Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Electoral College Map (10/13/08)

A trio of new polls was released Sunday. All three were blue and all three did little to change the perception of the overall race or the race in each of the three states. Obama is clearly ahead in California, pulling away in Pennsylvania and has edged out in front in Nevada of late. Pennsylvania is looking increasingly difficult for McCain to seize and without the Keystone state, in addition to the Michigan pull out, the path to 270 has limited options. Even if Nevada were to shift back into McCain territory, it would do little more than a tamp down a runaway Obama victory in the electoral college. With just five electoral votes, Nevada isn't going to swing this election back in McCain's direction unless other states come with it. Namely, Colorado, Ohio and Virginia. But with each new poll, even those states seem difficult "gets" for the Arizona senator.

New Polls (Oct. 12)
Muhlenberg College

The three new polls, then, do nothing to change the dynamics of a race that has become rather static over the last week or so. Obama is ahead nationally and in most of the crucial battleground states, but with just one more debate between the two major party contenders, we have almost entered the "outside factors" phase of the race. In other words, it will take outside factors to disrupt the race in a way similar to the AIG/Lehman collapse to reshape the race at a time when both candidates will be making their closing arguments to voters.

[Click Map to Enlarge]

The survey data out today is moderately predictable. Both California and Nevada are within a couple of points of FHQ's weighted average in each. The Pennsylvania numbers from Muhlenberg are outside of that state's average, but when we consider just the polls over the last three weeks -- since the economic crisis became a crisis -- the margin seems far more understandable. All it really does is move Pennsylvania further into the blue and further away from McCain. In the end, none of the three polls does anything to shift any of the electoral votes between categories or between candidates. Obama remains ahead by 84 electoral votes, and nothing in recent polling indicates that margin will do anything but get larger.

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.

Of course, that easier to say when you are trying to get through a terrifically slow weekend for polling. If anything, the new week should be welcomed with open arms simply because it is likely to bring an increase in the frequency of polling. The states below --unchanged from a day ago -- are the ones where changes in categories, or more importantly for our purposes, changes in who is ahead are the most likely to occur. Florida is tops on the list. And if we know anything about our measure here, it is that when and if the Sunshine state turns blue, it is likely there to stay. Even with all the past polls being discounted according to when they were released, our model is still on the conservative side. So when changes occur they are significant and overwhelmingly likely to hold.

The Watch List*
Floridafrom Toss Up McCain
to Toss Up Obama
Georgiafrom Strong McCainto McCain lean
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.

I failed to go over the Electoral College Spectrum because it didn't shift at all from yesterday. The states in that middle column from Colorado down to Florida are where the real battle in this race is now. And McCain pretty much has to sweep all five to win. I say pretty much simply because there are other scenarios where McCain wins, but this one is the most likely. And the probability of that occurence is dropping with each passing day. 22 left to go.

Recent Posts:
A Follow-Up on ACORN

The Electoral College Map (10/12/08)

The Electoral College Map (10/11/08)


SarahLawrenceScott said...

McCain followers seem to think their path to a miracle-win goes through Pennsylvania. I'm not sure why that is, but among the supporters it seems like a more common refrain than the "hold the line" win of sweeping the toss-ups.

For another way of looking at the trouble McCain's in, look at this rcp graph of McCain's unfavorable rating over time. While there was a little blip down in unfavorability around the time of the Palin pick, the basic shape is an arc upward since early August. At first that was coming at the expense of people in the neutral category, but recently it's stealing from his favorable category (or favorables are becoming neutrals while neutrals become unfavorables). McCain's favorables have now broken below 50, and are headed down further.

In an election without a strong third candidate, I don't think McCain can win with favorables under 50; it suggests undecideds aren't going to break for him. Yes, he can probably reverse this trend by deciding to be noble in defeat. That kind of magnanimity does wonders for personal reputation (see Gore, Dole, Bush 41...) but of course means being defeated.

Robert said...

Steve Schmidt was on NPR this morning and seemed reasonably confident taht McCain could close the gap. When asked what states they were targeting, they were all 2004 red states -- NC, FL, OH & VA. Strange strategy.

Robert said...

Jay Cost has an interesting take on the likely voter problem.

He appears to be skeptical of the Obama ground game. He also cites a Charles Bullock article.

Josh Putnam said...

Here's that link from Rob.

Jack said...

Doesn't a lot of GOTV have little to do with spending? Isn't much of it the work of volunteers to call and otherwise contact supporters on election day, as well as doing voter registration beforehand? I know that some of that costs money directly and indirectly, but there is a lot of volunteer work involved.

And I wouldn't expect this to make a difference of more than a couple of points in the polls between likely voter models. You're not going to make up, say, 10 points by GOTV alone. Of course, a couple of points has decided many an election.

Robert said...

Good points, Jack. The key is how many of his young voters come out. They probably were the difference in the primaries, but the likely voter models tend to discount them.

SarahLawrenceScott said...

Don't overlook the "haven't voted in a while" crowd, too. Likely voter models will be very skeptical of them, but there's considerable anecdotal evidence that Obama is bringing some of them out. That's one place GOTV will make a big difference, by the way: the "passive" supporter who doesn't usually bother to vote. If they're directly asked on election day (and in states with early voting, election day lasts a month), they just might vote. Likely voter screens will never catch that.

Josh Putnam said...

I've sent the link to Dr. Bullock and invited him to comment here on the matter. I'm sure he'd add a lot of insight to what Cost was trying to say. And perhaps even set the record straight.