Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Electoral College Map (7/23/08)

Ten seems to have been the magic number for polling during the last few iterations of these electoral college projections. This is now the third straight breakdown with ten new polls to add to the mix. And for the first time in a while there are some actual changes to discuss. Of the ten new polls in eight states, most fall in line with what we have seen from the other polls in other states during July: they confirm what we already knew. However, there is one alteration, and a big one it is.

New Polls (July 21-23)
New Hampshire
New Hampshire
North Carolina
Public Policy Polling

Ohio shifts its 20 electoral votes from Obama to McCain. This is based in large part on the Rasmussen poll that has the Arizona senator up by 10 points in the Buckeye state. That ten point lead is an anomaly when compared with the most recent polls out of the state, especially in contrast to the 8 point lead the PPP poll handed Obama in the state just two days prior. Some saw this and wanted to know why. I don't have a problem with asking why, but in this case I didn't really flinch because Ohio has been so close throughout FHQ's tracking of the electoral college since March. My thinking was that if Obama gets an 8 point poll from one firm, McCain was just as likely to get an 8 point (or in this case, 10 point) advantage in another poll. That's just the nature of Ohio. And yes, I say this even though the majority of polls recently have been trending in Obama's direction. Ohio is simply that close.

Changes (July 21-23)
OhioToss Up Obama
Toss Up McCain

These widely differing numbers--just a couple of days apart--do point out a weakness in the weighted average we use here. With all the weight on the newest poll--the one favoring McCain--Ohio's electoral votes move into his column. Well, why don't you put equal weight on both of those new polls since they basically average each other out? I thought about that, but opted to stay true to the measure established. Our rule here is to only give equal weight to more than one poll if they surface on the same day. With that said though, let's be transparent here and report the results if we had decided to move in that direction. As it stands, the Rasmussen poll is the most recent poll in Ohio and is given the extra weight. That's the formula and it puts the average for Ohio at 0.174 in McCain's favor. If we throw that PPP poll that gave the edge to Obama into the "added weight" pile, Ohio stays in Obama's column with the average basically remaining stationary at 0.167 in the Illinois senator's direction.

In other words, no matter how you look at it, Ohio is a toss up state. It remains the closest state to flipping between candidates, followed closely by Nevada and Virginia. And those three are pretty much in line with what (see right hand column and scroll down) calls their Tipping Point states: those states most likely to be the states that put either candidate over the top in the electoral college total. Nevada, Ohio and Virginia make up three of the top five. Colorado and Michigan round out that list there, but aren't as close in the FHQ average. In fact both have been off the Watch List for a few weeks now.
[Click Map to Enlarge]

For the time being then, Ohio and its 20 electoral votes shift over to McCain, altering each candidate's electoral totals for the first time in July. In the process the race becomes closer. Well, the race may not be any closer but the electoral vote totals for McCain and Obama are closer. The fact remains though, that we are talking about a shift from one toss up category to the other. These states and their electoral votes are still very much in play (14 states and 167 electoral votes). That hasn't changed. McCain's lean and strong totals are still less together than Obama's strong category by itself, and that continues to put McCain at a disadvantage. However, to see any state, much less Ohio, switch in his direction is a positive for the McCain campaign given how much things have moved in Obama's direction (on the whole) since the beginning of June.

The Watch List*
Arizonafrom Strong McCainto McCain lean
Floridafrom Toss Up McCain
to McCain lean
Georgiafrom McCain leanto Strong McCain
Minnesotafrom Strong Obamato Obama lean
Mississippifrom McCain leanto Strong McCain
Nevadafrom Toss Up Obamato Toss Up McCain
North Carolinafrom Toss Up McCain
to McCain lean
North Dakotafrom Toss Up McCainto Toss Up Obama
Ohiofrom Toss Up McCainto Toss Up Obama
South Carolinafrom Toss Up McCain
to McCain lean
Virginiafrom Toss Up McCainto Toss Up Obama
Wisconsinfrom Obama leanto Toss Up Obama
*Weighted Average within a fraction of a point of changing categories.

So the Watch List adds Georgia and retains Ohio, though the potential switch is from McCain to Obama instead of vice versa in the Buckeye state. Of the 12 states now on the list, Ohio, Virginia, Nevada and North Dakota (in that order) are the ones most likely to change sides as opposed simply changing categories. And with a new poll out in Virginia this morning, we already have something to look at for Sunday's edition.

Recent Posts:
The Electoral College Map (7/20/08) [Update]

The Electoral College Map (7/16/08)

The 30/30 Rule: Obama's Chances in Georgia...and across the South


Robert said...

You may want to watch Florida to going from a McCain Lean to a McCain Toss-Up. The latest Rasmussen poll has Obama up by 2 points. We talked about this situation in the discussion group yesterday. I think the drilling issue may play well in many states but not in Florida. Anyone in the tourist industry (very big in Florida) hates drilling.

The Rasmussen poll is at

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'm actually working my comments from the group yesterday into a post that I should have up some time tonight.

That Florida result is consistent with what we've seen from the state lately, but McCain's solid standing there in the early polls, though discounted, are still propping him up there. It is trending toward Obama though and closer to the point that it will be moved off the Watch List and more firmly into Toss Up territory (It is already there now.).

And here's a case where the inclusion of the "leaners" worked in Obama's favor. That brings his total in that category to 2. But I'll have more on that soon too (sans Florida).