Clinton Cooper says that the key to predicting a candidate’s vote share is to determine not just the Republican and Democrat votes, but also the share of the independent vote the candidates will receive. A statistical analysis can estimate voter percentages based on historical voter turnout. He explained:
The first step in this analysis is to take the number of registered voters by party, then proportion the total votes received for each candidate by the turnout percentage on Election Day.
He calculated that 35.1% of total registered independents in Cuyahoga County (approximately 219,548) voted for Obama. He determined that 144,703 independents (23.1%) voted for McCain in 2008. According to Cooper:
This same procedure can be performed for each election since 1980 showing that on average, 28.2% of the registered independents historically vote Democrat and 30.3% historically vote Republican. The 2012 vote totals for Romney and Obama can be predicted using this historical 64.57% average turnout for elections since 1980. The projection is that Obama will receive 345,693 votes to Romney’s 212,178 in Cuyahoga County.
Cooper then crunched the numbers (see the spreadsheet at his website) based on historical voting registration and election results in Cuyahoga County and concluded:
Based on this, the prediction can be made that in 2012, Obama will receive 2,215,978 votes and Romney would win 2,829,037 votes if 7.5% of the total votes cast for Republicans were cast in Cuyahoga County. Romney would win 56.1% of Ohio’s vote to Obama’s 43.9%, with a turnout percentage of 64.67%. This analysis includes the assumption that total turnout will be much lower than past Ohio elections, confirming reports that overall enthusiasm is down for this presidential election compared to 2008.
For those keeping score at home, that’s a 12.2% advantage for Romney statewide.
Acknowledging that not everyone will agree with his assumptions of lower voter turnout this year and a Republican split at 2008 levels, he also calculated the numbers based on 2008 voter turnout. Romney still wins Ohio based on 2008 numbers:
Even if the same turnout as in 2008 is used and the same vote split of independents for Obama and Romney in 2012 as it was for Obama and McCain in 2008, then Romney would win 50.36% of the vote to Obama’s 49.64%.
Cooper cautions that this is a simple model. It is based on historical voter trends, using voter registration and past election results as the primary means of predicting the winner. The model that he uses to advise campaigns is much more sophisticated, analyzing 25 to 30 variables. But he says that the trajectory indicates serious problems for President Obama in Ohio:
The analysis does not guarantee that Romney will win Ohio by 12%, but with certainty, the data does support that the changes in voter registration in Cuyahoga County have made it extremely difficult for Obama to win Ohio.
In another indication that things may not be going Obama’s way, the Washington Examiner reported on Thursday that requests for absentee ballots have been showing gains in Romney’s direction:
While in 2008, 33 percent of the 1,158,301 absentee ballots went to Democrats and just 19 percent to registered Republicans, a 14-point gap, this year 29 percent are being requested by Democrats and 24 percent by Republicans, a five-point gap.
And in a sign that the enthusiasm of 2008 voters is depressed, just 638,997 absentee ballots have been requested, according to American Majority Action, which culled the statistics together from Ohio college professors who are tracking the state’s absentee ballots used for early voting. The group provided Secrets with the details.
Even more dramatic, while the GOP has cut the Democratic advantage in early voting throughout the state, the changes favoring the Republicans in certain counties has been huge. In Franklin County, home to Columbus, for example, a 2008 Democratic advantage of 5 percent is now a 5 percent GOP advantage. In Cuyahoga County, home to Democratic Cleveland, the GOP has shaved six points off the Democrat’s 2008 advantage. And in Hamilton County, home to Cincinnati, Republicans have expanded their 2008 advantage to 13 percent.
This absentee trend and Cooper’s analysis should cast serious doubt upon the gloomy picture the pollsters have painted of the Romney campaign efforts in Ohio in recent weeks.
President Obama may be in for a very unpleasant November surprise.