Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Electoral College Maps (4/23/08)

Another week and another set of new state head-to-head general election polls. This week (4/17--4/23/08) had twenty new polls in eighteen states. Once again, however, is significant amount of new data failed to shift much in the electoral college outcomes between both Clinton and Obama against McCain. New this week is the addition of toss ups by candidate. Since this endeavor was initiated at the end of March, the modus operandi here at FHQ has been to lump all the toss up states, no matter who they favored, into one catch-all category. And let's face it, that is less than transparent, though probably slightly more so than the Clinton campaign's estimation procedure for tabulating the popular vote during this primary season. With the addition, the Democratic toss ups remain purple (it goes better with the blue) while McCain toss ups are shaded in brown (No, that doesn't really go with the red and the orange, but my map utility doesn't include pink.).

What's new this week, then? Well, not much. Clinton continues to inch closer in terms of her McCain margin versus Obama's, but it has yet to effectively alter the electoral college maps in any way. One thing that continues to grow is the number of toss up states in both hypothetical races pitting the two Democrats against McCain.
The McCain-Obama map remains virtually the same. Kansas switched from being a lean to McCain to the Strong McCain category. The next state over moving west, Colorado also moved from being an Obama lean to being a toss up favoring the Illinois senator. Not including those toss ups, Obama maintains a 190 to 159 electoral vote advantage over McCain with 189 electoral votes from 16 toss up states. Pennsylvania had no new polls this week (at least not on Real Clear Politics) and remains a tie with those 21 electoral votes serving as vital to either Obama (260) or McCain (257) surpassing the 270 electoral votes need to win.
The states in and degree to which Obama's "McCain margins" are the same as they were a week ago. Only New York, which was a tie (in McCain margin) between Clinton and Obama last week has changed; moving onto the Clinton map after having been on Obama's all April. That isn't too much of a surprise given that Clinton hails from the state. However, the difference isn't consequential as New York is firmly planted in the strong Democratic category no matter which candidate becomes the party's nominee.
For Clinton, the map is similar to the past maps for a possible McCain-Clinton general election match up. Excluding the toss up states in that hypothetical race indicates a relatively close race. McCain leads Clinton by a margin of 207 to 164 with 167 electoral votes in 14 states.* When those toss up states' electoral votes are allocated, however, Clinton trails by the same 304 to 234 margin she did in last week's projections. She drew closer (and changed categories) in three states. Iowa shifted from Strong McCain to a McCain leans while both Oregon and New Mexico moved from being McCain leans to toss ups favoring McCain.

Clinton's strength in McCain margin still remains centered on just thirty percent of the states. She has added New York (as was already mentioned) and has increased her advantage over Obama against McCain in Missouri and Kentucky (though Kentucky is not a state that is on the table as competitive in the fall).
What does all this mean? With the new differentiation between toss up states, I'd like to spend a bit of time analyzing what we see there. In other words, what does each candidate bring to the table in each of these races in terms of toss up states? There is some overlap between what the toss up states are no matter who the Democratic nominee is, but what states does each candidate (McCain included) bring to these two races?

In the hypothetical match up between McCain and Obama there are 16 toss up states that are evenly distributed between the two candidates. Obama has an advantage in eight of those states (70 electoral votes) while McCain holds a lead in seven of the remaining eight (98 electoral votes). Pennsylvania's 21 electoral votes are still up in the air.

What toss up states are unique to this match up though? Obama brings eight toss up states into play that Clinton does not. Those states (CO, NE, NC, ND, SC, SD, TX and VA) account for 90 electoral votes. For his part, McCain only brings one state into the toss up category that is not in play against Clinton: Massachusetts (12 electoral votes).

The potential race between the senior senator from Arizona and the junior senator from New York, as was mentioned in the original electoral college post, looks similar to the electoral college maps from the last couple of presidential cycles. Of those 14, Clinton leads in five states (70 electoral votes) and McCain in the other nine (97 electoral votes).

Clinton pulls Florida and Missouri (38 total electoral votes) into play that are currently outside of the toss up category for Obama. McCain carries more weight against Clinton than he does against Obama though (at least in terms of toss up states). Five states (HI, MN, OR, WA and WI) amounting to 42 electoral votes are not on the table in the McCain-Obama race but are in the McCain-Clinton race.

Of the 23 states that are in the toss up categories across both potential general election races, eight of them are there because of Obama's presence in the race. McCain brings a total of six (one against Obama and five against Clinton) while Clinton only manages to bring two states into the toss up category that are not already there or are already favoring Obama. [The remaining seven toss up states overlap between the two possible races.] Remember, though, that this does not include states like Iowa, which favors Obama but gives McCain an edge against Clinton, or Arkansas, which strongly favors Clinton but goes for McCain against Obama.

*It is interesting to note that the total number of toss up electoral votes is within 3 electoral votes of each of the Democrats' (either Clinton's or Obama's) totals when the toss ups are excluded. Clinton has 164 electoral votes from her strong and leaning categories while there are 167 total toss up electoral votes. For Obama, there are 189 toss up electoral votes between himself and McCain and 190 electoral votes from states that fall into either the Strong Obama or Obama lean categories. I have no idea what that means, but it is interesting nonetheless.

Recent Posts:
Back to the Original "Too Early" Sanction

Jeremiah Wright to Sit Down with Bill Moyers (Friday, April 25)

Do Campaigns Matter? A Reflection on the Results in Pennsylvania

Also, for a look at past electoral college projection maps, see the links in the side bar on the right side of the page (under the map).


Robert said...

Interesting. Despite all that has happened recently, Obama still appears to be more electable than Clinton.

Robert said...

Looks like a good another good reason for Obama to choose Rendell as his running mate should he win the nomination.

Josh Putnam said...

I hadn't honestly thought of Rendell as a possibility for Obama until you mentioned it during the live discussion the other day. He's just been so synonymous with Clinton. But yeah, he would be a good choice if an Obama-McCain general election were shaping up like this.

Robert said...


It was Howard Fineman who mentioned it on the Chris Matthews show, and it made sense to me. I had not thought of him as a possibility until he mentioned it. If anyone in the Obama campaign is checking out this blog, they certainly should put him on their short list. At this point, Rendell would put Obama over the top. I can think of no running mate who would do as much for Clinton or for McCain.

I did think of a running mate for McCain who has economic credentials but not necessarily from a battleground state -- Sonny Perdue. Of course he does have a few skeletons in his closet. Can you say Oakey Woods?

Anonymous said...

all that hard work and for nothing...obama is "dead meat" already - the question is when democrats will notice.

the pastor wright saga is getting bigger every day - and who says there won't be things discovered until nov.? his message is getting stale already, he has no evidence to prove his lofty words and in the end people fear change and tend to vote for the status quo. the republicans are going to tear him apart and he could very well lose by a margin of 100-150 electoral votes...

clinton on the other hand is a known quantity, there won't be any NEW stories about her and it will be a very close election (like the 2000 and 2004 ones). but with her the democrats at least have a chance.

ask yourself this: would you - in your personal life - want to hand over important tasks to a person you just got to know and about whom serious questions have been raised? or would you turn to a person you have known for a long time, of course you don't agree about everything in such a long time but you know who you are facing.

obama has no chance because in the end he is just another politician. and as such his words aren't more trustworthy or don't have any more merit than those of any other politican. if people don't realise this already the republicans will rub that under everyone's nose until nov.

Josh Putnam said...

Mark Penn, is that you?

Anonymous said...

no, just someone from europe wondering how the americans fall into the trap of rhetoric and illusion once again - this time on the other side of the political spectrum...

obama just can't keep the promises he is making - and he knows it. because enduring change never comes from the top, it comes from within.
take the pa primary for example. 20% openly admitted that race played an important role, and there are certainly a lot more that wouldn't admit it (and remember those were the democrats, not those who are likely to vote for any republican candidate). how can he talk about reuniting and reconciling people as a minority candidate who isn't accepted by a large part of the people? they will resist any proposals they fear could worsen their status quo and the rift will get deeper and wider as a consequence. simply put, americans aren't ready for the first aa president (and why should it be such a dubious, slick-ric person like barack obama?), but i believe they would be ready for the first female president...

Josh Putnam said...

You're approaching these maps and this information from the perspective that I am doing this as a means of pushing Obama's candidacy. My pursuit is purely academic.

The Clinton campaign and her surrogates made the claim that she was better positioned to win the states necessary to get her above the 270 votes required to win the electoral college. This endeavor began as a way of testing that claim.

The initial results showed a tight race between Obama and McCain and McCain managing to put together a solid coalition of states (and electoral votes) against Clinton. What's interesting is that in the five weeks since, those trends have held despite quite a bit of new data.

Would Clinton or Obama do better in these head-to-head match ups with McCain if one of them was already the nominee? Yes for both because the leading indicators (economy, presidential approval, the likely central issues in the campaign) favor the Democrats. But bumping them both up over their current baselines (from this data) gives Obama a good lead over McCain and makes Clinton competitive against him. Would Obama's position in that scenario be inflated? Perhaps. Is all of that a function of the "Bradley effect"? There's no doubt that it plays some role here, but the big question is to what extent it is a factor in an Obama lead. I accounts for some of the advantage, but by no means all of it.

Your assertion then, that Obama is "dead meat" is something of a stretch given what we see on these maps. Much of this negative attention has been out there for a while (ie: Wright), and despite that, he still maintains an advantage over Clinton and is competitive with McCain based on these polls.