Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Electoral College Maps (5/7/08)

The new week brought few changes in terms of new state head-to-head polls, but the data being utilized is more robust now with the addition of data from Pollster.com, which in some states, added up to three new polls. Once again, this week we will be using a weighted average of the polls (from both Real Clear Politics and Pollster.com), giving the more recent polls greater value than the polls from earlier in the primary season.

With a loss in North Carolina and a "worse than expected" showing in Indiana, the Clinton campaign is up against it mathematically in both the delegate count and the overall popular vote tally. The addition of the weighted average last week gave her an advantage (albeit slight) over Obama (relative to McCain) in the electoral college for the first time since FHQ began mapping the potential fall match ups at the end of March. Does that edge continue this week and can her campaign continue to make the electability argument in the post-NC/IN primary environment if it does? The morning after in the press seems to be leaning in an "Is it over?" direction. And as I said in the comments to yesterday's post, those arguments are fine when you're winning. When you come out worse for the wear, however, it just seems like sour grapes (and that includes the Florida and Michigan delegates issue.).

To the maps!
For Clinton, the big news is that Florida gives her a fraction of a point's lead over McCain in the Sunshine state. And while that doesn't put her over the top in terms of the electoral college, it does get her closer to McCain than she has been in these scenarios over the last month. The kicker is that she wins Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio, but still loses in the electoral college by 16 electoral votes. Losing Washington and Oregon to McCain (vs. the Bush/Kerry outcome in those states in 2004) mean the difference between winning and losing the White House.
On the Obama side of the ledger, the big "get" this week is Michigan. The Great Lakes state swings into the Obama column, but only gets him to within 44 electoral votes of McCain. That's an improvement over the 80 vote deficit from a week ago, but certainly much worse than the virtual tie that had been demonstrated (in the weeks prior to adding the weighted poll average) between Obama and McCain. The striking thing is that Clinton does much better in the swing states. That's largely because of her positions in the big three (Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio). She carries a 24 electoral vote advantage over McCain out of 13 toss up states. Obama, on the other hand, leading the electoral vote count in states that aren't toss ups, lags way behind McCain in their 14 toss up states to the tune of 77 electoral votes.
The catch is that Clinton, for her part, is more competitive than Obama relative to McCain in only 14 states. However, when those 14 states include Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio, that group packs a pretty good punch. The argument could be made that while Obama is more competitive in more states, he is more competitive in red states he won't carry in November anyway. What Obama does bring to the table, as FHQ has shown with these maps, are states that aren't typically Democratic. And that while Clinton fares better in the big three, the McCain margins are slight (though they have increased for Clinton with the addition of the weighted poll averages). All that means is that a Democrat, whoever he or she may be, will be competitive in those states in the fall. Pennsylvania, for instance, has flip-flopped between McCain and Obama since the end of March.
As the campaign for the Democratic nomination moves forward after North Carolina and Indiana, the big question is how those results will affect Hillary Clinton. It is likely that she could see a dip in the polls that will come out in the next week. If those numbers don't go down, however, she may have weathered the storm and could once again focus on making the electability argument. That argument will be made in the interim anyway, but the key will be how receptive voters and the press are to hearing that message in the face of "defeats" in North Carolina and Indiana (Even though Indiana was seen as the last competitive state between Obama and Clinton, the poll numbers trended her way in the week before the contest and raised the expectations. Instead of being interpreted as a win in a competitive state, the Indiana results are being read as a defeat given her standing in the most recent polls in the state.). West Virginia and Kentucky are up next and both fit into the demographics that suit Clinton. But the delegate deficit is staring down on Clinton's face and neither state will offer her much relief.

***Please see the side bar for links to past electoral college comparisons.***

Recent Posts:
Identity Politics (Brazile v. Begala)

Primary Day, Part XVI (The IN & NC Edition)

The Rules and Bylaws Committee vs. The Credentials Committee

6 comments:

Robert said...

It is ironic that at the point she gets beaten and probably has lost the nomination that your maps are now supporting her electability argument. It will be interesting to see if Obama can capture back that shine he had before bittergate and the Wright affair. It will also be interesting to see how McCain's hard right positions that he has been announcing lately to solidify his base will play once they begin to be publicized.

Josh Putnam said...

Rob,
My plan is to go back and take the data I used to produce the first map and weight them. That may give us an idea of how much Wright affected Obama.

It is ironic though. Last week they were neck and neck, but that Quinnipiac poll in Florida helped her.

Anonymous said...

The real issue is not how well Clinton, Obama, or McCain might do in the closely divided battleground states, but that we shouldn’t have battleground states and spectator states in the first place. Every vote in every state should be politically relevant in a presidential election. And, every vote should be equal. We should have a national popular vote for President in which the White House goes to the candidate who gets the most popular votes in all 50 states.

The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC). The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes—that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

The major shortcoming of the current system of electing the President is that presidential candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or worry about the voter concerns in states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. The reason for this is the winner-take-all rule which awards all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state. Because of this rule, candidates concentrate their attention on a handful of closely divided "battleground" states. Two-thirds of the visits and money are focused in just six states; 88% on 9 states, and 99% of the money goes to just 16 states. Two-thirds of the states and people are merely spectators to the presidential election.

Another shortcoming of the current system is that a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide.

The National Popular Vote bill has been approved by 17 legislative chambers (one house in Colorado, Arkansas, Maine, North Carolina, and Washington, and two houses in Maryland, Illinois, Hawaii, California, and Vermont). It has been enacted into law in Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and Maryland. These states have 50 (19%) of the 270 electoral votes needed to bring the law into effect.

See http://www.NationalPopularVote.com

Josh Putnam said...

The national popular vote idea is one that has come up in our discussion group sessions here at UGA and, I dare say, we will be returning once the campaign fully shifts to general election mode. It is a clever way to avoid having to amend the constitution to deal with the issues attendant to the electoral college.

Ballot Access News has kept me abreast of the movement on the NPV front, but I'll need to reacquaint myself with the site you've linked. It has been a while since I've checked it out.

Having said that, though, these maps are an exercise in determining which Democratic candidate may fare better against McCain in the fall given the current rules.

Mike said...

Polls now are worthless. Once a Obama is named the nominee, two things will happen:

1. The party will consolidate around him, and the "no, I'll only vote for Hillary" crowd will slowly trend to Obama.

2. "Obama v McCain" will be brought into the spotlight, and McCain's free pass from the press will be over.

Josh Putnam said...

Mike,
You may well be right that the polls are worthless now. But these maps reflect polls conducted between February 6 and those that were newly available yesterday. These types of polls coming out in the next few days and beyond could be worthless due to all the "Clinton is out" talk. That rubric cannot be applied to the polls prior to yesterday though.

1) I agree. I've argued throughout the process of creating these maps (see side bar under the map for previous posts) that once the Democratic nominee emerged (whoever that is--and it looks like Obama now), he or she would get a boost in the head-to-head polls. Simply removing the uncertainty of that candidate winning/not winning the nomination would be beneficial.

2) Yes, it has been awfully quiet for McCain. That should change between now and June 4, though.