Monday, August 4, 2008

Did Obama or McCain Win July?

***I said I'd have this up yesterday, but Blogger wasn't for some strange reason allowing the uploading of images during the latter half of the day and I didn't want to post this without the maps. It gave me a chance to incorporate the last of the July polls that were released yesterday anyway. There will likely be some other July stragglers that emerge well into August, but I'll add them to a revised edition in the post for August. The June revisions are at the conclusion of this post. Thanks, and sorry for the delay.

June, it seems, was an Obama month. The Illinois senator both wrapped up the nomination and showed improvement in the polls, with few exceptions, across the map. The dynamic changed in July, however. Whereas McCain only had a handful of states trend in his direction in June, July was with a yellow (pro-McCain) tint. 24 of the 39 states in which polling was conducted in July pushed FHQ's weighted averages toward the Arizona senator.
[Click Map to Enlarge]
By contrast Obama's June dominance gave way to a July map where his trendlines decreased in 21 of the 39 states where he gained a month earlier. Certainly the inclusion of the Zogby numbers in June inflates Obama's end of June averages, and in many cases, the Zogby polls were the last polls conducted in those states and were thus given the most weight. Any subsequent move toward McCain in July could then really have an effect on the the changes to the average, making what may have been a small change to McCain a big change. Even when the Zogby numbers are completely removed from the equation, McCain still countered Obama's June increases by pulling closer or extending his lead in 20 states (as opposed to 24). The omission of the Zogby data translated into trendlines reversing in Obama's direction in six states (AR, MI, MO, NM, OR and VA) and toward McCain in two others (NH and NJ). In other words, in nearly a quarter of the states where Zogby conducted an interactive poll in June (8 of 34), those polls affected the direction in which FHQ's weighted average was going.

The Illinois senator did manage to increase his standing in 15 states (or 19 if the Zogby data is excluded -- a number much closer to the number of states in which McCain gained in the absence of those polls) overall in July. Let's take a moment to look at the states deemed toss ups as of Sunday in FHQ's weighted average. Of those 13 states, 12 had at least one poll conducted in July. Of those twelve, half moved in Obama's direction (FL, MT, NV, NC, ND and PA) and two shifted toward McCain (CO and OH). The remaining four (MI, MO, NH and VA) were among the group of states that shifted directions based on whether the Zogby data was used. Michigan, Missouri and Virginia trended toward McCain in July with the Zogby data included, but reversed course in the absence of that data, shifting in Obama's direction. New Hampshire had the exact opposite effect: favoring Obama with the Zogby data, but away from him in their absence.

Now, the Zogby data is actually included in FHQ's average, so we'll discuss these toss ups in that light. [I have to add the distinction, though, in the interest of transparency.] As such, these swing states, where these trends are of the most consequence, are evenly distributed between the two candidates (6 to 6). However, three of Obama's seven gains and four of McCain's are states that are currently favoring the other candidate in the overall average, albeit slightly. Sure that's the nature of a toss up state, but still, that's an interesting bit of information to take away from this. Obama leads in Colorado, Michigan and Ohio, but during July those three states shifted toward McCain. Likewise, McCain holds an advantage over Obama in Florida, Montana, North Carolina and North Dakota, but is witnessing the Illinois senator gaining on him in those four states. If those seven states completed the switch to the other candidate Obama would net a gain of 2 electoral votes in the electoral college, stretching his advantage to 300-238 (McCain states: FL+MT+NC+ND=48 EVs, Obama states: CO+MI+OH=46 EVs).

State Shift Rankings (July)*

* The states are ranked from biggest shift toward Obama to the biggest shift toward McCain. The darker the shade (of yellow or green) the bigger the shift during July.

Well, that's all well and good, but there is one additional caveat we need to make, isn't there? What about those Rasmussen "leaners"? Did using the "with leaners" or "without leaners" data make any difference in how the July map looks above? Below are the July polls from Rasmussen since the "with leaners" distinction was added to the firm's polling press releases (up to and including the polls that came out just yesterday -- AL, AZ and CT):

Rasmussen Polls Since w/Leaners Distinction was Added (7/9/08)*
StateDatew/o Leaners
Undecideds Drop
New Jersey
North Dakota
South Dakota
North Carolina
New Hampshire
New Mexico
Avg. Change+0.95-5.7
*The "with leaners" distinction was added to reports that were released beginning on 7/9/08. The date on which these polls were conducted (The ones that these releases were based on) stretches back to 7/7/08.
**Rasmussen has only conducted one poll in these states. Therefore, the difference was taken from between the with and without leaner numbers within the same poll in these cases.

***Previous poll had been taken after "with leaners" change had been made. We expect no out of the ordinary drop in the number of undecideds when comparing two "with leaners" interpretations.

The map above uses the "with leaners" data. If, however, we shift and inpute the "without leaners" data, the trends remain the same in 33 of the 35 states in which Rasmussen conducted July polls (post-July 7). Only Colorado and Texas would have taken different courses in the event the "leaners" were withheld. Colorado would have trended toward Obama while Texas would have favored McCain. In Texas that's probably not that big a deal. The Lone Star state is comfortably red currently. In Colorado, though, this is of note simply because the state is a toss up by FHQ's estimation. And while the trend would have changed, the overall average favors Obama regardless.

So who won July? Well, the map looks awfully yellow (pro-McCain), but the Arizona senator's gains are in states where he is already way out in front or too far behind to make much of a difference. The swing states are even allocated in terms of how many are trending toward each of the candidates. And when that sort of analysis is stretched to the lean states -- 11 states -- on both sides, McCain has the averages trending in his direction in only four (AK, NM, OR and SC). Of the 24 states where July polling was favorable to McCain, then, 14 of them were already solidly red. So, while the map is decidedly more yellow than it was a month ago, the Illinois senator is still moving in a positive direction in 12 of the 22 toss up or lean states where polling was done in July.

Appendix: June Revisions

One thing you'll notice immediately is that this map is even greener (pro-Obama) than the original map was. This revised version incorporates several polls that were released after I posted the first look at the changes during June. Granted, I posted that on July 1 and Rasmussen released a series of polls during the latter half of that holiday week. Additionally, all those Zogby polls are factored as well, making for an inclusion of around 40 new polls.
[Click Map to Enlarge]

Those Zogby polls were seen as favoring Obama, so they tend to have biased the map in the Illinois senator's direction. McCain, for example, had six states that trending toward him in June with the late releases excluded. However, when those are added in, the McCain total drops to four. Missouri, Oregon and South Carolina all flip to Obama, while the Zogby poll in Illinois pulled the average for the Land of Lincoln down. How is it then that the Zogby polls favor Obama, yet his home state is trending against him? Well, Illinois, prior to June, had had only one poll conducted in the state -- a February Survey USA poll that gave Obama a 29 point edge. In other words, Obama pretty much had nowhere to go but down there. And despite the shift, Obama still maintains a strong advantage over McCain in the state. With the inclusion of the additional (late-breaking) polls, Obama's bounce throughout June looks even bigger.

Recent Posts:
About Those Rules: What Obama's New Florida/Michigan Stance Means for 2012 and Beyond

The Electoral College Map (8/3/08)

So, Who's Going to Win This Race? The Forecasts are Starting to Come In


Robert said...

I still find it baffling how McCain made so many errors, Obama had such a great overseas trip and McCain appears to be gaining in national and many state polls. Maybe the discussion group elucidated this conundrum this week.

Jack said...

Based on the maps alone, Obama would seem to have won July, but the swing states in which Obama gained (such as Florida, Wisconsin and New Mexico) are either further from the center or less important than the ones in which McCain gained (Ohio, Michigan, Virginia).

And McCain, with his (in my view cheap and misleading, but such is politics) attack ads at the end of the month, certainly won the end of July.

Robert said...


Pat Buchanan agrees with you.

Obama must develop a thicker skin and more effective response to the attack ads if he is to become #44.

Jack said...

When I read the words "Pat Buchanan agrees with you," I was momentarily stunned. Surely this is the first time this has ever happened! I began to question myself, wondering what had happened to this Obama-supporting young and passionate liberal.

Then I read the article, and was relieved to find several points with which I disagree.

But the premise that Obama (or surrogates, or even better, 527s) need to find a way to fight back against this is entirely correct. The problem is that it's a bit harder to do this to McCain. Can't attack his patriotism (though he did make some comments on the subject once that would certainly have come back to haunt Obama). Can't attack him as a celebrity (though in some ways, he often was), or that the media loves him (even though he's referred to the media as his base), as everyone thinks those things are true of Obama. Can't call him arrogant (even though many feel that way) as Obama often comes off as arrogant himself. You can try to call him the next Bush, but everyone thinks he's a maverick.

There's only one man who could possibly figure out a way to do to McCain what he has done to Obama.

Democrats need Karl Rove on their side.

Anonymous said...

Sorry. I was in a meeting. We're off to a rousing start here. Karl Rove and Pat Buchanan have already made appearances. It must be good.

Here's that link from Rob.

I think this map point is a good distinction to make, Jack. And it adds another layer to this discussion. Let's look under the hood a bit at those three states you mentioned.

July Movement (toward McCain)
MI: 0.006
OH: 0.2
VA: 0.007

In other words, the shifts are among the smallest (indicative of a swing state), but they aren't at a level that they cannot be reversed. Will they? Let's keep an eye on the next series of polls out of those states.

And that gives me an idea. I should rank these July shifts and post them as I do in the electoral college posts. That would be interesting. I'll see if I have time to do that tonight.

Robert said...


Sorry, I did not mean to shake you up. I have been amazed at how many times this year I have found Pat Buchanan and Karl Rove making sense to me. Barack started somewhat slow in the early debates and in his response to Hillary, but he and his team should be smart enough to counter the Big Mac Attacks. If he is unable to effectively counter them he will become Kerryized!

Jack said...

Robert, you didn't shake me up - it was a weak attempt at humor on my part. I totally agree that he needs to fight back as hard as he is attacked.

Was thinking this over for a while, and perhaps they could react, closer to November, by portraying McCain as angry and dangerous. Even some Republicans (notably Thad Cochran and another senator whose name I cannot recall) have made comments to that effect. The Daisy ad was very effective in 1964, and this might be one of the few attacks that would work against McCain that is not purely related to the issues.

Robert said...


I meant it humorously as well. I think Obama will start portraying McCain as a grumpy old man who is out of touch. McCain has effectively blunted the age issue and turned the race issue back on Obama. It is an excellent short-term success, but he is spending his ammunition early. If he defines Obama early and it sticks, the strategy will work, but I think it could well blow up in McCain's face. McCain is looking more and more like a typical politician and not the maverick he is supposed to be. I don't see how he can juggle the right and independents for very long.

Anonymous said...

We discussed this in our discussion group today. Obama could attempt to bait McCain into one of his moments during the debates.

Anonymous said...

But Rob, McCain is the original maverick.

Robert said...


We'll see how long that holds up. I can't believe that the independents are excited about nuclear power, particularly if one of those 45 plants will be within 50 miles of their home. I don't think that will help McCain in Nevada. He has done a decent job balancing his maverick and true-red conservatism, but I don't think it will hold.

Jack said...

Josh, did you mean "original maverick" to be a link? It's not working.

I agree with everything you two have said. McCain, as we've all said before, has a tougher balancing act to keep up, as he is in more danger with his base. But perhaps his maverick image gives him a little leeway with independents who are skeptical of Obama.

I was watching Countdown with Keith Olbermann today - it's sort of a guilty pleasure for me. He's no McCain supporter, of course, but he (or a guest) seemed to indicate that polls show that people don't really mind nuclear energy right now, what with gas prices so high. But I think it will drive more people away than it will bring in, especially, as you pointed out, in Nevada.

Anonymous said...

Yes, original maverick was supposed to be a link to McCain's new ad that came out today. I have no idea what happened.

Good. This one seems to be working.