What’s With New York?

Everyone knows that New York is a solidly Democratic state. And no one expects Mitt Romney to contest let alone win it. But I noticed something kind of odd when I was looking at the PollTracker averages this evening on TPM’s Electoral Scoreboard. New York is not only the strongest state for Obama. It appears to be far and away the strongest state for any candidate, with the exceptions of Utah, Vermont and West Virginia.At this moment, the PollTracker Average gives Obama a 27.3 point margin over Mitt Romney. And that’s not just one or two way out there polls. The state’s been polled five times since the end of the primaries by three different pollsters — Siena, Marist and Quinnipiac. Obama’s lowest mark was 56% in late May, with a 25 point margin over Romney. Romney’s ‘best’ margin was a 20 point deficit in a Siena poll in early May. You can see all the numbers here.

For some reference, here are some other Obama margins in very blue states: California (+18), Massachusetts (+15), New Jersey (+15), Vermont (32).

Meanwhile, here are Romney’s margins in some really red states: Alabama (14.9) Tennessee (+3.5), Utah (+42) West Virginia (+17).

Now a number of these states are lightly polled since no one really doubts how they’re going end up. And they may slightly understate Romney’s strength since some polls came before Romney had wrapped up the nomination. But still … the pattern seems pretty stark to me.

For those of you who aren’t that familiar with the state, New York City is, yes, heavily Democratic. But the rest of the state has been historically Republican — albeit a pretty different kind of Republican than now dominates the national Republican party.

To be clear, I’m not citing this as some great triumph for Obama. Everyone knows he’s going to win New York. What strikes me here is something about New York. New York is a big and pretty diverse state — geographically, culturally, economically. It’s just big, with the Hamptons way in the east to parts that are basically part of the industrial Midwest out west. It’s not a political monoculture like Utah or Idaho or Vermont. It’s just not common for such a big state to lean that far in one direction in partisan terms.

So what’s going on? To try to find a bit more perspective, I looked at the 2008 election. Obama won a decent number of states with around a 25% margin: California (24.6%), Delaware (25%), Illinois (25.14%), Massachusetts (25.81%). But interestingly, New York was 26.86%.

So even a solid point ahead of Massachusetts which we’re supposed to think of as the archetypal liberal state. Three states gave Obama bigger margins in 2008 — Hawaii (45.26%), Rhode Island (27.92%) and Vermont (37%). Notably, these are each very small states (with 3 & 4 electoral votes) and not known for their political diversity.

What do I draw from all this? First, that New York was already a more Democratic state than I realized. I’m a bit surprised that New York’s margin in 2008 was a tad higher than Massachusetts. But something also seems to be happening in 2012. You figure that Obama’s margin would be higher in Massachusetts if he weren’t running against a former governor of the state. But even setting that aside Obama’s popularity seems considerably more resilient in New York than it has proven to be in other very Democratic states.

Any ideas?

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