In the wake of the primaries in Indiana and North Carolina, many pundits called the Democratic nomination in favor of Barack Obama. But a resounding win last night in West Virginia indicated 1) that it was a good state for Clinton to rebound and 2) that there is still some support for a Clinton candidacy out there. A win in the Mountain state was expected for Clinton and that expectation in conjunction with the pundits' declarations and the steady march of superdelegates to Obama would have triggered a downward trend in her poll numbers in the hypothetical match ups with John McCain. Has this been the case, though?
[Keep in mind that these maps reflect the weighted averages of the state polls since Super Tuesday. They give more emphasis to the recent polls and that has the effect of tamping down the volatility of focusing on just the most recent poll(s). It would take a shock to the system--IN/NC perhaps--to move those numbers.]
There were eleven new polls from ten different states this week, but there was very little change in the aggregate (reflected by the electoral college). The McCain-Clinton map is largely the same. The two new polls in North Carolina moved that state from being a strong one for McCain to a McCain lean. Other than that, though, this week's map is the exact same as the one from last week. So, North Carolina and Indiana had no effect, right? Well. over the previous two weeks Clinton had made gains to pull within 16 electoral votes of McCain (where she still is this week). Over the course of the FHQ's map-making efforts, Clinton had made up a 94 electoral vote deficit. It is too early to tell, but what we may be witnessing is a plateauing of Clinton's numbers against McCain before they begin to fall.
Obama continued his rebound from the slight, if inconsistent (across all the states), dip in the polls after the Wright/bittergate revelations. Most of that decline was in swing states, where he has bounced back; adding Michigan to his side of the ledger last week and Pennsylvania this week. In the electoral college, that decrease in the weighted average of the polls meant a decrease in his number of electoral votes. Two weeks ago, he was at 229, but in that interim, he has pulled back into that virtual tie that with McCain; trailing the Arizona senator by just two electoral votes.
What effect does it have, though? Obama doesn't pick up any more states at the expense of Clinton. She still maintains an advantage over the Illinois senator in the same 14 (or so) states she has had a better McCain margin in since March. New polling in Oregon gave Obama a higher McCain margin against Clinton there while an additional poll in Georgia had the effect of pulling the two candidates closer together there in relation to McCain. Neither candidate makes much of a difference there now (That Obama had a more comfortable margin before was inconsequential anyway, as the state was still strong to McCain in both instances.). The basic picture remains the same, though: Obama does better against McCain in more states than Clinton does. He only has eight more electoral college votes against the Arizona senator then does Clinton, however.
Is Clinton out in the electoral college race against McCain? No, not yet. But her numbers there have stabilized this week and that may indicate a line of demarcation between competitiveness in that hypothetical race and a decided advantage to McCain. More data in the week to come will help us answer that question in the aftermath of Clinton's victory last night.
***Please see the side bar for links to past electoral college comparisons.***
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