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Monday, February 11, 2008

“I can’t wait to hear.......”: Obama explained (to me).

(In keeping with Robb's Obama campaign here, I figured I'd post this here instead of at YacketyYak. v. )

I haven’t done my detailed homework on the candidates yet, so I have been shy about making judgments about them. But in what I have seen and read so far, I have really liked Obama. Many people whose opinions I value (such as Robb) like him too, so that’s another factor in my thinking I guess. But lately I have given a lot of thought to why I like him. I watched “60 minutes” last night and thought both Hillary (a bit surprisingly, to me) and Obama came off pretty well. But Obama is in a different league. He just comes across as more sincere, knowledgeable, articulate and intelligent and just more……genuine.

Anyway I was driving, late morning, with the radio on ESPN where Colin Cowherd was talking to Peter Gammons yada yada yada….and the topic shifted to Obama/Hillary/60 minutes, they were pretty much in agreement with what I was thinking, and at one point Cowherd said something like “….yeah, I can’t wait to hear the next words to come out of his mouth” (That may not be verbatim, but it conveys pretty accurately what he said). And it hit me---I agree! And I can’t remember the last time I felt that way about any politician!! For years now, I have not been able to listen to any politician for any significant duration of time. Not one. But the few times I have heard Obama speak, I have heard him out for the duration. I actually look forward to hearing the guy speak! I think that is the key to his inspirational quality. He not only has the mind and the message, but he has the quality that makes you believe and makes you want to hear more. That is pretty rare.

Of course, I am not alone in my reaction; people are flocking to Obama in droves. Many people have anointed him the next Kennedy in his ability to possibly inspire a whole new generation. That made me curious---can we tell whether he is having a measurable effect on (at least the democratic) voters? So, purely on a whim, I decided to look up polling numbers from 2004 and 2008 in the democratic primaries too see if more people were turning out for these primaries. Of course, there could be a number of reasons for any differences that we may see, but still, it would be cool to see if this race made say another 10-20% people turn out to vote---or so I thought. What I saw stunned me. And I think it will stun you too.

I have tabulated the total votes cast in democratic primaries in ’04 and ’08, taking into consideration only states that went till a couple of weeks past Super Tuesday in ’04 ---sort of where we are now in '08. Anyway, my sources for the vote totals are http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21660914/ for this year’s totals and http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html/politics/2004_ELECTIONRESULTS_GRAPHIC/ for the 2004 totals (you have to click on “previous elections” and “2004 Primaries” on the left to get a map---then mouse over a state to get voting details on the left). I don’t know how accurate any of these numbers are, but I did try to verify from another source http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2004/primaries/pages/scorecard/index.html for a couple of states and the numbers were close enough that the differences were insignificant for the point of this discussion. Also, I couldn’t get data for every state in that time-frame (some showed delegates only, not vote totals) but again there is more than enough data to substantiate our point here. And here are the numbers:

State (2004 Poll Date)

2004 Dem Primary

2008 Dem Primary

% Increase


(Total Votes Cast)

(Total Votes Cast)


ARIZONA (Feb 3)

225259

397642

76.5

CALIFORNIA (Feb 3)

2740023

4060731

48.2

CONNECTICUT (Mar 2)

129751

350595

170.2

DELAWARE (Feb 3)

33146

95979

189.6

FLORIDA (Mar 9)

750039

1684390

124.6

GEORGIA (Mar 2)

618245

1046485

69.3

ILLINOIS (Mar 16)

1210362

2003800

65.6

LOUISIANA (Mar 9)

161182

357547

121.8

MASSACHUSSETTS (Mar 2)

613636

1244133

102.7

MISSOURI (Feb 3)

418557

820453

96.0

NEW HAMPSHIRE (Jan 27)

219246

284104

29.6

NEW YORK (Mar 2)

673401

1721262

155.6

OKLAHOMA (Feb 3)

302322

401230

32.7

SOUTH CAROLINA (Feb 3)

292383

530322

81.4

TENNESSEE (Feb 10)

368877

614096

66.5





Totals

8756429

15612769

78.3

I’m wondering whether I got some of the numbers wrong. I’ve checked (I had to do the tallies state-by-state) and I don’t see any major mistakes anyway. Maybe my sources are bad, but I’ve Googled the primaries and get pretty much the same numbers for the 04 primary. So is this true? I mean, a 20% increase would have been noteworthy, 35% would have been very impressive, 50% would have been incredible….but over 75% increase in votes cast? I don’t know what to say!

Of course, there could be many reasons for a greater voter turnout in the Democratic primaries compared to 2004. But remember, 2004 was a “pissed off” year for the Dems where they really wanted W out of office. Plus, between Kerry, Edwards, Dean and Clark, they had quite a bit of interest and competition going there for a while. All that should have spurred voter turnout in the primaries. This year is also a “pissed off” year, but at least the electorate knows that W is gone one way or another---so that’s neither here nor there.

Moreover, the Republicans were having a tight race, have a lot at stake, and although I haven’t added up their votes they appear to have far fewer votes cast than the Dems (maybe 30-40% less) so far.

So there appears to be something more at work here. This is hardly scientific, and quite off the cuff but, at first pass the vote totals suggest that the Obama/Clinton race is getting a HUGE number of new voters involved. I'm sure Hillary is contributing somewhat to the bump by bringing in the voter bloc that likes the idea of a woman president. But she is the mainstream democratic party candidate and I expect she gets most of her vote from the mainstream party-follower types. I have to believe that Obama is responsible for a large part of the 75% bump. Either way, if this increased participation is true, it can only mean better things for this country going forward.

Like I’ve said, a lot of this stuff is off the cuff. If you find mistakes in data or reasoning, please bring it to my notice, and please be considerate while doing so. I am still in some disbelief about the numbers myself.

Comments on "“I can’t wait to hear.......”: Obama explained (to me)."

 

Blogger Robb said ... (9:54 PM) : 

Excellent post, V.

While I do believe that Obama is bringing a large number of new voters into the process, I think the one thing that needs to be weighted more heavily is the fact that primaries have generally not mattered after South Carolina. Just the fact that they are now relevant has gotten more people to come out to the polls and caucuses.

For example, my Dad told me that at one caucus site in Omaha, they were expecting 3,000 people and they got 27,000! Furthermore, he said they couldn't do the hand count thing so they all had to put pieces of paper in a box for each candidate. (A novel way of voting, to be sure.) He said the line for Obama's box was a half block long, and there was no one at Clinton's box.

It's pretty clear who is generating the excitement.

 

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