Early look at the 2008 election

With a little over a year to the 2008 election, there have already been over 100 statewide polls that pit Hillary Clinton against Republican challengers in a general election match-up. These polls can be combined to give us an early glimpse of the national mood (albeit one likely soured by years of Bush administration’s military misadventurism).

I’ve been collecting these polls for awhile now, and finally got around to an analysis of the Clinton—Giuliani head-to-head state poll outcomes. My analyses differ from the typical national head-to-head polls because (1) I am concerned with estimating the electoral college results from the statewide polls, rather than estimating a national popular vote, (2) I make extensive use of Monte Carlo simulation methods to examine the probability that each candidate wins, and (3) by combining multiple polls the sample sizes are much larger.

For example, here is the result of 100,000 simulated elections using all the 2007 state poll data I’ve been able to find:

The red line is drawn at 269 electoral college votes—a tie. The area to the right of the red line are Clinton wins, those to the left are Giuliani wins. (There are a few ties. A tied election would almost certainly result in Clinton being elected since the House Democrats currently control 26 state delegations, and the Republicans control 20 state delegations. The 2008 election will probably increase the Democrat’s control of the House.)

These results suggest that Hillary Clinton would have a 73% probability of being elected President, but only if the 2007 polls in toto reflect the national mood for election day, 2008.

In reality, attitudes change with time, so it is helpful to restrict the analysis to the most recent polls whenever possible.

Here is what happens if we restrict the analysis to polls taken in October, 2007 (unless there are no polls in a state for this month, in which case we take the most recent poll, or, if there are no polls at all, we give the electoral college votes to the party that took the state in 2004):

After 10,000 simulated elections, Hillary wins 9,991 times and Giuliani wins 9 times. Clearly, over the course of the year, Hillary has become more acceptable, Rudy has become less acceptable, or some mixture of both has occurred. (In fact, further analyses reveal that Rudy has made a bit of a comeback from his worst showing in mid-summer.)

The polls to date put Clinton in an extremely strong position to win the 2008 election. Giuliani has a tough row to hoe just to become competitive. He’ll need a lot more than just fear-mongering over 11 Sep 2001 to pull off a win.

(I provide a more complete description of the methods and results here.)


  1. 1

    busdrivermike spews:

    When I read this, I kept seeing a guy in a helmet, riding around in a tank. His name was Michael Dukakis, and he had an 18 point lead over Poppy Bush with six weeks to go in 1988.

    I think that people who think Hillary will win are smoking some strong stuff. They might not be inhaling though. I think Hillary is the Republicans best shot at keeping the White House. And if you liked W, your gonna love Rudi.

    I wonder if Rudy will wear heels to his inauguration.

  2. 2


    I don’t buy the polls that suggest people will not vote for Clinton were she the nominee. The fact of the matter is she will be light years better than any of the Republican choices before us (any of the Democratic candidates at tonight’s debate would be), and as the election season proceeds that will become even more obvious, even to those that have issues with her today.

  3. 3

    notaboomer spews:

    very prog of you to accept the marketed view of HRC as the inevitable nominee. edwards is the one who can win and who scares all the rich republicans and ceos who donate to HRC. this ain’t 92 dood.

  4. 4

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @3 “this ain’t 92 dood”

    No, things are far worse than in ’92, and that’s why voters all over the country are going to bounce every Republican than can get their hands on out of public office even if the Democrats run a trained hamster against them.

  5. 6


    notaboomer @ 3,

    “very prog of you to accept the marketed view of HRC as the inevitable nominee.”

    My decision to do a Clinton-Giuliani match-up is not an acceptance of any particularly view. But poll after poll (not marketing) shows Clinton with a commanding lead over other Democrat primary candidates. The pollsters have noticed, and some polls no longer do state-level head-to-head match-ups between other (non-Clinton) Democratic candidates and Republican candidates. I presume this is because they don’t believe Clinton is beatable in the primary.

    Giuliani has a much more modest lead over his opponents for the Republican primary. Later on I’ll do similar analyses for other Republican candidates (i.e. Clinton—Thompson, Clinton—Romney, etc.) because most pollsters provide similar head-to-head match-ups between Clinton and other GOP candidates. Oddly, there seem to be more new polls coming out with a match-up between Clinton and McCain that between Obama and Giuliani!

  6. 7

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Yes, it’s early. Yes, leads in polls can evaporate. Yes, events could affect the equation. But Republicans have absolutely nothing going for them in ’08. They don’t have a compelling candidate. They don’t have party unity. They don’t have a successful record to campaign on. They don’t have peace, prosperity, or public contentment going for them. Voters are in an ugly mood over the Iraq and Katrina fiascos, the endless GOP corruption and sex scandals, high gas prices, and the extreme divisiveness, partisanship, and meanness of the Bush administration. Plus, for the last 8 years there has been a total failure to address the problems facing average Americans. This is a really, really lousy time to be a Republican running for anything.

  7. 8

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    I listened to part of Frank Shiers’ show following Goldy’s show on KIRO 710 AM Sunday night. Shiers, who calls himself a libertarian, is pretty conservative and was talking with a Mercer Island woman who also is conservative. The interesting thing about their on-air conversation is that while neither of them wants Hillary to win the presidency they both felt a Hillary victory in ’08 is all but inevitable. In other words, mainstream Republicans are giving up hope of retaining the White House in ’08, and many have resigned themselves to another Clinton presidency. The GOPers are a dispirited bunch right now, and with good reason. The realists in their ranks understand perfectly well their party is about to get run over by a train.

  8. 9

    Union Machinist spews:

    There are two groups who have had it with the Republicans on a local, state, and national level and said groups will be pivotal in electing the next President:
    1. Men
    2. Women.

    The total disgust that the electorate has with Smirky McFlightsuit and the rest of his crime family will doom many a good republican.

    The republicans will carry the odd seat here and there but this upcoming massacre will be like the Watergate classes.

  9. 10


    The Democrats will most likely win in 2008, but not because they’re worthy: the Republicans have done such a wonderful job of destroying themselves with sexual escapades that the average joe is wondering how so many of them have been able to hide their sexual deviancy for so long. We’ve always known about the corruption, but all this hanky-panky was generally kept well hidden.

    As for me, I think I’ll write-in somebody for president in 2008. The Democrats and the Republicans are just not cuttin’ it with me anymore.

  10. 11


    Actually, the Democrats and the Republicans haven’t been cuttin’ it for me for decades. They’re both just too damned entrenched at the trough of government largesse and too mired in their own particular agendas. Both parties are too beholding to the special interests that own and control them.

  11. 15

    headless lucy spews:

    # 12:

    “True, but are the Democrats any better, in the long run, than the Republicans?”

    I suppose that who you are at this moment might have a little to do with that.

    1- If you are a sick child with poor parents, the Democrats may work for you ‘in the long run’.

    2- If you own a lot of stock in oil companies, the Republicans may work better for you in the short run, but not the long run.

    In the long run, the only people the Republicans will help are your fascist/corporatist overlords.

    Does that make things a little more Christo/clerical?

  12. 16


    # 12: Name the special interests that worry you.

    People who want health care. People who want good schools. People who want insurance companies to be held accountable. People who want to do something about global warming. People who want the government to get warrants before being able to listen to our conversations.

    You know, special interests.

    Politically Incorrect, in your defense, what you say is still very true when it comes to the drug war and to much of our foreign policy. It will be very interesting to see if they stop being Republican Light on these issues and find some spine. But your ranting about “special interests” is truly “special”, and not in the good way.

  13. 17


    And one more thing. We obviously know that Democrats ARE influenced by corporations and by interests (I can certainly give a number of examples). But only one of the two parties right now is still advancing the interests of average citizens. The Republican Party is only advancing the interests of major corporations.

  14. 18

    chadt spews:

    Yeah, well, I abhor the DLC (along with my Eureka) but find a Dem candidate who isn’t beholden to them and has ANY chance of nomination.

    Doth anyone care to speculate what effect a Bush attack on Iran will have on this clambake?

    Shall we start a pool as to when it will occur?

    At least, it may do wonders for mass transit!

  15. 19


    Any of the Democrats who have a chance to win will end up with people demanding that they cater to their particular powerful interests. It’s up to us to make sure that they don’t. The difference between the Republicans and the Democrats today is that the Democrats have shown that they have more of a sense of responsibility. But if there’s no pressure on them to deliver, they won’t have much incentive to be any better than the R’s.

  16. 20

    chadt spews:

    Yes, and I’d a rather have the worst Dem than the best Elephink, but response to public pressure hasn’t exactly characterized Pelosi and crew thus far, has it?

  17. 22

    delbert spews:

    The exit polls will trend high for Hillary, but the votes won’t match. Nobody really likes Hillary, they just can’t admit it in public. The closest thing the D’s have to a qualified candidate is Bill Richardson.

    I’m not real impressed with the R’s slate either.

    McCain – no, he’s all about the greater glory of… John McCain
    Romney – maybe, but the Mormon thing queebs me out…
    Rudy – meh. He’d run better as a D.
    Fred – Right attitude, but seems to be missing the fire in the belly for the job.
    The rest – who?

  18. 24

    Lou Guzzo's Sock Puppet spews:

    Honest Democrat Tim Russert stepped primly on Hillary’s inevitability last night, but it was a step in the right direction. She’s a treacherous gutless old war heeler (oh, wait … that’s how HST described HHH, but it also works for Cruella Rodham Clinton) who should be shanked into a dirty bottle and sent out with the Japanese Current.

    Russert asked her about the records. Not the rad platters she saved from Wellesley, but every paper, post-it, and memo she generated from about the day after Wellesley until the day after the obscene pardons of rich Marc Rich and of gross Hugh Rodham in 2001. All those papers are in the Little Rock lock box. Big Bill is placing his big ass on them (except for the ones in Sandy Berger’s hot pants) until at least 2012. http://www.newsweek.com/id/57351

    Papers? I don’t see any papers. And I don’t see any Socks. The most devastating attack yet on Cowgirl Hillary (all her cattle-future records are locked up, too) is by Honest Democrat Caitlin Flanagan in The Atlantic. Here’s a tease: http://www.theatlantic.com/doc.....an-hillary

    (Flanagan also wrote the most devastating attack on the pedo panderers of Planned Parenthood. Aside from too many Ps, it was a beautiful thing.)

    The only really good news for us Hillary haters is this: Rush Limbaugh said months ago that the probability of her inevitability is about 80%. About politics, Rush is a big fat idiot. He said in Y2K that Cowgirl Cruella, having had the ‘rush’ of being co-pres, would never lower herself to run for Senate. Then, when she ran for Senate, Rush said she’d never win. If Rush says she’s inevitable now, she isn’t. Thank God.

  19. 25

    delbert spews:


    Lee – google “self fulfilling prophesy”

    Everybody expects Hillary to win the Democtratic nomination, and not wanting to be on the wrong side of such a vicious harridan, they join the parade over the cliff.

    “She’s not George Bush” is not a reason to vote FOR her. She’s everything you disliked about the Clintons the first time around, without the charm and charisma or experience.

    The illegal Chinese donations, the lies, the pandering, the triangulation on issues, need I go on?

    Telling people what they want to hear is not a leadership traight, especially when the next group gets the opposite message. Bill was good at that, Hillary – not so much.

    The sky in my world is dark and cloudy because we are going to have a choice between the evil party and the stupid party AGAIN.

  20. 27


    Delbert, I don’t want Hillary to win the nomination at all, and I share a lot of the concerns about her, but the reality is that she’s going to win next November handily if she gets the nomination. If you think the support for her is fake, you’re living in a fantasy world. Women support her very strongly (and they make up 51% of the electorate).

  21. 28

    MJM spews:

    More Rush: If you think Limbaugh’s been spitting most of his venom at Democrats, I think you’re wrong. By my count, Maverick John McCain has been Rush’s target-of-choice for about a decade.

    McCain/Feingold was mighty worthy of venomous attack, but McCain himself wasn’t and isn’t. By being Bush’s poodle seven or eight years ago, and by being JM’s assassin, Limbaugh did much damage. Interject comment about ‘reaping’ and ‘whirlwind’ here.

    Kate O’Bierne of National Review writes this week that McCain’s our best man. I heart Huckabee, of course, but Maverick John looks better all the time, and Rush looks like … um, whatever Weird Al Franken said he looked like.

  22. 29


    You’re absolutely right that McCain is the best chance Republicans have in 2008. The problem is that he has 0 chance in the primaries.

  23. 30

    michael spews:

    I did a little work on polling political and otherwise back in the day and I’ve never been able to trust them since. No smoking gun or anything like that more a gut feeling.

    One of the big problems with most polls is you are asking someone to pick between X and Y when the best answer for them might be Z. It seems to me that asking broad open ended questions and then mining the data for answers would be the best way to go.

  24. 31

    SeattleJew spews:

    Darryl ..

    This is fascinating. Is your tool automated enough that you could kinds sort just let it run real time and then hze an RSS link that could show up on blogs?

    One thing, I noted that the first, longer term analysis is skewed. Any idea why?

  25. 32


    Special interest groups – Republican – oil companies & the religious right.

    Special interest groups – Democrat – George Soros and MoveOn.org, Hollywood elite, & the traditional media.

    Dems and Reps are owned by their masters. They dare not talk back or otherwise step out-of-line.

  26. 35

    Chris Mitchell spews:

    I assume you’re treating each result as independent in order to do this analysis. Is that a safe assumption? For example, I have to assume you’re taking each state poll result as a distribution (using the margin of error). Does your model allow for a systematic skew? (Gulliani scores +1 on all of them because of some goofy bias)? Does your model need to?

  27. 36

    busdrivermike spews:

    Lee Lee la Lee lee lee

    If every woman is going to vote for HRC, does this include the women who still support Bush?

    Bush still has a solid base of support at 31%. To me, that means that at least 31% will still vote Republcan. Do you really think Hillary will win Alabama or Georgia? What about Texas? Utah? …Idaho?…Alaska?….Kentucky? Either Carolina? How about Tennesee, which Gore could not score?

    So please, don’t think that HRC should pick her Oval office colors just yet. We live in a nice little political bubble up here, but it does not reflect the national electorate at all. HRC is one of the weakest candidates in the field, but has all the Clintomentum from her husband’s presidency. That is the sum total of her political shwag.

    Let us remember that nobody thought a Republican could win a mayoral race in NYC. That guy will probably be her opponent.

    It is wonderful to cheerlead on this blog, but someone has to introduce some reality once in awhile.

    Dukakis, 18 points…tank.

  28. 37

    SeattleJew spews:

    Bush at 31% is irrelevant to Lee’s position. HRC does have an advantage among women and that may counterbalance the Rovian image that has been attached to her.

    The 31% is itself deceptive. A large portion of this is the irridentist Republican crowd. The biggest danger these folks place to HRC is that she mighjt provoke these folks to vote.

  29. 38


    Special interest groups – Democrat – George Soros and MoveOn.org, Hollywood elite, & the traditional media.

    What exactly is George Soros’s “interest”? He’s a multi-billionaire trying to end the drug war and fighting against authoritarianism in government. Since when is that a special interest?

    MoveOn.org is an organization of people formed because people thought that blowjobs aren’t a very important reason to impeach a President. How exactly is that a “special” interest?

    The Hollywood Elite? What “interest” is that? Are they demanding higher salaries? Tougher legislation against paparazzi? What the fuck are you talking about?

    The traditional media? C’mon, man. I know you’re not this stupid.