Wednesday, June 20, 2012

How Obama's Immigration Initiative Won't Do Him Much Good

The worst thing to me about talking about the election and how people think it is going to turn out is talking about the electoral college. It doesn't follow the normal rules of politics and can get confusing when people mix things up by using a lot of terms that not everyone understands. So, before I get carried away, I think that everyone who does not understand the electoral college should watch the following school house rock video. I know it's dorky... but to be completely frank, this is the best (and most to the point) description of the electoral college process that I could find.The video I have uploaded from YouTube includes a School House Rock explanation, and is then followed by a guy from South Carolina who provides a more in- depth explanation. I highly recommend watching this video.

In the world of electoral behavior (a fancy word lowly political scientists such as myself use to define how people vote), political analysts and consultants alike understand the importance of independent votes and swing states. These are the tricky, unknown variables which otherwise may tip an election result one way or the other. Many bloggers and op-ed writers are talking about how Obama's immigration initiative to delay the deportation of young illegal immigrants will help his re-election campaign. However, today I came upon an article in the New York Times by Nate Silver entitled, "Hispanic Voters Less Plentiful in Swing". Here, Mr. Silver argues that in states where this policy could effect a sizable number of voters, a majority were already blue states to begin with. So, at best, Obama may gain three possible swing states. At worst, he may lose six states.

When I talk about swing states, I am mostly talking about states like: Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, New Hampshire and Missouri. Let's use the great state of Ohio as an example. Ohio has 18 electoral college votes (a fairly high number), and in 2008 Hispanics only contributed to 3.5% of votes. This basically means that the Hispanic vote in this state did not count for much as far as numbers are concerned. But even then, there is a 53.5% chance of him winning this key state, which means that Romney could take this state back from Obama.

However, there are three states where this immigration initiative could prove to be effective for Obama; Colorado, New Mexico and Florida. In these three states there are sizable immigrant communities (and as a consequence immigrant voters). As a result, this could help voters who may be positively impacted. Colorado is worth 9 electoral college points; New Mexico is worth 5 electoral college votes; and Florida is worth a whopping 29 votes. So, if Obama is lucky, this policy may have earned himself 43 electoral college votes.

At the same time, he may have also lost Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire and Missouri. This comes to a grand total of 57 electoral college votes Obama may have lost by upsetting independent voters. Combine this number with the number of definite red states (according to the most recent 2012 electoral college map there is a chance he can have well more than the required 270 electoral college votes to win.

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