Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Electoral College Map (10/27/08)

A candidate's home state is supposed to be safe, right? Arkansas turned red once Bill Clinton was out of the picture. Texas has always had someone on one of the tickets -- save 1996 -- but usually on the Republican ticket. The Bushes account for most of those and they swung Texas -- not that it really needed any swinging. Oh, and Tennessee was a vital part of Al Gore's coalition of states that he won in 2000. No, wait, I just got a call from the Gore folks. They actually lost Tennessee, but wanted me to remind everyone reading that they did win the popular vote nationally in that election.

Well, what does this have to do with anything anyway? Alaska, Arizona, Delaware and Illinois are all safe states; the former two for the Republicans and the latter two for the Democrats. Yeah, Alaska looked close for a while before the Palin selection and Arizona turned in a single digit margin or two along the way. Likewise, Illinois and Delaware went without polling for the longest time and were never really at risk for the Democrats in a favorable political climate.

New Polls (Oct. 26)
Marketing Intelligence
Project New West
Research 2000
New Hampshire
Univ. of New Hampshire
Univ. of Akron
Public Policy Polling
West Virginia
Research 2000/Daily Kos

But that changed today. Two new polls out of Arizona showed the race in the Grand Canyon state still favoring McCain, but within the margin of error. And the indications out of Arizona State University's polling outfit, from which a new poll is due out tomorrow, are that last month's eight point margin will have shrunk in this month's survey. So much for home states being safe. Arizona is still very much within the strong McCain category, but it has suddenly shot up the rankings to a spot right behind Georgia. In other words, it is just one state and about three and a quarter points from being a lean state for the Arizona senator. Even though, the state more than likely safe, this is certainly a trend chock full of symbolism. And not the good kind of symbolism either. This is more ominous for the GOP's 2008 standard bearer.
[Click Map to Enlarge]

The Grand Canyon state wasn't the only state to be heard from today though. There was another tight poll in Georgia, a fairly large lead for Obama in New Hampshire and another mid-single digit margin out of West Virginia. But I'll focus on the three toss up states that had new polls out today. In Virginia, there was yet another Obama lead well outside of the margin of error. The Old Dominion is now within half a point of moving into the Obama lean category and if polling like this continues that average will have passed three points sooner rather than later.

The new University of Akron poll in Ohio had Obama up nearly four points, but was in the field in two parts (one, a continued panel survey from earlier in the year and another, just simply a new survey) from the last week of September up through mid-October. So, that one may not join the lower of the two groups of polling results that emerged from the Buckeye state this past week.

Finally, Missouri just looks close. The margin in the Show-Me state is and will likely be within the margin of error from now until election day. Regardless of whether it is a one point lead for McCain or Obama, Missouri is close, but still on the McCain side of the partisan line. But it is on the Watch List to potentially turn blue should polling in the state break toward the Illinois senator in any meaningful over the last nine days of 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 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.

Still, none of these polls did anything to in anyway change the electoral vote distribution on the map above. Obama continues to hold 338-200 advantage over McCain. And as we enter the final full work week before the election -- a week that will see Obama on TV Wednesday night before the nation -- the "I" word cannot be that far from being broken out. I don't like talking about inevitability, but to not talk about it in the context of a couple (and maybe one more) of polls showing a much closer race in Arizona, is a mistake. I like competition as much as the next guy -- and wouldn't mind seeing the 2008 election throw us all another curveball -- but we may be better served heading into this week talking about the effects these poll numbers may have on turnout and the final margin on November 4.

I've got one scenario analysis in the works from Scott that I'll roll out as the week moves on. It doesn't directly get at the sorts of things I'm angling at, but it does give us some further insight into why we are seeing what we are seeing from the McCain campaign from a strategic standpoint currently.

The Watch List*
Coloradofrom Obama lean
to Toss Up Obama
Floridafrom Toss Up Obama
to Toss Up McCain
Georgiafrom Strong McCain
to McCain lean
from Obama lean
to Strong Obama
Missourifrom Toss Up McCain
to Toss Up Obama
Montanafrom McCain lean
to Toss Up McCain
New Mexicofrom Obama lean
to Strong Obama
Virginiafrom Toss Up Obama
to Obama lean
*Weighted Average within a fraction of a point of changing categories.

It seems silly to keep harping on it, but Missouri and Florida are still the states to watch when new polling is out. They are the states who's electoral votes would most likely switch sides of the partisan line. You can add in Virginia to the mix as well, but the Old Dominion is threatening to move into the Obama lean category. One thing is for sure, we'll likely have a lot to sift through tomorrow, including another round of battleground polling from Rasmussen in the late afternoon and of course, that Arizona State/Cronkite poll from the Grand Canyon state.

Nine days left.

Recent Posts:
The Electoral College Map (10/26/08)

Early Voting and McCain's Home-Stretch Strategy

The Electoral College Map (10/25/08)


Jack said...

I would never say "I told you so" — I'm just not that kind of guy — but in the Obama landslide thread I did suggest that Arizona could go blue in an extreme case. It would be nice as revenge for Tennessee 2000 (and by the way, Gore won the electoral vote that year too).

The Georgia poll is nice too; another pollster that tends to lean Republican puts it in single digits.

Josh Putnam said...

What? You didn't want to link to that, Jack?

Arizona has been underpolled as most of the home states have been this cycle. And it has been a bit of an anomaly in that pocket of states between California and Texas. Throw out Utah, and Arizona is the only red state in that Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico group of states. The same sort of demographic changes have been happening there, but the state had been insulated by McCain's presence on the ballot and the lack of polling information. But now it looks as if even Arizona is not immune to the changes to the dynamics of the race brought about by the economic downturn.

I suspect that if Obama wins, and McCain doesn't opt for a repeat four years from now (No, I don't think that's likely, but I felt the need to say it.), then Arizona will be purple to blue.

...if the economy isn't still in the tank and Al Qaeda hasn't opened up bases in the US.

Speaking of pollsters with Republican house effects -- to put it in the 538 vernacular -- Zogby has some non-internet numbers up in some battleground states this morning. Even with that 2004 baseline built in, Obama has leads in 6 of the 8 states surveyed. A day after McCain touted the firm's numbers on Meet the Press, this data isn't a good sign for the GOP.

SarahLawrenceScott said...

And Rasmussen has Arizona down to 5 points...

Jack said...

I didn't link to my comment as I wasn't sure at the time how to link to an individual comment (I have since figured it out).

I've been thinking about Arizona a bit too in regards to where it would fall had McCain not been on the ballot, and what its future is. The demographic changes do suggest purple-to-blue, as you suggest. The high Hispanic and native populations should make a difference, and the state did go for Clinton in 1996. But it might be a bit slow to switch over; a number of other factors seem to help Republicans. What we might have in a few years is a state that based on its demographics should favor Democrats, but in reality does not as much as the demographics might suggest.