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Election returns thread

November 4th, 2008, 7:30pm by Sam Wang

Here’s a thread to discuss returns, topics from the Geek’s Guide, and more.

7:59 pm: Watching returns on ABC. TV is an amazingly bad way to get returns. Go to or (In the end CNN is quite good.)

It’s hard to rely on most states’ returns because partial returns are often so misleading. I’d watch New Hampshire (CNN) (where Obama should win by 11%, and closed an hour ago. It’s a homogeneous, small state, so there won’t be late surprises. If his margin’s between 9 and 13%, that’s in line with my projections. Less than 9% – nailbiter (<310 EV). More than 13% – massive, red-ceiling-smashing blowout (>370 EV).

I’m personally interested in Indiana because it’s on a knife edge. It doesn’t matter which way it falls – but they closed 1-2 hours ago and I am curious.

People are asking me what to look for. I have no idea since I am not in much doubt. I’d say I will be convinced as soon as I see NH. Doubters will want to wait until PA, maybe 8:30 pm or so?

8:30 pm: Okay, not yet. All those states being called – SC, etc.? Fuhgeddaboutit. Not of interest. That’s what exit polls are for – to give media organizations the ability to call blowouts early in the evening. Look for surprises, of which there haven’t been any yet.

9:15 pm: Returns are slow, but no discrepancies from my projection yet. President: A number of routine states have been called. McCain is leading in GA, IN. Obama’s up by 12% in NH but with only 20% reporting. Senate: Wow, Chambliss might clear 50% in Georgia. Not surprising, but there was some hope. Democrats’ ceiling is now 59 votes (counting the independents). I am on eggshells over Minnesota. Come on, Minnesotans, start counting!

9:19 pm: What the hell is happening in Virginia?

9:53 pm: Ohio for Obama. It’s done. There’s no path for McCain. He could win NV, CO, NM, VA, NC, FL – and Obama would still be at 279 EV. But that won’t happen. Congratulations, President-elect Obama!

10:00 pm: OK, meta-analysis victory dance over. I’m with Paul Starr, editor of the American Prospect. He has word from the Obama campaign that they are optimistic about Virginia and North Carolina, and think they have a good shot in Indiana. Things are looking good for Obama. Speaking as a geek, I’m still on eggshells – I want to know how the knife-edge states will fall.

10:20 pm: Obama’s leading by a whisker in VA (86% reporting) and NC (75% reporting). McCain’s ahead in IN (86% reporting), MO (21% reporting, so unclear still), and ND (33% reporting, but a 16-point lead there). If these trends all hold up, then it looks like I called all the states correctly. However, I wasn’t expecting VA to be so close. I’ll tell you about the secret tiebreaking sauce tomorrow.

Oh, and by the way: Bradley effect? Turnout? Cell phones? Anti-Bradley effect? Overall, their net effect might be…zero.

11:23 pm: Except maybe not North Carolina? 11:38 pm Wait…

4:44 am: Well, that was all very exciting. Overall, a great night for Barack Obama – and for the Meta-Analysis. Thanks, everyone – some wrapup in the morning.

Tags: 2008 Election

68 Comments so far ↓

  • Edmund Schluessel

    Hi Sam. Election night party in Cardiff, Wales; I’m the token American.

    Very frustrating waiting for partial results. BBC is also not covering Senate results at all (I’ve got in another tab following the McConnell-Lunsford race).

    Wondering why they haven’t called South Carolina and West Virginia.

  • Snowball


    South Carolina has been called by NBC for McCain.

    Looking at the polster map… Expected results from exit polls show Obama outperforming predictions consistently (except KY). I know exit polls are unreliable, but they are almost all in the same direction…

  • Forrest

    indiana tight early (-1, with 24% remaining) is a good sign for obama, Gary will report late and be strongly for obama…

  • Snowball

    Obama is vastly outperforming Kerry in Indiana. He is within 3% of McCain, with the Democratic strongholds yet to report in numbers.

    Let’s see if he can win it, and by what margin ;)

  • Lawrence

    Thank you Sam, it’s been brilliant analysis.
    Edmund, can if you commandeer someone’s computer to post, try any of the MSM websites for their feeds of live coverage.

    My first memory of being impressed by BA was the keynote speech at that convention.
    /New England just “called” for BA!

  • Snowball

    Ah, suspense over. Pennsylvania goes to Obama (see pollster map). This sucks. I don’t want to go to bed, it’s only 2.15 am here! Damn you Obama! :D

  • Snowball

    Sam, should I be paying attention to the exit polls? On pollster, the map includes an estimated result (based on exits, I suppose). It shows a BLOWOUT in NH (+20%)!

    Is this real? In that case, 370, here we come!

  • Sam Wang

    Everyone, (1) calling of states doesn’t matter. (2) compare margins in cases where the returns are reliable.

  • gprimos1

    Dr Wang,

    At what point would you recommend we mark a state down on the bias nomograph? When it is called? When we have 90% or 100% reporting?

  • Sam Wang

    Being called doesn’t help. The main purpose of exit polls is to allow media organizations to call blowouts. Exit polls have a large amount of error – not quantitative in the least. Not sure what fraction reporting – maybe 50% distributed throughout the state, not sure.

  • Sam Wang

    Exit polls might be measuring enthusiasm since people can decline to participate. Therefore they might not match vote totals. Don’t plot them.

  • Lawrence


    Sorry Edmund – didn’t mean to go all Yoda on ya!

    Since you’re commenting here, i’ll assume you can parse what i meant.

    My bad.

  • Lorem

    To some degree, at least, I beg to differ – being called does matter, at least a little. The media would like, mostly, to have a reputation of not getting stuff wrong too much. As such, I expect they will not call states unless they expect to be correct with a high probability, in outcome, at least, if not in margin. Which is of course probably why most of them are avoiding calling any of the states that are truly in question. Poll-of-calls time, maybe?

  • Sam Wang

    That’s a good idea. But I think the measure is too indirect to be of all that much use.

  • mark

    What is going on with Pollster’s map? The numbers are way off of everyone else’s.

  • Forrest

    virginia close fast… almost even now

  • Sam Wang

    Dump pollster, go to CNN or Yahoo.

  • David Werntz

    Looks like Yahoo is much delayed in data compared to CNN (Yahoo is republishing AP?)

  • Sam Wang

    Hi David! CNN it is then.

  • Frank

    I believe that the AP projection just now for Ohio has blocked any path to 270 for McCain. Congratulations, President-Elect Obama!

  • Paul

    Just got back from 8 hours of door knocking in Minneapolis. Found a few voters in a residential facility who wanted to vote and needed transportation — Obama supporters both, but we’d have taken them either way! Three more wanted to vote and hadn’t managed to get their absentee ballots in, but they were physical unable to get to the polls. Three people disenfranchised before our eyes, and nothing we could do. It was heartbreaking.

  • Frank P

    Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire all called for Obama. Any even halfway rational paths to victory left for McCain?

  • Frank P

    I know there is absolutely no chance, but just the fact that my home state of Mississippi wasn’t an instant call for McCain does my heart good.

  • Mark

    Now that Ohio has been decided, we should call him President-elect Obama.

  • Brian MacDougall

    Well, I just got through doing my little victory dance in the living room. With Ohio in the bag, there’s no way McCain can win, assuming that WA, OR and CA all go blue. It’s a great night for President elect Obama.

    And many thanks to you, Dr. Wang, for helping me keep the fires burning in so many of my friends when things looked bleak back in September. I spent endless hours with your very clever map, acquainting myself with various scenarios. Consequently, I made several very lucrative bets that the race would be called before closing in California. I believe I am on track to collect.

    Thanks again.

  • mark

    Just wanted to say thanks again for all the hard work – your site was wonderful all throughout the election. And your Geek Guide was fantastic!

    –Still not counting my chickens.

  • ekzept

    Well, CNN’s data may be more current, but at least here, Yahoo’s Dashboard is loading and reloading more reliably.

  • Andrew Foland

    Re: VA as I recall, Webb was behind all night–often by a lot–until the very end. Depends in detail on what districts have reported. Can compare below to get some idea of what’s going on.

    Current VA returns by county (getting hammered)

    2004 results by county

  • gprimos1

    Quick update on the bias nomograph:
    State Reporting Diff Predicted
    VA 82% 0.5% 4%
    FL 64% 2.2% 2%
    IN 83% 0.2% 0%
    NC 69% 1.4% -0.5%

    Only surprising result is VA, although that may just be random chance.

  • lck

    Talking Points Memo has a nice map. Just hover over the state to get total counts, percentage. You can even click on the state to get counties.

  • lck

    The “communist” precincts in VA are the last to come in. Hang in there.

  • lck

    Forgot to mention, the TPM map streams; no need to refresh.

  • Displaced Canuck

    New Hampshire: 55% to 44% with 37% of precincts counted. In line with your projections

  • ekzept

    On NH, are the number of precincts reporting sufficient to be representative to support a projection of tight race vs as expected vs blowout per the geek sheet?

  • mark

    HAHAH @ “communist” precincts. Good point.

  • ekzept

    It would be helpful for governance to have a bigger mandate but, as the statistical projections and resampling stats suggested going into Election Day, that possibility got thinner with time.

  • Hoosier

    Sam and all,

    I’m in Monroe County, Indiana — Home of Bloomington and Indiana University. The totals counted here are only 21% of the local votes — and we should go 60%+ for Obama if the student vote showed up. Also, our absentees are not yet counted — and the majority should be Obama. I would not be surprised if we put Obama over the top for Indiana.

  • Duff

    They seem to have just called VA for Obama with 91% reporting

  • Lorem

    So, more interestingly, looks like Chambliss is definitely headed for >50% of the vote, and while the Minnesota senate race is still too early to call, I guess it’s now guaranteed that we won’t be seeing a Senate with 60 Democratic votes.
    I must opine against the all-Democrat consensus around here that that is a very good thing, if only because split government almost invariably yields better results, and a tiny split is better than none.

  • Edmund Schluessel

    BBC’s just called it for Obama.

  • omar

    Ummm…what happened to Georgia? the “Geek’s guide” has it pegged at -3%, but the current results have it at -19% (!!!) with 82% reporting.

  • Duff

    It’s official, McCain has conceded. Congratulations to President-Elect Barack Obama!

    History has been made. What an exciting time to be alive.

  • Sam Wang

    omar – I agree, that discrepancy is completely at odds with pre-election polls. Something similar is happening in the Senate race, a somewhat smaller difference of about 12%. It’s weird. I wonder what the exit polls will say.

  • Tom

    Omar, they just announced on local TV that the totals being posted by the Secretary of State in Georgia may or may not include the early voting counts. There were no standards when these were to be reported and it was thought that these were heavily Democratic.

  • J Thomas

    “I must opine against the all-Democrat consensus around here that that is a very good thing, if only because split government almost invariably yields better results, and a tiny split is better than none.”

    The trouble is, the GOP has shown they shouldn’t be trusted with a filibuster. We need another party to split the government with.

    We’d be much better off if in 2010 we get enough libertarians in the senate to do filibusters, and the GOP becomes a third party.

  • Frank P has 2,020,839 early votes in Georgia. The current totals are about 2.5 million.

    Georgia’s current totals CAN’T include early voting.

  • Frank P

    Darn, wrong link, sorry. has early voting numbers for Georgia. Also says Georgia had 3,317,336 total votes in 2004.

  • Mike

    Prof. Wang: Congratulations. I’m usually a little skeptical of meta-analyses because they are so often misapplied. But you hit it right on the head. Assuming that North Carolina goes for Obama (and it sure looks that way right now), the final electoral map will exactly match your prediction.

  • Michael Slavitch

    That’s two for two Sam. Congratulations.

  • David in NM

    And all hail Dr. Wang and the PEC. Well done!

    And congratulations President Elect Obama!

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