Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Electoral College Map (9/17/08)

***Note: If you haven't already, be sure and check out the changes to the map over the last few days (Saturday-Tuesday). I've been playing catch up since the weekend, but everything is all updated now. Well, updated with the exception of the latest Zogby polling in the battleground states. For an explanation on why that is being excluded for the time being see the aside in 9/15 map post. All the weekend links are at conclusion of this post.


Well, we have a pretty blue day in the polls. Blue in that the states are for the most part favorable to Obama, but also blue because there are only five new polls out in four states. Last week it was difficult to keep apace of all the new polling releases, but it was fun. More information is always better than less information.

New Polls (Sept. 16)
New Jersey
New Jersey
New York
Public Policy Polling
Research 2000

So what do we have today? New Jersey is back to canceling itself out: one tight poll followed by another more typical poll. The Garden state had a similar polling combo emerge over the weekend and all it's doing is getting Republicans' hopes up. Has New Jersey gotten slightly tighter in FHQ's weighted average? Yes, but as I argued over the weekend, New Jersey has a history of this (see 2004). Jim Campbell has a term for it: the narrowing effect. The idea is that as the campaign heats up the paths of the two major party candidates begin to converge and continue to do so throughout the duration of the campaign. And extending that idea to state-level polls would be an interesting project. It is a project that falls outside of the bounds of this blog, but an interesting project, nonetheless. In New Jersey's case, we have seen this sort of thing before, so it's movement here is somewhat predictable. The nearest "red" corrollary is Texas and I don't see Texas turning blue any more than I see New Jersey turning red at this point, much less in November. If either does change colors, one of the candidates will have won in a rout.

Like Delaware yesterday, we also have a new poll in Vermont for the first time since February. The results are not that shocking, but continue to show Obama in the driver's seat there. Just like New Jersey, New York bounces back with a more typical poll following the mere five point edge Obama held in the recent Siena poll. Finally, Ohio continues to settle into this 3 or 4 point lead for McCain with yet another 4 point edge from PPP today. That has moved Ohio two spots on the Electoral College Spectrum below.

[Click Map to Enlarge]

Yet again, though, the map remains unchanged. Obama clings to a 273-265 advantage in the electoral college. And yes "cling" is both a poor word (in the context of Obama's "bitter" comments) and accurate one here. While Obama appears to have weathered the post-convention storm in the national polls (In the four tracking polls Pollster is watching, Obama is now ahead by four in two and behind by just a point in the other two.), that has yet to extend to the states in any noticeable way. That is not to say that it won't, but it hasn't yet. The two polls in Virginia yesterday are noteworthy in their shift toward Obama. But is that change -- from a 6 point McCain edge there just a week ago -- indicative of a move toward Obama or is it simply noise similar to the ranges we have seen lately in Ohio or Minnesota polling? We will have to answer that question before making any claims about an end to McCain's convention bump. As the word implies, though, it is expected to be a temporary trend.

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 and New Mexico), 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.

Colorado is the state 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.

With only a handful of polls out today, there was little opportunity for either the map or the Electoral College Spectrum to change. But change the latter did. Ohio, on the strength of yet another poll showing McCain ahead by a margin bordering on the margin of error, moved past both Nevada and Virginia and is now third on the list of current Republican toss ups for Obama. To be clear, we are talking about fractions of a point here, but it is worth noting that Ohio is now not only among the Republican toss ups, but is trending away from Obama. All three of those states are legitimate targets for the Illinois senator. McCain, however, has shored up support in some of those traditionally red states and has shifted the fight over these swing states to the left, well into the blue. Well, further into the blue than it had been when all the talk was about the Arizona senator having to potentially defend states like Alaska, Georgia and North Dakota. Now, I noted early on -- as did many other commentators -- that states of that ilk were stretches for the Obama campaign, but the goal was to get McCain to play some defense there. The Arizona senator didn't bite.

The Watch List*
Floridafrom Toss Up McCain
to McCain lean
Georgiafrom Strong McCainto McCain lean
Montanafrom McCain leanto Toss Up McCain
Nevadafrom Toss Up McCainto Toss Up Obama
New Mexicofrom Toss Up Obamato Obama lean
North Carolinafrom McCain lean
to Toss Up McCain
North Dakotafrom McCain lean
to Toss Up McCain
Ohiofrom Toss Up McCain
to Toss Up Obama
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.

The talk of the convention bounce coming to an end for McCain on the state level is now something to consider. The national polls have reverted to the mean for the most part, but will that happen in the states as well? If it does, most of the 11 states above are where we should look first. Each is well within the range of changing categories and could very well shift if the campaign winds blow in that direction.

Recent Posts:
The Electoral College Map (9/16/08)

The Electoral College Map (9/15/08)

The Electoral College Map (9/14/08)

The Electoral College Map (9/13/08)

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