Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Electoral College Map (6/18/08)

Obama Bounce or Evidence the the leading indicators of presidential electoral success are kicking in?

Teasing out that difference is going to be the focus of the map analysis for the rest of the election. However, if these numbers (in the map below) persist over the next month or so, then Obama may be getting more than just a bounce. A bounce by definition means that a candidate's numbers will increase before regressing to the mean. In other words, what goes up must come down. We typically see this every four years after the two major parties hold their convention. A candidate from the party holding the convention will usually get a boost that will decay as the general election enters the home stretch after Labor Day.

If the numbers stay where they have been since Obama reached the delegate barrier necessary to claim the Democratic nomination, we may be witnessing more than just a simple bounce. If, a month from now, Obama is still in the same shape he is in on the map today, then that may be more a reflection of those indicators I mentioned above. Democratic nominee X would be in good shape against the Republican nominee (or even if you identified said nominee as John McCain, for that matter) if the current president's approval ratings were low, the economy was poor, and an overwhelming majority of Americans thought the country was on the "wrong track" (a measure I take to encompass the war issue for the most part). While what the map shows isn't the landslide that the political science forecasts (based in whole or in part on the above measures) would potentially predict*, if such a map persists and extends further toward Obama over the next few weeks, the phenomenon can't really be called a bounce. It could more accurately be described as a the "Clinton drag," perhaps. Clinton's candidacy was so competitive and her presence in the race so formidable, that it placed enough uncertainty on the nomination outcome to effectively prevent Obama from assuming the lead in the polls that any Democratic nominee would have held in such an electoral environment.

The question can't be answered today, but if these numbers stay where they are for a while, then we'll have a better idea of what the answer is.

Well FHQ, you seem to be hinting at something by referring to Obama's position on the map today. With 13 new polls in 11 states (2 each in New York and Ohio) since Saturday, the electoral college projection has shifted slightly more towards Obama.
AR: McCain +9
FL: Obama +4
KS: McCain +10
KY: McCain +12
MN: Obama +1
NV: McCain +2
NY: Obama +19
NY: Obama +18
NC: McCain +4
OH: Obama +6
OH: Obama +11
PA: Obama +12
VA: Obama +1
The two polls in Ohio are enough for Obama to be able to wrest control of the Buckeye state from McCain for the time being. Those twenty electoral votes move from a McCain toss up to an Obama toss up and provide the Illinois senator with a more comfortable 58 electoral vote lead in this projection. The real surprise is the Florida result. Of the twelve polls conducted in the state since Super Tuesday, the most recent is the only one to have shown an Obama lead over the senator from Arizona. If that holds, John McCain will be facing an extremely steep climb to the White House. His path to electoral college victory without the "big three" would be difficult to say the least. I should caution that while the numbers are trending toward Obama in Florida, the Sunshine state is still a McCain lean, but only barely so. Another poll or two in Obama's favor would likely pull Florida into the toss up category. And a state that looked only a month or two ago to be a tough row to hoe for Obama could turn from red to pink on the map.
[Click Map to Enlarge]**

It isn't all bad for McCain. Obama's gain isn't as clear in Minnesota, where last week's 13 point advantage is down to one. Averaging just those two polls is almost in line with where FHQ's weighted average is; coming in just under two points shy.

McCain and Obama are roughly even in the number of strong and lean state electoral votes, with the toss ups now leaning more heavily toward the Illinois senator. Of the 129 electoral votes rated as toss up, Obama now controls over 70% of them. That sort of a coalition of toss up electoral votes typically translates into success. But is this a bounce or something more? That is the question.

Heading forward, though, what states are close to shifting from one category to another?

Overall, there was no other movement between categories other than Ohio. But, of the states added to the watch list (below) over the weekend, there now has been new polling in Pennsylvania and Ohio to go with the polls from Michigan and Nevada. Only New Hampshire remains as a toss up state close to switching sides yet to have any post-nomination polling. Michigan and Nevada remain close to the line, but Ohio and Pennsylvania have moved toward Obama and away from that breaking point between candidates (so they are off the list). Florida can also be added to the list. The Sunshine state is on the line between a McCain lean and a toss up favoring the Arizona senator. Any other new polling to come out of Florida favoring Obama would likely move that average into the toss up area.

The Watch List

The switches (toss up to toss up):
Michigan
Nevada
New Hampshire
Ohio
Pennsylvania

Strong to Lean:
Connecticut (Obama -)
Texas (McCain -)
Mississippi? (directly on the line between Strong and Lean)

Lean to Strong:
Minnesota (Obama +)

Toss Up to Lean:
Wisconsin (Obama +)

Lean to Toss Up:
Florida (McCain -)


*Once the second quarter economic statistics are in, most of those forecasts will begin coming out. Those typically appear in PS: Political Science and Politics (Well, they were in 2004 anyway.), but probably won't hit the presses until September. Those numbers will more than likely be made public prior to that though.

**Map template courtesy of Paul Gurian.


Recent Posts:
Idaho Final Tally: 79.5% of Vote, 83.3% of Delegates

The Electoral College Map (6/15/08)

2008 Primary and Caucus Grades, Part Five

2 comments:

Robert said...

I've read comments elsewhere that there was no post-Clinton bounce for Obama, but I think your analysis is more accurate. It seems that there is a slow flow in most of the polls, national and various states to Obama. I expect that flow to continue over the summer barring a major incident.

Josh Putnam said...

It is difficult to make the "no Obama bounce" claim. He's up 4 points nationally on average and about the same on the state level. Are there states where the polling has indicated that there may not have been a bounce? Yeah, but you really have to stretch to make that claim. Oregon and Minnesota seem to be the only ones that fit that category. And even then, it is a tough sell.

Oregon's last poll gave Obama an 8 point edge and that's right around our average for the Beaver state. And as I said in the post, the two Minnesota polls cancel each other out, keeping the average virtually unchanged.

McCain is going to have to hope for a major incident if this keeps up. There's a long way to go, so he may get it.