000 or 2004.

As for switching voters there is a calculation to be made. In an online questionnaire I was asked thirty questions and the "ideal candidate" for me was calculated. No one achieved 100%. One of the fringe candidates scored 67% for me, one of the two major party candidates scored 65%, the other major candidate scored 30% and most of the other fringe parties scored less. If the choice to right or left wing voters were between two major party candidates scoring let us say 40% of their approval and a fringe candidate scoring 80%, then I believe that we could expect people to vote for their principles ahead of voting tactically.

In a wide-open contest the temptation to vote for one's beliefs ahead of tactical concerns is also strong. But one thing most people agree on is that the 2004 election will be tight. Therefore the cost of voting for 'purity' is very high. Vote against Bush's public spending increases and you could get Kerry who spends more. Vote against Kerry's watered down liberalism and you could get Bush revoking abortion rights, outlawing gay marriage and continuing an aggressive militaristic policy.

Of course if large numbers of people act on the notion that the election could be tight, I would not be at all surprised to see a landslide.


Can Bush Mk.II suffer a "Perot effect"? (1)

Can George Bush Mk.II suffer a 'Perot effect'? Democrat campaign managers certainly seem to think it is worth playing for. Meanwhile Republicans are silent on the possibility of Libertarians doing to them in 2004 what Ross Perot did in 1992.

In 1992, Bill Clinton the Democratic challenger won the presidential vote in 32 states plus Washington D.C.. Among the states where he defeated the incumbent Republican George Bush Mk.I were Montana and Colorado. The reason for this sudden and almost unprecedented enthusiasm in those parts for a Democrat was not some deep seated change of heart by much of the population. Instead we need to look at what became known as the 'Perot effect'.

George Bush Mk.I's drubbing was at least due in some measure to the disaffection of much of the Republican right with the President's policies and leadership. The infamous "Read my lips, NO TAX INCREASES", the perceived softness on both economic and social issues culminated in the dissident campaign of a multi-millionaire Ross Perot. Perot was known for having a fortune developing security products for government contracts and having financed a mercenary attempt to rescue prisoners of war believed held in Vietnam.

This time the Democrats are circulating a catalogue of quotes that undermine conservative or libertarian support for the Republican incumbent.

The Libertarian Party scored less than half a percent in the 2000 Presidential election, despite appearing in one form or another on the ballot in all 50 states. However, that was before the War on Terror, the Patriot Act, large increases in public spending and a general disillusionment on the right about the effectiveness of George Bush Mk.II as their champion.

Even a 0.75% Libertarian vote in such states as Missouri, Iowa, New Mexico and Florida could make a difference. Any significant local burst of defection to Libertarians in places like New Hampshire could be fatal to the Republican cause.

In the circumstances it would be foolish for the Democrats to ignore any opportunities to exploit disaffection against Bush from the right. At best, loss of right-wing support will be enough to put a Democrat in the White House. At worst, Bush will have to respond by moving his campaign towards the right, providing opportunities for Democrats to attack with accusations of 'extremism' and 'pandering' to all sorts of liberal demons. In the latter case, John Kerry can shore up some of his defectors to the Green Party or to Ralph Nader.


Shades of 1992

Charlie Cook at the National Journal has gone as far to write off a Republican victory in the Presidential race this November as it is possible to go without making himself a hostage to fortune. It is hard to argue with his analysis of the polls. He predicted a modest "bounce" in the poll ratings for the Kerry camp following the announcement of Senator John Edwards as his running mate, and he was spot-on. Of course one reason for this may have been that most voters had "factored in" the Edwards nomination and were not seriously expecting anything else.

So whatever the reason, Charlie Cook has correctly anticipated the polling strengths of the Republican and Democrat candidates: roughly 45 per cent each, with no big changes (+/- 3%) either way. But this is where the mystery sets in. We have a very polarized electorate most of which has made up its mind how it is going to vote. So as Charlie Cook says, President George W. Bush cannot expect a major boost between now and polling day, although he has suggested that switching running-mates could help.

But the shades of 1992 I think of are not in the US, where George Bush Mk.I lost to the challenge of Governor Bill Clinton. It is in the April 1992 election in the UK, where the Labour opposition was steadfastly ahead in the polls right up to polling day.

Opinion polls are not votes, and unless they are very well targeted, to include proportions of the electorate that actually vote, they can go wrong in a tight race. Will the fashionable students who almost ritually hate Bush, hate him enough to drive for ten minutes to a polling station in November? Will the militant Christians who abstained last time over a drink-driving offence, boycott the Republicans again? Will the convicted felons who are allowed to vote this time in Florida actually vote, and vote Democrat?

Anyone who knows the answers to all these questions, ring your bookies right now!


Battleground 2004 (2): The Massachusetts Blues

The Democrats and Republicans are weighing their options, in case John Kerry wins the Presidency, leaving a vacancy in the Senate for Massachusetts.

If Kerry loses the White House, the Senate's overall control will be decided by the 34 Senatorial elections taking place in the same day. Unluckily for the Democrats, 19 of the 34 seats up for grabs are Democrat with the remaining 15 Republican. Even if the Senate seats concerned were equally winnable, that would mean that the Democrats have more to lose than to win in 2004. In fact, the next time more Republican Senate seats come up for election than Democrats will be in 2008.

However if John Kerry were elected President, he would automatically vacate his Senate seat in Massachussets. Normally the State Governor would appoint a replacement. But the Governor of Massachusetts is a Republican, so he could appoint a Republican Senator until Kerry's seat is due up for election in 2008. Just to provide more scope for drama, the Massachusetts legislature has enough Democrat votes to block such a move by Governor Mitt Romney.

The latest gossip is that local Republicans are planning to place a Party moderate who might get through.

So winning the White House could worsen the Democrats position in the Senate?


Battleground 2004: (1) House of Representatives

Elections are held every two years for the entire House of Representatives (H.o.R.) compared with the four-year Presidential term. Unlike the British Prime Minister, the President can't lose his job because the H.o.R. elections go badly for him. Also, the President can't alter the election timetable to suit his political purposes, unlike the British Premier.
The House has not historically been under the control of a Republican Party majority. From 1955 to 1995, the Democrats held continuous control of the House. However, since the 1994 Newt Gingrich-inspired campaign focused on a 'Contract with America' that coincided with a series of scandals involving Democrat politicians, the House of Representatives has become increasingly a Republican stronghold.
To give an idea of the problem for the Democrats, the 2000 census led to the re-apportioning of seats to the House of Representatives according to population flows since 1990. The second table on this page shows how this affected the different states. Broadly speaking the North East and Mid West each lost ten seats, the South and West gained ten.
As a result we see a healthy majority in the H.o.R. for the Republicans of 21 (out of 435). In 2002, the Republican Party's ability to mobilize its supporters into a better turnout than the Democrats was decisive and added to the boundary changes. In 2004, the intensity of this year's election campaign is likely to lead to higher turnouts than in 2002. As a result, the Democrats could make gains in the H.o.R., even without a change in public support for either Party. The intensity of support is the issue and it is difficult to measure.
A cautious assessment at this stage would be to say that a victory for the Democrats in the House this year would be an excellent result, but that no gains would be very poor.


A brief aside: UK by-elections

I'm preparing a briefing on the battleground states for the US presidential elections for Monday.
Meanwhile in the UK, two by-elections to replace Labour Party MPs have resulted in a win for the third-party Liberal Democrats in Leicester South and a narrow win for Labour in Birmingham Hodge Hill.
A lot of nonsense and spin will be written about these results over the next few days but the picture is very clear.
The Conservative Party has not gained a House of Commons seat from a parliamentary by-election since June 3 1982 (Mitcham and Morden in SW London). From November 1990 until May 1997, the Tories were unable to even hold any of their own seats in by-elections, no matter what the majority.
Quite simply, a party that cannot make even a single by-election gain when in opposition, is not going to win a general election, especially as the timing is decided by the Prime Minister Tony Blair. The power to choose the timing of a general election is arguably the most powerful political weapon in British politics: it can even help to keep rebellious members of the Prime Minister's party in line.
Far from challenging Labour as the party of government, the Conservatives are struggling to establish themselves as even a vehicle for protest votes.

Submerged with data

Thursday's American Enterprise Institute Election Watch briefing was especially informative, dealing with the "bounce" in the polls that coincides with vice-presidential nominations and the party conventions. Check out the handouts for reams of figures as well as the video.
The polling data all points to a close contest to be won by Kerry. What I am not seeing is how this compares with 2000. We should remember that the opinion polls at the equivalent stage predicted a Democrat victory for Al Gore. Intriguing fact of the day, the Gallup polling is in 16 states, nine of which were held by Gore in 2000. Is Bush really threatening to win Michigan?
I will report on this further, but the thought occurs that we could be looking at a 1987 British election where the BBC announced a hung-Parliament at the close of polls only for a 100 seat Conservative majority to be declared when the actual votes were counted.
Ignore the swings in the polls before the end of the Republican Convention in late August: Kerry isn't likely to show better poll ratings before then than Michael Dukakis did in 1988. By November, Dukakis held 11 states to George Bush MkI's 40.


The weight of history or chance?

Because the boundaries of the U.S.A.'s individual states don't move as much as English local constituencies do, it is possible to measure election results over quite long periods of time and pick out certain themes.

For instance, there are six states that every winning candidate since 1972 has won, out of a possible 50 plus Washington D.C.. These are Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee. Not surprisingly four of these states are among the biggest Democrat targets for this year's presidential election.

The state which is most remarkable for swaying with the prevailing political direction is Missouri. This Mid-Western state was won by George W. Bush in 2000 with a majority of 78,786 or 3.24%. With 11 electoral college votes, Bush could not afford to lose Missouri without making gains elsewhere.

However, if we suppose that President Bush could be elected without Missouri in 2004, he would be only the second Republican since 1900 to do so. The other overall winner without Missouri was General Eisenhower in 1956 (the year he was re-elected).

For the Democrats to win without Missouri would be even more historic. The last time they did so was in 1916 with Woodrow Wilson. That was also a re-election. There have been Republicans elected to the presidency in the XIXth century. But since 1856, (the first Democrat versus Republican presidential contest) no Democrat apart from Woodrow Wilson has won without Missouri.
[Updated November 22 2004]

Because Missouri is also hosting an election for (currently Democrat) Governor, one of its (currently Republican) Senators, and the Members of the House of Representatives (currently 4 Democrats and 5 Republicans), this is my pick for the single most interesting contest of the campaign.


Bookies and in-depth poll suggest that Bush is underestimated... again

Apart from the remark that an opinion poll with a three and a half per cent margin of error is pathetic this poll reveals opinions that seem likely to favour the incumbent at the polling station.

Let's be clear just how poor this polling is: you could predict that Ralph Nader would have got zero votes in 2000, or that Bush would have won five extra states.

I've said on Samizdata that when it comes to forecasting, I trust bookies better than pollsters: we're talking people putting their money where their mouth is, and gamblers are not spin doctors. Wired shows the gap between people voting with money rather than with gratuitous chat.

There have been rumours that some unscrupulous individuals weight opinion poll samples to put more registered voters from a certain political party. As if by magic, this produces the result the media outlet wishes to peddle.

With a U.S. election I'm afraid polling is bound to be tricky. One million extra Democrat voters in California compared with last time don't mean a thing. Six thousand more Republicans in Wisconsin mean a lot more. Now design me an opinion poll which factors these issues in a country with relatively high voter mobility.

My preferred approach is to pick out the swing states and check them out with a mixture of polls, random interviews, even check out the TV advertising schedules.


Welcome to Antoine Clarke's Election Watch

I've been gathering information and analysis for the November 2004 elections in the U.S. over the past three months. My track record in elections is generally good, especially long-range forecasting. I have "called" elections (mostly correctly) in the U.K., France, and the U.S. for the past 17 years.

I shall be uploading some of my material over the coming week and comment on new developments as I go along.

Part of my service will be to publish a campaign status: what the current outcome would be, given what predictable events are between now and election day. At this tentative stage, I put the presidency as marginally Bush, the Senate a Republican hold with an increased majority, the House of Representatives open but marginally Republican, and the Democrats to make no net gains in the governor stakes.

On Monday, I shall report on the importance to the various parties of the different campaigns.

I am also trying to get around the problem of spamming so for the time being please email me at antoine.clarke[at]gmail.com.