Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Electoral College Map (10/28/08)

NOTE: Folks, I apologize for the delay getting today's map up. Last night's debate (further details forthcoming) on campus here at UGA threw me off my typical routine. I'll make it up to you with some interesting stuff throughout the afternoon. Anyway...

Well, we had plenty of polling to sift through on Monday. A total of 33 polls in 17 states -- including multiple surveys from states like Florida, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia -- provided enough new data to potentially shake up the graduated weighted averages here at FHQ. The picture created by the full day's set of polls, though, was one that continued the trend we have seen across most of the recent polling: Obama is ahead and seemingly comfortably so in enough states to be able win a week from today. Of course, as we've seen here for the last several weeks, Obama has been over the 270 electoral vote mark with or without any of the toss up states. Nothing on Monday changed that. However, the new polling did reposition several states on the Electoral College Spectrum below in some noteworthy ways.

New Polls (Oct. 27)
StatePollMargin
Arizona
Rasmussen
+8
Arizona
N. Arizona Univ.
+5
California
Rasmussen
+27
Colorado
Rasmussen/FOX
+4
Florida
Suffolk
+5
Florida
Rasmussen/FOX
+4
Florida
Zogby
+0.3
Florida
Datamar
+5
Indiana
Zogby
+6.2
Iowa
Marist
+10
Missouri
Rasmussen/FOX
+1
Missouri
Zogby
+2.5
Missouri
Survey USA
0
Nevada
Zogby
+4.2
New Hampshire
Marist
+5
New Hampshire
UNH
+16
New York
Siena
+31
North Carolina
Rasmussen/FOX
+1
North Carolina
Zogby
+3.3
North Carolina
Public Policy Polling
+1
Ohio
Rasmussen/FOX
+4
Ohio
Zogby
+4.6
Oklahoma
TvPoll
+26.8
Oregon
Survey USA
+19
Pennsylvania
Temple University
+9
Vermont
Research 2000
+21
Virginia
Washington Post
+8
Virginia
Zogby
+7.2
Virginia
Survey USA
+9
Virginia
VCU
+11
Virginia
Rasmussen/FOX
+4
Washington
University of Washington
+21
West Virginia
Zogby
+9.9

The first thing about this series of polling is how overwhelmingly blue it is. Oklahoma, we can understand. And Indiana and West Virginia certainly look better for McCain in light of the Zogby polls in each. Indiana especially, is heading in the right direction after those two blue polls in the Hoosier state last week. But McCain's home state of Arizona looks bleak. Not Gore/Tennessee in 2000 bleak, but bleak nonetheless. Both states were/are trending away from their favorite sons, but Tennessee was further away from Gore in 2000 than Arizona is from McCain in 2008. Still, while single digits aren't ideal, the numbers Monday (+8 and +5 for McCain) were better than they were on Sunday (+2 and +4 for McCain). The Grand Canyon state's average is now under 10 points, though. Missouri, too, with each passing day, continues to inch closer and closer to the partisan line and a switch over into the blue. Regardless of our measure here, the Show-Me state is looking like as close to a dead heat as we may have next week. The last week of polling in Missouri has been dominated by one point margins in both directions.
[Click Map to Enlarge]

I'll get back to Missouri towards the end today, but let's look at the effect all those blue polls in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia had. Obviously, all are moving toward Obama at this point, but each had different starting points. Virginia's shift down the stretch has been notable. While it has been a toss up throughout, the Old Dominion was on the other side of both Ohio and Nevada on the McCain side of the partisan line not that long ago (during the last week of September). Virginia has switched from being a state that wasn't even on the Watch List -- state closest to changing categories -- as a possible switch into the Obama column to a state that is within a couple hundredths of a point of moving into the Obama lean category. If that Rasmussen/FOX poll (the poll most recently in the field in the state) of the state had shown a 5 point margin instead of a 4 point margin, Virginia would be a darker shade of blue today.

Florida's starting point was even further into McCain territory than Virginia, but the Sunshine state's shift has been nearly as large; switching from a state that treaded the line between the toss up and lean categories on the red side of the ledger to now being within half a point of moving off the Watch List into the "safer" area of the toss up category. Of course, that +/-3 point area is called toss up for a reason, but Florida's position switch has been a steadily consistent work-in-progress. Now, whether the Sunshine state ends up in the blue on the evening of November 4 is far from a certain outcome, but the fact that that is even possible now, given the state's position in the race over the summer is saying something. It was moderately controversial to question whether the state was a toss up then.

North Carolina and Ohio, too, have moved closer to or into Obama territory since the economic downturn during the latter half of September. The recent polling backs this up to some extent. In Ohio, the margin has spread out a little, while in North Carolina, there was a jump toward Obama that has since contracted some and settled into an area that puts the Tar Heels state on a trajectory similar to that of Missouri's -- trending toward a dead heat at the right time for Obama and the wrong time for McCain.

The Electoral College Spectrum*
HI-4
(7)**
ME-4
(157)
NH-4
(264/278)
ND-3
(160)
LA-9
(67)
VT-3
(10)
WA-11
(168)
CO-9***
(273/274)
WV-5
(157)
KY-8
(58)
NY-31
(41)
OR-7
(175)
VA-13
(286/265)
GA-15
(152)
KS-6
(50)
IL-21
(62)
NJ-15
(190)
OH-20
(306/252)
AZ-10
(137)
TN-11
(44)
RI-4
(66)
IA-7
(197)
NV-5
(311/232)
SD-3
(127)
NE-5
(33)
MD-10
(76)
MN-10
(207)
FL-27
(338/227)
MS-6
(124)
AL-9
(28)
MA-12
(88)
PA-21
(228)
MO-11
(349/200)
TX-34
(118)
WY-3
(19)
CA-55
(143)
WI-10
(238)
NC-15
(364/189)
AK-3
(84)
ID-4
(16)
DE-3
(146)
NM-5
(243)
IN-11
(375/174)
AR-6
(81)
OK-7
(12)
CT-7
(153)
MI-17
(260)
MT-3
(163)
SC-8
(75)
UT-5
(5)
*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 the battle is being waged over this last week of the campaign in four Bush states says an awful lot about the state of the race. Sure, the McCain campaign was in Iowa over the weekend, but the numbers there aren't that promising. But the Hawkeye state was red four years ago too. The last hope state for McCain is Pennsylvania and that is really the only Kerry state being contested at this point (other than New Hampshire). And we see this on the map above, a map that continues to show Senator Obama ahead 338-200 with Missouri and North Carolina drawing closer as the race itself draws to a close.

But the big movers of the day were among the safe states. New York, California, Oregon and Washington all jumped up the rankings on the Electoral College Spectrum. Meanwhile, Arizona moved as well, just in a direction opposite of what the McCain campaign might like. Arizona has now joined Georgia to form a 'tweener group here at FHQ. Both are trending toward increased competitiveness, but are stuck on the low end of the strong McCain category. However, there is some distance between Arizona and Mississippi and between Georgia and West Virginia. Regardless, though each is moving toward Obama, neither is likely to jump over to Obama in the next week. That imaginary line between Arizona and Mississippi South Dakota is one to make note of, though. Should the results of the election move into the landslide arena, that is likely the point to which Obama can stretch his coalition of states. The closer you get to that partisan line, however, the more likely it is that the Arizona senator could peel off any of those McCain states.

The Watch List*
StateSwitch
Coloradofrom Obama lean
to Toss Up Obama
Floridafrom Toss Up Obama
to Toss Up McCain
Georgiafrom Strong McCain
to McCain lean
Michigan
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.

On the Watch List, Florida and Missouri are still the states to watch most closely when new polling is released. Missouri's magic number is now down to 9 (from 11), meaning that it would take a poll with a margin of 9 points in favor of Obama to shift the state into the blue. Alternately, Florida would have to give McCain a 13 point margin in the next poll to bring the Sunshine state back into the red in FHQ's averages. Comparatively, Missouri's magic number is shrinking while Florida's is growing. Neither can be seen as welcome news for the McCain campaign.


Recent Posts:
Debate Tonight

The Electoral College Map (10/27/08)

The Electoral College Map (10/26/08)

7 comments:

Robert said...

I suspect that the problems about voting day in Virginia are not part of an ACORN plot.

http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2008/10/28/virginia-trying-to-combat-misinformation-about-election-day/

Wasn't there something like this going on in VA during the primaries?

Josh Putnam said...

Here's that link from Rob.

I don't know about during the primaries, but there was this discussion in Virginia over the summer.

It must be crunch time. Voting on November 5! That's great.

Jack said...

That's not exactly a new trick. I've heard of people sending flyers that certain areas vote the next week.

But this flyer is even better. While the flyers I spoke of at the beginning of my comment were sent to Democratic areas, they still would suppress a few Republican votes as well. The ones Rob posted avoid that nicely.

I'm surprised Democrats haven't started sending flyers like that to low-educated rural areas. I guess all Democrats just have too much integrity.

SarahLawrenceScott said...

There's another state that McCain is contesting that's been overlooked for some time: Wisconsin. It's actually further down the electoral spectrum than Pennsylvania, and that also can be seen in other projections...the polls are just a tad closer there than Pennsylvania.

And, like Pennsylvania, there's not early voting, which gives McCain a better chance of pulling off an upset. Why McCain seems so fixated on Iowa is a mystery to me, but Wisconsin has to be considered in play...at least, in the same sense that Georgia is.

Josh Putnam said...

Yeah, I debated throwing Wisconsin in with that discussion. And I suppose that was more a gut feeling then. But I'll attempt to back it up with some actual data to defend its exclusion.

Let me preface this by saying that you are absolutely right, Scott. Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are similar in demographic make up and both lack early voting. The difference in the two, to me, is the consistency of the polling all year in Wisconsin. Sure, there's been a fair amount of volatility, but the crests and troughs of the movements have been muted compared to some other states.

Pennsylvania by comparison is a state that was obviously much more competitive into the late summer before jumping toward Obama following the Lehman collapse. So where the equilibrium has shifted upward in Wisconsin, there has been a fundamental change in Pennsylvania.

Does that mean that McCain's chances are any less in Wisconsin than they are in Pennsylvania? Maybe, maybe not. Which is harder to switch? A state that has maintained a fairly tight range of margins throughout or a state that has turned into a runaway train of late? That's a tough one. Momentum matters, to be sure, but there's also something to be said for the steady state that has existed in the Badger state.

Thanks for bringing this up. It was definitely worth clarifying and talking about.

MSS said...

"That imaginary line between Arizona and Mississippi is one to make note of, though."

So on which side of that line is South Dakota?

Josh Putnam said...

Touche, Matthew. I'd put it on the Mississippi side of the line at the moment. If the polling there (and we may not get that many more polls from the Mount Rushmore state) continues to come in in the mid- to upper single digits then it may join Arizona and Georgia on the other side.

Thanks for pointing that out.