Copyright 2012 by John T. Reed

My Facebook friends keep trying to get me to discuss polls about Romney versus Obama for 2012.

They basically want to believe Romney is going to win.

My position is the election is close which I think is noteworthy because Obama is the most ridiculous presidential candidate in our history. He has an empty resume, makes no effort to help Democrats get elected to Congress in spite of blaming all his legislative failures on Republicans in Congress obstructing him, has a long list of radical past mentors, is a serial murderer of straw men, etc. etc. Furthermore, he is up against the best-qualified candidate in U.S. history with regard to the economy which is the main issue today.

How can this be close? How can any intelligent person support Obama?

I ran into an Obama supporter once at a party. I asked how she could support a person who was 47 (in 2008) yet had an empty resume. “Works for me,” she said with a smirk. Okay. Thanks for the revelatory facts and logic.

My Facebook friends focus on the idea that Obama could possibly win as being very upsetting and therefore wrong. They want to either say all polls are worthless or only the ones that show Romney will win matter, etc.

1. Popular vote totals do not matter. The typical Romney 48%-Obama 45% stuff. Who cares? Only the electoral college matters. Ask Al Gore. He won the popular vote nationwide, but lost the electoral college vote according to Florida and the U.S. Supreme Court. Actually, Florida was a tie so neither won that state.

A candidate could win the 270 electoral college votes from the least populated states. The electoral college has the same number of votes al there are Congressman and Senators—535—plus three more for DC which has neither a Congressman nor a Senator but has three electoral college votes. So half of the electoral college is 538 ÷ 2 =269 and a majority would be 270 leaving the loser with 268 electoral college votes. Which states add up to 268 electoral college votes and have the largest populations?

California 55
Texas 34
New York 31
Florida 27
Pennsylvania 21
Illinois 21
Ohio 20
Michigan 17
plus Washington state which has 12 and any two of GA, NJ, or NC each of which has 15

equals 268.

So the winner could win all the other states and DC and have 270 electoral votes thus becoming president.

That would leave the loser with having won the votes of states with populations of

CA 38 million
TX 26 million
NY 19 million
FL 19 million
IL 13 million
PA 13 million
OH 12 million
MI 10 million
GA 10 million
NC 10 million
WA 7 million
total 177 million and the winner have won the votes of states and DC with a population of 312 million - 177 million = 135 million.

Furthermore, the winner could win a mere 50.01% of each of those states while the loser won 100% of the other states leaving the winner with about 50.01% x 177/312 x 132 million votes total (2008 total) = 37 million votes while the loser got the remaining 132 million - 37 million = 95 million votes.

In other words, a candidate could win with 50.01% of the votes in each of the 39 least populated states plus DC and zero votes in the 11 most populous states. Indeed, in terms of money and candidate time, that would arguably be the correct strategy although media buys are priced by media markets and these two groups of states are not always separate media markets. That is too complex to get into here.

Basically, you get no points for popular votes beyond 50.01% in the states you win and you get no points for any votes whatsoever that you win in the states you lose. (Technically, there are two non-winner-take-all states: Maine and Nebraska. There, the winner of the states gets the two electoral votes representing the senators but the additional electoral votes representing the Congress persons in the state are awarded separately if appropriate according to which candidate won each district. In short, in those states, one candidate would win the two Senatorial electoral votes but the other might win some of the Congressional electoral votes.)

Obama is considered to be a great runner of campaigns based on his 2008 victory. But in fact he paid $10.94 per vote, more than all the other candidates and about twice as much as McCain spent per vote. Obama was extremely inefficient, more so than any other candidate. He arguably won the election in private fund-raising soirees in the living rooms of the richest Americans, and thereby bought the public election in the voting booths in November as a sort of after-thought.

2. Stuff happens. We cannot know what will happen within the U.S., within the campaigns, or outside the U.S. between now and election day. A perfect poll with 100% accuracy would not take into account future changes that could change votes or cause increased or decreased turnout.

3. When the margin of error is greater than the margin of the leader, the race in the location in question is a tie. Media persist in posting the percentages of states where the race is a tie by the standard I just stated but they list the “leader” anyway with the margin of error—the most important information in such races—as a tiny footnote at the bottom. This manifests innumeracy—the mathematical equivalent of illiteracy. It is dishonest—trying to depict a photo finish as a race with a winner and loser. Stop falling for it.

4. Protestations that the polls are total bull are themselves total bull. Look at the polls in the last week before the 2008 election and compare them to the actual vote. They were quite accurate. Dismissing all polls is Cliff Claven, corner-tavern analysis.

There is no need to be worrying about the polls. One guy will win. We will have to deal with it. Don’t waste your energy on the polls or even the politicking which is depressing. Just keep digging your escape tunnel.

John T. Reed