Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Electoral College Map (9/19/08)

Another day, another 32 polls added to the mix. We continue to see a solidifying of the race on one level -- in some traditionally Republican states -- and more and more volatility in the swing states. Two of yesterday's highlighted swing states, Colorado and Florida, are back in the spotlight today, but for different reasons. Colorado, after giving McCain a series of slight leads in recent polling, shifted back in Obama's direction yesterday. Yes, the National Journal poll shows the race in a dead heat which is where the race had been trending, but the shift back to Obama is based on the ten point margin in the first Insider Advantage survey of the Centennial state. In Florida, the tightening continues. Sure, the six point McCain lead in the Survey USA poll is above FHQ's average in the Sunshine state, but that is more than outweighed by the pair of ties in the state's other two polls. The effect is that Florida is drawing closer as we head down the stretch in this race.

New Polls (Sept. 18)
StatePollMargin
Alabama
Survey USA
+30
Colorado
National Journal
+1
Colorado
Insider Advantage
+10
Connecticut
Rasmussen
+12
Florida
National Journal
0
Florida
ARG0
Florida
Survey USA
+6
Georgia
Rasmussen
+11
Georgia
Survey USA
+16
Georgia
Insider Advantage
+8
Illinois
Big Ten
+15.9
Indiana
Selzer
+3
Indiana
Big Ten
+3.5
Iowa
Big Ten
0
Michigan
Big Ten
+4
Minnesota
Big Ten
+2.8
Nebraska
ARG+26
New Hampshire
ARG+3
New Jersey
Strategic Vision
+4
New Jersey
Rasmussen+13
New Mexico
National Journal
+7
New Mexico
Survey USA
+8
Ohio
National Journal
+1
Ohio
Big Ten
+0.5
Oregon
Hibbitts/Port. Trib.
+10
Pennsylvania
Big Ten
+0.4
South Carolina
ARG
+22
Virginia
National Journal
+7
Virginia
Insider Advantage
+2
Washington
Strategic Vision
+5
WisconsinBig Ten
+0.9

But it isn't all Colorado and Florida. The Big Ten consortium of surveys provides us with a great new source of polling information in a vital area. The Rust Belt has had and continues to have a disproportionate number of swing states compared with other areas of the country. And this series of polls does little to alter that perception. Illinois is the only exception, but the remaining states are all if not within the margin of error, very close to it. That isn't surprising in states like Ohio or Pennsylvania. But these polls do seem to confirm the competitiveness we have witnessed in recent surveys of Minnesota and shows a much tighter race in Iowa than our average would indicate. There have been blips of competitiveness in the Hawkeye state polling throughout this race, but on the whole, it has been firmly planted in the Obama lean category. As is the case when these seeming outliers appear, we will need additional information to confirm that this is, in fact, a trend. [This does speak to some of these rather wide ranges of polling results in some states recently.]

Changes (Sept. 18)
StateBeforeAfter
South Carolina
McCain lean
Strong McCain

Outside of the Rust Belt, though, there are some other areas of note. Further south, both Virginia and South Carolina offer interesting trends as well. In Virginia, a series of mid- to upper single digit leads for McCain over the last week plus have pushed the commonwealth's average far enough toward McCain that there is some breathing room between it and the nearly tied Nevada/Ohio group. Does that mean that McCain is destined to win there? Not necessarily, though, I would expect it to get tighter again in Virginia. South Carolina, on the other hand, is not getting more competitive. In fact, since a couple of close polls in the spring, the competitiveness in the Palmetto state has ebbed quite a bit...especially now with a more than twenty point margin in the latest poll of the state. So another traditionally Republican state slips into a safe position for McCain.
[Click Map to Enlarge]

Now that Texas has moved into the strong category for McCain, the group of lean states is shrinking rapidly. And now that South Carolina has drifted into safer territory for McCain, there is a real argument that can be made for a two-tiered Republican group of states: those that are competitive and those that are not. I brought this up yesterday and it still rings true today. None of the remaining three lean states -- Alaska, North Dakota and West Virginia -- seem like they will break for Obama in the end. North Dakota has been intriguing and West Virginia certainly has been of late, but I'm having a hard time imagining either going any way other than for McCain in early November. With South Carolina out of the lean category, though, that leaves just the eleven electoral votes in that middle-ground distinction. Most of those electoral votes have become more intensely pro-McCain and in the process has virtually evened the two strong electoral vote tallies between the two candidates.

The Electoral College Spectrum*
HI-4
(7)**
DE-3
(157)
CO-9***
(269/278)
ND-3
(160)
AR-6
(64)
VT-3
(10)
WA-11
(168)
NH-4***
(273/269)
WV-5
(157)
KS-6
(58)
RI-4
(14)
MN-10
(178)
OH-20
(293/265)
AK-3
(152)
NE-5
(52)
IL-21
(35)
OR-7
(185)
NV-5
(298/245)
TX-34
(149)
TN-11
(47)
CT-7
(42)
NJ-15
(200)
VA-13
(311/240)
SC-8
(115)
KY-8
(36)
MD-10
(52)
IA-7
(207)
IN-11
(322/227)
GA-15
(107)
AL-9
(28)
NY-31
(83)
NM-5
(212)
FL-27
(349/216)
SD-3
(92)
OK-7
(19)
CA-55
(138)
WI-10
(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.

***
The line between Colorado and New Hampshire is the 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.

McCain, though, has to defend an awful lot of toss up electoral votes. And yeah, with the national polls and several consequential state polls trending against McCain, he is playing defense now. But it isn't all that bad for the Arizona senator. If, and this is a pretty big if, he can maintain leads in his toss up states, New Hampshire and Colorado are the only other states McCain will have to pick off to win. Of course, with New Hampshire and Colorado switching places on the Electoral College Spectrum, that brings the electoral college tie scenario back to the forefront. If Obama wins the blue state, successfully defends Colorado, but loses New Hampshire, then a 269-269 electoral vote tie will result. Hey, if it is going to happen, it will happen during this election. Everything else pretty much has.

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
South Carolinafrom Strong McCainto McCain lean
Texasfrom Strong McCainto McCain lean
Washingtonfrom Obama lean
to Strong Obama
Wisconsinfrom Obama leanto Toss Up Obama
*Weighted Average within a fraction of a point of changing categories.

As was mentioned above, South Carolina and Virginia were among the movers and shakers within this group of polls. Virginia slips off the Watch List and South Carolina moves on, but is likely not there for long. Again, as the day closes, these are the states where new polling could be the most consequential. But as I said yesterday, be on the lookout for new polls from the remaining McCain lean states. Alaska should be expected to move permanently into the strong McCain distinction. North Dakota seems to be trending in that direction as well, but West Virginia is moving in the opposite direction. Nonetheless, those three with the list above are the states to watch in the next twenty-four hours.


Recent Posts:
The Electoral College Map (9/18/08)

How Big Was McCain's Bounce?

The First Presidential Election Votes Get Cast Tomorrow

3 comments:

SarahLawrenceScott said...

Although a lot of recent commentary has focused on the race narrowing to familiar swing states, recent polling seems to be widening the race to more states--on both sides--again. Yes, Alaska, the Dakotas, and Montana have moved away from battleground status. But recent polls have been surprisingly close in Indiana and West Virginia on the McCain side, and in Pennsylvania, Maine, New Jersey, and Wisconsin on Obama's side. It's not clear that the states are all responding to the national trends in the same way. I think there's a good argument that the campaigns have to be at least thinking about what's happening in at least a dozen states. That's unusual for this point in the cycle, isn't it?

Jack said...

I'm not 100% convinced that Montana is no longer a battleground. Maybe 98%. The conclusion that Montana is off the table seems to be based on a single poll showing McCain up by 11. There was also a poll that showed McCain up by only 2 at about the same time. I'm sure Palin helps in Montana and all, but I'd like to see a little more polling before being totally dismissive of Montana.

That said, I think it's a very unlikely state for Obama to win, that if he wins it he's winning the election anyway, and that even if it were a true battleground there are few scenarios in which it is decisive.

Josh Putnam said...

Scott,
No it isn't typical for us to be looking at an expanding map at this point in the race. Is 12 states atypical with just over a month to go? Yeah, it is. If you look at what Electoral-Vote had up on September 19, 2004, you'll see nine states in the "barely" range. Now, they use a different methodology focused on recent polls so it doesn't necessarily square with what we have here (I'll need to do another "2004 at this point" post in the near future.), but that does give us some indication of which states were close.

Jack,
I completely agree on Montana. At this point, our average is treating that one as an outlier. Speaking of updates, I need to do another "underpolled" post at some point. Montana is still underpolled for a state that is turning in margins in the low to mid-single digits on a fairly regular basis. I don't think Montana will end up going for Obama, but it isn't totally off the table either. Let's put it this way: if Obama wins Montana, he will have won the election...handily.

Update coming soon-ish.