Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Electoral College Map (11/2/08)

Saturday brought 17 new polls from 14 states, and of those polls, few did anything to in any way shake the weighted averages from their foundations. Sure, there was the ARG poll out of Arkansas showing the McCain margin there at just seven, but you'll excuse me if I push that result off to the side based on the "boy who cried wolf" rule. ARG has made it difficult at times to take their numbers seriously. Most generally hover around where other polling firms have the states, but they also have results like that West Virginia +8 for Obama a couple of weeks back. All this Arkansas poll is doing is getting Democrats' hopes up (kind of like Chuck Todd referencing the closeness of South Carolina for the second week in a row on Meet the Press). Now, I could be wrong, but the data/methodology FHQ is working with is telling us otherwise with just two days left in this thing.

New Polls (Nov. 1)
StatePollMargin
Arkansas
ARG
+7
California
Survey USA
+24
Florida
Datamar
0
Florida
Mason-Dixon
+2
Florida
ARG
+4
Indiana
ARG
0
Iowa
Selzer
+17
Kentucky*
Research 2000/Daily Kos
+17
Michigan
Selzer
+16
Minnesota*
Research 2000/Daily Kos
+15
New Jersey
Monmouth
+21
New Mexico
Survey USA
+7
Oregon*Research 2000/Daily Kos
+16
Oregon
Rasmussen
+12
Pennsylvania
ARG
+6
PennsylvaniaRasmussen
+4
South Dakota
Rasmussen
+9
Utah
Dan Jones
+25
Virginia
Mason-Dixon
+3
WashingtonUniversity of Washington
+12
*Denotes a poll that was included in yesterday's graphics but omitted from the table of polls.

With that in mind, the strong states form a baseline for each candidate. Obama is ahead in our count there by 259-152. Once the focus shifts beyond that to the next layer is where we have to add some caveats. There are relatively few lean states on both sides, but the ones on the McCain side of the partisan line are being brought up in terms of going to Obama more than the opposite (Obama leans to McCain) simply because of where the last minute momentum appears to be. In other words, the battle here at the end is in states that McCain is seeking to keep in red. If you look back to four years ago, John Kerry was in a similar position, playing defense to keep states like Pennsylvania in the blue. The discussion then is more about North Dakota or Montana going to Obama than McCain being able to peel off Colorado. But that may be more a function of McCain needing a state like Colorado than anything else. The media have certainly shifted from discussing those McCain scenarios to focus on where Obama can potentially run up the score.

Changes (Nov. 1)
StateBeforeAfter
New Mexico
Strong Obama
Obama lean

Yes, McCain is still targeting Pennsylvania and New Hampshire (beyond lean state status as strong states), but to reach 270 electoral votes, the Arizona senator will need one or both to get there. The 72 hour campaign, then, is centered a bit right of center on the Electoral College Spectrum below, among the toss up states and some/all of those McCain lean states. In terms of adding to that baseline, then, Obama is in a superior position relative to McCain. The Illinois senator is ahead in more toss up states, and should Tuesday turn into a wave election, he could swing the remaining toss up states on McCain side of the partisan line and stretch into the lean states as well. Some of the more optimistic scenarios have Obama extending into the strong McCain area as well.

[Incidentally, if you haven't checked out the comments from yesterday's map update, do so and weigh in on what you think both Obama's ceiling and floor are in terms of the number of electoral college votes. Administrative Note: No, that may not appear fair. But at this point, after we have in various ways covered/dismissed many of the possible McCain victory scenarios, and considering an Obama win is likely given the current data, the focus is on Obama's floor/ceiling rather than McCain's.]
[Click Map to Enlarge]

As it stands now, though, the tally remains steady at 338-200 for Obama. New Mexico shifted back into the Obama lean category a day after the PPP poll in the Land of Enchantment vaulted the state into the strong Obama category. This is one of the potential weaknesses of our methodology: that when the most heavily weighted poll is an outlier -- as that PPP poll seems to have been -- the average can jump more than it likely should and pull a state into another category in the process. That was the case with New Mexico yesterday/today. With a ten point spread between those last two polls (+17 to +7), there was going to be a drop in the average. And that drop brought the average to a point just below that strong/lean threshold (+6.98 for Obama).

The Electoral College Spectrum*
HI-4
(7)**
ME-4
(157)
NM-5
(264/279)
MT-3
(160)
AK-3
(61)
VT-3
(10)
OR-7
(164)
CO-9***
(273/274)
WV-5
(157)
KY-8
(58)
NY-31
(41)
NJ-15
(179)
VA-13
(286/265)
GA-15
(152)
TN-11
(50)
DE-3
(44)
WA-11
(190)
NV-5
(291/252)
AZ-10
(137)
KS-6
(39)
IL-21
(65)
IA-7
(197)
OH-20
(311/247)
SD-3
(127)
NE-5
(33)
RI-4
(69)
MN-10
(207)
FL-27
(338/227)
MS-6
(124)
AL-9
(28)
MD-10
(79)
WI-10
(217)
NC-15
(353/200)
AR-6
(118)
WY-3
(19)
MA-12
(91)
PA-21
(238)
MO-11
(364/185)
LA-9
(112)
ID-4
(16)
CA-55
(146)
MI-17
(255)
IN-11
(375/174)
TX-34
(103)
UT-5
(12)
CT-7
(153)
NH-4
(259)
ND-3
(163)
SC-8
(69)
OK-7
(7)
*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.

With all that said, New Mexico once again jumps to the top of the middle column on the Electoral College Spectrum, just above Colorado. Arkansas also moves up a couple of spots on the strength of that ARG poll (which may be the final word out of the Natural state). Other than that, though, the map and the Spectrum remain decidedly unaltered. Yes, our measure stresses a certain level of consistency, but at the same time, that steadiness has held pat in many cases for quite a while (Pardon the borderline redundance). That more than anything tells us something about the current state of the race with just 48 hours to go. Obama is not only in the lead, he has a lead that will going to be tough to overcome.

The Watch List*
StateSwitch
Arizonafrom Strong McCain
to McCain lean
Floridafrom Toss Up Obama
to Toss Up McCain
Georgiafrom Strong McCain
to McCain lean
Michigan
from Strong Obama
to Obama lean
Missourifrom Toss Up McCain
to Toss Up Obama
Nevadafrom Toss Up Obama
to Obama lean
New Hampshirefrom Strong Obama
to Obama lean
New Mexicofrom Obama lean
to Strong Obama
North Carolinafrom Toss Up McCain
to Toss Up Obama
Ohiofrom Toss Up Obama
to Obama lean
Virginiafrom Obama lean
to Toss Up Obama
West Virginiafrom McCain lean
to Strong McCain
*Weighted Average within a fraction of a point of changing categories.

As I said yesterday, even if the most likely changes were to occur -- those in the Watch List -- it would net McCain just one additional electoral vote. Even if only the most advantageous changes occur (Florida turns pink and Missouri and North Carolina stay McCain toss ups), that only knocks Obama's tally down to 311 electoral votes. And that, my friends, is still north of 270.

Two days left.

------------------------------------------------------
Postscript: I should make a note on Virginia. The last three polls (Friday's Rasmussen poll, Saturday's Mason-Dixon poll and today's Survey USA poll) all show the race in the Old Dominion narrowing. Virginia had been immune to the typical contraction that we see overall down the stretch, but may have entered into that phase now. While you may start seeing some other electoral college analysis sites start to come back, you likely won't see that here. All three polls are at or around the state's +3.33 average margin for Obama. In other words, Virginia is not that likely dip below that 3 point lean/toss up threshold between now and Tuesday.


Recent Posts:
The Electoral College Map (11/1/08)

Happy Halloween from FHQ

The Electoral College Map (10/31/08)

3 comments:

SarahLawrenceScott said...

The spectrum and watch list don't seem to have been updated with the New Mexico move.

Josh Putnam said...

No they haven't. I pushed publish too quickly. I'll have those fixed when the analysis goes up. Thanks Scott.

Anonymous said...

Keep in mind that of the tight states on your list Mason-Dixon and Rasmussen were VERY accurate in 2004 for those states in those firm's final polls.

I still say the Obama lean and Obama toss up states are going to list like this on election day (I think NM should be Obama strong):
NV
CO
VA (OH could go here)
OH (VA could go here)
FL

And I wouldn't count out McCain winning VA, OH, and FL by VERY slim margins.

Nevada and Colorado are a different story, they are in the tank for Obama because of the increasing Mexicans there.