|New Polls (Sept. 3-7)|
(With Leaners/ Without Leaners)
|North Carolina||Democracy Corps||+3|
The trickle of polls during the latter half of the week included releases from a trio of McCain states. And that adds a nice symmetry to the week's polls. The first half of the week saw three polls from states favoring Obama. We have to be careful about how we treat the trends we see in each due to the timing of the polls. In other words, Indiana, for example, is close -- closer than one might think -- but it was done in the two days after the Democratic convention. Yes, that is during the time when Sarah Palin's selection was rolled out, but still, the caveat should be added. In the case of the North Carolina poll, it was conducted over the course of a week, the end of which overlapped with the first two days of the Democratic convention. There may, then, be some respondents in the poll who heard Hillary Clinton's speech, but that certainly would have been a late hour for polling firms to have been making their calls. Regardless, this is around where the Old North state has been for much of the summer -- right around the 3 or 4 point range.
|Changes (Sept. 3-7)|
|Alaska||Toss Up McCain||McCain lean|
And that leaves us with Alaska, the home of the GOP vice presidential selection. The Last Frontier has been much closer in the polls than history would otherwise tell us. With the selection of Governor Sarah Palin, though, that closeness -- real or just simply in the polls -- seems to be disappearing quickly. Granted, this is just one poll, but this trend will likely continue. What else could come out about Palin to shift things back toward Obama, and even if it did, it seems that most people have made up their minds about her. On average, only 17% of respondents in recent favorablility polls which have added in the Alaska governor failed to view her either favorably or not. That is the lowest of any vice presidential nominee over the last three cycles. Palin also has, again on average, the highest favorable and unfavorable ratings among that group of VP selections. Even with all the bombshells thus far, perceptions appear to formed.
So Alaska moves into the McCain lean area and will likely continue to move even further to the right of the Electoral College Spectrum, becoming even more intensely red. This may change some in the coming weeks, but, as of now, the underlying distribution of electoral votes is the same. There is an equal distribution of electoral votes between the McCain and Obama toss up and lean categories, but the real difference is between the strong categories, where Obama still holds a 70 electoral vote advantage. That is built on California and New York being firmly on Obama's side. But that is a large part of Obama's -- and any Democrat's -- electoral math. The truth remains that Obama is ahead but not irreversibly so.
|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.
We can talk about this cushion that Obama has based on the comparison between his and McCain's strong category electoral votes, but this election is still based on what is going to happen in those toss up states and to a large extent independent voters in them. The top five states in the Spectrum's middle column above are still the states where much of the action will take place. It is no coincidence then that Obama/Biden and McCain/Palin have been in Virginia and Ohio and Colorado. But the race certainly stretches beyond those boundaries. Florida, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are also targets. All four are toss up states as well with the exception of Wisconsin, which is, as you can see both above and below in the Watch List, on the line between being a lean or toss up state favoring Obama.
|The Watch List*|
|Georgia||from McCain lean||to Strong McCain|
|Minnesota||from Obama lean||to Strong Obama|
|Mississippi||from Strong McCain||to McCain lean|
|Nevada||from Tie||to Toss Up McCain/Obama|
|Ohio||from Toss Up Obama||to Toss Up McCain|
|Virginia||from Toss Up McCain||to Toss Up Obama|
|Washington||from Strong Obama||to Obama lean|
|Wisconsin||from Obama lean||to Toss Up Obama|
|*Weighted Average within a fraction of a point of changing categories.|
Once again, the Watch List shrinks by one this week. With Alaska moving off, and more firmly into the McCain side, the list is down to just eight states. And only three of those states are on the verge of switching partisan sides and just one additional state -- Wisconsin -- is near moving toward being more competitive. The remaining four are either in the high single digits or low double digits. This is one indication that the list of competitive states for these final two months of the campaign are solidifying. What was talked about early on as a map-changing election, then, has narrowed, as can be expected to some extent approaching election day, to the regular group of swing states with a few exceptions (Colorado, Indiana and Virginia to name a few). We will have to see in the coming weeks whether either campaign expands or contracts its operations, as was the case with Georgia recently. That will provide an even clearer indication of where the fight will take place moving forward.
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