Election News

Presidential Election Trivia

During the early part of 2012, we gave away copies of our iPad app to the first twitter follower that correctly answered a trivia question. Those queries are summarized here:


February 14: Name the 4 presidents (excluding FDR), with Vice Presidents that served 2 full terms with them, who weren’t subsequently elected President

Answer: James Monroe (Daniel Tompkins), Woodrow Wilson (Thomas Marshall), Bill Clinton (Al Gore), George W. Bush (Dick Cheney).

  • Although we excluded FDR, his first vice-president, John Nance Garner served the first two full terms of that administration.
  • It is interesting that this was a rare event until recent times. Is the vice-presidency no longer a path to the highest office, or is this just a temporary historical blip? Only time will tell.
  • For a full list of presidents and their vice-presidents, see this Wikipedia article.


February 9: Part 1: Name the first President born as an American citizen.  Part 2: Of all the Presidents born as American citizens, name the state that has been the birthplace of the greatest number of them.

Answer: Part 1:  Martin Van Buren    Part 2:   Ohio with 7.     Many of our early presidents were born while the now United States was still under British rule. In fact, each president from Washington to Andrew Jackson was born a British subject.  Martin Van Buren was the first born an American citizen (born 1782 in Kinderhook, New York). Van Buren’s successor, William Henry Harrison was the final president not born as an American citizen.

As for part 2, Virginia is the birthplace of 8 presidents. However, 5 of the 8 Virginians were in the group born as British subjects.  Therefore, Ohio, with 7 presidents born there (all American citizens at birth) is the correct answer to the question asked. For more information, see this Wikipedia article.


February 6: Since 1900, there have been 28 presidential elections. Only 3 states have voted exactly 50% of the time (14 elections each) for the Democrat and Republican nominees. Saturday’s caucus state, Nevada, is one of them. Name the other two.

Answer: Missouri and Virginia, along with Nevada, have voted 50% of the time for the Democrat and Republican nominee since 1900. Related facts on voting since 1900:

  • South Dakota has voted Republican the most often, 24 times
  • Arkansas has voted Democrat the most often, 20 times


February 1: Name the last election year where one candidate won the electoral votes of all states with any territory in the Mountain time zone? 

Answer:  In 1984, Ronald Reagan won all the states in the Mountain time zone. Most of this time zone votes Republican in each election. In fact, 7 states with some territory in that time zone haven’t voted for a Democrat since 1964. (See accompanying screen shot from our iPad app’s map library). The answer would have been 2004, except for the fact that Oregon has a small sliver of territory in the Mountain time zone. Armed with that information, one could use 270toWin Answers to see when the last time a Republican won Oregon.    It was 1984 and, conveniently, all the other Mountain states (and almost the entire map) were red that year.


January 31: After each of last 7 Censuses, 1 state has gained 2+ electoral votes, one has lost 2+. Name both. 

Answer:   Florida (+2 or more) and New York (-2 or more). Coming close were California, Pennsylvania and Texas. California had gained 2 or more in 7 censuses from 1930 through 1990. However, this dropped to +1 in 2000 and no change in 2010. Pennsylvania has lost at least one electoral vote in the last 9 censuses, while Texas has gained at least one in the last 7.


January 30: How many presidential incumbents have won re-election?

Answer:   21 incumbents have won re-election. See the list below. 

  1. Washington, 1792
  2. Jefferson, 1804
  3. Madison, 1812
  4. Monroe, 1820
  5. Jackson, 1832
  6. Lincoln, 1864
  7. Grant, 1872
  8. McKinley, 1900
  9. T. Roosevelt, 1904
  10. Wilson, 1916
  11. Coolidge, 1924
  12. F. Roosevelt, 1936
  13. F. Roosevelt, 1940
  14. F. Roosevelt, 1944
  15. Truman, 1948
  16. Eisenhower, 1956
  17. Johnson, 1964
  18. Nixon, 1972
  19. Reagan, 1984
  20. Clinton, 1996
  21. Bush, 2004
Some related trivia
  • The longest period between incumbent re-elections was between Andrew Jackson in 1832 (7th president) and Lincoln in 1864 (16th president).
  • Of the 19 different presidents in the list above, 12 served two full terms (including F. Roosevelt, who served 3 full terms).
  • Four of the 19 succeeded into office when the president died (T. Roosevelt, Coolidge, Truman and Johnson) and were subsequently re-elected to a full term
  • Three of the 19 were elected to two terms but either died (Lincoln, McKinley) or resigned (Nixon).   F. Roosevelt also died in office; during his 4th term
  • Grover Cleveland was the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms.   Since he was not an incumbent when elected again, he is not on the above list.


January 27: What state has voted Republican in the most presidential elections?

Answer: Although it is a very blue state today, Vermont has voted Republican 33 times, more than any other state. From 1856 to 1960, Vermont voted Republican in 27 consecutive elections. After siding with Johnson in 1964, the state vote Republican from 1968 (Nixon’s first term) through 1988 (George Herbert Walker Bush’s first term).



From 2008: 270toWin Mentioned on The Daily Show

This segment ran on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart a few days before Election Day, 2008. The 270toWin map is in the background and the site itself is mentioned at the 2:19 mark. A pretty entertaining skit, with the theme of "let's get this election over with, already". Guessing there will be similar election burnout by October of this year as well.

Obama Campaign Paths to 270 Electoral Votes

According to Political Wire (originally sourced from Newsweek), the Obama campaign sees five paths to 270 electoral votes, all starting with the assumption that Obama will win all the states captured by John Kerry in 2004.

Those states awarded 252 electoral votes (although Kerry only received 251 electoral votes as a Minnesota elector voted for John Edwards). As a result of the 2010 Census, those same states now award 246 electoral votes.

Here are interactive versions of the 5 strategies. Which strategy is most likely to be successful? What if the basic premise (of winning all the Kerry states) is wrong? These maps are editable.... use them as a starting point to test the Obama campaign's beliefs against your own. 

  1. West Path: 2004 Kerry states +  Colorado, Iowa, Nevada and New Mexico  (the Newsweek article leaves Iowa out)
  2. Florida Path: 2004 Kerry states + Florida
  3. South Path: 2004 Kerry states + North Carolina and Virginia
  4. Midwest Path: 2004 Kerry states + Iowa and Ohio
  5. Expansion Path:  2004 Kerry states with a loss in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, offset with gains in Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico and Virginia.   (this strategy is not fully spelled out in the article).
YouTube video from Obama campaign manager Jim Messina articulates these strategies as well.
Also, if you haven't done so, please check out our new 270toWin iPad app and put the election in your hands.

Swing State Trivia

Let's be clear up-front:   With only 56 prior presidential elections, each 4 years apart, these kinds of facts are of dubious predictive value. That said, we find these kinds of facts interesting.   Use 270toWin Answers to get the answer to these types of questions for any combination of states, as well as other historical election trivia.

  • Nobody has ever won a presidential election when losing both Iowa and Missouri
  • Nobody has ever won losing both New Hampshire and North Carolina
  • A Republican has never won when losing Ohio; 1960 for a Democrat
  • The last time a Republican won while losing Florida was 1924
  • The last time a Democrat won while losing Pennsylvania was 1948
  • The last time a Republican won while losing Colorado and Nevada was 1908
  • Early primary trivia: The last time a Democrat won while losing Iowa and New Hampshire was 1976; it has never happened for a Republican
  • One must go back to Zachary Taylor and the Whig Party, in the 1848 election, to find the last time someone won when losing Michigan and Missouri

2012 Election iPad App

The 270toWin App for the Apple iPad is now available in the iTunes store. This app literally puts the 2012 election in your hands. We took many of the best features of 270toWin and re-imagined them for tablet technology. The result, we think, is an app you'll use over and over again until the 2012 election (and beyond).

Looking for a holiday gift?   The 270toWin app is the perfect gift for the political junkie in your life. It is easy to gift the app. Just click the downward arrow below the 270toWin logo in the iTunes store or, touch "Gift this App" if you are looking at the 270toWin app in the App Store on your iPad.

Here are some features of the app that you won't find on the 270toWin website:

  • The Interactive Map:  The 270toWin map is even better on the iPad, featuring a full palette of 7 colors.   3 reds and blues (safe, likely, leaning) and white for toss-ups.   Each color is available at a touch.

Create and save your own 2012 election scenarios

  • The Library:   Approximately 30 election map templates, across six categories.   These maps are educational on their own, and any of them can serve as the starting point for your 2012 map, at a touch.

A variety of templates from which to start your own 2012 election forecast

  • Save Your Maps:  Your maps are automatically saved, and can be named to help you tell them apart.   Make 1 map or 100, you are only limited by the memory on your iPad.
  • No Internet Connection Needed:   Use the App in the classroom, on a plane or at the beach, whether you are connected or not.
  • The History:  One of our favorite features is the presentation of the historical elections.   Slide your finger along the navigation to bring the past to life.
See the history of election results from presidential races dating back to 1789
For more information, visit our 270toWin iPad app page or go directly to the app in the iTunes store.

Obama Leads Likely Republican Challengers

From October 25 through November 4, 270toWin conducted a straw poll on the website, asking visitors their preference in various hypothetical 2012 general election match ups. The goal was to not only take the popular vote temperature, but also to translate the votes into an electoral map, to see how that might vary based on the match-ups.

In our straw poll (see disclaimer at bottom), President Obama received more votes than each of the 5 Republicans. The popular vote was close against Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, less so against the other 3 challengers.  Of course, we don't elect our presidents based on popular vote, but rather the electoral vote.   


Popular %


Obama   (D)

Romney (R)







Popular %


Obama   (D)

Paul  (R)







Popular %


Obama   (D)

Gingrich (R)







Popular %


Obama   (D)

Cain (R)







Popular %


Obama   (D)

Perry (R)





Caution:  It is important to note that this is a non-scientific poll, meaning those who participated were not chosen at random, nor necessarily distributed in a way reflective of the population as a whole. At this early point in the election cycle, 270toWin draws an audience that is far more interested in politics and the election than the population at large. This audience's opinions about specific candidates or match-ups may not reflect that of the population at large. Furthermore, even if the poll were random, the number of participants in most states was too small to draw a statistically valid conclusion.

2012 Electoral Votes by State

Modified February 21, 2012 to insert map and update link to gerrymandered districts.

Electoral Vote Changes in 2012

The 2010 Census results are out, showing the U.S. resident population grew to 308.7 million people as of April 1, 2010, vs. 281.4 million in 2000. Use the preceding link to see the Census Bureau's press release, and links to all the facts and figures regarding demographics and other trends.

What we care about here, of course, is the impact of these results on the electoral vote map and thus the 2012 presidential election. The Census population counts in each state leads to a reapportionment of the number of Representatives per state.   Since the number of electoral votes for each state equals the number of Representatives +2 (for the number of Senators), the electoral vote count changes as well.  The new electoral vote distribution will be in effect for the 2012 election.

Our interactive 2012 electoral map now includes the new distribution. Just choose the 2012 option in the "Electoral View" at the bottom left of the map. Overall, if the 2008 election were held using the 2012 apportionment, Obama would have received 6 fewer electoral votes... 359 instead of 365.

This is because the 2010 Census shows that the U.S. population continues a decades-long trend toward the south and the west. Although Obama won some of these growth states in 2008, on balance they voted Republican for a net shift of 6 electoral votes.

The big winner is Texas, adding 4 electoral votes. Florida gained 2 while New York and Ohio each lost 2. Gaining one electoral vote each are Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Washington.   Losing one electoral vote each are Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Looking beyond the Electoral Vote distribution, reapportionment leads to redistricting, the redrawing of Congressional district boundaries.  This is controlled by state governments. While redistricting will take place in most states, it is a particularly important topic in states gaining or losing seats. In states losing seats, you may see two incumbents squaring off against each other in a 2012 primary or general election. Redistricting will occur in time for the 2012 election, and the newly apportioned House will be seated in Janaury, 2013.

In an ideal world, congressional districts would be drawn objectively, by computer, dividing up a state's population evenly, by location. However, redistricting in many states leads to gerrymandering, which is basically the creation of districts based on other demographic criteria, and is mostly done to protect incumbents. Many of these will change for 2012, but check out this slideshow of the 20 most gerrymandered districts created after the 2000 Census.

The Probability of 270: How are those Probabilities Calculated?

**If you are reading this directly instead of linking here, this relates to the section under the interactive map on the 270toWin home page called "The Probability of 270".**

However you get here, it is important to point out up front that the outcome of this exercise is statistically valid based on current polls and is not a projection of the election. The election could turn out completely differently than the displayed results but it doesn't mean that the underlying polls used were inaccurate. They could have been perfectly accurate when they were taken, but we'll never know since we only vote on Election Day. So don't read more into these numbers than is actually there.

Although it is rarely presented this way, statistical theory makes it possible to take the results of a state poll and calculate the probability that either candidate will actually win that state's popular vote, and thus collect its electoral votes. For example, let's say that a poll with a sample size of 600 for Missouri comes back 48% for Candidate A and 44% for Candidate B, with 8% other, undecided or some other response. Since a victory by 10 votes is the same as a victory by one million votes --- the winner gets the full electoral college bounty for the state, the only question we are trying to answer is: "Given these results, what is the probability that Candidate A will actually get more votes than Candidate B in Missouri?" In this specific case, the answer is about 85%.

It is important to note that, for example, a 4% spread doesn't always equate to 85%. The number will vary based on the number of people sampled and will also vary based on the proportion of undecided/other is in the results.   Smaller sample sizes and more undecided responses lead to greater uncertainty in the outcome, pushing the probabilities toward 50-50.  Of course, a smaller spread between candidate A & B will also result in a probability closer to 50-50.

For those interested in even more detail, see below.  An example is provided inside the < >.

  1. The input for each state is a poll (or average of polls, where appropriate), including % for each candidate and sample size.  Big assumption in all of this is that the polls are statistically valid with a normal distribution.
  2. From the above, a standard error (standard deviation) can be calculated <4.3%>
  3. With the above pieces of information, a probability can be calculated using a normal distribution function <94.7% McCain, 5.3% Obama.  This tells us that there is a 94.7% chance that McCain is ahead of Obama in the Ga. popular vote, if the election were today.  Or, perhaps a better way to say it is that we can say with 94.7% confidence that McCain leads>
  4. Since the electoral vote is 'all or none', this statistic is all we are trying to figure out for each state.
  5. To get an aggregate probability across all remaining unselected (tan color) states in the map, we take the above statistic as calculated for each of those states and calculate the probability of each outcome.  For example, if Georgia and Ohio remain undecided, the outcomes could be MM, MO, OM or OO, where M=McCain wins and O=Obama wins in Georgia, Ohio.   <Let's assume the Georgia example described earlier and let's say the Ohio probabilities are 50/50.  These are the possibilities:
    1. MM =  .947 * .5 (47.3% chance of occurring)
    2. MO =  .937* .5 = .473
    3. OM = .053 * .5 = .027
    4. OO = .053* .5 = .027>
  6. The final step is to take the electoral votes associated with each outcome and figure out the winner. 
  7. You may wonder why we only show the "Probability of 270" calculations with 12 or fewer states remaining.  The reason we limit is that the permutations become exponentially larger as more states remain unselected, since every possible combination must be considered in order to calculate the aggregate probability correctly.    With many people simultaneously on 270toWin and with the calculation updating dynamically with each click of a state, it really bogs down the server if we open it up to more than 12 states.

270toWin on Exhibit

A touchscreen version of the 2008 interactive 270toWin map is on display at the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum in Chicago. The map is part of the "Vote4Me! Inside a Presidental Election" exhibit, which will be at the museum through November 9, 2008. Admission is free through the end of 2007.

The Vote4Me! exhibit is intended to help visitors understand the election process, including the all-important 270 Electoral Votes needed to win the Presidency.