Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Electoral College Map (6/15/08)

Welcome to the first Sunday update of FHQ's Electoral College map projections. Since the last map on Wednesday the following polls have been released:
GA: McCain +10
IA: Obama +7
MA: Obama +23
MI: Obama: +3
MN: Obama +13
NJ: Obama +6
NY: Obama +14
NC: McCain +2
OK: McCain +14
OR: Obama +8
WA: Obama +17
WA: Obama +18
WI: Obama +13

The shifts that emerge from these new polls are 1) Michigan slipping from a toss up to McCain to a toss up favoring Obama, 2) Washington jumping into the strong Obama category based on two polls with large margins in Obama's direction and 3) New Hampshire moving over to the Democratic side. Wait a minute, New Hampshire didn't have a new poll. Why the change? Transparency alert! I have made a slight shift in the averaging technique to account for the pace with which polls will be coming in now that the race has entered general election mode. In the past I had focused on the the three most recent polls and a discounted average of all other polls beyond those three. That method provided a conservative estimate of the changes from poll to poll and guarded against the volatility of focusing simply on the snapshot of just the most recent poll. However, that also caused a bit of a lag. Now that the general election campaign has begun and polls will be surfacing at a quicker pace that lag will not serve our purposes as well. As such, FHQ will begin looking at the most recent poll while discounting all the polls archived since Super Tuesday. The key to the change is to tread the balance between the average being responsive to changes in the polls but not responsive enough to be an ineffective measure given past information.

But that favors Obama! You're just doing this to help his numbers look better. Well, that is the case now. The change though is rather minuscule and really only affects the weighted averages at the margins. The average change from one measure to the other was actually 0.005 points in McCain's direction. In other words, there isn't that much change.

Having said that, though, there are several states that are on the lines between candidates as well as between each of the categories (Recall, and this needs to be added to the new map, that any average margin over 10% is rated as strong, any margin between 5 and 10 points is a lean and anything less than 5% is a toss up.). These are states where things could shift in the coming days and weeks:

The switches (toss up to toss up):
New Hampshire

Strong to Lean:
Connecticut (Obama -)
Texas (McCain -)
Mississippi? (directly on the line between Strong and Lean)

Lean to Strong:
Minnesota (Obama +)

Toss Up to Lean:
Wisconsin (Obama +)

Of those "switch" states, Obama now leads in four of the five, and Ohio, the only likely switch in McCain's favor is trending in Obama's direction. As more post-nomination polls surface, these are the states to be on the lookout for. Any "Obama bounce" from wrapping up the nomination most likely would be reflected most clearly in those states. Thus far, Michigan is the only one of those five to have had a poll conducted since Obama reached the delegate mark for the nomination on June 3.
[Click Map to Enlarge]*

Alright great, but what about the map? What, you've read this far? Well, Washington's 11 electoral votes shifted into the strong Democratic category and both Michigan and New Hampshire moved from the GOP to Democratic toss up category. In the process, that shifted the outcome from a slight McCain victory in the electoral college to a slight Obama win. The amazing thing remains the even distribution of electoral votes among the candidates. McCain holds 202 electoral votes from states that are either strong or leaning toward him while Obama has 207 electoral votes from those states (non-toss ups) favoring him. The real action is among those swing states.

..and even that is close. Obama, by adding those 21 electoral votes, now leads there 71 to 58.

*Map template courtesy of Paul Gurian.

Recent Posts:
2008 Primary and Caucus Grades, Part Five

The Dry Erase Board Wiped Clean

2008 Primary and Caucus Grades, Part Four


Robert said...

Your adjustments bring your maps more in line with other maps. I think this change is justified. To compare the polls when there was a heavy primary going on is no longer justified.

Anonymous said...

The real issue is not how well Obama or McCain might do in the closely divided battleground states, but that we shouldn't have battleground states and spectator states in the first place. Every vote in every state should be politically relevant in a presidential election. And, every vote should be equal. We should have a national popular vote for President in which the White House goes to the candidate who gets the most popular votes in all 50 states.

The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC). The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral vote -- that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

The major shortcoming of the current system of electing the President is that presidential candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or worry about the voter concerns in states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. The reason for this is the winner-take-all rule which awards all of a state's electoral votes to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state. Because of this rule, candidates concentrate their attention on a handful of closely divided "battleground" states. Two-thirds of the visits and money are focused in just six states; 88% on 9 states, and 99% of the money goes to just 16 states. Two-thirds of the states and people are merely spectators to the presidential election.

Another shortcoming of the current system is that a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide.

The National Popular Vote bill has been approved by 18 legislative chambers (one house in Colorado, Arkansas, Maine, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Washington, and two houses in Maryland, Illinois, Hawaii, California, and Vermont). It has been enacted into law in Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and Maryland. These states have 50 (19%) of the 270 electoral votes needed to bring this legislation into effect.


Robert said...


I disagree. I think the electoral college is the way to go, even though I did vote for Gore in 2000, and he lost.

A popular vote would skew the vote further away from small states and make large states even more important. If I were campaign manager for a Presidential candidate, I would focus all of my candidate's resources on the top 10-20 media markets in the country. By doing that I could get the best bang for my buck. I would put all my advertising and my vote canvassing in places where I could reach the most people. An effective campaign there could sway more votes in a close race than in small, less-populated states.

If you really want candidates to pay attention to all 50 states or at least to more states than the current battleground states, institute a proportional distribution of electoral votes, somewhat similar to the Democratic primary race OR award electoral votes on the basis of Congressional districts. That way, many more districts would be in play.

Anonymous said...

This is a discussion we could have here and I'm glad to have it. However, this is now at least the third time that "Anonymous" has left this exact same comment here. And I think the readers of FHQ have already hashed this one out.

Excellent points, though.

Robert said...

OK, Josh. Anonymous hit one of my buttons. I will try to refrain from responding to this message in the future (unless I forget).

I will not be able to go the the discussion group tomorrow afternoon. I will need to go out of town.

Anonymous said...

Well, that's going to make it that much harder for me to lead the group. Darn. We'll have to see who shows up now.

I think your response this time was better than your first one. That one was on the original electoral college map post, I'm pretty sure.

Robert said...

Well, at least I am getting better with my responses.

I would really like to be there tomorrow, but my mother broke her leg this weekend, and I need to relieve my sister at the hospital.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to hear that Rob. Our thoughts will be with y'all. You'll be missed.