How do I vote strategically in the presidential primaries?
January 30, 2008 10:08 AM   Subscribe

I live in Arkansas. It's a Super Tuesday state, and I can vote in either party primary. Polls currently suggest that Clinton and Huckabee (both of whom have Arkansas ties) are way, way, way ahead in my state. I prefer Obama to Clinton, but I'm not in love with either of them, and, really, I just want to see a Democrat win the general election. Bearing all of this in mind, how should I vote in the primary?
posted by box to Law & Government (46 answers total)
 
Vote for who you want as president. If Huckabee is going to win your state on the GOP side (as opposed to say, being in a tight race with McCain) strategic voting isn't really going to do you any good.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 10:20 AM on January 30, 2008


The fact that both Clinton and Huckabee are way ahead means that your vote is not likely to "count" (meaning: be a real influence on the outcome of the primary or the general election).

Don't let that stop you, though - vote your conscience. I voted for Howard Dean in the 2004 primaries, although he had already flamed out by the time my state voted. I did so simply because I though he would have made a good candidate, and a good president and wanted at least to make a symbolic statement to that effect.
posted by deadmessenger at 10:21 AM on January 30, 2008


Obama.
posted by wfrgms at 10:22 AM on January 30, 2008 [5 favorites]


I would suggest you ignore the polls - they have been notoriously unreliable this primary season (See New Hampshire) - and vote for the candidate you want to support. It doesn't appear that strategic voting makes any sense in this context.
posted by buddha9090 at 10:22 AM on January 30, 2008


deadmessenger spewed: that both Clinton and Huckabee are way ahead means that your vote is not likely to "count"

This is false if you're voting democrat. The Democratic primary awards delegates proportionally based on turn out. Even if the candidate you choose doesn't "win the state" you'll still be helping them by providing them with support that translates directly into delegates. If the primary turns into a "numbers race" that type of fractional support really matters.
posted by wfrgms at 10:27 AM on January 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


Plus, some states (I don't know about Arkansas) don't have an all or nothing primary. If Clinton receives 60% of the primary vote and Obama gets 40%, he could get 40% (18-19) of Arkansas' 47 delegates. If everyone who wants Obama stays home, Clinton will get all 47.
posted by Nelsormensch at 10:28 AM on January 30, 2008


On the Democratic side, Arkansas has a proportional primary (like all other state, for the Democrats). So vote for Obama and it helps him get delegates.

On the Republican side, it's a "modified Winner Take All". If Huckabee gets more than 50% of the vote he gets all the delegates, if less, there some level of proportionality.
posted by beagle at 10:33 AM on January 30, 2008


Obama.

(subjective reasoning: Huckabee is already the weaker of the republicans w.r.t the general election; he doesn't have McCain's moderate appeal)
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 10:35 AM on January 30, 2008


My husband said that he'd heard that in the primary, you vote with your heart, and for the actual election, you vote with your head.
posted by Lucinda at 10:38 AM on January 30, 2008 [4 favorites]


Obama has more crossover appeal than Clinton, however, anyone vs. McCain in the general is going to be a tight race. Tough call. I'd go Huckabee to temper a McCain victory.
posted by electroboy at 10:40 AM on January 30, 2008


You should vote for whoever you want to be president. If you're a Dem, vote Dem... Clinton or Obama (or Gravel).

buddha9090: I would suggest you ignore the polls - they have been notoriously unreliable this primary season

Nor quite true. Polling provides.
snapshot in time and not a predictor of the future. The polls have generally been accurate. NH polling was less an error than it was a reflection of Obama's post-Iowa strength. But Clinton won by margins similar to those she was getting in pre-Iowa polling in the Granite state. It was a return to the norm rather than an example of polling gone wrong.

Now, for you box, that means that the polls are likely correct, Clinton and Huckabee have maintained large leads there for a very long time. They will walk away with wins in your state. Does that mean you shouldn't vote? No. Does that mean you should vote strategically for Mitt Romney or something? Maybe. It depends on what you want to accomplish.

My advice, vote your heart.
posted by willie11 at 10:43 AM on January 30, 2008


Dude, I feel your pain. I'm a liberal living in Indiana - my vote NEVER counts (it'd be nice if they got rid of the electoral college so that people wouldn't have to be disenfranchised for living in a red or blue state).

Regardless, if what wfrgms is saying is correct, than your vote would actually matter in the Democratic primary.

Here in Indiana - our primary is the first Tuesday in May - the candidates are usually more or less decided by the time we vote.

That's why they should change our state motto from "The Crossroads of America" to "The State Least Likely to Have a Say in National Government...and That May Be a Good Thing."
posted by po822000 at 10:43 AM on January 30, 2008


(Though I do think a Obama/Bayh ticket would rock.)
posted by po822000 at 10:55 AM on January 30, 2008


Obama, definitely. He's gonna need all the delegates he can get.

When Democrats were trying to get tricky in Michigan and Florida, they were generally voting for Huckabee, thinking that he would be a weak candidate. If he's already in the lead in your state, there's really nothing else you can do.

Besides, if you vote for Huckabee and he ends up becoming president, you're going to feel like a douche.
posted by designbot at 11:00 AM on January 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Vote for who you want. I would have thought that 2004 would have shown everyone exactly how successful a strategy it is to pick someone based on how "electable" they are.
posted by phearlez at 11:00 AM on January 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Vote your conscience. Failing the certainty of that, vote for change, eh? Put pressure on the establishment. I. can't. WAIT. for Super Tuesday.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:01 AM on January 30, 2008


Also, don't forget that all the current polls were taken before John Edwards dropped out of the race. Things may look very different a week from now.
posted by designbot at 11:03 AM on January 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Your one vote is not going to have any effect on the outcome of the 2008 election, and all of the tactical pontificating going on in this thread is just embarrassing.

The answer to your question, "how should I vote if I want to maximize the chances of a Democrat winning the 2008 election," is the same as the answer to the question "what should I eat for breakfast if I want the Patriots to win the Super Bowl?"


Vote however you want to. The point of democracy is to have FUN.
posted by 1 at 11:04 AM on January 30, 2008


Super-clever sabotage voting strategy is for 12 year-olds. That's why we don't let them vote.

No matter what a talking head wants you to believe, it's impossible to predict how things will strategically pan out in this type of political atmosphere and with so much time between now and the final vote. You stand just as big a chance of the move blowing up in your face as it having any positive influence and considering what is at stake, the risk is never going to be worth the reward.

In other words.... Would you really want Huckabee in office over a more moderate candidate? Because that's the grave you might be digging.

Whoever you vote for, whichever side you vote on, please make it for who you view as the best option on the card.
posted by pokermonk at 11:06 AM on January 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


wfgrms is correct. Your vote does count, because Democratic delegates are awarded proportionately. If you support Obama, vote Obama.
posted by Pants! at 11:18 AM on January 30, 2008


Huckabee won't win the nomination, so voting for or against him won't make a difference to the outcome.

But Obama might win the nomination, so voting for him could make a difference. Also, if you want a Democrat to win, you should vote for Obama, since he's the only Democrat with a clear advantage over McCain in the polls.

Vote Obama to keep Clinton from getting the nomination and to make it more likely that the Democrats have a nominee who can beat a McCain-Huckabee ticket.
posted by Dasein at 11:20 AM on January 30, 2008


If you really want to mess with the Republicans, vote for Ron Paul. Sure he'll never win, but his campaign makes the entire Republican party look ridiculous.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 11:26 AM on January 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


Also important is to consider that even if Clinton were a lock, and even if votes weren't proportionally alloted, Obama would still be the best bet. Popular vote does matter, and if Clinton's winning by small margins over Obama in some states, and losing by large margins like in SC in others, Obama appears much better than a simple state or delegate count would indicate.

Do your part in supporting your chosen candidate.
posted by explosion at 11:30 AM on January 30, 2008


Just also something to mention is that the Democratic Party has more delegates, which statistically makes your vote count "more" in proportional representation. So I'd say vote for who you want to see as President and be comfortable that SOMEONE from Arkansas is headed to the Convention to represent you and the other Arkansas voters who want to see your candidate as the nominee.
posted by greekphilosophy at 11:33 AM on January 30, 2008


"Your one vote is not going to have any effect on the outcome of the 2008 election, and all of the tactical pontificating going on in this thread is just embarrassing.

The answer to your question, "how should I vote if I want to maximize the chances of a Democrat winning the 2008 election," is the same as the answer to the question "what should I eat for breakfast if I want the Patriots to win the Super Bowl?""

Oh, bullshit. His question here, and his public decision making, will influence those around him, and his vote will count as much as anyone else's vote counts. There is a direct link between voting and who wins, as opposed to breakfast and football, no matter how much a cynic you were in high school.
posted by klangklangston at 11:44 AM on January 30, 2008


Vote however you want to. The point of democracy is to have FUN.

I'm not sure where you're going with that one... I agree with that first bit, but I think you're confusing democracy with, say... Monopoly (the board game).

Anyway, vote your conscience. You could try to vote strategically, but there are still at least two viable candidates in each party, and three republicans at least likely to win some delegates. That's a lot of variables to take into account for a strategic vote. So, the only winning move is not to play.

Wait, no, that's from a movie about nuclear war. The best strategy seems to be to just vote for the candidate you prefer, or at least the democrat you think is most likely to win under any given scenario.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 11:50 AM on January 30, 2008


Oh, bullshit. His question here, and his public decision making, will influence those around him, and his vote will count as much as anyone else's vote counts. There is a direct link between voting and who wins, as opposed to breakfast and football, no matter how much a cynic you were in high school.

The purpose of the comments in Ask Metafilter is to answer questions. Not to use your responses to influence public opinion. (Duh.) Unlike you, I answered the question.

There is as much of a causal link between breakfast and Super Bowl as there is between any individual vote in the Arkansas primary and the winner of the '08 general election. Which is to say, zero.

Also I don't think you're clear on what "cynic" means. Hint: it does not mean someone who makes the outrageous claim that one vote in the Arkansas primary will not affect the result of the general election.

(I wasn't a cynic in high school, but I was someone who knew what the word means.)

Also, (to gaucho), I always thought that democracy and Monopoly (the board game) were synonyms. Guess I should have paid more attention in high school. . .
posted by 1 at 11:58 AM on January 30, 2008


[a few comments removed - please don't turn this into a political grousing match]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:01 PM on January 30, 2008


There is as much of a causal link between breakfast and Super Bowl as there is between any individual vote in the Arkansas primary and the winner of the '08 general election. Which is to say, zero.

It is entirely conceivable that one vote could shift the percentages in Arkansas enough to award one more delegate to Obama, and also entirely possible that the race between Clinton & Obama will be close enough overall that fighting over individual delegates will determine the final candidate, and it's no stretch at all to imagine that the candidate chosen will determine which party wins the election.

This might be the most influential vote that the poster will ever make.
posted by designbot at 12:06 PM on January 30, 2008


Another Democrat in Arkansas here (by the way, Arkansas is by no means a "Red" state. The present governor and both senators are Democrats), and I'll be voting in the Democratic primary on Tuesday.

Also, don't forget that all the current polls were taken before John Edwards dropped out of the race. Things may look very different a week from now.

I had already made my mine up to vote for Edwards and at the moment, I'm not sure who I'll cast my vote for.

I personally won't vote in the Republican primary because I'm a Democrat, and I certainly wouldn't want Republicans voting in my primary to screw things up on my end. Thus, I won't do it to them either. Now, if you like a Republican candidate more than a Democratic candidate, go ahead. But don't vote to be a spoiler.

As of right now, I've seen one Hillary campaign ad and about five Ron Paul ads. At least in Fayetteville, there's a visible (if small) Ron Paul contingent (including someone who has spray painted their truck black and then stenciled Ron Paul Revolution on the side). I haven't seen commercials for Obama, or Huckabee, or Romney or McCain, and I don't know if that just means they're all making assumptions about the levels of success in their state, or simply waiting until closer to Tuesday to invade the airwaves.

In the end, unless you find a Republican candidate appealing most to you, look at the options on the Democratic primary ticket, and select the person who you most identify with in opinion and sincerely would like to see win. It doesn't matter if they win, thats not necessarily what voting is about. Its about going to the polls and voting for the person you want to vote for, not for someone you were told to vote for.
posted by Atreides at 12:11 PM on January 30, 2008


To put it in statistical terms: in 2004, 266,848 people voted in the Arkansas Democratic primary. If we divide that by 47 delegates, it took 5,677 votes to win each delegate. So you would have had a 1 in 5,677 chance of being the person right on the edge whose vote would shift a delegate. Not that unlikely.

(Geez, the 2004 elections were depressing.)
John Kerry: 66%, Uncommited: 23.2%, Dennis Kucinich: 5.2%, Lyndon LaRouche: 5.1%

posted by designbot at 12:22 PM on January 30, 2008


Designbot, your math doesn't make any sense. Are you saying there's a 1 in 5,677 chance that Obama will be exactly one vote short of an additional delegate if box doesn't vote for him? And that that's the case because the total number of votes divide by the number of delegates is 5,677? That really makes no sense at all.

Po822000: excellent point. I would say that the odds of your meal affecting the game would be statistically significant. I mean, I would say that if I didn't mind hurting Matt Cassel's feelings.
posted by 1 at 12:34 PM on January 30, 2008


If you pick any random number, your chances of getting a number divisible by 2 are 1 in 2. Your chances of getting a number divisible by 3 are 1 in 3. And your chances of getting a number divisible by 5,677 are 1 in 5,677.

If the final number of votes for a candidate is divisible by 5,677 (in my example), then one vote is enough to change the outcome. (5,676 votes doesn't win a delegate.) Q.E.D.
posted by designbot at 12:53 PM on January 30, 2008


Being a moderate but left-leaning, the way I approached this situation in Michigan was to vote for the least offensive Republican who actually has a chance at winning the nomination. I feel like I will have to approach every primary going forward in this way, in attempt to avoid another W-like disaster.
posted by fusinski at 1:14 PM on January 30, 2008


designbot:

Of course one vote can change the outcome. Just as my pancakes could affect the outcome of the Super Bowl.

But the odds of that happening are nowhere near as high as 1 in 5,677. Your math there makes no sense.

BTW, there's no such thing as "the person right on the edge whose vote would shift a delegate." In an election that's decided by one vote, all voters would be equally "on the edge."

And, finally, I can't believe you just said "Q.E.D.," especially after that. Ouch.
posted by 1 at 1:15 PM on January 30, 2008


[STOP - answers that do not answer the question or call other people retarded are totally out of bounds. go to metatalk with that]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:10 PM on January 30, 2008


Vote in the Democratic primary, for whichever candidate you support - if Huckabee is way ahead, it's better to get a Democratic candidate another delegate than to give, say, McCain nothing.
posted by muddgirl at 2:28 PM on January 30, 2008


The fact that both Clinton and Huckabee are way ahead means that your vote is not likely to "count" (meaning: be a real influence on the outcome of the primary or the general election).

This is incorrect. Democratic primaries use a proportional voting system to apportion delegates. I say vote for whoever you want to be president. Personally, of the democrats, I think Obama has a much greater chance of winning, but that's just my opinion, and even a lot of the pundits are saying they can't tell.
posted by !Jim at 2:59 PM on January 30, 2008


Vote for Obama. As others have pointed out, delegates are awarded proportionately in Democratic primaries, and so if Obama gets pushed over 15% he'll get delegates from your state.

You support him, you should vote for him.
posted by alms at 3:28 PM on January 30, 2008


Obama

McCain is looking more and more like the GOP candidate. He is the only one, the polls are showing, that can beat Clinton because he has cross over apeall where she does not.

Obama however beats every GOP candidate in polls and has lots of cross over appeal. Even if Clinton wins your state it is not winner-takes-all.
posted by munchingzombie at 4:13 PM on January 30, 2008


Obama
posted by A189Nut at 5:05 PM on January 30, 2008


Also saying to vote for who you want to win the primary in your state.

All votes "count" (assuming they are, you know, counted). The point of voting is to discern the desires of the voters. If you desire an outcome, vote for that outcome. Whoever has the most votes wins, mostly. Just because your state is solidly one way or another doesn't mean your vote doesn't count. It just means more people liked the other guy. Losing != disenfranchisement.

Yeah, the electoral college is a holdover from another time, but so are a lot of things. It was put in place for the same reason we have two houses in congress. To give as even a shake as possible to everyone. (In fact, the electoral college mirrors the congress in that there are the same number of electors as congressmen.) So in fact, every person has the EXACT SAME pull in the legislative branch as the executive.
posted by gjc at 5:45 PM on January 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Nthing Obama.* He's your choice, and because it's a Democratic (and thus proportional) primary, your vote for him will count if he gets as little as 15% of the vote.

* Disclosure: he's also my choice.
posted by mumkin at 6:11 PM on January 30, 2008


Update: I early-voted. Thank you, everyone, for your advice.
posted by box at 11:54 AM on January 31, 2008


Thank you for voting, however you voted.
posted by mumkin at 2:07 PM on January 31, 2008


what wfrgms said
posted by AloneOssifer at 6:33 PM on February 1, 2008


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