Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Electoral College Map (10/10/08)

Well, the polling day started out slow, but by mid-afternoon it picked up a head of steam with ARG's release of new survey data from from seven states. The biggest news there? West Virginia giving eight points to Obama. The Mountain state, not content to see its eastern neighbor provide the Illinois senator with an eight point edge, followed suit in the afternoon with an equivalent margin. If only it worked that way. Well, it sort of has in recent days. The shift toward Obama has worked like contagion across much of the US, spreading through the Obama lean and battleground states and a handful of McCain lean and strong states as well.

New Polls (Oct. 9)
Capital Survey Research Center
Ivan Moore
Strategic Vision
Strategic Vision
New Hampshire
New Jersey
North Carolina
North Carolina
Strategic Vision
Strategic Vision
Public Policy Polling
West Virginia

In total, Thursday brought 20 polls from 17 states. And once again, the list it chock full of blue. However, the list is not without notable red. The series of ARG polls had McCain striking back with a lead in Missouri to counter a couple of Obama leads in the Show-Me state in the last few days. The Arizona senator also got something good out of Indiana, where Rasmussen shows McCain up 7. But in Georgia and Montana things got tighter. The Peach state still seems far enough beyond Obama's grasp at this point for McCain, but the ARG poll of Montana offered a mixed tale. On the one hand, it counterintuitively increased from the post-convention poll the firm had done. But on the other hand, that 5 point margin is smaller than the trio of polls that followed throughout the rest of September.

Changes (Oct. 9)
New Hampshire
Toss Up Obama
Obama lean
West Virginia
McCain lean
Toss Up McCain

There isn't anything out of the newly established, post-Lehman ordinary in the blue states today. Well, other than West Virginia*, which isn't really blue, but got a heck of a lot closer today by moving fairly deeply into the toss up McCain category toward Obama. Now the charge has been leveled against ARG that that poll is or will be an outlier. Much of that has centered on the 55/35 Democratic/Republican party identification breakdown of their sample. Is that steep? Actually, it isn't as one of our great readers/commenters, Jack, discovered this afternoon. That 55% number for the Democrats in West Virginia is actually slightly below where voter registration was in the state for both the 2006 midterm elections and the primaries earlier this year. Is that a successful rebuttal to the outlier argument? No, but it does remove the party ID of the sample as a culprit.

[Click Map to Enlarge]

Also, like Pennsylvania and Michigan before it, New Hampshire, has slipped into the Obama lean category. And that means that the lean states for Obama stretch all the way to the victory line of Colorado on the Electoral College Spectrum. And though the 311-227 electoral vote tally is the same as it was a day ago, McCain is down to but one lean state, Montana, and is now defending a group of toss up states totalling 69 electoral votes. The Obama toss up category is now down to the trio of states which had been the closest -- Virginia, Nevada and Ohio -- along with Colorado. The Illinois senator is now relatively safe in states totalling 264 electoral votes, just six shy of the number needed to win the race.

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 New Hampshire (all Obama's toss up states), he would have 278 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. It is currently favoring Obama, thus the blue text in that cell.

But back to Virginia, Nevada and Ohio for a moment. Over the last week Virginia has moved into the blue and has gotten closer and closer to Colorado on the Spectrum and behind the scenes, statistically speaking. But the Old Dominion has been supplanted on the list of the three closest states by Florida. And that means that Virginia is now off of the Watch List; it is not vulnerable to an imminent move into McCain territory with the addition of new polling. Florida, Nevada and Ohio certainly are though. And it is Florida that would be next on the list of states to switch sides of the partisan line if the Obama push continues in the polling ahead.

The Watch List*
Floridafrom Toss Up McCain
to Toss Up Obama
Indianafrom Toss Up McCain
to McCain lean
Iowafrom Strong Obama
to Obama lean
Michiganfrom Obama lean
to Toss Up Obama
Nevadafrom Toss Up Obama
to Toss Up McCain
New Hampshirefrom Obama lean
to Toss Up Obama
New Jerseyfrom Obama lean
to Strong Obama
North Dakotafrom Strong McCainto McCain lean
Ohiofrom Toss Up Obama
to Toss Up McCain
Oregonfrom Obama lean
to Strong Obama
Washingtonfrom Strong Obama
to Obama lean
*Weighted Average within a fraction of a point of changing categories.

Virginia is joined by North Carolina as states now off the Watch List. And while those two peripheral South states leave, Indiana now comes on board, switching places with North Carolina. What that means is that if this was next week when the toss up/lean line is dropped to three points, Indiana would be a McCain lean and North Carolina would be a McCain toss up. Both, however, would be on the Watch List to potentially change categories with new polling. Those two states along with Missouri are all tightly grouped at the moment, but while Missouri and Indiana have had contradicting results lately, North Carolina appears to be moving toward Obama and the partisan line. The fact that McCain is having to defend those state period speaks volumes about the state of this race. Missouri is understandable. The Show-Me state has been close in the past, but Indiana and North Carolina have not been Democrat-friendly states on the presidential level for a long time. Neither has gone with a Democratic presidential candidate since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Indiana hasn't gone Democratic since Lyndon Johnson's 1964 landslide and North Carolina has been with the GOP for a generation. The Tar Heel state hasn't given the nod to a Democrat on the presidential level since Carter's 1976 win in the state. Periodically throughout this campaign, the discussion here and elsewhere has centered on Obama's ability to change the map. Well, the map has changed. It may not be Obama per se, but it has changed.

*I should make a note on West Virginia. It shot up the list today and is now in line behind only Florida as a toss up on the McCain side of the partisan line. The methodological shift earlier in the week has a lot to do with that though. So you have to take that positioning with a grain of salt. The most recent poll is given the most weight and all the other past polls are discounted in our average. When the most recent poll is a potential outlier it can cause a fairly large shift. That is doubly true when there are as few polls as there are in West Virginia. As we discussed yesterday, West Virginia is a possibility for Obama in the case of a landslide, but this poll and the effect it had on the average may be overstating things a bit.

Recent Posts:
Open Thread: An Obama Landslide: How Far Could It Go?

The Electoral College Map (10/9/08)

Update: The Electoral College from a Different Angle


SarahLawrenceScott said...

ARG seems to me be unreliable. It's not that they have a bias one way or the other; if that were the case, we could still compare their polls to their polls. But they produce outliers on a regular basis (I still remember them having Clinton winning the Oregon primary).

West Virginia looks like a blue outlier here, but we can't be sure because there haven't been other recent polls.

But Texas looks like a red outlier. Since Obama wrapped up the nomination in June, there have been 2 ARG polls of Texas, and 7 other polls. The ARG polls have been M +19 and M +21. The others have ranged from M +5 to M +10 (well, Zogby Interactive had M +3, but that's also silly).

If their methodology is bad enough to produce these kinds of outliers with regularity, it's probably bad enough to create results that are in the believable-but-surprising range. So I pay no attention to ARG.

I'm not suggesting FHQ should drop them; they seem to fit the screen for what gets included, and you want to have a defensible, consistent screen. But I'm not going to hang my hat on any of their particular results.

Josh Putnam said...

I agree, Scott. As I said, the complicating factor here is that there are so few polls in West Virginia. I don't "believe" that result, but I do think you are right on when you say "believable but surprising." That's about right for the ARG polls we've gotten so far. In most cases those polls get incorporated in the averages with minimal effect. And that's fine in the toss up states with lots of polling. In some of the peripheral toss ups, though, those polls may have a greater impact.

On Texas:
It would be nice if some firm other than ARG or Rasmussen would conduct a poll there. Other than the one poll from UT, ARG and Rasmussen have been the only providers of information in Texas since late June.

Jack said...

Agreed that there's no need to drop ARG. It's not like the Columbus Dispatch mail in poll or the Zogby Interactive Internet polls. Of course, if they release a poll showing Obama ahead in Utah ...

Yes, BYU did have a poll showing Obama ahead of a Republican in Utah, but that was Mike Huckabee.

I think, based on the polling out there, that Texas is probably about McCain +7-10 now. Rasmussen's +9 seems to be a pretty reasonable number.

SarahLawrenceScott said...

My opinion: McCain now needs a miracle to win this election. The finding that Palin broke the law, along with McCain defending Obama's personal character are the last nails in the coffin. Every reasonable avenue to victory is now closed. Take even the nightmare scenario for the country of a terrorist attack. Are people really going to feel safer with McCain now? His running mate says that Obama "pals around with terrorists," but McCain is getting beaten badly. So let's look at this overheated rhetoric as objectively as we can:

If Obama is not a terrorist sympathizer, then the attacks are reprehensible.

If Obama is a terrorist sympathizer (wow, that's hard to write), then McCain is unable to stop him, and is even appeasing him.

And Palin can't ride to the rescue anymore.

Voter apathy? Can McCain sneak in? No. Obama's supporters like their candidate, and dislike the McCain/Palin tactics. Apathy is much more likely to set in among voters who are against the other guy, but are either winning or losing by a wide margin. Here, I think there's a bandwagon effect: people feel an Obama wave, and would like to be able to say they voted for him. And the GOTV crowd would really like to run up the score and use all that machinery they've put in place. I can't see Obama voters suddenly getting overconfident and staying home en masse.

Oh, and one more thing--every day that goes by means more and more people have already voted. And we can guess who the majority of those people voted for.

Barring a miracle, it's over. Now it's a question of margin of victory, and of how McCain and Palin want to go out.

Wayne said...

Great post, thanks for putting it up.

This is most certainly a tough race for McCain, Obama is at higher national polling numbers than at the height of his post convention bounce.

McCain needs a game changer or some form of exciting rally call which excites independents towards him.

What historic election result do you think this will be most like for Obama?

S.D. said...

It's a nitpick, but your statement that "Neither [Indiana nor North Carolina] has gone with a Democratic presidential candidate since Lyndon Johnson in 1964" is incorrect. Jimmy Carter carried North Carolina in 1976. That being said, this is the only counterexample to your statement.

Josh Putnam said...

Good catch, SD. I'll make that correction.