Friday, November 9, 2012

Who won the battlegrounds?

Over summer, I wrote a series of battleground guides, breaking down the five most important counties in each of the biggest swing states (here, here, and here).

Now that the smoke has cleared from Tuesday, let's take a look at how Mitt Romney ended up doing in those battleground counties, and what it might mean for the GOP's future.

What's notable?

Romney picked up precisely the same percentage as John McCain in Ohio's Hamilton County and Cuyahoga County.

Most amazingly, he picked up precisely the same percentage as McCain in Virginia's Chesterfield, Henrico, Fairfax, and Chesapeake counties -- four of the biggest VA battlegrounds.


2012: Romney 50% Obama 48% (Romney FLIP)
2008: Obama 49.3% McCain 49%
2004: Bush 51% Kerry 49%
2000: Bush 51% Gore 45%
1996: Clinton 44% Dole 42%

Romney got the flip he was looking for here, narrowly reversing Obama's 2008 win, and coming close to Bush's 51%.

In 2008, the Cleveland Plain-Dealer found that Lake was the most predictive county of how the state would vote from 1960-2008.

Sorry, Lake. You missed the boat on Tuesday.


2012: Obama 52% Romney 47% (Obama HOLD)
2008: Obama 52% McCain 47%
2004: Bush 53% Kerry 47%
2000: Bush 54% Gore 43%
1996: Dole 50% Clinton 43%

This was the most storied county of the 2012 election, and most notable result of Tuesday night.

If Romney was going to win Ohio, he was going to have to take Hamilton, but he did no better than McCain.

Rob Portman has notable pull here, and played a huge role in Romney's primary win in the state. But ultimately, huge turnout in urban Cincinnati felled Romney.


2012: Obama 69% Romney 30%
2008: Obama 69% McCain 30%
2004: Kerry 67% Bush 33%
2000: Gore 63% Bush 33%
1996: Clinton 61% Dole 29%

Also one of the most stories counties in the country, this Democratic bastion in the Cleveland area gave Obama an identical 39% margin of victory in 2012 that it bequeathed on him in 2008.

Romney was never going to do very well here, but the story of Cuyahoga is raw votes, and Obama got them.


2012: Obama 51% Romney 48% (Obama HOLD)
2008: Obama 52% McCain 47%
2004: Kerry 51% Bush 49%
2000: Gore 50% Bush 48%
1996: Clinton 50% Dole 41%

Romney's performance was pretty good here -- he actually jumped 2% on McCain's margins and equaled George W. Bush's performance in what's historically been a very narrow, lean Democratic county.

Montgomery is heavily Democratic at the local level (eight of nine local offices are occupied by Democrats), but in national elections, the white population votes Republican and the heavy black population in Dayton, Democratic.

In the end, Romney did get the performance he needed out of Montgomery if he was going to win the state.


2012: Romney 61% Obama 38%
2008: McCain 59% Obama 40%
2004: Bush 66% Kerry 34%
2000: Bush 66% Gore 31%
1996: Dole 59% Clinton 33%

 Delaware sits just north of Columbus and is a thriving sort of place. Its the fastest growing county in Ohio and the 20th fastest in the country.

It's incredibly Republican and it's incredibly white (those things often go together).

But look how much better Obama did than Kerry or Gore. The latter two couldn't even hit 35%, but Obama hit 40% in 2008.

The big question was whether Romney could keep Obama from the 40% region, and ultimately, he couldn't. Obama only lost 2% from his 2008 margin, and was able to hold Romney to 61% (Bush got 66% in 2000 and 2004).

Moving on...


2012: Mitt Romney 53% Barack Obama 46%
2008: John McCain 53% Barack Obama 46%
2004: George W. Bush 63% John Kerry 37%
2000: George W. Bush 63% Al Gore 35%
1996: Bob Dole 61% Bill Clinton 32%

Chesterfield is in the Richmond area, and one of the biggest contributors of raw Republican votes in the state.

Historically, the GOP has performed well here, but Romney fell 10% short of George W. Bush's totals in 2000 and 2004.

In fact, Romney failed to even improve on John McCain's 2008 performance -- a disastrous sign when considering how much better he had to do than McCain, overall, to win Virginia.

So why is the state getting closer? Demographics. In 2000, whites made up 76% of Chesterfield's voters. Now, that's just 65%.


2012: Obama 55% Romney 44%
2008: Obama 56% McCain 44%
2004: Bush 54% Kerry 46%
2000: Bush 55% Gore 43%
1996: Dole 53% Clinton 40%

Here's yet ANOTHER swing county where Obama's performance was precisely as good as in 2008.

Henrico is in the Richmond area, and is sort of the ultimate melting pot in Virginia -- blacks, Hispanics, whites, evangelicals, secular voters, South Park would love the skewering possibilities in Henrico.

But take a look at how the county has shifted since the Bush days when W won it solidly. Now, Obama has flipped it just as solidly, and Romney couldn't even inch up 1%. The future of this county looks bleak for the GOP as its demographics continue to shift in the Democrats' favor.


2012: Obama 59% Romney 39%
2008: Obama 60% McCain 39%
2004: Kerry 53% Bush 46%
2000: Bush 49% Gore 48%
1996: Dole 48% Clinton 47%

This hasn't been a swing county since it swung for Kerry, but it's the most populous county in the state (representing 13.5% of the population) and, as such, is a major producer of raw votes.

Unfortunately for Romney, this is another Virginia county that remained unchanged from 2008. McCain picked up 39%; Romney was only able to score 39%.

Romney did do better than McCain in its neighbor -- Loudoun County -- but ultimately, all the hype about Romney being better suited to Fairfax didn't pan out.


2012: Obama 57% Romney 41%
2008: Obama 58% McCain 42%
2004: Bush 53% Kerry 46%
2000: Bush 53% Gore 45%
1996: Dole 50% Clinton 43%

Another story that was nearly precisely the same in 2012 as it was in 2008.

Prince William sits in northern Virginia and has undergone a massive demographic change over the past decade and a half, and now boasts a sizable Hispanic population.

As you can see, Obama won by 16% in both 2008 and 2012. Compare that to 1996 when Bob Dole beat a very popular incumbent, Bill Clinton, by 7%, and you get some sense of the shift.

Once again, in county after county, Romney failed to improve on McCain, while Obama held onto the coalition he won with in 2008.


in Virginia Beach.

2012: Romney 51% Obama 48%
2008: McCain 49.9% Obama 42.2%
2004: Bush 59% Obama 40%
2000: Bush 56% Gore 42%
1996: Dole 50.6% Clinton 41%

in Chesapeake.

2012: Obama 50% Romney 49%
2008: Obama 50% McCain 49%
2004: Bush 57% Kerry 42%
2000: Bush 53% Gore 45%
1996: Dole 46.7% Clinton 45.8%

These counties lie next to one another in the far southeastern corner of Virginia, and once again, we see that Obama got the same 50% in Chesapeake that he got in 2008. In major county after major county, Romney was unable to cut into Obama's margin.

Romney was able to open the GOP lead to 3% in Virginia Beach (it was 0.7% in 2012), but it wasn't enough. Once again, turnout was an issue. The GOP did very well in the 2010 elections in Virginia Beach, but higher '12 turnout hurt them.


2012: Obama 62% Romney 38%
2008: Obama 58% McCain 42%
2004: Kerry 53% Bush 47%
2000: Gore 53% Bush 46%
1996: Clinton 57% Dole 38%

Miami-Dade houses 1/9 of Florida's population, and is getting progressively more Democratic. Most famously, Obama actually nipped Romney with the county's large Cuban-American population -- a phenomenon that was unthinkable over the decades.

Simply put, Obama's coalition in the county is expanding; the GOP's is shrinking. Bush was able to score 46% and 47% of the vote, but Romney couldn't even crack 40% and fell short of John McCain's disastrous operation.

Miami-Dade hurt Mitt badly.


2012: Obama 53% Romney 46%
2008: Obama 50.8% McCain 48.4%
2004: Bush 53% Kerry 46%
2000: Bush 50% Gore 47%
1996: Clinton 47% Dole 44%

Other than Hamilton County in Ohio, no county picked up more attention this cycle than Hillsborough, which is in the Tampa area.

And no other result was more surprising. Obama didn't just meet his 2008 performance, he actually added to it by almost 3%. Tampa has been a swing county since 1960, and has correctly predicted the state's winner in all but one election.

Well, its streak remains, and the county wasn't even terribly close. Obama's 7% margin was the largest since Bush beat Kerry by the same amount. The county has a growing Hispanic population, which is obviously a difficulty for the GOP, but no one thought Romney would do as poorly in Hillsborough as he did.


2012: Romney 51% Obama 48%
2008: McCain 50.3% Obama 49.1%
2004: Bush 58% Kerry 42%
2000: Bush 58% Gore 41%
1996: Dole 50% Clinton 44%

Duval is Jacksonville, and Jacksonville is Duval.

Obama came so close to winning Duval in 2008, because black turnout was absolutely massive. Whites in the county, though, are heavily Republican.

The big question coming into 2012 was whether Obama could replicate black turnout. Jacksonville's enormously popular, black mayor declined to endorse Obama, which some took as a sign of lethargy in the black commmunity.

But Obama courted Duval heavily over the past four years, ran ads very early on, and targeted the county relentlessly.

In the end, his support only fell by 1%, and he did well enough to nearly tie Romney. Contrast that with Bush's 16% and 17% wins, and you can see just how much Obama was able to move Duval.


2012: Obama 59% Romney 40%
2008: Obama 59% McCain 40%
2004: Kerry 49.8% Bush 49.6%
2000: Gore 50.1% Bush 48%
1996: Dole 45.9% Clinton 45.7%

Orange sits in the Orlando area, and has seen a huge influx of Democratic-friendly Puerto Rican immigrants. The county grew 83% between 2000 and 2010.

Orange used to be an enormously tight area -- Dole won by 0.2%, Gore won by 2.1%, and Kerry won by 0.2%. But Obama has carried the county by 19% in the past two elections. Orange is turning into one of those "Can we at least stop some bleeding?" mega counties that gives GOP nightmares on election night.


2012: Romney 58% Obama 41%
2008: McCain 55% Obama 44%
2004: Bush 60% Kerry 39%
2000: Bush 58% Gore 40%
1996: Dole 49% Clinton 40%

Lee sits in southwest Florida, is the 8th largest county in Florida and is heavily Republican (think Midwestern retirees).

I was terribly curious to see whether Romney could improve on McCain's standing, because he really should have and he did.

Between 2008 and 2012, the GOP picked up 15,000 new registrants, while Democrats lost 10,000. Romney ended up doing just about as well as he could have in Lee, equaling Bush's 2000 performance and falling just short of Bush's 2004 numbers.

But overall, a job well-done in Lee, but ultimately, not enough to overcome Obama's growing margin in Miami-Dade and population growth in the Orange County area.