Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Electoral College Map (10/8/08)

Debate day, part III brought not only the town hall meeting from Nashville last night, but 19 new polls from 12 different states. Again, not a lot of red to be had, and that is an ominous sign for the McCain campaign given that most of the states represented are battleground states or perceived battlegrounds. Alaska still looks like a gimme for the Arizona senator and traditionally red Indiana is favoring him as well, though not to the level some may have thought entering this election year. There is also some relatively positive news for McCain in North Carolina, where Survey USA shows him up 3 points. The downside to that is that along with last week's ARG poll -- one that found the same margin -- are the only ones since about mid-September to show McCain ahead.

New Polls (Oct. 7)
StatePollMargin
Alaska
Rasmussen
+15
California
Survey USA
+16
Colorado
Insider Advantage
+6
Florida
Mason-Dixon/NBC
+2
Indiana
Research 2000
0
Indiana
CNN
+2
Minnesota
Minnesota Public Radio
+14
Nevada
Research 2000
+7
Nevada
Insider Advantage
+2
New Hampshire
CNN
+8
North Carolina
CNN
+1
North Carolina
Survey USA
+3
Ohio
CNN
+3
Ohio
Public Policy Polling
+6
Pennsylvania
Survey USA
+15
Pennsylvania
Rasmussen
+13
Wisconsin
CNN
+8
Wisconsin
Survey USA
+10
Wisconsin
Rasmussen
+10

Well, that's it for McCain and the rest is all Obama. Pennsylvania is rapidly being taken off the table. Double digit margin after double digit margin keep popping up in the polling of the Keystone state. That trend seems to be stretching to New Hampshire and Wisconsin as well. Just yesterday I was thinking about how tightly compact Wisconsin's polling has been -- relative to say, Minnesota -- and now even the Badger state is shifting toward Obama.

Changes (Oct. 7)
StateBeforeAfter
Nevada
Toss Up McCain
Toss Up Obama
Ohio
Toss Up McCain
Toss Up Obama

But the trend goes beyond the states around the line between Obama toss ups and Obama lean states. The recent rise in the polls has also been applied to the closest of states. Nevada and Ohio join Virginia on the blue side of the partisan line. The effect of this cannot be understated. Not only does that provide Obama with an added cushion in terms of how his campaign strategizes about the race, but it pushes him past 300 projected electoral votes. This cushion can certainly be discussed in terms of states, but in actuality it should probably be applied to electoral college votes. At 311, Obama has 41 electoral votes to give while still being able to claim outright victory.
[Click Map to Enlarge]

Obama remains relatively safe -- outside of toss up status -- in states totaling 260 electoral votes, but now has 25 additional votes in the blue with Nevada and Ohio switching over. Again, the discussion has shifted rapidly from one focused on how far McCain could push into Obama territory (Could he pick up Pennsylvania and Michigan, for example.) to one centered on how far down that middle column on the Electoral College Spectrum below Obama can extend. Florida, Indiana and Missouri are right there. And North Carolina is similar to Virginia, but how similar is the question. Geographically speaking, Indiana and Missouri are both in kind of a border region between a group of blue states and another group of red states. But that rule doesn't really apply to Florida. Then again, the Sunshine state is closer than either of the other two in our rankings. Are those realistic "gets" for Obama? Perhaps, but we'll have to see what transpires over this next month to find out.

The Electoral College Spectrum*
HI-4
(7)**
ME-4
(157)
NH-4
(264/278)
MT-3
(158)
LA-9
(67)
VT-3
(10)
WA-11
(168)
CO-9***
(273/274)
ND-3
(155)
KY-8
(58)
RI-4
(14)
IA-7
(175)
VA-13
(286/265)
GA-15
(152)
KS-6
(50)
MD-10
(24)
OR-7
(182)
NV-5
(291/252)
TX-34
(137)
TN-11
(44)
DE-3
(27)
NJ-15
(197)
OH-20
(311/247)
MS-6
(103)
NE-5
(33)
NY-31
(58)
MN-10
(207)
FL-27
(338/227)
AK-3
(97)
AL-9
(28)
IL-21
(79)
WI-10
(217)
IN-11
(349/200)
AR-6
(94)
WY-3
(19)
CT-7
(86)
PA-21
(238)
MO-11
(360/189)
SC-8
(88)
OK-7
(16)
MA-12
(98)
NM-5
(243)
NC-15
(375/178)
AZ-10
(80)
ID-4
(9)
CA-55
(153)
MI-17
(260)
WV-5
(163)
SD-3
(70)
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 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.

Finally, the Watch List is only slightly different today than it was yesterday. Obviously, Nevada and Ohio are still close enough to be vulnerable for Obama. The momentum, however, is certainly with the Illinois senator. The big news is that Pennsylvania is off the list. The Keystone state has moved outside of the 3-5 point range. With the graduated average margin there now above five, Pennsylvania has even jumped New Mexico above on the Spectrum. Was McCain's Michigan move last week designed to be more aggressive in Pennsylvania? If so, it isn't working. Not yet at least. Those resources may be better utilized in states like Virginia and Florida.

The Watch List*
StateSwitch
Floridafrom Toss Up McCain
to Toss Up Obama
Iowafrom Strong Obama
to Obama lean
Michiganfrom Obama lean
to Toss Up Obama
Nevadafrom Toss Up Obama
to Toss Up McCain
New Hampshirefrom Toss Up Obama
to Obama lean
New Jerseyfrom Obama lean
to Strong Obama
North Carolinafrom Toss Up McCain
to McCain lean
North Dakotafrom Strong McCainto McCain lean
Ohiofrom Toss Up Obama
to Toss Up McCain
Oregonfrom Obama lean
to Strong Obama
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.

With last night's debate not really changing much, McCain is seeminly up against it in this race. The media is set to jump on any move toward negativity that the campaign makes and with just one more debate left, McCain is running out of opportunites to make the case that Obama is the risky choice. Then again, Obama only seems to be helping the combat that charge in these debates.


Recent Posts:
Live Blog and Open Thread: 2nd Presidential Debate: Town Hall Meeting

The Electoral College Map (10/7/08), Part II: The Changes

The Electoral College Map (10/7/08)

24 comments:

Wayne said...

Great post.

The electorate is really solidifying behind Obama and the Democrats. I wonder if we will see much volatility in the last month of the campaign following 2004 and 200? I don't think we will unless there is some sort of foreign policy game changer or Osama bin Laden is found or something (:P)

Robert said...

I agree that it looks difficult for McCain/Palin, but 27 days ago we saw a very different map than we have now, and we have that many days between now and the election.

Josh Putnam said...

Let me attempt to find a middle ground here and place this in a political science context. [I know, I can't help myself.] I have to agree with Nate at 538's assessment of Obama's ceiling today. How much further can Obama go up?

[I should also add that a similar point was made over at the blog of the Princeton Election Consortium over the weekend.]

I suspect that we'll see a narrowing effect in play as we traverse the last 27 days of the race. This is a model that James Campbell at SUNY-Buffalo has been using for a while now. And it fits in with what both Nate and Sam over at PEC are talking about. Recall that Obama peaked toward the end of June and the beginning of July and that the race had narrowed to a virtual tie at the outset of convention season.

McCain had the upper hand after that, but I suspect that that lead would have gradually worked its way back to that pre-convention level.

...if not for the economic crisis. That shook the race up [Maybe you noticed. Ha!]. The difference is that the convention bounce is expected to fade, but the economic situation, excuse me, fundamentally changed the race. So while I think the margin between McCain and Obama will draw closer over the next few weeks, it won't likely be to that virtual tie we saw in mid-August.

Of course that assumes something else doesn't come along to change the race...again.

Never say never with this election.

SarahLawrenceScott said...

This seems like a good time for idle speculation. :)

So here's a possible "shake-up" scenario:

The McCain-Palin ticket starts pushing themselves as a quasi-co-presidency. They spin Palin's problems as arising from being initially pummeled by the MSM, but now she's decided enough is enough. She challenges McCain on a number of issues of interest to the base, and he agrees to a high-profile "conversion" on one of them--probably ANWR. Palin goes a-mavericking, and McCain focuses on foreign policy and a few other issues. The idea would be to get the base in a frenzied froth, take some independents who see a Hollywood movie come to life in the Palin story, and somehow hold on to a few moderates by using McCain as the counter to Palin.

The whole thing would be so jury-rigged it would be bound to fail, but it sure would provide one last twist. And it's not made up out of whole cloth; their campaign has been moving in that direction. The question is how far they decide to take it.

Wayne said...

I agree that there will be a narrowing, that is somewhat inevitable as undecideds come around to backing somebody.

I think a realistic situation is something similar to what the map is today. I don't feel that some other projections (538.com or electoral-vote.com) are realistic in the context of what will happen on the day actual day although they do accurately predict the current situation.

I feel a realistic situation is something on the lines of Kerry States + New Mexico + Colorado + Ohio or Florida (or both) and possibly Virginia. I don't think states like North Carolina, Indiana, Missouri or Georgia will realistically flip blue although they will be narrow.

Jack said...

Scott: if McCain starts looking like he's listening to Palin that would be suicidal. And frightening.

Josh Putnam said...

Scott,
I'm trying to see the other side to this one [in true devil's advocate fashion]. On the one hand McCain would probably not want to compromise his positions to do something like that. On the other, he is very competitive and is this close to the White House. That dichotomy is a recipe for a Greek tragedy.

Jack said...

McCain not wanting to compromise his postions? This isn't 2000, Josh.

Josh Putnam said...

Wayne,
I'll take that as a compliment. Thanks.

And don't forget about Iowa. Kerry states + NM + CO + IA. That's all Obama needs.

I've come around on VA as a possibility, but I'm glad that our average hasn't moved NC in too far given recent polling. I'm not sold on the Tar Heel going for Obama. But it will certainly be closer there than it has been in a long, long time.

Josh Putnam said...

Jack,
I actually thought and thought about that comment for a while. I typed McCain 2000 at least three times and deleted it.

McCain 2000 he is not. But McCain 2000 never got this far either. I suspect if George Bush had keeled over during the primaries and McCain had gotten the nomination, we would have seen something of a move away from that McCain a lot sooner.

But hey, that image from 2000 made him the best possible candidate for the GOP given the conditions during this cycle. He's ridden it pretty far.

Jack said...

"McCain 2000 he is not. But McCain 2000 never got this far either. I suspect if George Bush had keeled over during the primaries and McCain had gotten the nomination, we would have seen something of a move away from that McCain a lot sooner."

Reasonable reasoning [I'm too lazy to rephrase that], but if McCain had gotten the nomination, then that would have meant that Mavericky McCain was working, and there would have been no need to be Sell Out On All My Principles McCain.

Anonymous said...

"Wayne,
I'll take that as a compliment. Thanks."

Conservative models do have their advantages. I do like going to other sites and seeing Obama with upwards of 360 electoral votes (as a partisan) but I don't feel it is realistic on election day.

"And don't forget about Iowa. Kerry states + NM + CO + IA. That's all Obama needs."

Oops, quite right. Because of the strong polling in Iowa all year, to a greater degree of Kerry states like Pennsylvania or Michigan, I pretty much assumed in my head that it was a Kerry state.

"I've come around on VA as a possibility, but I'm glad that our average hasn't moved NC in too far given recent polling. I'm not sold on the Tar Heel going for Obama. But it will certainly be closer there than it has been in a long, long time"

Agreed.

Wayne said...

^^^^^oops, that is actually Wayne

Jack said...

Anonymous: "I do like going to other sites and seeing Obama with upwards of 360 electoral votes."

I thought you were a lifelong Republican supporting Chuck Baldwin?

And I do personally think there's a pretty good chance that Obama will get that many. If I was to predict the result of each state, I'd have Obama at 338, with 376 the maximum.

Josh Putnam said...

I don't want to please our liberal readers too much by going back down the macabre avenue I pursued before. However, in the 2000 election counterfactual I constructed, Bush had a presence in the race. His keeling over and involuntarily ceding the nomination to McCain wouldn't meant that "maverick" was working for McCain.

Now, if Bush hadn't existed McCain may have been able to go that route and have been successful. Perhaps he was just doing that to counter Bush, though. Now we are in "if a tree falls in the woods and no one's there to hear it, does it make a sound" territory. And that strays awfully close to a James David Barber typology of presidents and presidential aspirants.

Wayne said...

"I thought you were a lifelong Republican supporting Chuck Baldwin?"

Heh, no thanks.

"And I do personally think there's a pretty good chance that Obama will get that many. If I was to predict the result of each state, I'd have Obama at 338, with 376 the maximum."

378 = Kerry States + Iowa + Missouri + Indiana + Ohio + Florida + New Mexico + Colorado + Virginia + North Carolina + Nevada + Omaha.

Possible but not very likely at all.

338 is believable if his numbers keep solid although I feel it is an upper bound for Him.

Jack said...

Yeah, I don't consider 376 likely either. I think that if the race tightens, MO and IN will go Democratic, and Omaha really only goes blue in a landslide. A little more tightening puts NC in the McCain column.

Florida is probably next to shift, but even that would bring Obama down to only 311. To get any further than that would require a fundamental shift in the race.

Wayne said...

"Yeah, I don't consider 376 likely either. I think that if the race tightens, MO and IN will go Democratic, and Omaha really only goes blue in a landslide. A little more tightening puts NC in the McCain column.

Florida is probably next to shift, but even that would bring Obama down to only 311. To get any further than that would require a fundamental shift in the race."

I will take a leaf out of McCain's book by saying: the fundamentals of what we agree on is strong.

Jack said...

Oops, just realized I made quite a mistake there. I should have said, "I think that if the race tightens, MO and IN will go Republican."

SarahLawrenceScott said...

I know that on average the race usually tightens coming in to election day, but I'd like to see statistics if that's true in blow out years, and particularly years which start close and build toward blow out. I know, I know--small N. But I'd just like to know how universal that trend is. At 49:46, I can imagine "buyer's remorse" settling in. But at 51:44, and widening? There's such a thing as a bandwagon effect, too.

Jack said...

I feel so stupid.

For some reason, when you said, "keeled over," I thought you meant that Bush's campaign deteriorated. It never struck me that you meant "died."

SarahLawrenceScott said...

I've looked up the answer to my own question, by discovering the Gallup trends from previous years.

1988 looked the most like this year in terms of polling, and the candidate who started to poll away in October widened their lead at the end.

Over all, some elections close, and some widen. It looks to me like the much vaunted "Presidential elections close toward the end" rule is based on an average that includes the extreme case of 1968, which was clearly an anomalous year.

It's certainly not a compelling trend that should color are expectations significantly for this year.

Josh Putnam said...

Scott,
I think you brought up the key point here. This idea of averaging. So we see a general trend here when all the elections are averaged together, but when we differentiate between types of elections is when we see some differences. I've got the data from Tom Holbrook from the 1984-1992 elections in front of me.

1984 was the blowout, but there was a very small oscillation around the 15 or 16% mark (margin between the two candidates) through that entire year. Yes, that's just one election, but there was no narrowing effect.

And you're right, 1988 is the most like this year (...as 2008 stands now). Since we have entered the general election phase, I think the tendency has been to think of 2008 as akin to 1980 in a lot of ways. During the primaries, though, it resembled 1988 an awful lot and there are parallels between the two in the general election as well.

Most importantly, it is an "open seat" election, so there is a need to get to know the candidates. In that scenario, the environment counts. The first Bush was following a popular president in 1988 and the opposite is true for McCain now. Throw in the economy and Obama has a real advantage. And it only took an economic meltdown to get his poll numbers to where they "should" be according to some of the forecasts.

Josh Putnam said...

Jack,
I had to go with the extreme example there. The GOP was so behind Bush in 2000 that it is nearly impossible for me to think of that campaign deteriorating. It was too well run (...against that field of candidates).