The Election in Two Images

Friday, November 9, AD 2012

I’ve been mostly offline the last couple days due to a business trip — leaving early the morning after the election. I may write a bit about the election itself in a few days, but since I’ve spent the last couple days deeply immersed in ways of visualizing data, these two versions of the election map struck me as really interesting in showing what went on Tuesday.

This first image shows the size of the winning candidate’s margin for each county. (click for a larger view) [source]

This second image shows the direction of change in the vote of each county as compared to 2008.

UPDATE: Okay, one more image because with all the discussion of re-alignment and emerging majorities I couldn’t help putting one together:

44 Responses to The Election in Two Images

  • The updated graph is important and something I’ve tweeted about. Obama barely cracked 50% after gettting 53% in 2008 – the only 2 times since 1976 that Democrats achieved popular vote majorities. The partisan political ramifications of the election are less grim that people are suggesting, though there is clearly work to be done on the GOP side. There are about a dozen states that GOP has failed to carry since Bush I, and basically Texas is the only of the big 8 states reliably in the red column. But that can be addressed.

    The real problem, as Jonah Goldberg said in his G-file today, is what the results of the election signify for where our country is headed in the immediate future.

  • Am I reading those two maps correctly? In the country, away from the major conurbations, not only was the vote Republican, but in the MidWest it was strongly Republican against 2008. If so, then the GOP needs to rethink what it did in centralising its apparatus at the last conference and buy into Ron Paul’s grassroots strategy.

  • Yeah, I think one of the things people miss when talking about this alleged “coming Democratic majority” is that majority status reliably oscillates between the major parties. It could be that we’re heading into a 50/50 period like the 1880s when, for a variety of reasons, neither party could assemble a reliably large lead over the other despite each having some die-hard interest groups, but given an ideological market place and just two major parties you just don’t get permanent majorities.

    Yes, there are a few things that need to change, like needing Hispanics to regard the GOP somewhat more favorably than a sharp stick in the eye, but even looking at the history of ethnic politics party loyalties peal off or splinter over time. This doesn’t mean that the GOP doesn’t need to make any changes, but first of all we’re not seeing either party command the kind of huge majorities that were common until 24 years ago, and secondly even if the GOP does go into a decline the chances that the GOP would fail to adapt quickly and rebuild a coalition capable of winning elections are historically really low.

  • That second map is deceptive. Each county = one dot? As the first map hints at, some dots are more important than others. Colorado looks redder than red, but four of those dots account for 40% of the state’s population.

  • The big problem if you look at the first map is how many impregnable castles the Dems have. I mean large blue circles that indicate supermajorities. There are only 2 moderately large red circles. Everywhere else a small amount of change can flip the state. I predict the RM states will all go Dem just from ex pat Californians. Even now the only totally reliable ones are ID, UT and WY . If the Dems get anywhere close to 50% they probably will carry the EC easily as seen in 2012.

    There may be millions more Hispanic Dems added if the GOP Establishment has their way. You are also overlooking the states that are trending Blue (Nevada, Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado). In return the GOP since 1992 has picked up only WV. Absent some catastrophe for the Dems (and 10% unemployment no longer qualifies) , the Repub nominee has to work hard to get to 200 EV let alone 270. If the Dems weaken TX and they will put that project in overdrive thats the ballgame. Not meant to be gloomy just cleareyed.

  • One other consideration is that it has only happened once since 1896 that a party has lost the White House after only one term. When people talk about the track record of incumbents losing, those incumbents mostly lost after multiple terms for his party: Hoover (3), Ford (2) and Bush (3). First term incumbents almost always win.

    The exception that proves the rule, Carter. But he had a bad economy, was elected in a close election, faced a strong opponent and was Carter. The only ones that applied here were the first, but the economy was weaker in 1980 and the fourth. Well the President is Obama in this case, but pretty much the same thing.

    The point is that this was always going to be an uphill battle so we shouldn’t freak out too much.

  • MD says The point is that this was always going to be an uphill battle so we shouldn’t freak out too much.

    I agree. Other than nationalized healthcare, attacks on religion, galloping increases in dependency, financially ruinous policies and impending national security crises, what me worry?

  • There’s an Army saying that the enemy is always four feet tall or ten feet tall. Right now, Republicans are feeling like the Democrats are ten feet tall. But we have 30 governorships, the majority in the House, enough to block votes in the Senate, and four pretty reliable votes at the Supreme Court – three of whom are under 65, and I can’t picture Scalia stepping down in the next four years. We’re still trying to figure out what the lesson from Tuesday is, but once we sort through it, we’ll learn it. That second map does show some positive trends, including an improvement in the Pacific Northwest that I didn’t expect. I’ve heard, although I haven’t confirmed it, that the Democrats saw a sharp drop in the Jewish vote. Along the Great Lakes, we’ve got most of the governorships, and Pat Toomey’s from Pennsylvania. We’ve also got a decent B Team for the first time since the 1980’s. We even had a Massachusetts Senate seat for a few years, and we had no right to expect that. I’m not happy this week, but the wounds we took are not necessarily fatal.

  • Careful Pinky, you are giving calm reason instead of following the approved mantra of this week:

    When in trouble, when in doubt,

    Run in circles, scream and shout!


  • “GOP since 1992 has picked up only WV.”

    No so. The GOP has also picked up Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas and Louisiana, all of which used to be swing states as the electoral maps in 1992 and 1996 indicate. Grief, in 1996 Clinton even picked up Arizona.

  • The world feels very different from 1996 though. Things that were unimaginable then are almost required parts of the politically correct orthodoxy.

    Those maps only show political parties. They don’t speak to policy or ideology. That’s the issue here; it’s not about panic but being honest about the shifts in ideology. I know plenty of people who self identify as GOP or conservative who are quite ok with gay marriage et al.

  • My point about freaking out was only about this idea going around that the Republicans would never win another election. Please feel free to freak out about what Obama will do with the next four years, or about what we will not be able to rescind.

  • I remember an election guide for the 1996 election. Indiana and Kentucky were the first states to close their polls. If Dole won Kentucky he was on his way to victory and if Clinton won Indiana he would be on his way to victory. If Dole won Indiana and Clinton won Kentucky it would be a long night. Kentucky’s profile has certainly changed.

    It is funny looking back at the swing states for 2000. Sure Florida and Iowa were on the list, and I guess Pennsylvania. But the other ones included Missouri, Arkansas and Tennessee.

  • If we are viewing political parties as sports teams then with only 2 there will be position flips of course. Remember the UK in the 70s Mr Wilson and Mr Heath. If you are willing to ignore the asymmetric substantive legislative trends towards Leftism and have a party do whatever it takes to win then you have the NY legislature. I was just noting the asymmetry of the supermajorities in the first map which does have practical political implications in national elections. Flipping Oregon to the Repubs for example doesn’t change that asymmetry.

    Having control of a state legislature is all well and good but an autocratic central government will wear them down with the help of the Federal courts. It seems pretty clear from the Senate elections that the voters in the Midwest, swing states like FL and VA as well as blue states really are not that concerned about Federal power grabs or wild spending or attacks on the Church. They couldn’t have voted in large numbers for very left wing Democrats if they did. The GOP losses will make it doubly difficult to take the Senate in 2014. That’s just a fact that needs to be considered.

    NB: I meant WV as a reliably blue state switched. I wasn’t talking about swing states changing one way or the other.

  • A very important fact that is left out of this analysis is the number of voters who stayed home. Clearly, they were turned off by Romney. Romney got less votes than McCain got and I did not believe that would happen.

    Obumbler has a cult of personality. He is a celebrity politician. In the eyes of his hardocre supporters he can do nothing wrong.

    Should this country survive until 2017….something I am not sure will happen, the Party with the Jackass Logo will be hard pressed to follow Obumbler with another celebrity. Clinton was a celebrity and was never elected with 50% of the vote. Gore would not have won the so-called popular vote if the networks had not called Florida for Gore when they did.

    John FARC Kerry (google FARC) was a golddigger. Go back further, and you will see Mondale and Dukakis were losers.

  • “The GOP has also picked up Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas and Louisiana, all of which used to be swing states”

    Just dropping in for a little bit to ask a couple of questions… wasn’t the main reason Louisiana turned “red” its loss of a large Dem-leaning population from New Orleans after Katrina?

    Also, for those who are convinced that California expats will turn the Western states blue: why assume that everyone moving out of Cali is liberal? Wouldn’t conservatives be just as likely (if not more) to move out as well, especially if they are small business owners, entrepreneurs, etc. impacted by its ridiculous taxes and regulations?

  • Lousiana had been trending red for some time Elaine, but the reduction in New Orleans’ population definitely speeded up the process.

  • If I’m reading the “trend” map correctly, EVERY county in Illinois — even Cook! — voted at least slightly more Republican/less Democrat in the presidential vote than in 2008; and the veering of the political winds to the right is particularly pronounced south of I-80, as one would expect. Yet, thanks to convienient gerrymandering and a lame state GOP organization, you wouldn’t know it to look at the Congressional and state legislative results (Dems now have a veto-proof majority in both General Assembly houses).

    The map appears to show two “waves” of “more Republican” voting, one sweeping across MO, IL and IN and splashing over into WI and MI until it crashes into a big blue obstacle in OH, and another blowing across WV and PA, then hitting blue territory east of the Appalachians.

  • The Dems own the fate of Illinois completely now Elaine. As bad as I think the next two years will be, I think that will give us an opportunity to make gains in 2014, especially assuming Quinn runs for reelection.

  • If you look at the results, not a terrible amount of space separated Romney from Obama in Georgia. Given demographic shifts, Georgia will turn Democrat in four years, and it will be reliably liberal after that point. Texas will fall in the next eight years due to the absolutely booming Hispanic population, as well as migration from northern states.

    The problem is primarily one of ideology, though. Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont are overwhelmingly white. So are the areas of Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts outside of the urban centers. The issue at hand is that these voters support government. Not excessive overreach, but the Tea Party libertarian anarchy either. So, the GOP needs to reject its support of Grover Norquist’s infamous objective of shrinking government down to a size that “can be drowned in a bath tub.”

    Government is not the enemy. Abused and misued government is. ANarchy is not the answer, and in 2012, the GOP was wiped out, again, in New England.

  • Louisiana saw a very slight (yet insignificant) increase in support for President Obama. One of only a few states to see such. Otherwise, it overwhelmingly went towards Mitt Romney.

  • “Government is not the enemy. Abused and misused government is. ANarchy is not the answer, and in 2012, the GOP was wiped out, again, in New England.”

    Anyone who thinks the GOP is the party supporting anarchy obviously missed all the support the Occupy Wall Street movement initially received from the Democrats, and is deeply confused on what constitutes anarchy when it comes to government. I rather suspect that the GOP will win both 2014 and 2016 as the Democrats prove once again that they are much better at winning elections than they are governing a nation.

    My sympathy for you in California as one party Democrat rule of the far left variety is busily transforming the Golden State into the Fool’s Gold State.


    A KPIX news cameraman was punched and robbed during a live broadcast outside an Oakland high school, the latest in a spate of holdups targeting the media, police said Thursday.

    Reporter Anne Makovec and cameraman Gregg Welk were on the air shortly after noon Wednesday outside Oakland Technical High School near the corner of 42nd Street and Broadway. They were at the school to do a story on the passage of Proposition 30, the tax measure preventing deep cuts to education.

    As Makovec was finishing her report, police said, five men rushed up and grabbed a $6,000 camera from the tripod. Viewers saw the live picture being jarred and turned sideways for about two seconds.

    One of the assailants punched Welk in the mouth before the group fled in a Mercedes-Benz, which apparently was accompanied by a Lexus, police said. Welk declined treatment by paramedics but saw his doctor.

    “He is fine, and he is actually working today,” KPIX spokeswoman Akilah Bolden-Monifa said Thursday.

    Bolden-Monifa said the station would continue to report in Oakland but declined to specify whether any changes would be made to protect its crews.

    Sources, however, said all KPIX crews covering stories in Oakland would be accompanied by security guards, day or night, effective immediately.

    Wow, now you need armed guards escorting your camera crews? How third-world. But then, that’s how things usually go in progressive havens.”

  • . Given demographic shifts, Georgia will turn Democrat in four years, and it will be reliably liberal after that point.

    Georgia, like several other southern states, experienced an uptick in African-American voting due almost exclusively to Obama’s candidacy. Georgia is not on the cusp of being a Democrat state.

    Texas will fall in the next eight years due to the absolutely booming Hispanic population, as well as migration from northern states.

    Romney’s margin of victory in Texas was about four points higher than McCain’s, roughly in line with the overall national average. The Hispanic population of Texas has proven time and again to be more favorable to the GOP than it is in the rest of the country. To an extent, yes, Texans have more to fear from northern migration and the influx of Yankees, and as such I have joked that they should take more securities on their northern border than southern. However, the flight of Yankees into Texas also will include many frustrated with their liberal northern neighbors, and as such may actually provide a net increase of Republican-leaning voters.

    So, the GOP needs to reject its support of Grover Norquist’s infamous objective of shrinking government down to a size that “can be drowned in a bath tub.”

    In other words, Republicans should be more like Democrats.

  • Ben,
    There is zero chance of Georgia turning Dem in 4 years. Zero. While I’m no fan of Norquist, your credibility evaporated with that claim.

  • I think that the large number of Baby Boomers that are/have volutarily retired or forced out has had a far greater effect on voting than has been discussed.

    The Democrat ground game draws on college kids, the urban unemployed, and a large, extremely competent and creative group of retirees with nothing to do. Older white women and college kids canvassed my neighborhood on behalf of the President at least a dozen times over the three months prior to the election. Romney’s very nice college-age boys made a harried pass through the neighborhood with a list of regular Republican voters in a get out the vote measure on the Sunday before the election.

    My point is this, there is a “perfect storm” (an overused phrase but fitting here) of demographics in play that are beyond our control and have a short shelf life. Lots of Baby Boomers, reliving the Sixties as the wish they were and having nothing to do. Lots of college-age or recently graduated kids with no work and no responsibilities who see politics as a social activity. Lots of blacks who are “in” the process because Obama bills himself as a black man. Lots of unemployed or soon to be unemployed union workers in key electoral college states.

    Before we lose our minds over this, we should remember that the Democrat machine is winding down and will have to be completely overhauled by 2018. We have a window to re-learn this political game.

  • ” We have a window to re-learn this political game.”

    Something that has happened time and time again in America.

  • “My sympathy for you in California as one party Democrat rule of the far left variety is busily transforming the Golden State into the Fool’s Gold State.”

    The residents really don’t see it that way unfortunately and wouldn’t understand your sympathy. I know first hand because of family and friends out there. They learn to blame whomever they are told to blame. (Strangely enough many often are conservative in their personal behavior such as minimizing taxes, a work ethic etc.) Yes the population goes down slowly but they apparently never make a connection between the policies and the outcomes. Many of the people fleeing the state don’t even learn it as their behavior in their destination shows.

    Looking at Europe there seems to be a dichotomy between countries with strong and aggressive public sector unions (eg Greece, Italy, France) and those with more docile ones (eg Germany Switzerland). We see the same thing here in the different states. Of course even FDR warned against them. I see these two issues as the main bases of the problem. A bit more progress has been made on the second issue than the first. Without a better explanation and more aggressive communication (and more consistent conservatism too) from Repubs its going to be difficult to get anyone’s attention on the first issue. If Dems for example can say that Bush caused the financial panic without providing any coherent explanation of the connection and Repubs sheepishly agree, don’t expect voters to figure it out.

  • “The residents really don’t see it that way unfortunately and wouldn’t understand your sympathy.”

    They will eventually because California is a state on a very short route to bankruptcy:

    The same goes for my state of Illinois where the Democrats controlling redistricting led them to attain veto proof majorities in the legislature. This, in spite of the fact that Illinois under their governance is effectively bankrupt.

    A very sharp day of reckoning is almost at hand and it will be brutal. Amazing how an economic catastrophe can be a reality wake up call and that is what blue states are heading for, with California and Illinois in the van.

  • I don’t see that day of reckoning coming, though. No state is going to sign up for Obamacare without a massive bribe. It’s not going to be called that, of course; it might not happen in the same year. But every state that goes out on that limb is going to require federal money to make it work (unless Obamacare ends up saving us all money – heh heh). So sometime in the next couple of years there’s going to be an “unexpected” need for a state bailout measure which will be in no way, at all, even remotely, caused by Obamacare. Congress will be unwilling to say no, and won’t be competent enough to blame it on the healthcare reform. Republican and Democratic governors alike are going to suckle on it. It’ll cost half a trillion dollars, minimum.

  • Your point is well taken Pinky. There are situation in which there is but one opportunity to act. Stopping this, the largest government program in history, was either going to happen with this election or never. Romney and Ryan were right to put repealing Obamcare at the center of their campaign but their call had a hollow sound because GOP candidates at every level avoided the topic for fear of alienating “independent” voters.

    What is done is done. Obamacare will grow and grow. It will creep into other entitlement regimes, create new organizations in a host of agencies, and become a system that so many people count on that even desperately needed reforms can’t be achieved.

    This is the new Social Security and any State that holds out is pissing in the wind, kicking the can down the road, deluding itself. In the end, all states will go over.

    The best bet is for the states to band together now to extract the best regulatory concessions possible. Even this administration could be enticed to treat the application of Obamacare as a pass though. If they do that, the odds are good that the Administration will restore enough of the states’ authority that the program more resembles welfare benefits than Social Security benefits.

  • “a state bailout measure”

    Never make it through the House, especially since Democrats from Red States that have their fiscal house in order will be under intense pressure not to agree to it.

  • We can’t even pay for Social Security and Medicare, let alone a new Social Security. This will come to a screeching halt because our ability to conjure money out of thin air will come to a screeching halt. People have no idea how close to that day we are.

  • Which is why the states need to aggressively pursue their interests now! If they count on their representatives to modify Obamacare tomake it useful, functional, and palatable, they are doomed.

    When you lose a legislative battle like we lost this one, you have to accept the loss and turn to the regulatory evironment for relief.

  • Nope. People are remarkable in their ability to delude themselves. Greece, Portugal, Spain, and Italy are all seeing just how strong the drive to retain benefits is, even in the face of proof that there is no way to pay for it.

  • “People are remarkable in their ability to delude themselves.”

    Oh agreed on that. But almost half the people in this country have a firm grasp on reality, and the House will likely stay in GOP hands for quite a while. Additionally, no amount of self delusion can overcome the money running out. The Blue State Model is in crisis and is on a death watch.

  • It is always easier for people to delude themselves when those of us who know better fail to have to stones to tell them so. That is another thing that has gone on for far too long.

  • Hopefully and perhaps… Still, if I were a governor, I would support a repeal while pursuing regulatory relief.

  • Once a country goes over the cliff it never (well hardly ever) comes back as it was. Historically I can only think of Germany that suffered economic ruin and actually ended up (decades later) with a better grasp of economic reality in the population and leadership. Of course it also took a cataclysmic military defeat and the US as rescuer. Note that our Constitution did not come about in a period of war or major civil unrest. If the public believes both parties are equally complicit in the problem, there is an even greater chance of demagogues. This is what bugs me the most about the Repubs’ eagerness to be a Democrat punching bag for every ill or a happy accomplice.

    People need to take the example of the unraveling of the UK with its NHS and Marxist unions much more seriously because we have a shared culture to a large extent.

  • “Once a country goes over the cliff it never (well hardly ever) comes back as it was.”

    France and Italy, among many other nations I could name, have regularly gone over cliffs throughout their histories and still remained themselves. Poland’s history has been little but one cliff after another since the Eighteenth Century! As for the modern welfare states, I think we are nearing a worldwide breakdown of this experiment in wishful thinking as fiscal and social policy.

  • I am a classical conservative; I am pro-life, I support mom-and-pop businesses, small farms, local food, and the conservation ethic. I believe holistic beauty trumps cold efficiency. That is not a very present mindset within the modern-day conservative movement. Money is Lord in today’s GOP.

    Romney did improve his winning percentages over John McCain, but they were well under George Bush in some states, like Texas. Georgia will go Democrat to the the explosive growth of the Latino, Asian, and nothern American relocation to the state. Look at Atlanta for what will happen to Georgia. Same for Texas- Travis County, Harris County as primary examples.

    Urban sprawl is your culprit. It’s funny how libertarian-minded land developers (aka, pave-and-developers) are turning once reliably Republican areas into Democrat strongholds. Look how California changed with the onset of mass immigration- San Jose and San Diego as huge examples of what urban sprawl does to conservative areas. Look at Northern Virginia (NoVa), where more and more residents have no original ties to Virginia.

    Republicans can’t even win a majority of Virginia now. An astounding shift. North Carolina will be that way again. Look at Charlotte, Greensboro, Winston-Salem. Sprawl folks. Stop it, before it drastically alters your area for good.

  • Georgia will go Democrat to the the explosive growth of the Latino, Asian, and nothern American relocation to the state. Look at Atlanta for what will happen to Georgia. Same for Texas- Travis County, Harris County as primary examples.

    Ben, repeating an assertion doesn’t make it any more true. There is no basis for this assessment, as was pointed out earlier.

    Look how California changed with the onset of mass immigration- San Jose and San Diego as huge examples of what urban sprawl does to conservative areas.

    California was never truly a Republican state. It voted Republican on the presidential level, and elected governors like Ronald Reagan and Pete Wilson, but was internally much different than, say, modern Texas, which is truly Republican on every level.

    There is some validity to your statements about urban sprawl and the changing demographics, particularly with regards to Virginia. But you are badly over-estimating changes throughout the electorate.

  • “California was never truly a Republican state”

    The Democrats have controlled the state legislature of California every year since 1970.

  • “Money is Lord in today’s GOP.”

    A return to a more pastoral past is not going to happen. What I think we will see is a shrinking of core Urban centers and a more diffuse population geographically within states. Insomuch as the strongholds for Dems tend to be urban centers that is bad news for them. Another long term problem for the Dems is the migration back to the South of many blacks and a weakening of their vote totals in Northern cities. Michigan is an exaggerated example of what is happening throughout the North with blacks also going to the suburbs in greater numbers and small towns.