|New Polls (Aug. 14-17)|
(With Leaners/ Without Leaners)
|Colorado||Rocky Mountain News||+3|
|Texas||University of Texas||+10|
The first impression is that that is a lot of red. Must be good for McCain, right? Yes, but maybe not for that reason. North Carolina and Texas are a toss up and a lean state, respectively and both continue to hold steady in those positions favoring McCain. The same is true of Maine, though the Pine Tree state is blue, not red. With the new polls in Colorado and Minnesota, though, we see a bit of a divergence from what we have become accustomed to in both. Colorado is beginning to look a lot like Nevada: a western state that remains blue but is trending in McCain's direction. Each have been and continue to be toss up states and the polls in each reflect that. An overwhelming majority of the Colorado polls released since Obama clinched the Democratic nomination have been within the margin of error, but since mid-July half of the six polls have favored McCain. That's departure from the pattern that had dominated before that: close polls favoring Obama. And Minnesota? The North Star state also saw a change from typical polling patten.
|Changes (Aug. 14-17)|
|Minnesota||Strong Obama||Obama lean|
Minnesota becomes the first blue state to move away from Obama into another category since Ohio turned pink based on a Rasmussen poll in late July. But Ohio is a toss up state. We'd expect, to some extent, a toss up state to be more volatile than a state that is either a lean or strong. Minnesota was actually the last such state to move away from Obama all the way back on June 3. [Yeah, the day Obama wrapped up the nomination.] I glanced back through the maps to the point where I adopted the weighted average on April 30, and Minnesota -- a state that has hovered around the line between strong and lead all along -- was the only blue state (lean or strong) to have moved away from Obama in that time. By comparison, McCain has had 6 lean or strong states (Alaska, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota and Texas) move away from him since mid-June (not counting the states that shifted in one direction and moved back). Just two of those six (Alaska and South Dakota) have come since mid-July, though.
So, while some states have shown signs of trending toward McCain of late, that movement has yet to manifest itself in the electoral vote tally. The electoral college still favors Obama by a 298-240 margin. Obama, though, is now 10 electoral votes down in his strong category. The total of Obama strong state electoral votes remains larger than the sum of electoral votes in both McCain's strong states and the states leaning in his direction. That cushion is not as big anymore, though. And while that isn't readily apparent on the map above, we can begin to see it in the Electoral College Spectrum (ECS).
|The Electoral College Spectrum*|
|*Follow the link for a detailed explanation on how to read the Electoral College Spectrum.|
**The numbers in the parentheses refer to the number of electoral votes a candidate would have if he won all the states ranked prior to that state. If, for example, McCain won all the states up to and including New Hampshire (all Obama's toss up states, but Michigan), he would have 299 electoral votes. Both candidates numbers are only totaled through their rival's toss up states. In those cases, Obama's number is on the left and McCain's is on the right in italics.
***Colorado is the state where Obama crosses (or McCain would cross) the 270 electoral vote threshold to win the presidential election. That state is referred to as the victory line.
Minnesota's shift doesn't look like all that big a deal now. In fact, it hasn't moved at all. The North Star state changed colors but maintained the same position in the ECS. What is different is that, for the first time, a state other than Pennsylvania is in the Victory Line slot. That more accurately reflects what is (and has been) happening in the race. Pennsylvania has been trending toward Obama while Colorado has not. While not necessarily favoring McCain, the margins in the Centennial state have drawn closer to zero. With Colorado and Pennsylvania basically switching places, the result is that Obama's path to 270 is not as clear. If Colorado and Nevada are trending toward McCain (They are both still in blue above the Partisan Line.) that makes Ohio that much more important. If both western states turn pink, Ohio is the state that would put Obama over the top. Without those two western states and Ohio, McCain becomes president. In fact let's look at it this way: if Colorado and Nevada move into McCain's column and Ohio holds its position, the Victory and Partisan line would converge on the Buckeye state's spot in the ECS. In other words, if the election played out that way, we would basically have a replay of the 2004 election. And this election was supposed to be so much different than those before it. It may yet be, but with the way things are shaping up at the moment, we're looking at another close election with the map changing very little.
|The Watch List*|
|Alaska||from Toss Up McCain||to McCain lean|
|Florida||from Toss Up McCain||to McCain lean|
|Georgia||from McCain lean||to Strong McCain|
|Minnesota||from Obama lean||to Strong Obama|
|Mississippi||from Strong McCain||to McCain lean|
|Nevada||from Toss Up Obama||to Toss Up McCain|
|New Mexico||from Obama lean||to Toss Up Obama|
|North Carolina||from Toss Up McCain||to McCain lean|
|Ohio||from Toss Up Obama||to Toss Up McCain|
|Virginia||from Toss Up McCain||to Toss Up Obama|
|Washington||from Strong Obama||to Obama lean|
|Wisconsin||from Obama lean||to Toss Up Obama|
|*Weighted Average within a fraction of a point of changing categories.|
So what should we be watching for in the next week? New polling in any of the twelve states above could potentially bring about the changes charted in the Watch List. Minnesota is the only change on the list since Thursday. But that tighter Rasmussen poll didn't shift the state enough to pull it firmly into the lean category. The North Star state continues to oscillate relatively tightly around the line between the lean and strong categories. Finally, even though Colorado jumped both New Hampshire and Pennsylvania in the ECS, the average still isn't close enough to warrant its inclusion on the Watch List. If the Centennial state keeps trending toward McCain, though, it will work its way to that point.
Which States are Underpolled in the Presidential Race?
The Electoral College Map (8/14/08)
2008 vs. 2004, Part II: What Happened in the Final 100 Days in 2004 and What That May Mean for the Rest of This Campaign