Monday, September 29, 2008

The Electoral College Map (9/30/08)

To me, today was a slow polling day, especially following both the bailout battle in Congress last week and the first presidential debate last Friday night. But scant polling doesn't mean a lack substantive results. In fact, with a series of Rasmussen polls out this afternoon in five of the toss up states, there were some interesting lessons to take home.

First, who won the debate? Well nationally, polling has continued to rise in Obama's favor since the debates, but does that extend to the state level and, if so, where? Rasmussen has put together a nice little time series of five toss up states (Colorado, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia) since the conventions and over the last week there have been some notable trends.
  • Colorado has had only two Rasmussen polls over the last eight days, and the trend between those two polls is contrary to most of what is going on in the states below. The Centennial state was at +3 for Obama last week, but that has decreased to just a one point lead in the poll out today.
  • In Florida, McCain had bounced to a 5 point margin -- one outside the margin of error -- in the first poll last week. But as the week wore on that lead dissipated, first shrinking to one point and then disappearing altogether in today's poll.
  • Obama has made up ground in Ohio. The Buckeye state had been somewhat resistant to Obama advances in the post-convention environment, but that has changed ever so slightly. Down four a week ago, Obama has been behind by just one point in each of the before and after debate polls of the state.
  • In Pennsylvania, Obama has tacked on a few points with each poll over the last seven or eight days, moving from +3 to +8 in Rasmussen's recent surveys of the state.
  • Virginia went from +2 McCain to +5 Obama to +3 Obama today.
The conclusion? Obama has gained ground in Pennsylvania and the Keystone state appears to be following the lead of another Obama toss up, Michigan, bu increasingly moving toward Obama. Florida and Ohio are states where Obama has made up ground but continues to trail by the slimmest of margins. Colorado and Virginia, on the other hand, look as if they may have peaked last week -- at least in the Rasmussen polls -- as subtle gains have given way to a slight tightening since.

New Polls (Sept. 29)
Survey USA
New Jersey
Survey USA
North Carolina
Public Policy Polling
Mid. Tenn. St. Univ.

But it is perhaps not wise, though no less fun, to rely too heavily on this one polling firm's surveys. However, the results of those polls in Florida and Pennsylvania were echoed by additional polling in those states today. And North Carolina continues to tighten based on a series of polls that have either shown a tie or a slight Obama lead within the margin of error.

[Click Map to Enlarge]

Overall, though, the map holds steady at 273-265 in favor of Obama. I can sense that perhaps people are getting antsy about the map not moving*, especially in light of recent polling. Truth be told, however, any shifts are dependent upon Nevada, Ohio and Virginia at this point. Virginia is tracking toward Obama, but Ohio has levelled off and there continues to be a lack of polling in Nevada given the closeness of the race in the Silver state. Should all three break for Obama on November 4, that would put the Illinois senator at 311 electoral votes. The idea of Obama's ceiling was brought up earlier today and that 311 seems a solid conservative estimate, but as I discussed recently, Obama could conceivably pull out a more serious victory with a sweep of those McCain toss ups. Is that likely? I have no idea. This bailout issue will have play out some more perhaps. The trajectory of the race, though, is toward Obama. And the gap between the trio of pinks states discussed above and the remaining McCain toss ups is enough to separate the category into likely and less likely Obama swings.

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.

On the Electoral College Spectrum today, Minnesota moves a spot closer to the toss up/lean line by virtue of New Jersey jumping a spot closer to Obama in the rankings. But that's is the only move on a day when the majority of polls were in toss up states. Now, with the two polls in Pennsylvania showing Obama ahead by upper single digits, the Keystone state has officially joined the Watch List (states most likely to shift in to other categories with the addition of new polling). Like Michigan, Pennsylvania is within a point of moving into the safer Obama lean category. As September closes, then, the list is comprised of nine states that involve the toss up category in some way. Of those nine, six are on the cusp of moving toward Obama. When we talk about the positions each candidate is in, this is a clear indication.

The Watch List*
Floridafrom Toss Up McCainto McCain lean
Indianafrom Toss Up McCainto McCain lean
Michiganfrom Toss Up Obama
to Obama lean
Missourifrom Toss Up McCainto McCain lean
Nevadafrom Toss Up McCainto Toss Up Obama
North Carolinafrom McCain lean
to Toss Up McCain
Ohiofrom Toss Up McCain
to Toss Up Obama
Oregonfrom Obama lean
to Strong Obama
Pennsylvaniafrom Toss Up Obama
to Obama lean
Virginiafrom Toss Up McCain
to Toss Up Obama
Washingtonfrom Strong Obama
to Obama lean
*Weighted Average within a fraction of a point of changing categories.

*If I have time this week, I'll look at some alternate scenarios like I did over the summer when I shifted the earliest poll considered in the data set to the point at which Obama clinched the Democratic nomination.

Recent Posts:
The Electoral College Map (9/29/08)

Is McCain Right? Does a Tie Go to the Runner?

The Electoral College Map (9/28/08)


Jack said...

Why has Ohio been so red lately? I don't remember it being too far behind Obama's national results early on, but for the last month or two it seems to have favored McCain by several points over the national polls.

SarahLawrenceScott said...

Some thoughts on the movements of different states:

Palin did have a positive electoral effect on McCain that still lingers. Alaska, Montana, and North Dakota now look out of reach for Obama, even in a landslide. That seems very likely to be Palin. Maybe even the tightening in Minnesota falls in this group.

Pennsylvania and Ohio also moved more in a McCain direction than other battlegrounds after the conventions. Was that Palin, or something else? I'm not sure. Whatever it was, it's fading, as those two states begin to move back toward their pre-convention positions relative to other states.

Virginia and North Carolina show above average momentum for Obama (I don't read too much into the +5 to +3 move in Virginia from Rasmussen--reversion to the mean after a high-end outlier, probably). I don't have an explanation for that, either, but it's striking. It no longer seems impossible that Obama could use those two states to secure victory, while losing all the other FHQ toss-ups.

Other groups of states don't stand out to me; they seem to be moving mostly with the national averages (Florida and Missouri, for instance, are probably doing that).

Josh Putnam said...

Yeah, I don't read too much into that 2 point drop in Virginia either. It was the patterns in those Rasmussen polls I was after. It is dangerous to rely on just one polling firm. It wasn't that long ago that there was a discussion (here and elsewhere) about the position Rasmussen had in all these electoral college analyses. The firm was by far the leading provider of survey data, yet there were questions about that infamous switch they made.

That said, the main thing about Virginia now is that Obama is ahead. It doesn't matter by how much. The fact that he is ahead there is a difficult enough concept to wrap your mind around given the state's recent history on the presidential level. And it has to be a psychological blow to the McCain campaign and the Republicans.

And as a native North Carolinian, I'm still shocked to see Obama ahead in any poll there this late in the game. In a senate race, maybe. In gubernatorial race, sure. But in a presidential race? As my cousin, who lives in Charlotte area, said the other day, "I never thought I'd see the day." Indeed.

On Ohio: I was always skeptical of the numbers that gave Obama any sort of lead there (one outside the margin of error). But it really is amazing how the polling has canceled itself out in the Buckeye state throughout this entire cycle. Ohio is just close. Close with a very slight McCain lean, but a lean nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

Do you get American research group polls and include them in your averages?
Real clear politics website doesn't include those polls in their averages for some reason.
Anyways they have a few brand new polls in NV, NC, VA and they had polls in CO, FL a few days ago.

Josh Putnam said...

Yes, ARG's polls are in FHQ's weighted averages. I don't get the decision-making process on the included polls at Real Clear. I was using them as the main source of my polling information during the primaries, but there were too many gaps in what they were reporting. Between Pollster, TPM Poll Tracker and 538, I usually get them all.

The only polls completely omitted from consideration are those from Zogby -- their online polls.

I'll have the Nevada, North Carolina and Virginia polls factored in for tonight's update of the map.

Anonymous said...

Nevada is hard to poll and under polled, real clear politics final average in 2004 had Bush favored 3.7% higher than the actual result.
But your map of 273-265 I think is pretty accurate, but I think on election day Nevada will end up going to Obama and therefore 278-260.
I just don't see McCain turning any 2004 blue state red and I don't see Obama turning Ohio, Virginia, Florida, North Carolina, Indiana, Missouri, West Virginia, Montana, North Dakota red.

In 2004 Bush got lucky winning New Mexico and Iowa, those 2 states are going back to the Democrats this year and the increasing Mexican population in both Nevada and Colorado are going to give Obama the win in those states and therefor the win overall in this election.

I cringe at an Obama administration, very scary thought.
I'm a lifelong Republican that is voting Chuck Baldwin of the constitution party this election.
McCain is too liberal for me and the system desperately needs to be shaken up.
This election is choosing between a leftist liberal and a far leftist liberal in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

But if enough of us on the right vote third party especially in the competitive states it could turn some red states blue.
Who knows.
Maybe that's why Obama is competitive in Virginia, Ohio, North Carolina, Indiana, Missouri ect.

Jack said...

Ron Paul endorsed Baldwin? I'm surprised I didn't hear about it (I'm sure it's because of that gigantic media conspiracy that makes people not want to vote for candidates they don't agree with), and I'm surprised Baldwin doesn't mention it on his site, at least not prominently.

Josh Putnam said...

Yeah, I finally got to go through a heap of campaign related emails that had backed up in my inbox over the last week plus and saw that. Who knew that Ron Paul was still around. I thought once the clock struck midnight, the losing candidates from the two major parties' primaries disappeared.

This seems like a big deal to me. The fact that he didn't endorse the Libertarian candidate was something of a surprise. Now granted, Bob Barr and Ron Paul are not libertarians cut from the same cloth but still.

Thanks for putting the link up, Jack.

Jack said...

Ron Paul is not a libertarian. He's something even worse, if that's possible — at least I consider it worse, don't want to impose my views on anyone!

But as a big deal? Ron Paul supporters voting for Baldwin rather than Barr doesn't make one bit of difference as far as this election is concerned. Sure, some Paul supporters who would have voted for one of the two major party candidates will vote for Baldwin. But the majority of dyed-in-the-wool fervent Ron Paul supporters like the ones you saw all over the Internet aren't going to. And I have the feeling that those who supported Paul that considered voting for major party candidates aren't the types that would really be influenced by an endorsement as much. They aren't the types that worship at the altar of Ron Paul - they just believe in smaller government and McCain was probably their fourth or fifth choice, but at the end of the day would vote for him.

I hope I wasn't too incoherent there.

Josh Putnam said...

Your incoherent views are not welcome around here, Jack. Ha!

Seriously though, your point is well taken. My point was, that as a former libertarian candidate for president, it was perhaps surprising that Paul didn't give the nod to Barr. And no, it doesn't matter either way. Those folks aren't going to support either Baldwin or Barr enough to hurt either of the major party candidates. I would say maybe in Montana, but with the way polling has been there recently, I doubt it.

Let me add in the new Insider Advantage poll from Ohio and I'll have the new map up.