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GOP pickups: IN IA MI NC OH

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News from the Votemaster

Improvement to the Tipping-Point state Table

The fifth item in the menu to the left of the map has been relabeled "Tipping-point state" and an icon added to its page to show where the tipping point is, something a number of readers have requested. The idea of the table on this page is that Obama is sure to win the deep-blue states and likely to win the medium-blue states, and so on. The question is how deep into red territory does he have to go to get 270 electoral votes? Similarly, Romney is going to win the deep-red states and likely to win the medium-red states, etc. How deep does he have to go into blue territory to win (reading from the bottom up)? The state that puts either one over the top (i.e., provides the 270th electoral vote) is what we will call the tipping-point state. Henceforth that state will be marked by a little hand icon. This may sound complicated, but a quick glance at the table should make it immediately clear how this works. The table will be (automatically) updated every day as new polls are entered into the database. Also, if you haven't already done so, take a look at the third and fourth items on the menu. They present the polling data in context, whereas the map is just a snapshot.

Casino Owner Bets on Former Opponent

After donating $20 million to Newt Gingrich in the primaries in a vain attempt to defeat Mitt Romney, casino owner Sheldon Adelson has donated $10 million to a superPAC whose purpose is to help his former opponent, Romney, by running television ads attacking President Obama. Since the Citizens United decision, unlimited donations by billionaires such as Adelson (who is worth an estimated $25 billion) to superPACS are now legal. Adelson has said that he might ultimately donate $100 million to Republican candidates this cycle.

Is that a wise business decision? Let's do a quickly calculation. Adelson has never announced what his annual income is, but a reasonable return on his $25 billion in assets would probably put it in the 4 to 8% range or more, for an annual income of $1-2 billion a year. Chances are his financial advisers have structured his income so much of it counts as dividends, which are taxed at 15%. As an example calculation, let us assume Adelson has $1 billion in annual dividends and is paying $150 million in income tax on it. Obama wants to introduce the "Buffett rule," which would raise this tax to 30%, costing Adelson an additional $150 million per year.

Adelson will be 79 in August. Life expectancy for a man his age is about 8.5 years, possibly longer in his case since he no doubt has an excellent health insurance policy. So for him personally, preventing the Buffett rule from happening is worth about $1.3 billion over his statistically remaining 8.5 years. And when one factors in how much it would cost his 66-year-old second wife, Miriam, and his five children, it could start to add up to real money.

So, is betting $100 million to get a potential return of $1.3 billion worthwhile? Well, it depends on the odds, a concept well known to casino owners. If the probability of winning is at least 7%, then it a good bet. If Adelson thinks that his $100 million bet increases the chances of stopping the Buffett rule by 7%, it makes financial sense for him. If other billionaires make the same calculation, hundreds of millions of dollars could flow to Republican candidates this year.

Autopsy on the Arizona Special Election

Special elections are, well, special, because each one is different. Among other things, they generally happen on a day when there are few or no competing elections so they get a lot of attention, both in the runup to them and picking over the results after the fact. A piece in Roll Call points out five noteworthy items about Ron Barber's win over Jesse Kelly for Gabrielle Gifford's seat:

  1. Special elections aren't always worth the investment
  2. Buy airtime early
  3. Candidates matter
  4. Early voting matters more
  5. Outside groups matter more

Other views can be found here.

As we have often pointed out, in politics, a week is a long time. Last week the big story was Scott Walker's victory in a special (i.e., recall) election and the takeaway was that the Democrats are in big trouble. This week the big story is a Democratic victory in a swing district with more registered Republicans than registered Democrats. Next week ... (= stay tuned).

Majority Blame Bush for the Bad Economy

As Romney continues to pound Obama on the weak economy, a new poll offers Obama a potential escape: blame it on Bush. A new Gallup poll shows that 68% of Americans place the blame for the economy's ills on former President George W. Bush, rather than Obama. Even among Republicans, 49% blame Bush. With this finding, it may be a bit harder for Romney to base his campaign on the idea that Obama wrecked the economy. Of course, he can avoid going on the attack and focus on who would be better at fixing it, although this approach is likely to bring up how well he did as governor of Massachusetts, which was 47th in the country in job creation during his tenure.

Today's Presidential Polls

State Obama Romney   Start End Pollster
Nevada 48% 42%   Jun 07 Jun 10 PPP
Wisconsin 44% 47%   Jun 12 Jun 12 Rasmussen