2020 Election forecasting

I saw a headline that Moody had an election forecast model which shows Trump wins by a landslide.  I thought immediately that this can’t be.  Landslides happen when a very popular president runs for re-election, and wins big in certain key states.

Moody has a forecast model, which uses economic variables to predict election winners.   They produced 3 elections scenarios:  (1) Democrats win by a narrow margin (2) Republicans win by a narrow margin and (3) Republicans win by a wide margin.   The difference in these three models is the % turnout of the opposition party (Democrats) in the election.   Republicans win if this % Democratic turnout is average or below average.  Democrats win with a high Democratic turnout.  Of course, this turnout will not be known until after the election.   It is really what every election strategist will tell their candidate, that it isn’t enough to get people to agree with you,  you have to get them to vote for you.

Rule 1:  You need to fire up your base at election time or at least more than your opponent.

Moody’s work predicts every outcome but a Democratic landslide.   Moody’s considered 3 models, all using economic data, state-by-state.  I’ve included their model description in the links.   The approach passes my quick “six state reasonable check.   Regardless of the model and turnout,  Republicans win in TX 38,  GA 16, and TN 11 while Democrats win CA 55, NY 29 and IL20.  Postal  codes are followed by the electoral votes (EV)).   Moody predicts that all toss up states go to Trump when Democrat turnout is low or average.  I’m skeptical of this result.   They include all elections from 1980 to 2016.  I believe the earlier elections with Reagan victories may have skewed their results.  No candidate can win in New York, California and Texas anymore.

I’m particularly skeptical of Moody’s  wide margin win case,  with Trump beating Democrats  380 to 158 electoral votes.  That’s a solid win but not a landslide by historical standards.   Crushing victories haven’t happened for 3 decades.   The more recent landslides  were: 1972 Nixon vs.  McGovern with 520 EV,  1980 Reagan vs. Carter 489 EV and 1984 Reagan vs Mondale 525 EV.   Yet Reagan crushed Carter in 1980, he won just 50.7% of the popular vote. Nixon won by a landslide and a solid popular vote of 60.7%, yet resigned two years with the Watergate scandal.   I won’t go there- this blog already getting long!

Rule 2: You don’t have to be popular in every state, just the ones that count.

I tried to compare Moody’s work to everyone else making forecasts, but it just got too complicated.  I’m sticking with my  list of 5 solid toss up states of MI 16,  WI 10, PA  20. FL 29 and AZ 11, made on my Aug 19 blog. I also included the extra 2 contenders for the “who knows” list:  NC 15 and  NH 4,  plus 2 Republican leaners,  GA 16 and OH 18,  both with sizable EVs.    All total  these nine states have 145 electoral votes and will decide the election.

As far as the solid Republican vs Democrat vote,  I think the Democratic candidate begins more solid support.  In the link given below, the safe EV for Democrats varies from 183 to 209.  The Republicans can count on a safe 125 EV although there is certainly an upside to this.  If we look at states which went Republican since year 2000, the EV count is 179.  See link below.

Following Rules 1 and 2 are important.  I’d like to add this final rule.

Rule 3:  Election forecasts do not necessarily get better with time.    Forecasts showing one candidate to win,  can actually help the opposing candidate.

My case in point is all the polls in 2016 showed Hillary Clinton would win Florida.  But they all showed the race to be very close.   The candidate may be popular but that’s not enough – see Rule 1.   Hillary Clinton was widely predicted to win the 2016 election and this gave Trump supporters more incentive to vote.

Every time a candidate appears to be ahead in a swing state, the opposing candidate will double their efforts.  The “close the gap” strategy precludes any landslide elections.    Each candidate will target the swing states with every trick in the book.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Moody’s Model

270toWin.com

Wikipedia: Presidential elections

 

 

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