Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Electoral College Map (9/18/08)

Phew! How about some polling? Well, we got some. Thirty-seven polls in 32 states based in large part on the 26 polls American Research Group brought our way. What did we learn? Well, McCain continues, despite trailing off in the national polls, to shore up his support in a wide range of traditionally red states. In some (like Kansas and even Idaho), he was already comfortably ahead, but in others -- ones that had shown a competitive poll or two along the way (like Georgia and Texas) -- the Arizona senator is lengthening his margins over Barack Obama. Obama is doing similarly well in the blue states with a few exceptions, namely, Illinois, Oregon and Wisconsin tightening up. But it is in the toss ups where the action continues to be.

New Polls (Sept. 17)
StatePollMargin
Alabama
ARG
+22
Alaska
ARG+16
Arizona
ARG+17
California
Field
+16
Colorado
ARG+2
Delaware
ARG+11
District of Columbia
ARG+69
Florida
CNN
+4
Hawaii
ARG+31
Idaho
ARG+43
Illinois
ARG+6
Indiana
CNN
+5
Kansas
ARG
+32
Kentucky
ARG+20
Louisiana
ARG+7
Maine
ARG+10
Mississippi
ARG+16
Missouri
ARG+5
MontanaARG+2
Nevada
ARG+3
New Mexico
ARG+7
New York
ARG+17
North Carolina
ARG+11
North Carolina
CNN
+1
Ohio
ARG
+6
Ohio
CNN
+2
Oregon
Rasmussen
+4
Rhode Island
ARG+26
Rhode Island
Rasmussen
+19
Texas
ARG+21
UtahARG+36
Virginia
Public Policy Polling
+2
Virginia
Chris. Newport Univ.
+9
West Virginia
ARG+4
Wisconsin
CNN
+4
Wisconsin
Rasmussen
+2
Wyoming
ARG+38

In both Colorado and Florida, the surveys showed results contrary to where FHQ's averages have each as of now. The effect was that each drew closer. Of the three closest states, McCain managed a small lead in Nevada while the two polls each out in both Ohio and Virginia provided split decisions: one for McCain, one for Obama. Outside of those instances among the toss up states, the rest held steady in the territory they had been prior to the introduction of these polls. Indiana and Missouri still maintain leads for McCain and Obama is ahead in New Mexico

Changes (Sept. 17)
StateBeforeAfter
Alaska
Strong McCain
McCain lean
Montana
McCain lean
Toss Up McCain
New Mexico
Toss Up Obama
Obama lean
North CarolinaMcCain lean
Toss Up McCain
Texas
McCain lean
Strong McCain

But it was the introduction of more competitive poll results in Montana and North Carolina that pushed each back into the toss up category. Texas, however, moved in the opposite direction. The Lone Star state's 34 electoral votes were never really in doubt, but the average has been between 8 and 10 points for much of the summer. With them shifting in to McCain's strong category, the Arizona senator has a total that is now on par with Obama's tally of strong state electoral votes. New Mexico, after a flirtation with being a toss up state, moved right back onto to moderately safer ground among Obama's lean states.

Finally, Alaska changes due to a bit of quirk in our methodology. The Last Frontier shifts back into the lean distinction, but that has more to do with most recent poll -- the one that receives the highest weight -- changing from the +31 Rasmussen poll last week to the +16 ARG poll this week. With the weight coming off that wide margin and it being pushed into the average of the other polls in the state, the overall average was going to drop. And it dropped just below the strong/lean line. I don't expect it to stay there.
[Click Map to Enlarge]

So, while the electoral vote distribution remains the same (273-265), something of an interesting pattern has emerged on the map (...and the Electoral College Spectrum below). With Texas moving toward McCain and Montana and North Carolina becoming more competitive, the lean category on the Republican side is suddenly quite thin. The four states in that category comprise just 19 electoral votes, and I don't particularly see any of them voting for Obama in November. You could perhaps make an argument for North Dakota, but it would have to be considered a stretch. So while we have a three tiered division on the Democratic side, the states in red are suddenly either really with McCain-Palin or close enough to be considered competitive. There just isn't any middle ground. McCain can almost assuredly count on 160 electoral votes, then, but the Arizona senator finds himself having to defend 105 electoral votes and that doesn't even get him to 270. And that's quite a shift in thinking considering how some people were talking last week (Yeah, I'm looking at you "jittery" Democrats.).

The Electoral College Spectrum*
HI-4
(7)**
DE-3
(157)
NH-4
(264/278)
ND-3
(160)
NE-5
(64)
VT-3
(10)
WA-11
(168)
CO-9***
(273/274)
SC-8
(157)
AR-6
(59)
RI-4
(14)
MN-10
(178)
OH-20
(293/265)
WV-5
(149)
KS-6
(53)
CT-7
(21)
IA-7
(185)
NV-5
(298/245)
AK-3
(144)
TN-11
(47)
MD-10
(31)
OR-7
(192)
VA-13
(311/240)
TX-34
(141)
KY-8
(36)
IL-21
(52)
NJ-15
(207)
FL-27
(338/227)
GA-15
(107)
AL-9
(28)
NY-31
(83)
WI-10
(217)
IN-11
(349/200)
SD-3
(92)
OK-7
(19)
CA-55
(138)
NM-5
(222)
MT-3
(352/189)
AZ-10
(89)
WY-3
(12)
ME-4
(142)
MI-17
(239/316)
MO-11
(363/186)
MS-6
(79)
ID-4
(9)
MA-12
(154)
PA-21
(260/299)
NC-15
(378/175)
LA-9
(73)
UT-5
(5)
*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 Pennsylvania (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 line is referred to as the victory line.

Despite that, if McCain can defend those 105 electoral votes and pick off Colorado, he'll win. And let's not let the fact that the margins in the Centennial state have closed and cases are favoring McCain slip by unmentioned. Colorado is, at the moment, the state where each candidate would surpass 270 electoral votes. Call it what you will, Victory Line, Tipping Point, whatever. Colorado is the new Ohio. Sadly, Coloradans were four years too early with their plan to allocate electoral votes in a method similar to Maine and Nebraska. If they (Coloradans) were voting in November for that switch -- from winner-take-all to a districted system -- to take place, things certainly would have gotten interesting in mile high country. Hey, even if they had passed that measure in 2004, it would give us a talking point with it currently occupying "most consequential state" status. Too bad. That would have been fun.

The Watch List*
StateSwitch
Alaskafrom McCain leanto Strong McCain
Delawarefrom Strong Obama
to Obama lean
Georgiafrom Strong McCainto McCain lean
Nevadafrom Toss Up McCainto Toss Up Obama
New Mexicofrom Obama leanto Toss Up Obama
North Carolinafrom Toss Up McCain
to McCain lean
North Dakotafrom McCain lean
to Toss Up McCain
Ohiofrom Toss Up McCain
to Toss Up Obama
Texasfrom Strong McCainto McCain lean
Virginiafrom Toss Up McCain
to Toss Up Obama
Washingtonfrom Obama lean
to Strong Obama
Wisconsinfrom Obama leanto Toss Up Obama
*Weighted Average within a fraction of a point of changing categories.

We have a couple of additions to the Watch List today with Delaware (see Alaska above for an explanation) and Texas joining in. I expect both to move back off the list, away from the lines around which they are currently hovering. Montana is the only state to leave the list and we have a pair of flip-flops in New Mexico and North Carolina. The latter two moved toward Obama and are now on the Watch to potentially switch back closer to McCain. As we move forward, these are the states to keep an eye on, but also be sure to keep tabs on what is happening with those leaning Republican states. Will we continue to see basically two categories there and three for the Democrats? And if so, what does that mean? It is an interesting development.

Recent Posts:
How Big Was McCain's Bounce?

The First Presidential Election Votes Get Cast Tomorrow

The Links (9/17/08): Debate Edition

3 comments:

SarahLawrenceScott said...

OK, so this is a little picky on my part:

"the lean category on the Republican side is suddenly quite thin. The five states in that category comprise just 19 electoral votes"

North Dakota, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Alaska.

Hmmm...I think maybe the long campaign (and the beginning of the academic year) are beginning to take their toll on Josh. :D

Seriously, though, FHQ deserves praise for its methodology. While everyone else has been flailing all over the place with the various bounces, the FHQ projections have presented a relatively clear picture of the state of the race.

Josh Putnam said...

And with blunders like that, the methodology will be dismissed in a heartbeat. Thanks for pointing that out, Scott.

The sad part is that I had to read that twice to get what you meant. Ha! Big polling days are tough.

It may take me a while to fix that. For some reason the blogger editor on my end is showing no text. Yikes. In due time.

Thanks again for the kind words and for your contributions, Scott. In total third person, FHQ is nothing without its readers and especially its valuable contributors.

Josh Putnam said...

All fixed. I took out that invisible 51st state.