But Arizona wasn't all there was to the red state tightening. Montana and North Dakota along with Georgia -- all states the Obama campaign had targeted earlier in the year with their initial general election ad buy -- are all closing toward a dead heat at just the right time for Obama (or the worst time if you're McCain). Montana and North Dakota were already designated as McCain lean states, but both Arizona and Georgia are closing in on that distinction as well. Given where we've set the category thresholds in the post-debate, closing argument portion of the race, that seems like a pretty large margin to overcome. However, if Tuesday turns into a bandwagon effect election Obama may be able to push into those states -- the leans plus Arizona and Georgia. But that is likely the ceiling of what Obama can achieve on November 4. [I'll open it up the comments section for folks to weigh in on what they suspect is the Obama floor for Tuesday. Is it over 270 electoral votes now, or is that too extreme?]
|Changes (Oct. 31)|
|Michigan||Obama lean||Strong Obama|
|New Mexico||Obama lean||Strong Obama|
But as was the case with Thursday's poll releases, Friday was full of blue states moving even further into Obama territory with nary a hint of movement toward McCain. Again, not good news for the McCain campaign. Even in upset scenarios, you'd like to the have at least something meaningful trending your way during the last 96 hours or so of the campaign. There is absolutely no consistent let up in the support level for Obama in what is now the most crucial state to John McCain's chances, Pennsylvania.
Even with Pennsylvania, McCain is up against the wall with the way the data shakes out after Friday. Both Michigan and New Mexico shift into the strong Obama category bringing the Illinois senator's total of electoral votes in just that category to 264 -- six shy of a victory. And that's not even counting any of the lean states or toss up states where Obama is ahead. If McCain were to win Pennsylvania but lose those Obama leans -- Colorado and Virginia -- that would put Obama just five electoral votes short of the goal. And oddly enough, as Scott points out, Nevada represents that exact number of electoral votes. With the high number of early voters in the Silver state trending Democratic, the door is quickly slamming on McCain before election day rolls around.
|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.
As it stands now, Obama is in a very comfortable position in this race. His lead in our projections still stands at 338-200, and the fact that the dark blue color of the Obama strong states has now stretched to the middle column of the Electoral College Spectrum is indicative of the just how far McCain will have to come to win this. It would be a "from out of of nowhere moment" to be sure; one far outpacing either McCain's comeback from the depths of summer 2007 to claim the GOP nomination or the New Hampshire performance in 2000.
|The Watch List*|
|Arizona||from Strong McCain||to McCain lean|
|Florida||from Toss Up Obama||to Toss Up McCain|
|Georgia||from Strong McCain||to McCain lean|
|Michigan||from Strong Obama||to Obama lean|
|Missouri||from Toss Up McCain||to Toss Up Obama|
|Nevada||from Toss Up Obama||to Obama lean|
|New Hampshire||from Strong Obama||to Obama lean|
|New Mexico||from Strong Obama||to Obama lean|
|North Carolina||from Toss Up McCain||to Toss Up Obama|
|Ohio||from Toss Up Obama||to Obama lean|
|Virginia||from Obama lean||to Toss Up Obama|
|West Virginia||from McCain lean||to Strong McCain|
|*Weighted Average within a fraction of a point of changing categories.|
That's what it is going to take for McCain to win it seems. There just isn't that much time and there just aren't enough crucial states trending in his direction for a McCain victory to seem feasible. Even if all the most likely moves occurred -- those on the Watch List above -- it would be a wash. McCain would win Florida back but lose Missouri and North Carolina in the process. [Yes, North Carolina is now not only on the Watch List for a potential switch into the blue, but it is also the closest of the McCain states at this point, passing Missouri for that honor.] That's a net gain of one electoral vote for McCain. And that's just not going to do it.
Happy Halloween from FHQ
The Electoral College Map (10/31/08)
A November Surprise Scenario