Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Let's take a moment to revel in the irrelevance of Ohio

CBS stopped by yesterday to talk about the supposedly ever-important bellwether state of Ohio.  Ohio is always right.  Ohio picks the winner.  You can't win without Ohio.

Nonsense.  One electoral vote is equal to every other electoral vote.  The reason Ohio gets attention is that it is larger than most other states with roughly even partisan balances.  And this year, Donald Trump has a decent chance of winning Ohio.  He does not have a decent chance of winning the presidency.  So much for Ohio's bellwether status.

Let's take a moment to check in on the electoral map.  RealClearPolitics currently has Clinton at 262 electoral votes, although that is because they leave Minnesota in the tossup category.  Why?  Nobody has bothered to poll MN, with the last poll being that weird, month-old Gravis poll putting the candidates at a tie.  Clinton will win MN.  History says so, and even that hack, Nate Silver puts the chances at 87%.  Add in those ten electoral votes, and that puts Clinton at 272, which puts her over the edge.  And that is without Ohio.

So, Trump can win Florida, Iowa, North Carolina... and Ohio and still lose.  Lesson:  Ohio isn't a bellwether.  No state is a bellwether.  The concept of a bellwether is a lazy con.  Over a period of elections, due to random chance, one state will tend to go with the winner.  That doesn't make the state magic.  Ohio's record isn't random.  Ohio's partisan balance is closer to the country's than, say, Idaho, so it tends to go with the winner for nonrandom reasons, but the point remains.  Just because Ohio has tended to go with the winner doesn't mean one needs to win Ohio to get 270 electoral votes.  Trump has a 0.6 point lead here as of now.  If that holds, Ohio's record will be broken, and we should be just ever so slightly surprised.  No more than that.

The real question is why everyone wants a bellwether.  If you can find an indicator that will tell you whether the stock market will go up or down in the future, that's useful.  But, an indicator to tell you whether it did the previous day?  Um, that's useless.  A stock that always goes the direction of the S&P?  Who cares?

From the candidates' standpoint, Ohio is a swing state, and there is a strategic incentive to campaign in the swing states, particularly the larger ones, but one electoral vote is equal to every other electoral vote.  Ohio's votes aren't magic.  Ohio has only three more electoral votes than North Carolina, and 11 fewer than Florida.  And Clinton can lose all three and still win.

Enough of this bellwether garbage.  How many times must I link to this?

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