Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Electoral College Map (6/22/08)

Polling frequency has certainly shot up since Obama claimed enough delegates to secure the Democratic nomination. Things had gotten slow toward the end of the Democratic battle with the uncertainty of Clinton continuing her candidacy increasing, but they have risen again to a level of about 30 polls a week. Following Wednesday morning's release of the Quinnipiac swing state polls in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, there have been 15 new polls in 13 states:

New Polls (June 18-21)
CaliforniaSurvey USA+12
GeorgiaPoll Position+1
IowaSurvey USA+4
New HampshireARG+12
New HampshireRasmussen+11
VirginiaPublic Policy
WashingtonSurvey USA+15
WisconsinSurvey USA+9

Alaska surprisingly (or not) remains within Obama's reach following a new Rasmussen poll there. The two new polls out of New Hampshire also paint the race in the Granite state as less competitive than it has appeared recently. Two double digit poll margins will typically help. Both have pulled New Hampshire off the Watch List (below) and though the state is still rated as a toss up favoring Obama, it is trending toward a stronger Obama lean. Among the other states polled, not much is different than before: Virginia is still close, but trending toward Obama, California is still favoring the Democrat and well, not many McCain strongholds were polled this week. In the previous electoral college breakdown, new polling had moved Ohio into the Toss Up Obama category, but evidence of how tenuous that lead was came when the new Rasmussen poll favoring McCain brought the weighted average down to zero. But that shift was the only one other than the shocking poll out of Georgia that showed McCain with only a one point lead in the Peach state. That poll is an outlier, given that most of the polling there had hovered around 10 points. However, with Bob Barr's inclusion in the poll, the margin between McCain and Obama was lower and brought the average just under the 10% line dividing strong McCain states from McCain lean states.

Changes (June 18-21)
GeorgiaStrong McCainLean McCain
OhioToss Up ObamaTied

With those changes the map shifts very little, but Ohio's 20 electoral votes are now withheld from either candidate due to the tie in the Buckeye state. Even then, Obama holds a 38 electoral vote advantage and could withstand the loss of Ohio and still take an electoral college victory.
[Click Map to Enlarge]

On the whole, the momentum remains behind the senator from Illinois. Last week, Michigan and New Hampshire switched from toss ups favoring McCain to toss ups trending toward Obama. And with Ohio's shift earlier this week, Obama took a commanding lead in the electoral college projection. McCain maintains a hold on 202 electoral votes combined in the strong and leaning categories, but with Georgia's switch, that leaning category is growing. Meanwhile, the states on the Obama side are becoming more secure. The strong category grew with the addition of Washington and the toss up category has been augmented by the addition of states that had formerly been toss ups toward McCain.

The Watch List*
Georgiafrom McCain leanto Strong McCain
Massachusettsfrom Obama leanto Strong Obama
Michiganfrom Toss Up Obamato Toss Up McCain
Mississippifrom Strong McCainto McCain lean
Nevadafrom Toss Up Obamato Toss Up McCain
North Carolinafrom McCain leanto Toss Up McCain
Ohiofrom Tiedto Toss Up Dem. or GOP
Texasfrom Strong McCainto McCain lean
Wisconsinfrom Toss Up Obamato Obama lean
*Weighted Average within a fraction of a point of changing categories.

That trend is echoed by the potential movement of states on the lines between categories (The Watch List). Of those nine states, five of them are close to moving into categories closer to Obama. Three others (Michigan, Nevada and Ohio) are so close to the tipping point between candidates that patterns are difficult to determine, though they likely hinge on any new polling that emerges from those states. Georgia is the only state that is on a line that could favor McCain with a move.

The one piece of the puzzle that we don't have a sufficient answer to at this point (following Obama's crossing the Democratic delegate barrier) is how things look in some of the strongly partisan states. It is a more interesting question when posed in relation to those solid McCain states. Is the supposed "Obama bounce" being felt in those states as well? Increased polling will help to answer that question.

FHQ has obviously rolled out a new look for this post in an effort to deliver a clearer picture of what we project to be happening in the chase for electoral college votes. Love it? Hate it? The comments section awaits.

Recent Posts:
2008 Primary and Caucus Final Grade Sheet

Insult to Injury: Obama and His Money

The Electoral College Map (6/18/08)


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 19 legislative chambers (one house in Colorado, Arkansas, Maine, North Carolina, and Washington, and two houses in Maryland, Illinois, Hawaii, California, Rhode Island, 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.



Unknown said...

I love the new look!

I figure since Susan brought it up, I'll note my opposition to a national popular vote. She's right that the current system causes candidates to disregard states which aren't competitive. But a national vote would cause retail politics to disappear altogether. The campaign visits she values wouldn't be spread over 50 states, they'd be replaced by fundraisers--largely in places like New York and California. The money she notes would go largely to national media--again in New York and California. I have nothing against those two states; in fact, I grew up in California and have lived in New York for twenty years. But I'd like "flyover" states to have a role other than casting a vote based on candidates who have run only a national campaign.

The past few cycles have had an unusually small number of battleground states. This cycle promises to be different, with Obama threatening to push the campaign into parts of the deep South and mountain West and McCain looking to parts of the "blue" Midwest. Not the full coverage Susan wants, but a reminder that it's tricky to propose a constitutional amendment based on conditions over a short period.

Finally, I'm very uncomfortable with the idea of a candidate piling up votes in big cities and winning that way (and, incidentally, I'm an Obama supporter, so I'm not speaking out of partisan interest). There's a reason we allocate one house of Congress proportionally by population, and the other by states. The Electoral College is a hybrid of the two, and seems a sensible compromise.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the vote of confidence, Scott. Organizing these posts this way, I think, will help to deliver a clearer message.

Since Anonymous/Susan continues to post this same comment (word for word, mind you), I think I'll address that issue in its own post. It'd be a good discussion to have more broadly, instead of hidden away in bits and pieces across several electoral college projection posts.

Unknown said...

Josh--I look forward to a centralized discussion of the national popular vote idea. Susan did get me to look at the specific proposal under consideration, and I now have further comments. But I'll wait until you provide a place to air them...