Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Electoral College Map (7/6/08)

Not a good half a week of polling for the McCain campaign. Some of that is the result of the direction the polling is trending (away from the Arizona senator), but most of the discrepancy is due to where the polling that came out over the last few days was conducted. The 4th of July period saw a flurry of polling in the states of the Northeast, and unless you're talking about New Hampshire (where no new polls surfaced), you aren't really talking about one of McCain's natural bases of support. Of the ten new polls that emerged, seven were from northeastern states (if you want to include New York as northeastern. I do here simply because it is so close to those other northeastern states polled and so far from Georgia, Montana and Washington.). The outcome? An awful lot of blue, deep blue:

New Polls (July 2-5)
Research 2000/DailyKos+22
Insider Advantage
New York
Rhode Island
Rhode Island College+24
Rhode Island
Strategies 360

Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island made up the states where those seven polls were conducted and all but one of those polls gave Obama an edge over McCain of more than 20 points. But since each is already rated a "Strong Obama" state, none of this comes as too much of a surprise. The real news comes out of the only two red states that were polled in this late week window. Insider Advantage turned in yet another close result in Georgia and Rasmussen produced the mirror image of the Montana poll the service conducted three months ago showing a 5 point McCain lead.

Changes (July 2-5)
GeorgiaStrong McCain
McCain lean
McCain lean
Toss Up McCain

It is those two polls that triggered the only changes we witness in our weekend map, and both are red states shifting in Obama's direction. Georgia continues to jump back and forth between being Strong McCain and a McCain lean. The Peach state, however, remains a state that is on Obama's board, but only barely so. It has fairly consistently hovered around that 10 percent point in FHQ's average for a few weeks now. While Georgia may still be an Obama target, it isn't as likely a potential pick off as Bush 2004 states like Colorado, Ohio or Virginia. And that brings us to Montana. The Treasure state has been polled far less than many other states and as such is more susceptible to the volatility one outlier can produce. Having said that though, none of McCain's leads in the previous 3 polls in the state exceeded single digits. So, while the five point edge the current Rasmussen poll in Montana gives Obama is an aberation in the face of past polling in the state, it only pulls the average into Toss Up McCain status on the map below (and past the point of being placed on The Watch List further down).
[Click Map to Enlarge]

Obama's electoral college numbers remain stationary as all the blue states polled already favored him (and heavily at that). The electoral college breakdown shifts on right end of the spectrum, though. McCain's strong and lean states make up nearly 200 electoral votes, but overall the toss up states still favor Obama and three other McCain lean states (Alaska, Florida and North Carolina, 45 electoral votes) could slip into Toss Up status. That increases the Arizona senator's pool of Toss Up states, but at his own expense; dropping his number of safer states. The message? As it was during June, Obama currently holds a distinct advantage in the electoral college breakdown here as McCain holds to a decreasing number of electoral votes (with more trending toward being more competitive).

The Watch List*
Alaskafrom McCain leanto Toss Up McCain
Floridafrom McCain leanto Toss Up McCain
Massachusettsfrom Strong Obama
to Obama lean
Minnesotafrom Strong Obamato Obama lean
Mississippifrom McCain leanto Strong McCain
Missourifrom Toss Up McCainto McCain lean
Nevadafrom Toss Up Obamato Toss Up McCain
New Mexicofrom Toss Up Obamato Obama lean
North Carolinafrom McCain leanto Toss Up McCain
Ohiofrom Toss Up Obamato Toss Up McCain
Texasfrom McCain leanto Strong McCain
Wisconsinfrom Obama leanto Toss Up Obama
Washingtonfrom Strong Obamato Obama lean
*Weighted Average within a fraction of a point of changing categories.

Oh, but it isn't all bad for McCain. The new poll in Washington pulls the Evergreen state onto The Watch List (on the line between being a Strong Obama state and an Obama lean). Like Georgia for Obama, though, Washington appears to be a bit beyond McCain's reach at the moment. It is one thing to pull to within single digits, but the real work seems to be putting a dent in that last layer of support that make the difference between a state being truly competitive or merely coming to rest in the gray area between being close and comfortable.

Note: I'll go ahead and post, but I've given Montana two more electoral votes in the map tally than it actually has. I'll correct that and re-post shortly.

Note: Fixed. Montana with 5 electoral votes? Yeah, I don't think so. McCain may wish for a couple more there and and a few more in many other states if these numbers don't change (and they will...we just don't know where) before November.

Note: Fixed. I'm sad to admit that Idaho has been mistakenly tagged with 3 electoral votes since we shifted to the new map at the conclusion of primary season. The map above, as well as all the past maps, have been altered to reflect the reality on the ground in Idaho. Thanks to Anonymous (whoever you are) for the correction. I'd be nothing but a fool on the internet without my readers.

Note: Fixed. Well, I found where that Idaho electoral vote went: Kansas. Thanks to Anton P. in the comments for the 7/2 map for pointing out that Kansas was incorrectly tagged with 8 electoral votes instead of 6. That is now correct on all the maps.

Recent Posts:
Blog Note

Happy 4th of July!!!!

The Electoral College Map (7/2/08)


SarahLawrenceScott said...

Nice work, as usual.

I live in New York, and I've never heard it not counted as Northeast! It's not in New England, but New England is a subset of the Northeast. Other states in the Northeast but not New England certainly include Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and, depending on who you talk to, a bit more than that. The Census Bureau stops with those, though three + New England, though.

Josh Putnam said...

Thanks Scott.

I suppose the real point of contention isn't whether New York is a part of the Northeast, but whether you break the country down in to more than 4 (Census-style) regions. New York, in a more than 4 region definition, is typically part of the Atlantic region (with NJ, PA, MD and DE).

Region is a horrible variable though. Anytime Delaware is treated as part of the South (as it is in the Census and in the GSS--which I think mirrors that Census measure), you have a questionable measure. It is good on a basic level, but as a means of grouping states together for some explanatory value, it falls short.

In my own work on frontloading, region, whether in the Census sense, operationalized by the various collections of states that have actively organized and attempted (sub)regional primaries or by, say, Elazar's measure of state political culture, has always performed poorly. Then again, I'm in the process of refining the measure of the concept (the cultural one especially) for my dissertation. Readers of FHQ may be exposed to various parts of that effort in the future. I suppose that can either be viewed as a sneak peek or a warning. Ha!

Anonymous said...

Glad you fixed Montana on the map, but Idaho is still wrong. They have 4 electoral votes, not 3.

Jack said...

Your table of new polls shows the Montana poll as +5 McCain. It was +5 for Obama.

Anonymous said...

Also seems that the Idaho mistake is on all of the maps, not just this one.

Josh Putnam said...

Ugh. I'm not as sharp on the road as I am at home. Ha! That still doesn't explain Idaho. Good catch, Anonymous. Jack, I'll get that Montana poll fixed as well. That one will be a bit easier to fix though.

Josh Putnam said...

Montana is fixed in the poll table.

Josh Putnam said...

Alright, Idaho is fixed. It will undoubtedly be difficult for me to make amends to the good folks in the second district of the Gem state. Here's hoping I can (at least for the loyal FHQ readers from that district.).

Many thanks to Anonymous for pointing out the Idaho flaw. I'm honestly shocked that that mistake made it this far.

And for the record, the Montana mistake I referred to in the "Note" above was in the tally at the bottom of the map and not on the Montana part of the map itself. Ugh, it's bad enough that Idaho was screwy.

Anonymous said...

I applaud your efforts to strip Idaho of an electoral vote. Can you also take care of Utah, Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas while you're at it?

Please assign any extra electoral votes you may have lying around to Vermont and the District of Columbia.

Thanks much.


Howard Dean
Chairman, Democratic National Committee

Josh Putnam said...

Now that's a 50 state strategy, Howard!

I'll have to find the link, but Texas and Utah are at the top of the list of states projected to gain congressional seats after the next census. Texas adds three and Utah gets the one seat they feel North Carolina stole from them in 2002.

Here's a link. It is a bit dated, but perhaps Barone will have an updated version soon.

Jack said...

As a Democrat, this trend is very frustrating, and what led Howard Dean (okay, okay, that was me writing as an anonymous) to suggest a "creative" solution. Al Gore's 5-point loss in 2000 would have been larger under the current map - even New Hampshire wouldn't have saved him, sparing Ralph Nader a lot of vitriol from Democrats.

Then again, this might not be all bad for Democrats. As more people move to certain states, particularly in the South, they are becoming more Democratic. This won't help in Utah, of course, but we are already seeing changes, with states such as Virginia becoming competitive.

Josh Putnam said...

I agree. This is one of the doomsday misconceptions that many Democrats have. "Crap, all the states that are gaining seats, and thus electoral votes, are red states!" Well, human migratory patterns affect Democrats too. They may not like it, but a few may be forced to move from, say, New York to Texas. As Nate Silver said just the other day, "North Carolina could be 2012's Virginia, and Georgia could be 2016's..."

If Democrats are really interested in building something, it isn't this election that is as important the ones in 2010. Those elections will be the ones that, on the state legislative level at least, will determine who will draw the districts for 2012-2020.

There's always something to talk about.

Jack said...

Yet another reason the 50-state strategy is necessary, actually. Democrats will need to compete in more traditionally red states as they gain congressional seats and electoral votes.

Josh Putnam said...

It isn't all bad news for the Dems. Even if things stay as they are now in the 26 states that are various shades of red on the current map, Democrats will still control 6 of those state legislatures (AL, AR, LA, MS, NC and WV). Six more state legislatures have split partisan control across chambers (IN, KY, MT, OK, TN and VA) and Nebraska has that non-partisan, unicameral legislature. That leaves just half of the red states that are controlled by Republicans.

On the whole, Democrats are still in a pretty good position in the state legislatures. Of course, there are different types of Democrats in different states and that makes for a different type of district drawing from state to state.

I'm going to think about this one a bit more. It may be something that we can expand to its own post.