Monday, October 20, 2008

The Electoral College Map (10/21/08)

Monday ushered in the new week with 16 new polls in 12 states, most of them battlegrounds. What was clear about the polls that were released on Monday was that there is no uniform distribution of the national polling trends to the state level. North Carolina and Virginia both handed Obama two polls with margins right on or well outside the margin of error. That runs contrary to what the national polls are showing currently. Conversely though, that trend did not extend to Missouri and Ohio, where the two polls (one from Rasmussen and one from Suffolk in each) canceled each other out as far as which candidate was favored. Simply averaging the polls of the day would give Obama an edge of 3.5 points in Ohio and 2 points in Missouri, though.

New Polls (Oct. 20)
Democracy Corp
Survey USA
New Hampshire
Research 2000
North Carolina
Public Policy Polling
North Carolina
Survey USA
Survey USA

Where there is evidence that the national polling trends are playing out in the states is in Colorado, Florida, Minnesota and New Hampshire. Or is there evidence? In the case of Colorado, Rasmussen's 5 point Obama margin in the state is down from the two previous Rasumussen polls of the state but only by a point or two. In the context of recent polling in the Centennial state, that margin is rather closer to the mid- to upper single digit spreads that have been found between the two major candidates there.

Florida may actually be a case where the national trend is at work. Since the last Rasmussen poll of the Sunshine state, Obama's 5 point margin a week ago has turned into a slight McCain lead today. Both this current Rasmussen poll and the Survey USA poll also showing a McCain lead represent the first such polls since late September. The Sunshine state has not been like Ohio where Obama leads have been the most common result of late, but where McCain leads pop up intermittently. These two polls are the first McCain advantages in the state after a two week string of pro-Obama polling in the state.

The 6 point margin favoring Obama in Minnesota makes the North Star state look tighter until you consider the source. Survey USA's surveys of Minnesota have been all over the place during this cycle and this poll is no different. Sure, the margin looks a lot closer than some of the other recent polls, but it is a seven point improvement over the last Survey USA poll of the state at the beginning of October.

Finally, New Hampshire, too, may provide evidence of a McCain resurgence. Maybe, maybe not. Following the Lehman collapse, the Granite state jumped toward Obama, turning in a trio of double digit margins for the Illinois senator. But after that initial shock to the system, it appears as if New Hampshire has settled into a range in the upper single digits for Obama and that is still running above where FHQ's weighted average has the state.

[Click Map to Enlarge]

Is the race moving back toward McCain, though? If you cherrypick results, then yeah, you can come to that conclusion, but other than in Florida -- and those 27 electoral votes are awfully important to any tenuous chance the Arizona senator has at victory -- there just isn't any real evidence to back that up when a big picture approach is taken. That's doubly true when a state like Georgia is suddenly within a couple of points again. But I'm cherrypicking results there, aren't I? The Peach state is moving toward the McCain lean category, but is still firmly within the strong area for McCain at the moment.

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 Colorado (all Obama's toss up states plus Colorado), he would have 274 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.

That said, the map is unchanged since a day ago, though Obama's advantage in Florida is very slim at this point. Still, the Illinois senator maintains a 338-200 electoral vote advantage over McCain. And while Florida's electoral votes are hugely important to McCain's fortunes, they don't mean a whole lot if the Sunshine state is the only blue state the Arizona senator is able to swing back into his column. It would lessen the blow, but certainly wouldn't altogether prevent it.

The Watch List*
Coloradofrom Obama lean
to Toss Up Obama
Floridafrom Toss Up Obama
to Toss Up McCain
Indianafrom McCain lean
to Toss Up McCain
Minnesotafrom Strong Obama
to Obama lean
Missourifrom Toss Up McCain
to Toss Up Obama
Nevadafrom Toss Up Obama
to Toss Up McCain
New Mexicofrom Obama lean
to Strong Obama
North Carolinafrom Toss Up McCain
to McCain lean
Ohiofrom Toss Up Obama
to Toss Up McCain
Pennsylvaniafrom Obama lean
to Strong Obama
Virginiafrom Toss Up Obama
to Obama lean
Wisconsinfrom Strong Obama
to Obama lean
*Weighted Average within a fraction of a point of changing categories.

What's all the more damaging is that Virginia is also vitally important to McCain, but it has now moved to the brink of joining the Obama lean states. The Old Dominion is now within a point of reaching that mark. If the polls continue coming in the way they did today, then Virginia will be there sooner rather than later. Oppositely, North Carolina's position on the Watch List is now very tenuous indeed. The Tar Heel state is literally a couple one-thousandths of a point from moving into the middle ground of the McCain lean category. We had a detail discussion about North Carolina yesterday, so FHQ's feeligs are pretty well-known when it comes to the Old North State.

Finally, all eyes are now on Pennsylvania. Now that it looks like Colorado will join Michigan (and to a lesser extent Wisconsin after the RNC pulled ads there), Pennsylvania is now the last best hope McCain has. As I said when Jack linked this in the comment last night, I'd really like to see the McCain campaign's internal polling of Colorado and Pennsylvania. It really is a curious decision. Our rankings are not the gospel, but there is a pretty big gap between where both Colorado and Pennsylvania are in terms of their averages. And Pennsylvania is not the closer one of the two. The Susquehanna poll was the first single digit Obama lead in a while and the Muhlenberg tracking poll margin has closed by a fraction, but Obama is near or above the 50% mark in both. However, he does appear to have reached his ceiling to some extent. The Muhlenberg polls show Obama plateauing while McCain has been on the rise since bottoming out the day after the final debate last week. But to swing Pennsylvania, McCain still has a lot of work to do.

UPDATE: The links to the Rasmussen polls have now been fixed.

Recent Posts:
Early Voting in Forsyth County, GA: Technology at Work

What About North Carolina? Can Obama Swing the Tar Heel State?

The Electoral College Map (10/20/08)


SarahLawrenceScott said...

The Colorado/Pennsylvania decision may have to do with the ground games, which of course don't really show up in polling. The McCain team has explicitly identified the ground game as a factor in Colorado. On the other hand, there are reports of some weaknesses in the Obama effort in Pennsylvania.

It's not much to hang your hat on--ground game differences could be worth, what, maybe a 4 point swing? But 4 points closer in Pennsylvania and 4 points further in Colorado might make Pennsylvania seem like a better bet. Factor in that winning Pennsylvania might allow the McCain team to absorb a loss in Virginia, and it doesn't seem completely irrational. Unlikely, yes. But not completely impossible.

Of course, if the Obama Pennsylvania volunteers start to think they're being targeted because they're perceived as a weak link, their "enthusiasm" will rapidly soar.

Josh Putnam said...

A very good point on the ground games, Scott.

This idea of a latent enthusiasm gap is an intriguing one. It is something that could be triggered when threatened or at least seen as weak. Again, this is a function of the political climate during this cycle. The Democrats just have the advantage.

And the Obama campaign is targeting Friday as the day they will be making the touch decisions on where to spend their money down the stretch in this race. If McCain is eying the Keystone state, I daresay, some of the Obama money will work its way into Pennsylvania.

Robert said...

Is Obama planning on street money for Philadelphia?

SarahLawrenceScott said...

A lot of interesting stuff floating around today:

Does this also apply to Presidential elections? If McCain only gets 49.9% in Georgia (due, not implausibly, to the Barr vote), then could we have to wait until a meaningless (for the Presidential campaign) vote in December to know the final score?

Are there other states who do this?

This is new to me.

Josh Putnam said...

Here's that link from Scott.

According to HB 244, the 2005 bill that substituted the majority rule for a simple plurality, there is an exemption for the election of presidential electors. They only require a plurality.

Here's the relevant excerpt (from Section 63):

"(f) Except for presidential electors, to be elected to public office in a general election, a candidate must receive a majority of the votes cast in an election to fill such public office. To be elected to the office of presidential electors, no slate of candidates shall be required to receive a majority of the votes cast, but that slate of candidates shall be elected to such office which receives the highest number of votes cast.

I can't think of any other states that do this right off the top of my head. It seems like at one point or another, Louisiana was in this category as well. But they've tried just about everything from an elections law standpoint on the Bayou.

Jack said...

Louisiana stopped doing runoffs?

Jack said...

Never mind my last comment. I have since found out that they have stopped. Don't want anyone to waste their time researching for me.

SarahLawrenceScott said...

Umm...Jack? You just researched it for us. Thanks. :)

Jack said...

Didn't research it. Happened upon it on a comment on DemConWatch.

Robert said...

Nice post on polls came out this morning:

Josh Putnam said...

Here's that link from Rob.

I'll have something to say about the polls as well.

...when the map is up in a bit. No, I haven't disappeared.