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Mackerras on US election

The Australian
Edition 1 - All-round Country MON 16 FEB 2004, Page 015

Kerry headed for landslide victory - US Elections 2004
By Malcolm Mackerras

Adapting his electoral pendulum to the US, psephologist Malcolm Mackerras predicts the Democratic challenger will win the White House

GEORGE Walker Bush is the 43rd president of the US. He was sworn in on Saturday, January 20, 2001.

The big question now is: who will be the 44th president and when will he be sworn in?

My prediction is that John Forbes Kerry will be the 44th president and he will be sworn in on Thursday, January 20, 2005.

In December 2000, Bush won the presidential election by receiving 271 votes to 267 recorded for then vice-president Al Gore.

It was the only close US election of the 20th century.

When I say that to my students, one of them always asks this question: ``Was not the 1960 election, won by John F.Kennedy, a close election?''

To that my answer is: ``The election of 1960 was very close in the popular vote. However, let us never forget that the American people do not elect their president. They merely participate in the choice of presidential electors.''

I repeat: George Walker Bush won the only close US election of the 20th century.

Now for my final prediction. On Monday, December 20, 2004, the Electoral College will meet and 327 votes will be cast for Kerry and 211 for Bush. The 327 votes for Kerry will be made up as follows.

First, he will win 260 votes by carrying every state carried by Al Gore in 2000. Second, he will win 27 votes in Florida, four in New Hampshire, 11 in Missouri, 20 in Ohio and 5 in Nevada.

In my pendulum I show Bush with a notional vote of 278 in 2000 and Gore with a notional vote of 260. That adds up to 538. But were not the votes actually 271 and 267, respectively?

Yes, they were. However, population growth among the states is not uniform. The number of electors per state sometimes changes from one election to the next.

If you cross-check the pendulum and the table you can see that, by and large, the states won by Bush have been growing more rapidly in population than those won by Gore. That reflects itself in the numbers in the table.

The total in the table remains at 538, a number that has applied since 1964. Those states growing faster in population than the nation as a whole are likely to gain (for example, Florida from 25 to 27) while those growing slower are likely to lose (for example, Pennsylvania from 23 to 21).

My American pendulum looks very much like my Australian one. However, there are some differences.

The main difference is that my Australian pendulum is based on single-member electorates. In such a case it is worthwhile actually showing the number of seats. In the US, by contrast, there is no point in giving the number of states (although I have done that for the information). What is important is the cumulation of votes in the Electoral College.

The most lop-sided vote in the US is always recorded in the District of Columbia, which is heavily black and, therefore, heavily Democratic. DC has three electors.

In 2000, the most strongly Democratic state was Rhode Island, which had (and has) four electors. Three plus four makes seven.

In 2000, the second most strongly Democratic state was Massachusetts, which had (and has) 12 electors. Add seven and 12 together and the cumulative number is 19.

I now make the assumption that Kerry carries all the Gore states and that brings me to Florida and New Hampshire. In both these states Gore's hopes were wrecked by Green Party candidate Ralph Nader, who polled 97,488 votes in Florida and 22,188 in New Hampshire.

The scandal of Florida in 2000 is so well known I prefer to skip over it and give some details on New Hampshire.
In 2000, the New Hampshire vote was 273,559 for Bush, 266,348 for Gore, 22,188 for Nader and 2615 for Pat Buchanan, a candidate from the right. In a preferential vote, the Nader preferences would have heavily favoured Gore, those from Buchanan favouring Bush -- and Gore would have won.

However, under the US system the Nader and Buchanan votes are wasted, so my calculation is based on adding 273,559 and 266,348, which gives a total of 539,907.

The Bush figure is 50.67 per cent of that two-candidate total of 539,907 and the Gore figure is 49.33 per cent. So it needs a swing of only 0.7 per cent for Bush to lose New Hampshire in November 2004.

Going up the Bush side of the pendulum it will be noted that 11 states are shown as ``South''. They are the states of the Confederacy of 1861-65. Bush won in 2000 by carrying every state in the South. As can be seen, my prediction is that Bush will in 2004 again carry every state in the South, except Florida.

In describing my recent Australian federal pendulum, my article was headed ``Nothing for certain in landslide danger zone'' (The Australian, January 5). The gist of my prediction for Australia was: it could be close, it could be a landslide to John Howard and it could be a landslide to Mark Latham.

For the US that kind of thinking must be varied significantly. When Florida gave all its 25 votes to Bush in 2000 and will, on my prediction, give all its 27 votes to Kerry in 2004, the electoral system is not merely a ``landslide danger zone''. It is effectively a landslide certainty.

During the 19th century there was only one close election and that was in 1876, when Rutherford Hayes (Republican) secured 185 votes to 184 for Samuel Tilden (Democrat).

With only one close US presidential election per century, it is a very safe prediction that it will not be close this year. To be precise, historically there is one chance in 25 that this election will be close.

What is the basis of my ``Kerry to Win'' prediction?

Have a look at Page 8 of The Australian on February 4 under the heading ``Kerry races to seven-point lead on Bush''. There you will see an opinion poll showing Kerry holding a 53-to-46 percentage point lead over Bush.

While there is a long way to go, my judgment tells me that the historians will be very kind to that poll.

There is a final omen. History records that the winner of 1876 served for one term only, while the loser never became president.

Each of Tilden and Gore secured a bigger popular vote than Hayes and Bush. That is why I always describe Gore as the Samuel Tilden of the 20th century. I expect soon to be able to describe Bush as the Rutherford Hayes of the 21st century.

Malcolm Mackerras teaches American politics at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra

NUMBERS GAME
Electoral college voting strength by state
State __ 2000 __ 2004
Alabama __ 9 __ 9
Arizona __ 8 __ 10
Arkansas __ 6 __ 6
California __ 54 __ 55
Connecticut __ 8 __ 7
Delaware __ 3 __ 3
District of Columbia __ 3 __ 3
Florida __ 25 __ 27
Georgia __ 13 __ 15
Hawaii __ 4 __ 4
Idaho __ 4 __ 4
Illinois __ 22 __ 21
Indiana __ 12 __ 11
Iowa __ 7 __ 7
Kansas __ 6 __ 6
Kentucky __ 8 __ 8
Louisiana __ 9 __ 9
Maine __ 4 __ 4
Maryland __ 10 __ 10
Massachusetts __ 12 __ 12
Michigan __ 18 __ 17
Minnesota __ 10 __ 10
Mississippi __ 7 __ 6
Missouri __ 11 __ 11
Montana __ 3 __ 3
New Hampshire __ 4 __ 4
New Jersey __ 15 __ 15
New Mexico __ 5 __ 5
New York __ 33 __ 31
North Carolina __ 14 __ 15
North Dakota __ 3 __ 3
Ohio __ 21 __ 20
Oklahoma __ 8 __ 7
Oregon __ 7 __ 7
Pennsylvania __ 23 __ 21
Rhode Island __ 4 __ 4
South Carolina __ 8 __ 8
South Dakota __ 3 __ 3
Tennessee __ 11 __ 11
Texas __ 32 __ 34
Utah __ 5 __ 5
Vermont __ 3 __ 3
Virginia __ 13 __ 13
Washington __ 11 __ 11
West Virginia __ 5 __ 5
Wisconsin __ 11 __ 10
Wyoming __ 3 __ 3
Total __ 538 __ 538
Source: Malcolm Mackerras