Sunday, February 25, 2007


by Michael Barone

Pollster Scott Rasmussen reports that in a recent presidential pairing, Hillary Rodham Clinton would beat Newt Gingrich by a 50-to-43 percent margin. That sounds fairly plausible, although it's a little better showing for Gingrich than I would have expected. But take a look at the favorable/unfavorable ratings. Rasmussen's numbers have Clinton's fav/unfav at 50 and 48 percent and Gingrich's fav/unfav at 43 and 48 percent. You're tempted to think that Clinton and Gingrich both got the votes of every respondent who had favorable feelings toward her or him–and not a single vote more.

Of course, that's not quite the case, but it's pretty close. Note that these two politicians–both figures of huge national prominence in the Bill Clinton years–inspire unfavorable feelings in almost half the electorate. I wonder how many are unfavorable to them both. Clinton and Gingrich in different ways have considerable political strengths. But the nomination of either one may be seen as taking us back to the partisanship of the 1990s. Not where all that many of us want to go, I think.

Yes, I know that Clinton's fav/unfavs are better in some other polls and Gingrich's worse. But I think the point still stands.

Hillary Vs. Rudy

They're leading in polls for their parties' nominations, and so I think we have to regard this as the likeliest pairing in the 2008 presidential race, at least for now. Last July, pollster Jay Leve of SurveyUSA did surveys in 50 states and the District of Columbia of several pairings of candidates. You can see the electoral vote results with a few clicks. They show Giuliani ahead of Clinton 354 to 184. I would guess it would be somewhat closer now, and both candidates carried several states by statistically insignificant margins. Premium subscribers can get access to the percentage results in each state and to the demographic breakdown in each state; there are enough respondents to make the latter statistically significant, with the usual caution that the margin of error is significantly greater for subgroups than for the whole state.

I have examined these numbers before in this blog but decided to give them another look. A couple of things struck me. (I'm going to refer to the candidates by their first names, not out of disrespect, but to give this a colloquial tone.)

First, there's a huge difference between men and women in almost every state. Hillary carried men only in California (48 to 45 percent), which has 55 electoral votes. Rudy carries women in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming: 194 electoral votes. That's a huge advantage for Giuliani, though if we assume his lead over Clinton is not as great today as it was last July, not as huge as the contrast between 194 and 55 suggests.

Second, I took a look at Hispanics in states where SurveyUSA's sample was more than 5 percent Hispanic. I suspect that it ended up oversampling Hispanics in some states (Idaho, for example), which is common, especially when you're dealing with small groups. Remember that the 1996 and 2000 VNS exit polls showed that the share of Florida voters who were black increased from 10 to 16 percent. But people who examined the appropriate precinct returns are confident that that didn't happen. There's an error margin on these percentages. With that in mind, look at the percentages for Rudy and Hillary in the following states. The Hispanic percentage of the sample is shown, along with additional comments where I have any.

Arizona 38-58 18
California 28-62 26 Rudy about the same as Bush.
Connecticut 68-28 8 Amazingly good for Rudy, but small sample.
District of Columbia 29-67 6 Rudy runs better among Hispanics than among whites!
Florida 47-43 16 About the same as Bush.
Idaho 68-32 6
Illinois 43-56 9
Nevada 42-50 15
New Jersey 50-50 11 Very good for Rudy.
New Mexico 36-62 38
New York 39-56 14
Oregon 35-49 6
Texas 47-51 28 Rudy about the same as Bush's good showing in his home state.
Utah 44-56 7

Finally, to translate poll numbers, which always have a certain number of undecideds, to election numbers, which usually have much smaller percentages voting for minor party or independent candidates, I did the following calculations. I compared Hillary's percentage versus Kerry '04 and Rudy's percentage versus Bush '04. Then I took the average Republicanward or Democraticward movement. What you'll find is that all 11 eastern states and D.C. move toward Rudy; eight of the 12 midwestern states move toward Hillary; 10 of the 13 western states move toward Rudy; and 12 of the 14 southern states move toward Hillary. More states move toward Hillary than toward Rudy. But the movement overall benefits Rudy. Most southern and many western states remain heavily Republican, while other states that were safe for Kerry are thrust into play. Here's a rundown of the states by region, with Republican movement marked as plus and Democratic movement as minus, plus comments.


Rhode Island +12.5 The biggest move toward Rudy in the most heavily Italian-American states. Puts it in play.
Connecticut +10 Big movement toward Rudy in NYC suburbs. Puts it in play.
New Jersey +10 Big movement toward Rudy in NYC suburbs. Puts it in play.
Vermont +9 Puts the No. 2 Kerry state in play.
New York +7.5 Big movement toward Rudy in suburbs, Hillary still carries NYC 2 to 1. Puts it in play.
Massachusetts +7 John Kerry's home state, which probably gave him a bit of a premium in '04.
New Hampshire +6.5 The one state Bush won in '00 and lost in '04. Puts it in play.
Pennsylvania +5.5 Repubs still far down in metro Philly, but state very much in play.
Maine +5.5 Puts this state, which dropped off the Bush target list in '04, back into play.
District of Columbia +5 Still far, far out of reach of Republicans. Rudy runs better with Hispanics than with whites.
Maryland +4.5 Rudy now competitive in one of six states Jimmy Carter carried in '80.
Delaware +3.5 Smaller movement but puts it in play.

Upshot: Exactly four electoral votes were in play in the East in '04. In this race, 102 of 115 electoral votes are in play. Of course, keep in mind that if Hillary runs better against Rudy today than she would have in July, that number is somewhat lower.


Iowa +3.5 Biggest Republican movement in region in state that Bush lost in '00 and won narrowly in '04.
Michigan +2 Target state in '00 and '04 a little more favorable for Rudy than W.
Minnesota +1 Target state in '00 and '04 a little more favorable for Rudy than W.
Ohio +1 No. 1 target state in '04, scene of Republican disaster in '06, a little more favorable to Rudy.
Illinois +0.5 Hillary's native state (and Obama's current state), the most Democratic state in region by far.
Indiana -0.5 Negligible movement in heavily Republican state.
Wisconsin -1 A little more favorable to Hillary than Kerry in state narrowly Democratic '00 and '04.
Missouri -1.5 Rudy a little harder to sell in southern-accented territory than Bush.
South Dakota -3.5 Still heavily Republican.
Kansas -4 Rudy is a hard sell in the Great Plains, but the area is still heavily Republican.
Nebraska -4.5 Still very heavily Republican.
North Dakota -6 Still very heavily Republican.

Upshot: The same target states as in '00 and '04. Rudy a little stronger than Bush in Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Ohio (54 electoral votes) and a little weaker in Wisconsin and Missouri (21 electoral votes).


Oregon +7 A state that fell off the Republican target list in '04 is back on again.
Colorado +6 A state that fell into the Democratic target list in '04 is turning away from the party.
Arizona +4.5 A state briefly on the Democratic target list in '04 is turning away from the party.
Nevada +3 A state very much on the target list in '00 and '04 moving somewhat toward Rudy.
Washington +2 Small movement in state that fell off the Republican target list in '04.
California +1.5 Small movement doesn't put it in play yet. Rudy weak in Central Valley.
Hawaii +0.5 No significant change in state where Bush's status as commander in chief boosted his vote.
Montana +0.5 No significant change in heavily Republican state.
Alaska 0 No change in heavily Republican state.
Utah 0 No change in the most heavily Republican state.
New Mexico -2 Rudy doesn't score well with Hispanics here and is a hard sell to southern-accented Little Texas.
Wyoming -6 Wyoming native Cheney probably boosted the Bush-Cheney percentage here.

Upshot: Democratic strategists have seen the West as a region of opportunity, and reasonably so. They had the Coast states locked up, and their chances were improving in several inland states. But the biggest Republicanward movement comes in Oregon, which is put into play, and Colorado, Arizona, and Nevada (24 electoral votes), the three Mountain states where Democrats have had not unreasonable hopes of making gains. The only good news for Democrats is that New Mexico, one of two states to switch from Gore '00 to Bush '04, is moving their way a little in this matchup.


North Carolina +4 This suggests that John Edwards had some home-state strength in '04 that Hillary can't match.
Florida +1 The one southern state in play in '04 moves slightly toward Rudy.
Kentucky -0.5 Negligible movement in state Bill Clinton carried in '92 but that has been easily Republican since.
Virginia -0.5 Negligible movement in state that has become more competitive; could be in play.
Tennessee -1.5 Small movement in still heavily Republican state.
Georgia -2.5 Movement, but still heavily Republican. Hillary competitive in metro Atlanta but not elsewhere.
South Carolina -4.5 Still heavily Republican.
Texas -4.5 Still heavily Republican. Rudy matches Bush '04 strong showing among Hispanics.
Louisiana -6 Moves toward being in play. But will black Democrats return to New Orleans?
West Virginia -6 State Bush easily carried in '04 is very much in play in this matchup.
Arkansas -6.5 The state where Hillary was first lady for 12 years still likes her; in play now.
Alabama -7 Still heavily Republican.
Mississippi -7 Still heavily Republican.
Oklahoma -9.5 The biggest Democraticward movement in all 50 states but still heavily Republican.

Upshot: Democrats have some small cause for satisfaction here. Rudy is clearly not as heavily backed as Bush, and voters show more sign of appreciating Hillary's long southern sojourn than many of us thought. But at best for the Democrats, this puts Arkansas, Louisiana, and West Virginia into play (20 electoral votes) and possibly Virginia (13 electoral votes), while leaving North Carolina and Georgia (30 electoral votes) still out of reach. And Rudy is at least as strong in Florida (27 electoral votes) as Bush was in '04.

National upshot: Rudy's electoral vote position against Hillary is much stronger than Bush's against Kerry. Rudy puts almost the whole East into play and is significantly stronger in several target states in the Midwest and West. Hillary puts some states into play in the South but with many fewer electoral votes than Rudy does elsewhere. Even if you assume that Hillary is stronger against Rudy today than she was in July, the pairing does place the Republicans in a stronger position than Bush was in '04.

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