Yeah, FHQ has been rather devoted to the electoral college this week. [Well, that and the classes I'm teaching this semester, but that's a different story.] As I've looked at things more and more, I've had a couple of questions about the direction things are actually moving in this race. We have had 46 polls released this week (47 counting the Rasmussen poll of Washington released this morning.) and the overall trend seems to favor McCain -- on both the national and state level. But as I discussed in the map post I put up for today, the biggest shifts are among these states -- traditionally Republican states -- that that have been surprisingly competitive until this post-convention period. There has also been some augmentation of McCain's leads in even some of the ruby red states and some subtle, yet less clear movement in the battleground states.
What does this leave us with, then? Well, even if you hold out the electoral votes from Nevada and Ohio -- two states that are basically tied -- Obama still, even in the midst of this McCain bounce, maintains an advantage over the Arizona senator in the electoral college. Granted, at 273-240, it is a smaller edge and even smaller if we assume that McCain wins both Nevada and Ohio (273-265 EVs). But Obama surpasses 270 in both situations and that's the point. At what point do we (or should we) begin thinking of this current race as similar to the primary race for the Democratic nomination? Similar to the delegate lead he held over Clinton after his February string of victories and subsequently sat on until primary season ended, does Obama simply sit back and play defense in these toss up states that have been favoring him? If we begin thinking of the electoral vote advantages as similar to the delegate advantage, can Obama just simply play defense, leaning on his advantages in the ground game in most of these states (Michigan being the possible exception.) and still win.
Now, this asks us to some extent to suspend our belief that the campaign matters. At the same time, though, we are taking a step back from the micro-level view of the race -- lipstick comments and ABC interviews, etc. -- to take on a more macro- view of where this race is. And with history in the primary campaign as our guide, does Obama reign things in and play defense to ensure a win, however small?
Another question that I've had as more and more polling has emerged this week reverses course from above, focusing on micro-level trends. We have had, as I said above, 46 state polls released this week. Two-thirds of those polls have been conducted in states that are or were toss up states according to our averages at the time the polls were released. But one thing that has stood out is the lack of polling in those "strong" Obama states. Yes, we've had polls from Maine, Maryland and Washington, but there have been twice as many polls released from "strong" McCain states. How much do the large margins in those states feed into the narrative that McCain is surging? Alternatively, are things timed in a way that polling in those "strong" Obama states begins emerging as a potentially stale Palin narrative fades out to be replaced by the next big thing -- an Obama rebound? Or do tighter margins in those states continue to feed the current media narrative?
Now, I've asked more questions here than I've answered, but that's kind of by design. The daily electoral college updates have quashed the variety we've had lately (but so too has the void left by the conventions) and in the process the discussions we've had in the comments section. So what do you think? Is the current state of the general election campaign similar to the primary campaign? Are the states where polling has been released driving the stories in the media? The comments section awaits!
Also, what were everyone's impressions/thoughts on the Palin interview last night?
The Electoral College Map (9/12/08)
The Electoral College Map (9/11/08)
The Electoral College Map (9/10/08)