Chris Bowers exposes the Washington Post’s “objectively wrong and quantifiably unfair” electoral map

NOTE FROM JOHN: The Post’s Electoral Voter counter comes from RealClearPolitics. I know a number of people who have had concerns that RealClearPolitics leans right. The way they handled the electoral vote map sure lends credence to that view. Looks like the Washington Post got snookered, and didn’t bother checking their facts or sources.

Check out the Washington Post’s electoral map.

Then, check out Pollster.com’s electoral map.

The Washington Post sees 16 swing states — including New Jersey, Oregon and Iowa — with a total of 173 electoral votes as toss up or “battleground” states. Pollster.com sees six toss-up states with a total of 60 electoral votes.

What’s wrong with the Post’s analysis? A lot as Chris Bowers at Open Left documented over the weekend:

On this webpage, the Washington Post collects recent polling data, and then declares a state to either be a “battleground,” or leaning toward one party or the other. Here are some of their polling averages and diagnoses:

Obama +13.8%: Battleground state (PA)
Obama +10.4%: Battleground state (NH)
Obama +10.0%: Battleground state (NJ)
Obama +9.5%: Battleground state (IA)
Obama +9.0%: Battleground state (OR)
Obama +8.2%: Battleground state (MN)
Obama +8.2%: Battleground state (MI)
Obama +8.8%: Battleground state (WI)
Obama +7.3%: Battleground state (NM)
McCain +6.8%: Leaning Republican (GA)
Obama +5.1%: Battleground state (VA)
Obama +4.0%: Battleground state (CO)
McCain +3.8%: Leaning Republican (IN)
Obama +3.5%: Battleground state (OH)
Obama +3.1%: Battleground state (FL)
Obama +3.0%: Battleground state (NV)
McCain +2.2%: Leaning Republican (WV)

Notice anything wrong with this list? Could it perhaps be that any state where McCain leads, no matter his margin, is defined as “Leaning Republican?” Could it be that states where Obama leads by 7.3%-13.8% are defined as “battleground states,” while states where McCain leads by 2.2%-6.8% are defined as “leaning Republican.” Does the uneven math in this strike anyone as problematic?

The Washington Post claims that a 2.2% lead for McCain is larger than a 13.8% lead for Obama. That is objectively wrong and quantifiably unfair. This is as blatantly imbalanced as election reporting can possibly get.

Has anyone on the Washington Post’s crack political team even looked at this map? Do the political reporters stand by it? Could Dan Balz or even Chris Cillizza explain the Post’s math here? Because, Chris is right. This is wrong. Very wrong.


On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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