Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Electoral College Map (10/2/08)

Who says change can't happen, even at the site with the most conservative electoral college methodology? I find it somewhat ironic that I, just yesterday, made light of the feasibility of a 10 point Obama margin in Virginia and today that exact number appeared in the CNN survey results. There's no sense in hiding that. Virginia switched sides, moving above the partisan line (The point at which light blue Obama states become pink McCain states.) into Obama territory. But that wasn't all. CNN caused quite a shake up across the analysis with new polls in a series of states. Virginia was one, but Nevada was the other. [Minnesota was in there too, but it didn't switch categories in the way Nevada did as a result of the survey there being added to FHQ's weighted averages.] On the strength of a five point margin in that poll, the Silver state, too, inches above that partisan line and into the blue, passing Virginia in the process. That leaves the Old Dominion as the closest state still, but we'll get to the Electoral College Spectrum momentarily.

New Polls (Oct. 1)
Quinnipiac (pre-debate)
Quinnipiac (post-debate)
Research 2000
Research 2000
New Jersey
Strategic Vision
Quinnipiac (pre-debate)
Quinnipiac (post-debate)
Survey USA
Franklin & Marshall
PennsylvaniaQuinnipiac (pre-debate)
PennsylvaniaQuinnipiac (post-debate)
Strategic Vision

The rest of the polling out today wasn't much better for John McCain. Four new polls in both Florida and Pennsylvania all favored Obama and by pretty sizable margins. Half of those polls were the pre- and post-debate surveys from Quinnipiac. All had already shifted toward Obama prior to Friday night and those gaps grew larger afterward. This held true in the other state covered by Quinnipiac as well, Ohio. The Buckeye state, though, held firm just slightly on the McCain side of the partisan line.

Changes (Oct. 1)
Toss Up McCain
Toss Up Obama
Toss Up McCain
Toss Up Obama

But Indiana and Missouri drew closer too and Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin all moved farther away from the Arizona senator. Even Mississippi and Texas turned in tighter results, though, not to the point that either will become competitive. At the end of the day, all McCain has to hand his hat on today are the polls in Oklahoma and Tennessee. Neither of those state has had the type of single digit margins that Mississippi and Texas have had over the course of this campaign. They were never in doubt.

[Click Map to Enlarge]

The map, then, changes for the first time since Nevada moved over into McCain's column following the Republican's convention in St. Paul. With the addition of Nevada and Virginia, Obama now pads that paltry 8 point advantage he held with 18 more electoral votes. The edge the Illinois senator has is now up to 44, much further below some of the other electoral college estimates out there. But, to be honest, all of the pink states are now within the margin of error and are technically in play. Even if FHQ has lowered the toss up/lean line down to 3 points last week, all of those McCain toss ups would be under that line with the exception of Missouri. So while none of those states are likely to change, they have slipped away from McCain and within Obama's grasp, both in reality and in the perception game.

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. Both states are currently favoring Obama, thus the blue text in those two cells.

For the first time in a while then the partisan line and the victory line (the point at which either candidate would surpass 270 electoral votes) aren't right up against each other. That cushion that we referenced so many times in discussing the likelihood of Obama has returned. And, as was so often mentioned in that context, the number of paths Obama has to 270 is greater as a result. The Illinois senator once again has states to give. In other words, he could lose both of the two states in which he just pulled ahead and still get to 270.

The Watch List*
Iowafrom Obama lean
to Strong Obama
Michiganfrom Toss Up Obama
to Obama lean
Minnesotafrom Obama lean
to Strong Obama
Missourifrom Toss Up McCainto McCain lean
Nevadafrom Toss Up Obamato Toss Up McCain
North Carolinafrom McCain lean
to Toss Up McCain
Ohiofrom Toss Up McCain
to Toss Up Obama
Oregonfrom Obama lean
to Strong Obama
Pennsylvaniafrom Toss Up Obama
to Obama lean
Texasfrom Strong McCainto McCain lean
Virginiafrom Toss Up Obama
to Toss Up McCain
Washingtonfrom Strong Obama
to Obama lean
*Weighted Average within a fraction of a point of changing categories.

The big question now: Which state is next? Well, it isn't assured that Nevada and Virginia will hold their current positions, so they could shift back toward McCain. But that seems less likely in the current environment where Obama is surging in the polls both nationally and on the state level. What we do know is that Florida and Indiana are now off the Watch List and have been replaced by Iowa, Minnesota and Texas. For the moment, let's excluded Texas; the Lone Star state isn't going anywhere. The other four have moved significantly toward Obama based on today's and other recent polling. Iowa and Minnesota are safer for Obama and Florida and Indiana are much less safe for McCain than they were.

Bad continues to get worse for McCain.

Recent Posts:
Here's the Deal...

The Electoral College Map (10/1/08)

The Electoral College Map (9/30/08)


Robert said...


I think being cautious is a good thing. The recent polls are now swinging solidly to Obama, but they could swing back again. As far as Florida is concerned (as discussed in comments by Anonymous to yesterday's post), the financial crisis in the country is a financial panic among those 60 and older. On NPR this morning they pointed out that over 50% of equity is owned by those over 60. Before Black Monday most portfolios were down 23%. Quarterly statements will be out in the next two weeks. For those with money in a 401k or 403b,it will be a very shocking sight!

If the bill doesn't pass the House tomorrow, they will be down at least another 10-20%. I also understand that foreclosures are hitting the elderly harder than the rest of the population. McCain is losing a portion the elderly vote in Florida he could have expected and that could flip the state to Obama.

Josh Putnam said...

Being cautious is good. I may have flown off the handle in reacting last night. [McCain's campaign appears to be rubbing off on me. I know, I couldn't help myself on that one.] Yours (and others') comment(s) in concert with the polls that came out in the afternoon yesterday gave me a certain amount of urgency. Perhaps I should have imputed the data first. Ha!

If the recent economic down turn is disproportionate hitting seniors then that might be a segment of the cross tabs we need to look at as more polling data is released. I realize the entire nation is aging, but there was quite a bit of talk about Ohio and Pennsylvania having "older" populations and that being to the detriment of Obama during the primaries. If those folks are blaming the GOP then Obama stands to gain.

...and already seems to be. Is that because of this segment of the population? I don't know, but I'll be looking at that line in the cross tabs now when I'm looking at the polls.

For the record, I'm still planning on looking into revising the average formula. If I make a change, I'll be sure to let everyone in on what's been done.

SarahLawrenceScott said...

I haven't noticed any recent particular surge for Obama among older voters (i.e. he gained, but it didn't look out of line with his gains in other segments). I did notice him narrowing the gap with seniors over the summer, even as he was slipping in some other categories. I didn't see any comment on that then, but it was interesting.

For the recent Obama surge, the crosstabs have made it look to me like a lot is coming from his base groups. You might think that African-Americans were already all behind Obama, but it wasn't polling that way. The mid-Atlantic, in particular, had multiple polls over the summer that showed 10-20% supporting McCain. Suddenly every poll I see seems to show 95%+ African-American support for Obama. That alone could be responsible for much of his jump in the polls.

He's also consolidated Democrats, with many states going from 80% support to support nearer 90%.

And then there's the across the board swing; nearly all demographics are showing gains for Obama.

So to me, if there's any group to single out for the recent gains, it's his base demographics. It may be that the financial crisis made people stop "fooling around," it may be that the Palin bloom is off the rose (don't forget that many African-Americans are socially conservative, and so there may have been some segment that was giving her a good look), it may be that Obama is establishing a comfort level with voters, or it may be that more voters are starting to believe he can win and govern effectively (this would be like his surge after the Iowa and South Carolina primary victories). Of course, its traditional for base groups to "come home" as the election nears, so maybe the trigger doesn't matter so much--these groups were bound to shift toward Obama as the election neared anyway, just as the social conservatives were bound to shift Republican. Under that way of looking at things, the Republican consolidation happened first, because of Palin, and that gave the illusion of a closer race than actually existed.

Josh Putnam said...

I think you are on the right track here, Scott. I think it was 538 that did something about this a month or so ago. [I think. Hey, it could have been someone here.] That showed something very similar to what you're talking about: that Democrats were not as "behind" their ticket as Republicans were theirs, post-Palin.

So whereas we may have seen that shift take place gradually -- if at all in -- in the polls leading up to election day, the current situation triggered a much quicker, sudden shift to Obama.