Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Electoral College Maps (4/16/08)

This past week saw twelve new polls in ten states, thus offering more potential for change than last week's overall lack of new polling. Obviously much has changed on the landscape of the presidential race with Obama's "bitter" comments to a group of San Francisco area donors at a fundraiser recently. However, the effects of that have yet to appear in any significant way in the polls. In the next week, in the lead up to the primaries in Pennsylvania, those poll numbers may begin to shift. Charlie Cook, writing for the National Journal, contends that the episode comes to late to help Clinton in the race for the Democratic nomination. That may be true and in combination with a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll showing a lack of trust in Clinton in the wake of the Bosnia misstatement, does not bode well for the junior senator from New York and former first lady. And while that news and the electoral college analysis to follow doesn't paint the rosiest of pictures for the Clinton campaign, the debate tonight (nationally televised on ABC*) and the Pennsylvania primary next Tuesday provide them with an opportunity to shift the news in a positive direction.

How, though, does the electoral college map look this week for Clinton and Obama against McCain?

For Clinton, the numbers are slightly better for the first time since FHQ began this endeavor. A ten electoral vote shift brings her deficit to 70 electoral votes; down from 90. McCain still leads 304 to 234 though and with the 155 toss up electoral votes (state's with average poll margins less than five) subtracted that lead holds up, 219 to 133. So while Clinton makes out slightly better than McCain among the toss up states, she is too far behind in the remaining states for that to make any difference. The poll changes this week that affect Clinton the most are the shift of Wisconsin from a "McCain lean" to a toss up and New Mexico staying a "McCain lean" but moving to the cusp of being considered a toss up. Pennsylvania is still a toss up as well, but Clinton's margin over McCain has been trending upward for her in the Keystone state.Clinton's presence in the general election race against McCain still makes less difference than if Obama were the Democratic nominee. She continues to be competitive in the traditional swing states of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, but is still faring collectively worse in the non-battleground states than Kerry and Gore before her. One shift this week is that the "McCain margin"** between Clinton and Obama in New York is now zero. That means that in New York, it makes no difference who the Democratic nominee is against McCain; they are equally likely to carry the state (A Democrat will win there in any event in November.).The Obama-McCain map for this week looks similar to the way it looked two weeks ago in that Pennsylvania is once again a tie between the two. The Keystone state broke for McCain last week, giving him an electoral college victory. As Pennsylvania goes then, so goes the nation; just like Florida and Ohio before it. The alignment of states across the map is the same as it has been with Obama holding a 260 to 257 advantage over McCain. This week though, North Carolina slips into the toss up category and Alaska (like New Mexico for Clinton) is on the verge of being there as well. The electoral votes in those 15 toss up states add up to 180. Those toss up states actually break for McCain (with Pennsylvania outstanding) because Obama maintains a 40 electoral vote lead (199-159) in the states that aren't toss ups on the McCain-Obama map. And as last week's map demonstrated, if McCain takes Pennsylvania, he makes up that deficit and gains victory in the electoral college.
As was mentioned earlier, Obama continues to have a better McCain margin than Clinton in 34 states. He brings states like Alaska, North Dakota, Nebraska and Colorado into play where Clinton lags well behind McCain. And that ultimately is where the power of these maps lies. It clearly points out a decided difference in the competitiveness of each candidate against McCain. And that fact that margins are so wide (both in the electoral college and in McCain margin) speaks volumes about the state of the race for the Democratic nomination and the presidency.
*Two things are certain to come up at some point in the ABC debate: Obama's comments and
the Clinton trust poll numbers (since they were from ABC News). I don't know that those two equate, but they will both have something negative to address during this evening's proceedings. Strategically, Obama, in Clinton-esque fashion, has attempted to turn a weakness into a strength by welcoming a debate with John McCain over who is most out of touch. He will more than likely continue with that line of argument tonight. Clinton, on the other hand, may not be able to make the same reversal. Is she on firm enough ground arguing that either Obama or McCain can be trusted less? We will have to wait until tonight to see.

Update for 4/23/08

Update for 4/30/08

Weighted Averages 4/30/08

Weighted Averages 5/7/08

Update for 5/14/08 (weighted)

Update for 5/21/08 (weighted)

New Maps? (5/25/08)

Update for 5/28/08 (weighted)

Update for 6/3/08 (weighted)

**McCain margin refers to the difference between Obama's state-to-state margins against McCain and Clinton's margins against McCain.


Robert said...

It is amazing to me, that despite all of the pounding Obama is taking, that he is still holding his own, even improving his situation relative to Clinton.

Robert said...


She got the question you predicted (on trust) and one of the ones I mentioned (on guns), but she can't complain that he is being pampered by the media. It seems to me that Stephanopolous had a conflict of interest. For years we have heard about the revolving door between government (particularly civil servants) and industry leading to favorable treatment of big business. I think it is time to look at the revolving door between Congress and the Executive branch and network news. It is one thing to be a pundit on election night or a talk show, but it is entirely different being a questioner in a debate. I understand that the frontrunner gets more scrutiny than the runerup, but I think this was the most slanted questionning of a candidate in a debate I can recall.

Clinton clearly won the debate. Obama looked bad. Clinton looked good when she answered the questions asked, but she may have overplayed her hand when she piled on after Obama stumbled. It will be interesting to see if the debate makes any difference in PA. The trend this year has been the person that gets beat up is the person who does best in the next primary. We'll know more next Wednesday morning.

Josh Putnam said...

I don't know, Rob. Yes, Clinton "won" the debate*, but Obama survived without digging a deeper hole for himself. He is in a position now with his argument of changing the "politics of distraction" that Clinton has been in playing the gender card and crying. He can't overuse it (whether he thinks its the right angle to take or not).

And while Clinton won, she has to do more than that; she has to change the outlook of the race. And it remains to be seen whether she went beyond just winning last night. My take is that she didn't. Her solid performance was in the policy arena and voters expect her to be good there. Chris Cillizza over at The Fix brought this up in his post-debate reaction. He cites the LA Time/Bloomberg poll of PA, NC and IN voters who perceive Clinton to be the better candidate on policy, but opt for Obama anyway.

*These proceedings are really wins for McCain. The more time the Democrats spend answering questions about guns, lapel pins and members of the Weather Underground, the more ammunition they willingly hand over to McCain and the "Republican attack machine". Both Obama and Clinton seem to be aware of this, but the fight continues.

I'm going to move this into its own post and see who else weighs in.