Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Electoral College Map (11/1/08)

It must be crunch time because an atypically heavy day of polling on Friday gave us some last minute ideas about where this race for the White House is headed. There continues to be some tightening in some of the McCain states. The most troubling Obama margin closer continues to be John McCain's home state of Arizona. In the Grand Canyon state some of the margins continue to come in under the margin of error, meaning that if the shift of the +/- MOE was toward Obama, then the race would be a virtual tie. And that really isn't the final weekend news the Arizona senator would have envisioned for himself.

New Polls (Oct. 31)
AlaskaResearch 2000/Daily Kos
ArizonaResearch 2000/Daily Kos
ColoradoPublic Policy Polling
GeorgiaResearch 2000/Daily Kos
IndianaDowns/Survey USA
IowaResearch 2000
KentuckyResearch 2000/Daily Kos+15
MichiganPublic Policy Polling+13
MinnesotaPublic Policy Polling+16
MississippiResearch 2000/Daily Kos+13
MissouriInsider Advantage+3
MontanaResearch 2000/Daily Kos+4
New HampshireARG+15
New HampshireResearch 2000+7
New HampshireSurvey USA
New HampshireRasmussen
New JerseyFairleigh-Dickinson+18
New JerseySurvey USA
New MexicoPublic Policy Polling
North CarolinaCivitas
North CarolinaElon
North CarolinaInsider Advantage
North CarolinaResearch 2000/Daily Kos
North DakotaResearch 2000/Daily Kos
OhioOhio University
OregonHibbitts/Portland Tribune
OregonSurvey USA
OregonPublic Policy Polling
PennsylvaniaMuhlenberg College
WisconsinUniversity of Wisconsin
WyomingResearch 2000/Daily Kos

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)
MichiganObama leanStrong Obama
New MexicoObama leanStrong 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.
[Click Map to Enlarge]

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*
Arizonafrom Strong McCainto McCain lean
Floridafrom Toss Up Obamato Toss Up McCain
Georgiafrom Strong McCainto McCain lean
Michiganfrom Strong Obamato Obama lean
Missourifrom Toss Up McCainto Toss Up Obama
Nevadafrom Toss Up Obamato Obama lean
New Hampshirefrom Strong Obamato Obama lean
New Mexicofrom Strong Obamato Obama lean
North Carolinafrom Toss Up McCainto Toss Up Obama
Ohiofrom Toss Up Obamato Obama lean
Virginiafrom Obama leanto Toss Up Obama
West Virginiafrom McCain leanto 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.

Recent Posts:
Happy Halloween from FHQ

The Electoral College Map (10/31/08)

A November Surprise Scenario


Anonymous said...

Of the states on your chart from Colorado down to Indiana, the only thing I'm predicting different is that Nevada should be the state on top ahead of Colorado (Nevada is going to be the state Obama wins by the largest margin among the states I mentioned).

I think Virginia and Ohio are going to show very similar results on election day (Obama is going to win these 2 states by about the same margin of each other).

And Obviously I agree with the 338-200 electoral college count.

Very sad that we are going to have a very leftist/socialist government after the election.

Jack said...

Obama is a socialist? I wish.

Missouri seems to be exactly what it is on the map: A tossup possibly very, very slightly tilting McCain. As for other factors, the lack of early voting helps McCain, but his inferior ground game doesn't help.

NC seems to be going for Obama. ND is acting like a near-tossup again, and I'm getting fundraising emails from Obama and I believe a couple of liberal groups citing Obama's competitiveness in ND.

Arizona could easily be among the five closest states in this election. While I concur with Nate Silver that Obama's ad buy there is rather pointless, and think it would come off as a little arrogant, this is a clear sign of trouble for McCain, but certainly not the only one.

Anonymous said...

Electoral College Spectrum says NH has 5 electoral votes- should be 4.

Jack said...

Anonymous: Given Obama's strength in the Granite State, he has requested an extra electoral vote to be alloted to New Hampshire. Josh was so thrilled that he got a call from one of the presidential candidates that he immediately agreed.

Josh Putnam said...

Actually Jack, I broke out the ouija board last night for Halloween and was able to channel the Founders. [Well, most of them. Button Gwinnett absolutely refused to take part in anything that involved someone from UGA.]

They were rather displeased with the state of things in presidential electoral politics. What bothered them most, however, was the fact that there was still the potential for an electoral college tie. After considerable discussion they opted to go old school and allot one of the original 13 colonies an extra electoral vote. New Hampshire won the raffle.

Alright, I've had family in and out today. I was hoping to have had the analysis done and posted before everyone arrived, but that didn't happen. It'll be up shortly. Thanks for understanding.

SarahLawrenceScott said...


264 strong EV's for Obama.

That's also the total strong count at electoral-vote, which is on the opposite end of methodology from FHQ, using only the latest polls.

You've got the news that Obama's aunt is an illegal alien, but that's not going to transfer four points from Obama to McCain, which is pretty much what McCain needs.

Pennsylvania does appear to be tightening a bit. This shows that campaigning does matter: focusing large amounts of resources (both money and candidate time) on one state does move the numbers.

So--if McCain pushes and pushes and manages to somehow grab Pennsylvania, then what? Give Obama the other leans and strongs, because there's no comparable movement in any of those, and Obama's at 265. One more toss-up state and he wins anyway.

Nevada is up to 67% of the 2004 total vote, already. And Nevada has topped 50% Obama support in the averages. That sounds pretty close to an Obama lock.

McCain winning Pennsylvania would be a Dewey beats Truman level upset...and still wouldn't win him the presidency.

Robert said...

Anonymous and Jack,

My big fear is that the USA turns socialist. I spent 6 wonderful months in Australia, but I would not want to live there because I consider it to be a borderline socialist country. I do not believe that Obama is a socialist. If you look at countries that turn socialist voluntarily, a socialist regime is immediately proceeded by a right-wing regime (i.e. Tory). England has been plagued by socialism in reaction to Toryism. Neither Reagan nor the Bushes reached the heights of Toryism, but they are not that far off. If you look at every President we have had in the last 100 years, has either been a follower of the previous President or a reaction to it. Bush was a reaction to Clinton who was a reaction to Reagan and Bush who was a reaction to Carter who was a reaction to Nixon and Ford, etc., etc. The more conservative a regime becomes, the more liberal is the reaction. If Obama is as liberal or socialist as the Republicans portray him, we will get a much more conservative reaction to him which will probably lead to socialism. The strength of our political system in the USA is our ability to moderate our swings from left to right.

A President Obama can break this cycle from going out of control if he governs in a fashion that he has campaigned on to work across party lines. Clinton and Bush II both promised to work across party lines, but they did not. I think Obama has a better chance of breaking the cycle than McCain. We will see what happens.

Jack said...

To clarify, my "I wish Obama was a socialist" comment was an exaggeration to make a point. As a history major I like your analysis but your comment that each president being a reaction to or follower of the previous one seems to be largely inherent in the two-party system to me.

SarahLawrenceScott said...

I think Obama's ceiling is:

the toss-ups (375)
ND, MT (+6)
GA, AZ, SD (+28)
LA (+9)
2 congressional districts in NE (+2)

That gives 420 EV.

And no, I didn't include West Virginia even in a landslide. Unlike the other states, I can't see a reasonable mechanism to give Obama the surprise victory there. It may be close, but close doesn't count.

dneedle1 said...

Obama's floor is probably 291. All Kerry states (yes, including Pennsylvania) together with Iowa, Virginia, and the 3 western swingers, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada. Its really difficult to see McCain winning any of these states, except for a miracle charge in Pennsylvania, which, under my scenario, leaves Obama at exactly 270 electoral votes, thus at the whim of each elector.

I realize that including Nevada in an Obama FLOOR seems a bit ambitious, but he's been up outside the margin of error in most recent polls, and early voting has been significant. I suppose there's better than a 1% chance that McCain wins Nevada, but it would be a real shocker.

Ohio is perilously close to also being part of the Obama floor. However (oddly), the relatively low number of early votes there acording to, means his consistent narrow poll leads aren't as locked in as they are in Colorado or New Mexico.

Obama's realistic ceiling is 406 votes (all Kerry states, OH, Pa, VA, NC, GA, IN, Mo, IA, ND, MT, CO, NM, AZ and NV. This is, to say the very least, an improbable scenario, and probably requires a 12 point national victory, which even given blowout turnout of Obama's voters is just not likely. Georgia may well be close, but like Pennsylvania in the other direction, close will be no cigar. Arizona is obviously a longshot, and I have no foggy idea about North Dakota and Montana.

North Carolina is very doable, and Missouri is tough for sure, but not as tough as Georgia or Arizona.

On my blog I predicted 375 electoral votes for Obama. In my revised prediction, I'll have 364, switching Indiana back to McCain. I'm not at all sure about Indiana either. But North Carolina looks likely to go blue.

Jack said...


I really don't see how Obama could win Louisiana (despite that odd poll showing him down by 3) or South Dakota. NE-1 is possible, but there's a problem: While it's only slightly more Republican than NE-2 (R+11 vs. R+9) Obama has his campaign offices in NE-2, not NE-1, and I would think most of the NE-1 volunteers have been instructed to help out in Omaha or other states. Besides, NE-2 is smaller and easier to try to swing. 538 doesn't see much of a difference between Obama's chances of winning NE-2 (15%) and NE-1 (14%).

LA has never been close at all, though I suppose that's a state where African-American turnout could make a difference. And there hasn't been a poll showing SD closer than McCain +7 in a while, at least not that I can find.

Jack said...

I should put a number on the EVs in my ceiling scenario — it's 408.

dneedle1 said...

I suppose all of us are just as in the dark as everyone else regarding what the final turnout will be. Despite the huge early voting numbers, I actually expected even higher numbers. For shocker states such as Mississippi, Louisiana, or perhaps Georgia to really swing blue, there would have to be both breathtaking turnout among Obama's favorable groups and somewhat depressed turnout among base white GOP voters. This combination of turnout scenarios is possible I suppose, but I would be most surprised if it did. The GOP base will turn out.

SarahLawrenceScott said...

Jack--I've heard it suggested that people displaced by Katrina are a wildcard in Louisiana. But I agree it's the longest of longshots.

Thanks for the analysis of Nebraska, too--that's been hard for me to follow from afar. My hunch is that it's the kind of place where Obama could snatch one of them by an intense local ground effort, but you're right--that would probably mean surrendering the other.

My prediction in the DCW contest, by the way, is 394 EV.

Jack said...

Hmm, I'm not participating in the DCW contest for some reason, but I'm predicting 364. (Incidentally, I found out about FHQ from a comment on DCW. Perhaps it was yours?) My 364 come from the FHQ Obama states + NC + MO. I'm banking on groundgame for the last one.

I'm not going to make a popular vote prediction. If it is indeed 54.8% - 43.3%, I would probably project something around 400 EVs. That would be nice because then I'd only have to stress out about the congressional races and MN-senate on Election Day. (And NY's 17th Assembly District, because I've been working on a race there, but that doesn't count.)

Jack said...

By the way, was just looking at the Elon poll. They still are asking people whether they support the Republican or Democratic party for governor, senate and president. I'd really like to know why they're doing it that way.

Jack said...

Oh, and sorry for the three posts in a row, but I meant to ask - thought I did - why Gwinnett wouldn't be involved in anything involving UGA. I know he was a signer of the Declaration who was killed in a duel the next year, and yes, he was from Georgia, but what's the connection to UGA?

Wayne said...

"My big fear is that the USA turns socialist. I spent 6 wonderful months in Australia, but I would not want to live there because I consider it to be a borderline socialist country."

I was born and still live in Australia. We tax at a level which is very close to that of America. We do have things like free health care however we still opt for market choice by allowing a market oriented private hospital and health cover system which attracts tax rebates. This is the same in the field of schooling. We are not Europe by any means but our standard of living (3rd), economic growth (16 years since last recession) and low tax burden are well balanced combination in my opinion, and by no means socialist :).

Josh Putnam said...

I felt like I needed someone in abstention on that, and I couldn't resist ol' Button. There's no connection, he's just the first that came to mind

Robert said...


I admit that my view of Australia could be out of date. I spent my six months in your amazing country during the 1992 election under the Paul Keating regime. It just seemed to me that many of the reforms passed during the short administration of Gough Whitlam struck me, a liberal Democrat in the USA, as oddly socialist and not suitable for America. One of the strangest laws to me was paying time-an-a-half for vacations (or holidays as you refer to them) but only regular pay if you don't take them. That and other laws sounded rather socialist to me.

S.D. said...


Clinton didn't work across party lines? Huh? For six of his eight years in the White House the Republicans controlled both houses of Congress, yet he still passed welfare reform (in 1996) and still passed NAFTA (before the Republicans took Congress, but nonetheless more Republicans voted for NAFTA than did Democrats). How could he have accomplished these -- or much of anything else, for that matter -- without working across party lines?

Robert said...


OK, maybe I exaggerated, but he came in with the idea of working from the middle. He quickly abandoned that strategy and became very partisan which hurt him in many ways. After the Gingrich Revolution, he and the Republicans achieved some things when it suited their interests.

Jack said...


But isn't there a limit to how bipartisan one can be while still trying to promote one's agenda?

Robert said...

Sure you can promote your agenda, but to be really transformational and to keep the independents you need to work across borders. McCain has actually shown more evidence of this than Obama, but Obama has a stronger vision. Clinton was a moderate who could have had support from moderate Republicans, but he became too partisan to get his health-care plan and much of his agenda through. If Obama is going to be more than a one-term, liberal President, he is going to need to reach across party lines. If you read his books and listen to his speeches carefully, he could be either the transformational leader that Roosevelt and Reagan were or he could be an ideologue like Clinton and Bush II who talked unity but practiced partisanship. The state of the economy will not give Obama a second term unless he is reasonably bipartisan and can solve real problems.

Jack said...


That is true, and many seem to have trouble figuring out whether Obama is a hardcore liberal or a "transformational leader" as you put it. I've picked this up from both Democrats and some of the endorsements from conservative writers that Obama has picked up this year. But the more I read about Obama, though, the more I believe he has the ability to be "transformational". He has many of the intellectual and character traits that would allow him to be as much a "transformational leader" as anyone can be, while maintaining an agenda that is in some ways fairly liberal, but pragmatic and with plenty of room for moderation and bipartisan compromise. A tough balancing act indeed.

I'd also like to point out that for much of FDR's presidency there weren't many Republicans to be bipartisan with. After the 1936 Congressional elections, Democrats held a 334-88 majority in the House and a 76-16 majority in the Senate, not counting two Farmer-Labor senators and one Progressive who I assume supported the Democrats, and one Democrat-supported independent in George W. Norris. But FDR certainly clashed with Congress at times over the New Deal, court packing, etc..