Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Electoral College Map (9/25/08)

Well, nothing happened today, so I'm thinking of just suspending the electoral college analysis and taking a long weekend to gear up for and wind down from the debate. Huh? There may not be a debate? Eh, it'll never happen. But I would love to see the empty chair scenario play out if only because an absence from a presidential debate would be, well, unprecedented. The only thing that is for sure in this campaign now is that I'm done saying never.

Seriously, though, today the polling continued to provide us with a clearer picture of the state of the some states. Colorado continues to move back toward Obama after having drawn closer following the Republican convention. And the wider gap in Washington gives the Illinois senator a bit more breathing room in the Evergreen state. One more double digit lead for Obama is likely to push Washington into strong status.

But a crazy political news day was marked by equally crazy polling. A trio of Obama toss ups all did their best John Kerry impressions, moving toward competitiveness before moving away from it. Michigan, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania had two polls apiece and each state's pair of polls contradicted each other. In Michigan, the average has been creeping up in recent days, so the CNN poll (+6 Obama) in the Wolverine state is in line with the other polls that make up that trend. However, that was balanced out by Market Research Group's poll that gave McCain the lead there for the first time in any poll since late May. Similarly, in the polls out of the Granite state, one favored McCain and one backed Obama. It was only yesterday that someone suggested that maybe New Hampshire was trending toward McCain based on only a couple of polls. I forget who that was, but I'm sure they got a laugh out of the size of Obama's margin in the Marist poll of the state, one in line with a certain CNN survey of the state in early September. The two results basically maintained the status quo. In Pennsylvania, the story was similar but not in the same way as in Michigan or New Hampshire. Both Keystone state polls out today gave Obama leads, but it is the size of those leads that is in question. CNN had it at 8 while Strategic Vision found a narrower one point gap. Is that CNN poll an outlier? Well in the context of the recent polling of Pennsylvania, it certainly looks like it. But we'll need more information to be sure.

New Polls (Sept. 24)
Insider Advantage
Strategic Vision
Market Research Group
Project New West
New Hampshire
New Hampshire
Strategic Vision
Rhode Island
Brown University
South Carolina
Survey USA
Survey USA
West Virginia

And who needs polling from ultra-tight Nevada when you can get just the third poll from Hawaii. We've all been waiting so patiently. Let's just get this out in the open, there won't be any last minute trips to Hawaii by either of the vice presidential candidates because the state's margin has drawn closer. The Aloha state seems like a pretty good bet for Obama at this point. And hey, there was a poll in Nevada today. And it gave Obama a small edge in the state. But I'll have more about Nevada and the sporadic polling there in the morning.

Changes (Sept. 24)
Toss Up McCain
McCain lean
South Carolina
McCain lean
Strong McCain

I could go through the whole list of polls -- there are some good ones today -- but I'll spare you. All in all there was a general movement toward Obama, but the shifts on the map took place in red states. Montana, following the release of the CNN poll, shifted to a lean state for McCain, but only barely so. Montana is on par with Wisconsin as far as the size of each state's weighted average, but it doesn't really feel that way. That perception has a lot to do with recent presidential election history in both states. Wisconsin has been close and gone Democratic, while Montana has just been red. The other shift was in South Carolina. The Palmetto state has gone back and forth between strong and lean since late last week, but it just seems too red to be any more competitive than a strong McCain state at this point. There may be some subtle shifts, but this is likely where South Carolina ends up in 40 days. [I didn't say I was done making predictions, just that I was done saying never.]

[Click Map to Enlarge]

With those changes, the map gets a bit darker red, but the basic distribution of electoral votes remains the same. There are few scenarios where Obama needs either South Carolina or, more realistically, Montana to get to 270. McCain would have to swing Pennsylvania or Michigan in addition to his other states to make Montana consequential again...if it were to get closer. But if Obama is losing Pennsylvania or Michigan, he probably isn't winning Montana anyway.

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 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. Both states are currently favoring Obama, thus the blue text in those two cells.

There is some alteration to the map, then, but the same 273-265 Obama advantage emerges. But Montana and South Carolina move closer to the McCain end of the Electoral College Spectrum, but stay within striking distance of changing back as well. Other than that, Iowa jumps New Jersey and nearly Minnesota while Maryland becomes even more solidly Democratic. The election still hinges on Colorado and New Hampshire, but Colorado is moving toward Obama while New Hampshire is in a position just a little more than a point into Obama territory.

The Watch List*
Alaskafrom McCain leanto Strong McCain
Delawarefrom Strong Obama
to Obama lean
Montanafrom McCain lean
to Toss Up McCain
Nevadafrom Toss Up McCainto Toss Up Obama
New Mexicofrom Obama leanto Toss Up Obama
North Carolinafrom Toss Up McCain
to McCain lean
Ohiofrom Toss Up McCain
to Toss Up Obama
South Carolinafrom Strong McCainto McCain lean
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.

Finally, the Watch List adds Montana and South Carolina, but only Montana seems worthy of beign highlighted. It is the more competitive of the two and joins a small list of states either in or near switching to the toss up category.

Recent Posts:
Now They're Trying to Take Away My Debate!?!

The Electoral College Map (9/24/08)

The Electoral College Map (9/23/08)


Anonymous said...

McCain has to defend 4 states to win the election.
He's not going to turn a blue state red.
Those 4 states are Virginia, Ohio, Colorado, Nevada.
The increasing mexican population in Nevada and Colorado are going to sink him.
Of those 4 states, my odd of Obama turning them red are:
1 Nevada-yes above Colorado, a larger mexican population than in Colorado.
2 Colorado
3 Ohio
4 Virginia

Your map in my opinion has it right except Nevada.
My prediction is 278-260.

Jack said...

Yeah, that guy who talked about that string of two polls is obviously incompetent and has no business talking about the election. There's something wrong with your "New Hampshire was trending towards McCain" link, though - the link is what you'd use to edit the post, and I obviously can't edit yours. Maybe you're trying to cover your tracks?

As for NH, wasn't Marist the pollster that gave McCain a 2 point lead in NY over Obama in February and I believe had him only two points behind Sen. Clinton in the state?

This last Montana poll is enough to confirm for me that it's out of reach. I had questioned that earlier.

Anonymous said...

By the way I'm a lifelong Republican but now an independent voting for Chuck Baldwin of the Constitution Party.

Josh Putnam said...

Link is fixed. Cover my tracks? Nah, I was trying to see what it would be like to have a wiki site.

...even if mistakenly.

I'll have a little more on Nevada later today.

Anonymous said...

By the way, insider advantage polls have got some weird crosstabs in their polls.
I saw a few state polls where they say that McCain is getting the majority of the black vote in those states, I don't remember which ones they were, I guess I should have saved those polls but I didn't.
This is the same polling firm that has Obama up by 10 points in Colorado and another previous poll from them in Colorado has Obama up by 9 points.
If I were trying to predict outcomes I would disregard insider advantage polls.

Plus there is no way Colorado is going to go from 2004 Bush win by 8.2 points to what Obama is now averaging in Colorado 5+ points.
Colorado is going to be tight, no more than a 3 point win, if that.

Josh Putnam said...

Colorado is sitting at +2.7 for Obama in our averages now. And that's probably about right. Insider Advantage has had some kooky results, and these two polls they've done in Colorado in the last week are running well above where our average has the race in that state. However, they aren't totally throwing things out of whack.