Number Theory: A Postmortem

The recent Presidential election strategy of Senator Barack Obama set precedents with its contestation of states normally associated with strong conservative values. One of those states was North Dakota, in which the Obama campaign opened several offices and ran advertising for the first time in recent political history. This, on top of several polls, created a sense that a combination of the youth vote, Senator John McCain’s unfavorable agricultural policies and Governor Sarah Palin’s waning popularity had created an opportunity for Democrats to take the state for the first time since Johnson in 1964. In the end, while the effort had a visible impact in the election numbers, it had not changed the overall result with the Republicans winning handedly. If we are to understand why, it is necessary to assess the campaign’s strengths/weaknesses and its strategy’s end effectiveness.

As would be expected, it is clear that the very presence of the Barack Obama campaign in the state resulted in a more favorable result than John Kerry’s attempt four years prior. On top of this, the Obama campaign had a much more hospitable environment nationwide than his predecessor in light of a sudden economic crisis and an unpopular conflict without a clear incumbent. Obama’s presence in the state was maintained by several campaign offices in the largest cities backed by a large advertisement campaign. The candidate and his surrogates occasionally made appearances, a big difference from the norm of being ignored, while his opponent largely stayed away from the state. These efforts created high expectations that were not complimented with results. Few non-incumbent Democrats statewide were elected. To understand what happened, we should investigate voter behavior.

ΔTurnout ΔDemocrat ΔOther ΔNone ΔUrban Responsibility
Statewide -0.63% 25.83% 19.16% 39.80% 6.65%
Burleigh 7.73% 24.55% 10.13% 83.27% 33.59%
Cass 7.17% 35.14% 6.17% 46.15% 44.47%
Grand Forks 2.50% 24.55% -1.16% 71.67% 27.15%
Ward 0.55% 23.07% 5.88% 108.02% 22.91%