Monday, August 11, 2008

The Electoral College Spectrum

The graphic that has come to be referred to as the Electoral College Spectrum has been a work in progress since FHQ added it to the bi-weekly electoral college posts a couple of weeks ago. The names of the various parts of the table and other suggestions have been incorporated to give us what we now have below. What started out as a simple graphic has since become more intricate, but (I hope) without detracting from its aesthetic value.

The Electoral College Spectrum
HI-4
(7)*
WA-11
(165)
NH-4
(252/290)
FL-27
(381/184)
KS-6
(64)
VT-3
(10)
MN-10
(175)
PA-21**
(273/286)
AK-3
(157)
ID-4
(58)
RI-4
(14)
DE-3
(178)
NV-5
(278/265)
SC-8
(154)
NE-5
(54)
MD-10
(24)
NJ-15
(193)
OH-20
(298/260)
SD-3
(146)
WY-3
(49)
IL-21
(45)
OR-7
(200)
VA-13
(311/240)
TX-34
(143)
AR-6
(46)
CT-7
(52)
IA-7
(207)
ND-3
(314/227)
GA-15
(109)
TN-11
(40)
NY-31
(83)
WI-10
(217)
IN-11
(325/224)
MS-6
(94)
KY-8
(29)
CA-55
(138)
NM-5
(222)
MT-3
(328/213)
WV-5
(88)
AL-9
(21)
ME-4
(142)
MI-17
(239/316)
MO-11
(339/210)
AZ-10
(83)
UT-5
(12)
MA-12
(154)
CO-9
(248/299)
NC-15
(354/199)
LA-9
(73)
OK-7
(7)
*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 Colorado (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.
**Pennsylvania 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
.

So what do all these numbers mean?

Well, let's treat this post as a "How to" on reading the Electoral College Spectrum.

1) Each state is ranked from the most Democratic (upper left corner) to the most Republican (bottom right corner) based on FHQ's weighted average of the polls in each state. The background color for each state corresponds to the color you'll see the map two times each week. Though DC is not shown, it is assumed to be ranked above Hawaii as the most Democratic "state." On the other end of the spectrum, Oklahoma is the most Republican state.

2) The Partisan Line: The point at which states with averages favoring Obama transition to states more favorable to McCain is referred to as the Partisan Line. In other words, this is the line between the least Democratic (light blue) state and the least Republican (pink) state according to our averages.

3) The Victory Line: The state where each of the candidates passes over or would pass over the 270 electoral vote threshold is called the Victory Line. At the moment Pennsylvania represents the victory line. If the states electoral votes are tallied sequentially based on their weighted averages, Obama would cross that barrier by adding Pennsylvania's 21 electoral votes to the 252 electoral votes the states ranked from DC to New Hampshire sum to. Likewise, if McCain won all the states in shades of red, he would net 240 electoral votes. If you continued to add states -- Obama states -- to his total, the Arizona senator would need to pick off Ohio, Nevada and Pennsylvania (in order based on their ranking) to crack 270 electoral votes.

It is assumed that the states fall in line behind their respective candidates sequentially based on their averages. However, FHQ is not blind to the idea that other combinations of states could help each of the candidates reach 270 electoral votes. That explains the presence of the other numbers.

4) The number to the right of each state's postal abbreviation is that state's number of electoral votes.

5) The numbers in the parentheses below each state and its number of electoral votes is the tally of electoral votes for each candidate through that state. If Obama won just the states in dark blue -- the Illinois senator's strong states -- he would have 175 electoral votes to his credit. If McCain won both his strong (dark red) and lean (red) states he would net 157 electoral votes. You'll also notice an extra number in each of the toss up state categories. The number on the left is the number of electoral votes Obama would have if he won all the states up to and including that state. The number on the right -- in bold and italicized -- is McCain's total of electoral votes including that state.

Together these numbers help us to visualize other potential combinations of states that would be necessary to get to 270 electoral votes. As was discussed in the comments to yesterday's electoral college projection, McCain could cede Nevada to Obama and win by pulling Ohio and Pennsylvania (41 electoral votes) or Ohio and Michigan (37 EVs) to his side. He could also pull even with Obama in the electoral college by swinging Ohio and Colorado (29 EVs) or Ohio, Nevada and New Hampshire (29 EVs).

The Electoral College Spectrum, then, gives us a glimpse into not only the ordering of the states but also an idea of which states are most likely to be swung from one side to the other, or more to the point, which states should be targetted by each of the campaigns.


Recent Posts:
The Electoral College Map (8/10/08)

On VP Announcement Timing and Graphic Naming -- Some Housekeeping

What Would Happen If...

4 comments:

SarahLawrenceScott said...

Awesome!

Thanks, Josh!

Jack said...

Very nice.

Anonymous said...

I like this a lot. I'm not sure I fully understand it, though. Why does the Obama number in parenthesis start with (7) when HI has 4 votes, and not until you add the next state does it count for 7? Where do those extra 3 votes come from?

Anonymous said...

nevermind, I finally read more carefully than skimming. Got DC.