Did Doug Hoffman give up too soon?
At least one of his campaign staffers thinks that might be true, after revised numbers show the race for Congress is closer than it appeared to be on Election Night.
Numbers compiled by Jude Seymour of the Watertown Daily Times show that Democrat Bill Owens still holds a 3,000 vote lead over Conservative-endorsed-by-Republicans-at-the-last-minute Doug Hoffman. The margin on Election Night was 5,000 votes, enough for Hoffman to concede defeat.
Owens was quickly sworn in and provided a crucial yes vote on the House’s health care reform package.
So, the question: Can Hoffman still win after all the absentee ballots are counted?
I’ve been plugging numbers into a spreadsheet to see what it would take for Owens to lose and Hoffman to win.
I don’t see a clear path for Hoffman on the recount alone.
First, let’s play with the numbers we have, including the 5,400 absentees Seymour reported are yet to be counted, and make a broad assumption that Republican-who-pulled-out-and-endorsed-a-Democrat Dede Scozzafava would not have pulled less than 10% of the absentee vote. She got about 6% of the general vote after she pulled out, and most absentees were mailed prior to that. We also don’t know how many more absentee ballots will come in before the deadline, which was extended to give overseas servicemembers a chance for their ballots to arrive.
Split 5,400 absentees 65% for Hoffman (a high percentage, in my view. He never hit that number in even the most optomistic poll), 25% for Owens (low, in my view; his baseline was about 35%) and 10% for Scozzafava, Hoffman still loses, 70,313 to 69,297.
Hoffman can only pull ahead with that absentee split if the number of absentee ballots reaches 7943. It seems unlikely that another 22,500 absentees will come in in the next few days; most are already in.
However, at around 6,000 absentees (assuming more come in, and at the same split ratio), he closes to within 1,000 votes. Maybe that’s close enough to go to court for a full recount, maybe enough for the conservative groups for whom he was a cause cÃƒÂ©lÃƒÂ¨bre to spend a little more money in hopes of snatching actual victory from the jaws of what they called a moral victory.
Now, change the percentages. Give Hoffman 55% of absentees (still high, given that Scozzafava was still in the race when these ballots would have been marked, but much closer to realistic and at the high end of pre-election polling) and put Owens at a more realistic 35%.
Hoffman needs 11,000 absentee votes at that split in order to take a lead. There were just under 11,000 absentee ballots sent out, so he’d need every one. Impossible.
Bottom line: The numbers suggest that it will take a court challenge and more than a few vote tally mistakes by the 11 counties for Doug Hoffman to have a chance to win outright.
If anything, Hofffman’s camp can say they conceded too early. Because they conceded, Owens could be sworn in as a member of Congress. And even if, by some miracle, Hoffman wins the recount, any vote Owens casts until then is legal and binding.
Had Hofffman not conceded, Owens would not have been able to cast one of the votes for health care reform. The package passed by just 5 votes. Two of them were the Democrats elected to Congress in special elections last Tuesday.
(Incidentally, here’s a fascinating inside take on why Hoffman lost. Botttom line: He spent too much time attacking Scozzafava.)