But we can push this concept a little further. And, in fact, SarahLawrenceScott has done just that. If we were to look at the early voting information we have access to so far in this cycle and gauge whether that looks like it is on track to surpass the numbers from 2004, we can then make some basic assumptions that may give us a better idea of why the McCain folks are focusing where they are focusing.
First, let's look at the assumptions Scott has put together:
- Assume something triggers a 4% loss for Obama (this was roughly the size of the Rev. Wright/McCain clinches drop, the Palin drop, and Obama's "soft" support in current polls) whether an Obama revelation or some geopolitical. We'll call it a November surprise.
- Assume a 2.5% overperformance for Obama in early voting. In other words it is not that a greater proportion of his supporters vote early, but rather that GOTV would push his numbers up in a state that had 100% early voting.
- Assume 50% of undecideds who vote early go for Obama.
- Assume that after the surprise, just 20% of election day undecideds go for Obama.
If we take these new, post-November surprise state margins and apply the three-category thresholds that FHQ employs -- >7% = strong, 3-7% = lean, <3% = toss up -- we end up with a map that has toss ups that look an awful lot like the targets the McCain campaign has.
Virginia would flip back to McCain. Pennsylvania would be much more competitive than what the polls show, as would Ohio. And Florida and Wisconsin would look like dead heats. It could be argued that, well, those are the toss ups anyway. Well yeah, except Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin don't really fit the bill according to recent polling in each of those states. However, the goal is to consider not only the potential effect early voting has, but to ascertain whether strategically, the McCain campaign is hedging its bets, hoping for something akin to the George W. Bush drunk-driving revelation (Though, perhaps it would have to be bigger) that broke during the final weekend of the 2000 race, happening in this race. Maybe, maybe not, but the decision to focus resources on the three states I just brought up looks more rational in this light than it does on the surface.
NOTE: I want to thank Scott for putting this material together and sharing it will me. It really adds to the earlier early voting discussion we had.
National and State-Level Factors in US Presidential Election Outcomes: An Electoral College Forecast Model
The Electoral College Map (10/30/08)
Liveblog: The Obama Infomercial