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HIST 170 American History

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Part I

It is the end of the day on September 30, 2012. You are David Axelrod, chief campaign strategist for presidential candidate (and then incumbent US president) Barack Obama. Suppose that for the next five days (i.e. November 1-5) you can send First Lady Michelle Obama (or any other member of the Obama or Biden families, if you prefer) to drum up support for the President and help get out the vote by making a limited number of campaign stops in the nine swing states listed in the table at the end of the description of this assignment. (Thanks to the speediness of air travel, the Obama (or Biden) family member that you choose can visit several states each day.)
In consideration of the Median Voter Model, and based only upon the information contained in the readings for this assignment and only the first two data columns of the table (i.e. “Rating of Prevalence of Moderates” and “Estimated Obama Advantage...”), which states would you advise your chosen campaigner to visit the greatest number of times in order to increase Obama's chances of winning as many of the nine swing states as possible? Why? Which states would be least advantageous for your team to visit? Why? Be sure to explain in very explicit terms just how your reasons relate to the Median Voter Model and also consider the “Estimated Obama Advantage...”. Please also read the next paragraph before starting. Please note that this assignment presents a scenario that is designed to be fun while allowing you to explore an application of the Median Voter Model. While its storyline follows the actual 2012 presidential election (and it uses only real data), in this case your sole goal is to win as many of the nine swing states as possible. For you, Mr. Axelrod, each of the nine states is of equal value.

In other words, you are to ignore the fact that in the real world they have disparate electoral vote values. Another necessary simplification is that your analysis should not consider the distance between states nor the time needed for transportation to or between them. Also, each visit is considered to be for an equal amount of time and there is no other method available (e.g. TV ads, robocalling, etc.) that you can manipulate to influence how voters vote. Similarly, inclement weather (e.g.
Hurricaine/“Superstorm” Sandy) and its aftermath, regional differences, your opponent’s campaign’s likely response to your visits, and any other information not presented here is not to be considered at all. As such, any research beyond the readings mentioned here is almost certainly ill-advised, but you may ask your professor if you have any questions about it. Again, for part I of the assignment you are to take into account only the “Rating of Prevalence of Moderates” and “Estimated Obama Advantage...” from the table.

Part II

It is now late February, 2013, and president Obama is already a month into his second term.
Annoyed by VP Joe Biden's daily insistence that you join him in drinking flat champagne left- over from the second inaugural ball4 and wear leftover balloon-animal hats, you, Mr. Axelrod, have resigned your position in the Obama administration and begun your new job as a senior political analyst at NBC News and MSNBC. Your producers have asked you to give your views regarding the strategic triumphs and blunders of each the Obama and Romney campaigns specifically and only regarding the choices they made about which swing states each candidate’s campaign team would visit and how many times during the five-day period preceding election day in 2012, that is, November 1-5, 2012. Before you begin, you may find it helpful to come up with an estimate of each campaign's performance in the nine swing states during that period of time. As a suggestion, you might do that by calculating the difference between the “Estimated Obama Advantage...” before that week and the “Obama Actual Margin of Victory,” which is the result from the actual election, for each state. Then adjust your resulting figures for each state by dividing each by the greater number of visits made by one candidate's team compared to that of his opponent. 

With the benefit of hindsight, does it seem that either campaign could have made better choices about which states to visit? How so, and why? Were there any choices that seemed to have paid off? How so, and why? (Remember that in our case we have adopted a simplified version of reality by considering the only measure of success to be that of winning as many of the swing states as possible. As such, a 0.001% margin of victory in a state gains the victor a whole state but, conversely, losing by that same tiny margin is a loss of the whole state. So, the fact that a particular candidate may have nearly caught up to his opponent in the waning days of the campaign by visiting a state many times did not help at all if he nevertheless lost the state.
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