Seriously, though, today the polling continued to provide us with a clearer picture of the state of the race...in 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)|
|Michigan||Market Research Group||+3|
|Nevada||Project New West||+2|
|Rhode Island||Brown University||+13|
|South Carolina||Survey USA||+19|
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)|
|Montana||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.]
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*|
|Alaska||from McCain lean||to Strong McCain|
|Delaware||from Strong Obama||to Obama lean|
|Montana||from McCain lean||to Toss Up McCain|
|Nevada||from Toss Up McCain||to Toss Up Obama|
|New Mexico||from Obama lean||to Toss Up Obama|
|North Carolina||from Toss Up McCain||to McCain lean|
|Ohio||from Toss Up McCain||to Toss Up Obama|
|South Carolina||from Strong McCain||to McCain lean|
|Texas||from Strong McCain||to McCain lean|
|Virginia||from Toss Up McCain||to Toss Up Obama|
|Washington||from Obama lean||to Strong Obama|
|Wisconsin||from Obama lean||to 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.
Now They're Trying to Take Away My Debate!?!
The Electoral College Map (9/24/08)
The Electoral College Map (9/23/08)