Monday, October 22, 2012

Why Barack Obama Isn't Taking New Hampshire for ... Granite

When I saw the news that, Barack Obama appearance in Barack Obama will make an appearance in New Hampshire this Saturday, it threw me for a loop. Isn't New Hampshire a bit out of the way compared to the other swing states? And how can the state's four electoral votes make much of a difference? So I dug into the data to figure out what was going on.

There's a small but non-zero chance that the map looks like
this on Election Day. Which is why the Obama campaign
is headed to new Hampshire

Right now there are seven states where either candidate stands at least a 30% chance of winning. Given all permutations of those state results, there are two outcomes where New Hampshire matters.

  1. Obama loses Ohio and Virginia, but wins Colorado, Nevada, and Iowa
  2. Obama loses Ohio, Colorado, and one of Iowa/Nevada, but wins Virginia and the other of Iowa/Nevada.

Here's where Obama's odds are in those six states currently:
  • Nevada 73%
  • Ohio 70%
  • Iowa 66%
  • New Hampshire 63%
  • Colorado 53%
  • Virginia 47%
  • Florida 33%

The Obama campaign is clearly not campaigning in New Hampshire because they're worried about scenario 2 coming to pass. It's highly unlikely that Obama could somehow lose Ohio but win Virginia, unless the regional shape of the election changes dramatically in the next few weeks. However, scenario 1, while unlikely, is not entirely out of the question. All four . A couple of high-profile factory closing in Ohio, a successful attack on some social issue (Ohio is the most socially conservative of those four states), or something else might reshuffle so that Ohio becomes the most competitive of those four states.

In addition, campaigning in New Hampshire is smarter than advertising there. Usually the candidate's time is the scarcest resource in an election and should be dedicated to states that have a large number of electoral votes, but the New Hampshire media markets (which are shared with Boston, MA, Albany, NY, and Portland, ME) are incredibly expensive given that the campaign is chasing only 4 electoral votes. TV ads will be more cost effective in the NV/CO/IA troika, which has smaller media markets with much less bleeding into neighboring states.
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