DICK MORRIS’ ’08 PLAY-BY-PLAY Volume 1, #38

By Dick Morris on November 4, 2008


Volume 1, #38

November 4, 2008


Despite all the focus on individual “battleground” states in this election, the fact is that most states vote about the same relative to the national vote each year. When the presidential candidate’s national vote goes up by 3 points, they go up by there. And when he goes down by three, so do they.

So here is what to look for on early on election night.

Six states close their polls at 7 PM EST: Kentucky, Indiana, Georgia, South Carolina, Vermont, and Virginia. All but Vermont and Virginia are solidly Republican, so McCain better carry them, but if you check out the margin by which he does so, you can pretty well figure out the popular vote distribution nationally. (Virginia tends Republican but Obama could carry it).

In 2000, when Bush got only 48% of the national vote, in Kentucky and Indiana he won the support of 57% of their voters. In 2004, when Bush won 50.7% of the national vote, he got 60% of the vote in these two states. So each time, Bush did nine points better in these two states than he did in the rest of the nation.

So when you first see substantial returns from Indiana and Kentucky (about 1/2 of the vote counted) do the math and figure out what percentage of the vote McCain got. Then subtract nine points from the total and that will give you, more or less, what he will get nationally. To derive the Obama vote, and determine the winner, deduct 1.4% for Nader (his 2004 vote share) and give the rest to Obama.

So, for example, let’s assume that McCain is getting 56% of the votes in Indiana and Kentucky. Subtract nine to get his national vote share. That comes to 47% of the vote. Then add 1.4% for Nader and give the rest to Obama. Obama’s national vote, in that circumstance, would come to 51.6 or a five point national margin of victory. It won’t be exact but it will be pretty close.

In 2004, when the exit polls all predicted a Kerry victory, I figured out that they were wrong by 8 PM EST by using this formula. When it became clear that Bush was carrying Kentucky and Indiana by 60% of the vote, I could predict that he would get 51% and beat Kerry 51-48.

Georgia usually gives the Republican seven points more than his national showing. South Carolina votes eight points more Republican than the rest of the nation. Virginia votes three points more Republican and Vermont votes ten points less Republican than the rest of the nation. (I would hesitate to use Virginia for this model because of its substantial demographic changes and I’d worry about using Vermont because it is so small, but the other four states: Indiana, Georgia, Kentucky, and South Carolina should tell the story).

What about the electoral vote? Remember that it is very hard to win the popular vote and lose in the Electoral College. Since 1888 it has only happened once – in 2000. But then, Gore won the popular vote by a margin of only 0.4%. When things are that tight, the electoral vote can come in differently from the popular vote but a more convincing margin usually carries the Electoral College with it.

Just in case, I list for your convenience, the plus or minus formula below for each state. Remember it refers only to the Republican vote; you have to derive the Democratic vote on your own.

Thanks for reading my columns and articles all the way through the election and I hope you have enjoyed the journey we have taken together. It sure has been exciting!


State Electoral Votes % Republican Deviation from National Vote
Utah 5 +20
Wyoming 3 +18
Idaho 4 +18
Nebraska 5 +15
Oklahoma 7 +14
North Dakota 3 +12
Alaska 3 +11
Kansas 6 +11
Alabama 9 +10
Texas 34 +10
South Dakota 3 +10
Indiana 11 +9
Kentucky 8 +9
Mississippi 6 +9
Montana 3 +9
South Carolina 8 +8
Georgia 15 +7
Louisiana 9 +6
Tennessee 11 +5
West Virginia 5 +5
Arizona 10 +4
North Carolina 15 +4
Virginia 13 +3
Missouri 11 +3
Arkansas 6 +3
Colorado 9 +2
Ohio 20 +1
Nevada 5 +1
Florida 27 0
Iowa 7 -1
New Mexico 5 -1
New Hampshire 4 -1
Wisconsin 10 -2
Oregon 7 -2
Michigan 17 -2
Minnesota 10 -3
Pennsylvania 21 -3
Washington 11 -4
Maine 4 -5
Delaware 3 -6
New Jersey 15 -7
Hawaii 4 -7
Illinois 21 -7
California 55 -7
Connecticut 7 -8
Maryland 10 -8
Vermont 3 -10
New York 31 -12
Rhode Island 4 -15
Massachusetts 12 -15
DC 3 -42




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