According to Nate Silver, the consummate numbers cruncher from fivethirtyeight.com (New York Times-owned), not only is New Hampshire a swing state, but it's also the second most “elastic” state in the country.
Nate, who must have way too much time on his hands, came out with a ranking yesterday of a concept which really isn’t all that difficult to grasp. Elasticity measures a state’s ability to change as conditions nationwide change. The higher the elasticity, the more a state will change as opinion polls change.
For example, a state with elasticity of 1.0 would change one point for every change in polls. According the Silver, New Hampshire with an elasticity of 1.28 is second only to Rhode Island (1.29). Thus if we were to see a move upward of five points for either Romney or Obama in national polls, we might expect a move of 6.40 points in New Hampshire (five times 1.28).
The greater the number of undeclared or independent voters in a state, the higher the elasticity; that makes sense since independents are more apt to change their minds as conditions change.
Now, not only can we talk about swing states, but we can talk elastic versus non-elastic swing states. How much more fun could we ask for!
Rhode Island, for example, is so Democratic-oriented that even with high elasticity, it’s not likely to swing into play. Alaska (with a high elasticity of 1.19), on the other hand is so Republican-oriented that it’s’ not likely to swing into play either.
The elasticity, however, could help explain why Rhode Island elected a non-Democrat (Chafee) for Governor, and why Democrat Begich actually won the Alaska Senate race a few years back (although the scandal involving the GOP incumbent certainly had much to do with that).
Here’s the interesting thing.
Five swing states are listed as among the most elastic, and that’s why these five just might receive more attention in a volatile election cycle than your normal swinger.
Along with New Hampshire, they are Iowa and Colorado (we could have guessed that), but also Wisconsin and New Mexico. Romney should be slightly favored in New Mexico and Obama in Wisconsin. However, as I noted last week, Wisconsin seems to be moving more and more into play. That could represent the canary in Barack Obama’s coal mine.
Silver has three elastic states which lean Democratic (Maine, Oregon, and Washington) and two which lean Republican (Arizona and Montana).
Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Vermont join Rhode Island in the highly Democratic elastic category while North and South Dakota and West Virginia join Alaska in the highly Republican elastic states.
Mississippi (0.63) and the District of Colombia (0.45) are the least elastic; since they are also already wrapped up, don't expect any campaign money to be spent in either.
For the detailed analysis of elasticity and swing states, check out the fivethirtyeight.com site. It should be near the top of postings if you go there soon.
It’s almost enough to make a numbers cruncher OD on data.
In a close election, watch for results for New Hampshire, Iowa, and Colorado; despite all the talk about Florida, Ohio, and Virginia, the three smaller and more elastic states could really make the difference. Romney actually needs to carry Florida, Ohio, and Virginia for the others to come into play at all.