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November 30, 2012 11:38 AM Romney Campaign Still Math-Challenged

By Jonathan Bernstein

A bunch of liberals (here’s one; here’s another) had good fun with an op-ed by Romney strategist Stuart Stevens recently. The main point of the ribbing was that Romney’s campaign apparently still doesn’t quite understand that all the votes count, not just those from the groups they really liked.

But unless I missed it, no one noticed that Stevens still doesn’t seem to have any idea of just how badly Romney lost. He says “Nor are we idiots because we came a little more than 320,000 votes short of winning the Electoral College in 2012.”

320,000 votes? I don’t think so. By my count, that’s off by over 200,000 votes.

The final totals still aren’t in, but looking around…

Romney won 206 electoral votes.

He lost Florida narrowly, by only 74,000 votes. Had he won Florida, he reaches 235.

Next closest was Ohio. He lost Ohio by 164,000 votes. FL and OH get him to 253.

Virginia was next. He lost Virginia by 149,000 votes. FL, OH, and VA put him at 266.

Oops! That’s already 387,000 votes, and he’s not there yet.

To get over the top, he would have had to win at least one more state. Pennsylvania and Colorado have been going back and forth as the votes are counted for the state that did it for Barack Obama…right now Obama’s lead in Colorado is slightly less, and it’s smaller, so we’ll give him that. But Mitt Romney lost Colorado by 138,000 votes.

That means Romney needed not the 320K he said, but 525,000 votes, and again they’re still counting in some of these. Regardless: Stevens was off by an impressive 64%. Which will presumably only increase as the last few votes are counted. That’s a pretty big miss!

(Fine, you want to get technical? I’m sure that it’s possible to find some electoral votes for fewer votes, but a whole lot less practical. For example, those last votes could have been found not in CO or PA, but in New Hampshire, which Obama won by a very slightly larger margin but of course with a lot fewer votes, only 40,000. But that’s about it. Obama won Nevada by only some 68K votes, but that’s only 6 EVs. Iowa, also 6 EVs, had about a 90K vote margin, so that doesn’t really do anything for him. Obama’s lead was under 100K in New Mexico and Delaware, but I don’t seen any combination which lowers the overall total, and it’s not as if that small number in Delaware was actually easier than the bigger number in Virginia).

Should we care? Oh, probably not, although I wouldn’t put a whole lot of stock in any of the other empirical claims he makes in the op-ed (I haven’t checked any of them). I don’t really know where he gets the numbers; my guess is that it might be election night results, but who knows? I mean, I can’t really blame Team Romney for not obsessively clicking on David Wasserman’s wonderful spreadsheet every few hours, but then again if they want to write about the numbers, they might want to get them right.

Or, to make the obvious point, maybe that’s exactly the kind of careful attention to reality and detailed quantitative study that was typical of how the whole campaign was run. But that’s just silly talk. Right?

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

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Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.