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On the value of the campaign

Pursuant to the prediction I made about Pennsylvania this morning, I decided to track another variable that might have implications for the outcome of the primaries: the level of activity that a candidate has in a given state. Specifically, I looked at the number of days that a candidate held an official campaign event in that state in the last 30 days before the primary, as according to the Washington Post Candidate Tracker. This turns out to have a statistically significant effect (if it didn’t, why would candidates bother campaigning? — they could do the Warren Harding thing).

For each day that he spends campaigning in a state in the 30 days in the run-up to the election, Obama can expect to gain about 3.5 points in his margin over Clinton. And for every day that Clinton spends campaigning in that state, Obama can expect to lose about 2.4 points. The relative magnitude of the these two numbers is important: Obama is helped more by his own campaigning than he is harmed by Clinton’s campaigning. So when both candidates campaign in a state, Obama can expect to gain overall. That dovetails with the finding that Obama tends to move up sharply in the polls in the several weeks leading up to the election.

Nate Silver is the founder and editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.