Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Friday, March 07, 2008

A Test in Wyoming

Unexpectedly, tiny Wyoming - the least populous state in the Union - has become a battleground state in 2008 for the Democrats. Both Clinton and Obama have been there in person in the last couple days. The number of participants in the caucuses will be absolutely tiny. In neighboring Idaho, with a similar political makeup, there were 21,000 Democratic caucus goers (out of a population of 1.5m). In Wyoming, with 1/3 the population of Idaho, we can expect approximately 7,000 Democratic caucus-goers. Turnout by the students in Laramie will be important to the outcome. It may be more, because Wyoming Democrats are enthusiastic. They managed to elect a governor (Freudenthal) and are enjoying the love and attention from Clinton and Obama. Still, I would not expect more than 10,000 to show up. So every vote matters. Wyoming also has a Senatorial special election this Fall. While the GOP is expected to win, the death of the incumbent Republican led to the appointment of John Barrasso, another Republican (note: Wyoming law sensibly required Freudenthal to select one of three nominees by the Republicans in Wyoming). Freudenthal no doubt picked the worst of the lot. So Keith Goodenough, running for the Democrats, may get some national attention or dollars.

Wyoming is the sort of state Obama has won handily in the past 6 weeks: a western caucus state. If Obama repeats with a significant victory there (60/40) then it is a sign that his campaign remains healthy. If he squeaks out a victory, or even loses, it should be a shock to the system. The only caucuses Clinton has won are American Samoa and Nevada, and in the latter she received fewer delegates. If she can do well in Wyoming, it is a sign that her campaign has really "turned a corner." Then we will see what happens in Mississippi. The huge black vote should guarantee Obama a victory there, but we will see how he fares with white voters - whether it looks more like South Carolina (1/4 white vote )or Virginia (solid majority).

Wyoming votes tomorrow (Sat, 3/8).


Dr. Strangelove said...

The figure I heard on NPR is that there were 60,000 registered Democrats in the state. Iowa managed a 20% turnout for the caucuses, and a similar figure would be right in line with LTG's figures.

Wyoming is, however, a closed caucus. On the one hand, this would appear to disadvantage Obama, who will need to have done his work already at registering young voters and re-registering independent voters. And as has been pointed out, Hillary has not strongly contested a race in this region of the country before. But on the other hand, the more than 2-1 victory Obama scored in Colorado--the only other closed caucus in the region, and right next door--suggests he may have done his homework already in those states.

A loss for Obama would be a danger sign--but I do not expect it. I think Obama will win 60-40.

Raised By Republicans said...

I know it's not the main point of this post, but I've been getting increasingly annoyed about the talk about how Obama wins caucuses. The implication is that Obama wins caucuses and Clinton wins primaries. But the fact is that Obama has won 25 states, 10 cuaucuses and 15 primaries.

The real story isn't "Obama wins caucuses." The real story is for some reason Clinton can't win caucuses.

I think the reason has to do with the realatively higher level of information available to caucus goers as opposed to primary voters.

The Law Talking Guy said...

Update from Wyoming. Niobrara county, a real tiny craphole centered around the town of Lusk, had its vote: 10 for Obama, 10 for Clinton. Those aren't delegates... those are VOTES. I love small states.

As for RBR's comment, I would make this suggestion: one would expect a caucus of either party to be more extreme in the sense that activists turn out. So Obama's win would normally suggest that he's perceived as more liberal, and supported by gung-ho liberal activists. What's funny is that this doesn't really seem to be the case, at least not totally. Obama's support really comes from the netroots, from young people and moderate/centrist activists who want a different kind of politics, not the old guard liberal activists who lined up behind Clinton.

The Law Talking Guy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dr. Strangelove said...

Texas provides an opportunity to compare caucuses and primaries directly. Turnout was significantly lower in the caucuses, and this is almost certainly because participation in the caucus was more of a burden on the voter. In general, one would expect a barrier to entry such as this to bias the sample.

Not that such a bias is necessarily a bad thing. It is possible that Obama won the caucuses because those who already supported Obama found themselves more willing to go the extra mile and caucus. It is also possible that those who were already more willing to go the extra mile and caucus found themselves supporting Obama. The high influx of young, first-time voters argues for the former, but Obama's greater organization across many caucuses argues for the latter. Probably both are true.

But regardless of the reason--whether they were more zealous or merely better informed--it the operative question remains: "Which sample (the caucus-goers or the primary voters) is more likely to reflect the electorate who will vote in November?" I think the answer depends on the nominee. If Hillary is the nominee, we can expect the primary sample to be more reflective of those who can be persuaded to turn out to vote for her. If Obama is the nominee, I believe we can expect the caucus sample to be more representative of who would be willing to turn out to vote for him. The bad news for the Democrats is that the caucus sample is smaller.

The Law Talking Guy said...

Dr.S. - Yes... and no. The purpose of these elections is to choose a nominee who will be presented to a different electorate that consists mostly of people who did not participate in the primary. The question, then, is what we learn from the primary election results that can help us make predictions about the general. Obviously, crossover appeal is directly relevant to future performance. I also suggest that depth of commitment by party members and organizational skill are also relevant to who will be a better candidate. So, I think the caucuses do tell us something about who will be a better candidate beyond just the numbers.

Raised By Republicans said...

Dr. S. You're forgetting (again) that Obama has also won more primaries than Hillary. Why wouldn't that observation be a better predictor?

What I wanted to do was focuse the discussion on why Hillary isn't winning Caucuses because Obama can clearly win both types of contests but Hillary ONLY wins primaries and not the majority of those.

Dr. Strangelove said...

I was talking about Texas, RbR. In terms of a national predictor...

Results are listed: Obama/Clinton/Tie. The range on Clinton depends on whether you count MI and FL.

1. Who has won the most contests, all contests equally weighted, where "win" means to earn a plurality of the pledged delegates to the national convention.
Result: 29/12-14/2

2. Who has won the most contests, all contests equally weighted, where "win" means to receive a plurality of the popular vote (or of the elected delegates to the county or state conventions, if the popular vote is unavailable)?
Result: 28/15-17

3. Who has won the most primary elections, all primaries equally weighted, where "win" means to receive a plurality of the popular vote?
Result: 14/13-15

4. Who has won the most caucuses, all caucuses equally weighted, where "win" means to receive a plurality of the pledged delegates to the national convention?
Result: 15/1

5. If this had been a general election, which candidate would have won the most Electoral Votes (so far)? This is the same as #2, except states are weighted by electoral vote--and of course places like American Samoa are excluded.
Result: 195/219-263

6. Who has won the popular vote (so far)? This is really messy to measure because adding caucus votes to primary votes is like adding apples to oranges. Texas illustrates--if we needed any reminders!--that a caucus should never be expected to yield the same percentages nor the same raw number of votes as a primary would have. Besides, some state parties don't even release the raw counts in the caucuses anyhow--which moots the whole thing. Oh, and don't forget that there are different rules for who can participate in each contest, state by state! I defy anyone to provide me a popular vote tally that means anything. I am very irritated at news organizations--and the Hillary and Obama campaigns--for trying to argue the "popular vote" tally one way or the other... Without even mentioning the unreliability of any such tally!

7. We could look at who has won the most votes in the primary states alone. Once again, a rather inconclusive measure.
Result including MI, FL (millions): 13.17/13.40
Result excluding MI, FL (millions): 12.60/12.21

But as LTG has pointed out, none of the sets of voters in any Democratic contest are actually representative of the electorate that will vote in the general election.

Dr. Strangelove said...

Why can't Hillary win caucuses? This was RbR's question. What I said about Texas applies generally.

Obama may win caucuses because those who already support Obama find themselves more willing to go the extra mile and caucus. It is also possible that those who are already more willing to go the extra mile and caucus find themselves supporting Obama. The high influx of young, first-time voters argues for the former, but Obama's greater organization across many caucuses argues for the latter. Probably both are true.

The Law Talking Guy said...

One would not normally expect young, first-time voters to "go the extra mile" for anything. For them, just voting is a big deal. That's part of what makes this a fascinating question. Conventional wisdom holds that young voters vote in smaller #s than the population as a whole, are politically active in smaller #s tan the population as a whole, and are harder to win and keep.

I suspect that something bigger is happening. For the first time since the 1960s, there's a desire by large numbers of young people to be politically aware but (unlike the late 1960s of the 'tune in, drop out' variety) they also want to be politically active. The Obama campaign is not attracting young people, especially young white men, in large numbers, because it is advancing a radical political agenda. In fact, his agenda is more modest than Clinton's. She believes a president should stake out a somewhat radical position and bargain from it; he believes a president should facilitate compromise from the beginning.

Rather, Obama's message is to the huge number of Americans who feel alienated from government and politics, and his message is one of inclusion. Watch the video and what you see is excitement about being part of the process, not about any particular result. You also see what Hubert Humphrey called "the politics of joy" - he's not selling anger, hate, revenge, or the demonizing of political enemies. He's not selling "us vs. them." This is fascinating. Some older people can only shake their heads and say this means the Obama campaign "lacks substance."

My belief is that a generation has come of age since the Impeachment a decade ago that has been affected by what it has seen. It has seen nothing but a president lie (note the ambivalence to HRC as a result of this view of her husband, since they don't remember 1992). It has the electoral process undermined in '00 and '04. It has the democratic process under attack, our country embarrassed repeatedly on the world stage, and our most basic values undermined. It has seen an arrogant administration unwilling to listen to anyone. The sense of alienation is vast for young people especially. They never even had "schoolhouse rock."

But they want in. They want to believe in something. They want to belong to civil society, to participate. This probably explains the change I have seen at my church over the past 12 years, where now younger couples in their 20s are coming in record and unexpected numbers, and they want to be involved. The Obama campaign does particularly well in small red caucus states because those Democrats are among the most alienated. They react with great excitement at being able to participate as Democrats in public without fear of reprisals.

The deputy chairman of the Wyoming Republicans was quoted as saying that he was eager to hear Barack Obama speak, and he and his family waited on line to get into the event. They had no intention of voting for him, I suppose, but they, too, reacted positively to someone who did not alienate or demonize them.

This is probably why the more traditional party activists are much more predisposed to Clinton and against Obama - they aren't alienated.

HistoryBuff said...

I voted in the Texas Primary and participated in the caucus. I'm an independent, but I wanted to participate in a primary that actually mattered for a change, and I knew, because I researched it, that I had to caucus to make my voice heard and I was informed.

A lot of people in Texas had never even heard of the caucus, and had absolutely no idea of how it worked. One of my neighbors even considered switching his vote in the caucus, he wasn't even really sure about how the presidential election works.

I also think that the Caucus rewards the party faithful, since they are the one's that are most likely to show up at the caucus.

What's really hilarious about the Texas system is that it's largely going to end up as a wash. Hillary won the primary, but since it's not a winner take all system she got 69 delegates and Barrack got 65. But now since it looks like Barrack has won the caucus he will end up with 3 more delegates than Hillary!! We Texans think we count a lot, but I guess we don't!

Raised By Republicans said...

History Buff,

The problem isn't that you Texans don't count. The problem is that some of you - but not all of you - get counted twice! :-)

The Law Talking Guy said...

I dunno. It seems to me that maybe Texans can't count. The results from the caucuses willnow not be ready until (wait for it) March 29th - a full three and a half weeks after the election.

HistoryBuff said...

Well, if you saw the way they did the caucuses you'd understand. They had everyone sign up on a sheet saying who they voted for and then had to go through and individually inspect the voter roll to make sure you actually voted in the primary. No computers here, all by hand!