Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Electoral College Map (10/1/08)

September closes with a lot of red on the map, but unfortunately for John McCain none of that red comes in any state that isn't already favoring him in FHQ's weighted averages. And the blue comes places the Arizona senator absolutely cannot yield. But that's pretty much par for the course for the Republican's 2008 standard bearer over the last couple of weeks. So while seven of the eleven polls released today favored McCain, they did little more than stanch the flow of blood. No, I don't think McCain is necessarily out of it, but as we have discussed here over the last few days, it is becoming harder and harder to come up with scenarios where he pulls this thing out on November 4.

New Polls (Sept. 30)
Public Policy Polling
Survey USA
Survey USA
North Carolina
Survey USA
Insider Advantage
Insider Advantage

With that said, McCain seems to have wrapped up his home state of Arizona; not that it was ever really in doubt. There was a stretch over the summer where there were a series of upper single digit polls from the Grand Canyon state, but that was never meant to be. But that wasn't really where the news of the day came from. In the crucial states of Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia, McCain received some well needed polling, sweeping the four polls but with margins still within the margin of error. The bad news is that Florida continues to tighten and Pennsylvania keeps slipping away. McCain cannot, in most cases, lose Florida and still win. There are scenarios out there, but their likelihood is near zero at this point -- especially with Michigan and Pennsylvania moving toward Obama. And though, the Arizona senator can win by keeping the red states and winning Colorado, adding Pennsylvania sure would be helpful to him. But if Muhlenberg keeps churning out 7 and 8 point margins in their daily tracking poll of the Keystone state, that just isn't going to happen.

[Obviously, those tracking polls are something we should address. This is similar to the situation over the summer when Rasmussen was the overwhelming leader in providing polling information. The question then was, what if there is some bias in those polls? It would throw everything off. Well, Pennsylvania is in a similar situation now with these Muhlenberg polls beginning to pile up. Those polls seem to be in line with other emerging from Pennsylvania at the moment, though. As long as there are other polls echoing the Muhlenberg results it isn't a problem. If those polls start to diverge from the other polling in the state though, FHQ may have to revisit the decision to include them. We try for some modicum of transparency around here, so I'll keep you posted on that development.]

[Click Map to Enlarge]

The worst news for McCain is from Virginia, though.* Yes, Virginia was among the ARG series of polls in which the Arizona senator held a slim lead, but that was counteracted (and then some) by the Insider Advantage poll in the Old Dominion that showed Obama up by six points there. Combined, the two polls have the effect of drawing Virginia even closer to a dead heat. In fact, Virginia is now the closest state on the Spectrum, surpassing Nevada for that distinction. McCain could lose Nevada to Obama and still tie by picking off Colorado or win by swinging Colorado and New Hampshire. But if he were to lose Virginia, Michigan or Pennsylvania would have to be a part of his electoral math at that point. And for reasons we have already discussed, that is looking less and less likely.

The Electoral College Spectrum*
*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 Pennsylvania (all Obama's toss up states, but Michigan), he would have 299 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.

The line between Colorado and New Hampshire is the 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. Both states are currently favoring Obama, thus the blue text in those two cells.

Virginia, then, swaps places with Nevada on the Electoral College Spectrum and now appears to be the most likely Obama pick up of those states in pink. Arizona, too, swaps places with one of its neighbors on the Spectrum, changing spots with Louisiana for the second time in the last three days. Other than that, though, there was no other movement in the rankings. As bad as it seems for McCain, if he is able to hold on to those pinks states -- and that's a pretty big if right now -- he would have only to swing Colorado to pull out a win in the electoral college. Will that happen? I don't know. That's why they play the game. Time is running out, though, as are strategies.

The Watch List*
Floridafrom Toss Up McCainto McCain lean
Indianafrom Toss Up McCainto McCain lean
Michiganfrom Toss Up Obama
to Obama lean
Missourifrom Toss Up McCainto McCain lean
Nevadafrom Toss Up McCainto Toss Up Obama
North Carolinafrom McCain lean
to Toss Up McCain
Ohiofrom Toss Up McCain
to Toss Up Obama
Oregonfrom Obama lean
to Strong Obama
Pennsylvaniafrom Toss Up Obama
to Obama lean
Virginiafrom Toss Up McCain
to Toss Up Obama
Washingtonfrom Strong Obama
to Obama lean
*Weighted Average within a fraction of a point of changing categories.

The Watch List remains the same as it was a day ago and as we have highlighted over and over again recently, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia are still the states to watch most closely. But you have to watch for polls in those states with the understanding that there are now many polls in each state (Nevada potentially excluded). The more polls there are the more difficult it becomes to alter FHQ's weighted average in the state. For instance, Virginia just became the closest state in our rankings tonight. However, it would take a poll showing Obama ahead by 10 to immediately shift the average over to the Illinois senator. And even that is outside of the what we would expect of polls from Virginia in the post-economic crisis period. But three consecutive polls showing Obama up five seems much more realistic and that would be enough to shift the average over to Obama. That, though, is a story for another day. Tomorrow perhaps.

*Ohio was a close runner up here due to the Insider Advantage poll, but since it came out after I had already written much of this, it kind of get short shrift. Plus it more equally counteracts the Survey USA poll out today as well, unlike in the Virginia case.

Recent Posts:
The Electoral College Map (9/30/08)

The Electoral College Map (9/29/08)

Is McCain Right? Does a Tie Go to the Runner?


Anonymous said...

What the heck is going on with Virginia?
It is a southern state, southern states are republican except for the melting pot of Florida.
The seniors along with southerners in Florida will give McCain a victory there in my opinion.
I heard about the north and south divide in Virginia that is a lot like Missouri, but still.
Maybe there are enough southerners in Virginia that are planning on voting for Barr or Baldwin that it is swinging that state towards Obama.
Maybe the same thing going on in North Carolina, altho I expect McCain will win NC.

Ohio was very close in 2004 and I expect it to be again, and I think McCain will win it.
With all those "Reagan Democrats" in Ohio, I think enough of them are going to vote for both McCain and Nader instead of Obama to give McCain the victory.

Then there is the increasing Mexican population in Nevada and Colorado that I think will give Obama the win there.

P.S. New Hampshire has a tendency to vote for the party OUT of control of the white house and that is Obama, I expect Obama to win NH.

Jack said...

Man, it's October! That means I have midterms in less than three weeks! Ouch!

Anonymous IV (sorry, obscure music history joke): With Virginia, I don't think the reason that Obama is doing well has anything to do with people voting for Barr/Baldwin. Rather, it's changing demographics and high-tech jobs (which tend to attract liberals) moving into the Washington suburbs.

Anonymous said...

Northern Virginia is going to be a potential thorn in the side of the GOP for the foreseeable future. It is amazing how quickly that has changed.

Unknown said...

If I understand what electoral vote is doing correctly, it is including the Muhlenberg tracking poll only every fifth day, because it is using a 4 day average. That seems a reasonable way to address that; throwing it in every day is quadruple counting the data.

Anonymous said...

I'll make the rounds later this morning and see how the other sites are dealing with Mulhenberg. I don't want to overwhelm the Pennsylvania average like I said, but as long as they aren't outliers I don't have a particular problem with it.

But your point is well taken on quadruple counting the data. It would be nice if they would just break it down by day and release the information like that. Perhaps I could try to figure out each day like 538 did recently with the national trackers.

Unknown said...

Anonymous: I will echo what Jack (btw, Jack, you'll be happy to know someone actually got the reference) and Josh said about Virginia: population is booming in the D.C. suburb area, and that area is much more Democrat-friendly.

A similar thing is happening in North Carolina. The Triangle (Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill) is one of the fastest growing areas in the country, and the transplants are much more likely to vote Democratic than the natives. I don't think enough transplants have arrived to actually tip the state blue, but I wouldn't be shocked if it happened this year, and I think it will definitely happen some time in the next couple of decades.

Robert said...


The polls out today are tending even more to Obama. Your spectrum is much more McCain-friendly than others.

RCP is giving Obama 348 electoral votes in its No Toss Up model:


FiveThirtyEight is projecting 336 electoral votes for Obama. I expect there will be a narrowing effect, and Palin may get a bounce by exceeding very low expectations. However, it is looking bleak for McCain. I thought Jay Cost's assessment of the situation today was interesting.


Anonymous said...

Yep, a bunch of new polls out today basically showing McCain as a dead duck.
The conservatives don't like McCain and it is now showing in the polling.
Amnesty for illegals now bailing out wall street and mortage failures that are 77% mexican and black combined.
McCain supports amnesty and bailout and conservatives are pissed.
Chuck Baldwin is the candidate for TRUE conservatives.

Unknown said...

Robert--that was an interesting piece by Cost, but I disagree with the last section.

I don't think low information voters are blaming Republicans for the mess, because low information voters don't think there's a mess. They think this is all about some crisis on Wall Street that doesn't affect them.

On the other hand, here's a way to simulate being a relatively low information voter: take all the political news you've been exposed to over the past couple of weeks, and imagining getting only 5% of it at random, in snippets thirty seconds long.

The odds are you're going to get a picture of McCain being loopy or desperate. Those little snippets will not make a coherent message; they'll likely contradict themselves.

It's possible you'll also pick up some negative Palin stuff in that 5%.

Obama might show up, but his thirty second snippets will always look identical.

Cost is missing that key point. (On the other hand, his point that Bush is higher profile, and is thus hurting McCain, is a good one and may also be a contributor.)

Jack said...

Anonymous, McCain is doing just about as well with Republicans as the average Republican would be expected to. Perhaps slightly worse but nothing too significant. It's his struggles with independents — and the return of most Democrats to the fold — that have put McCain so far behind.

Anonymous said...

Now why did everyone drop in literally minutes after I left the office?

Let me see...
Yeah, my wife and I may have been the only people to have left Chapel Hill in the last ten years. We pass through there every summer and see something new every time. And yes, that area is even bluer now. It will be interesting to see what Citi decides to do with Wachovia and how that affects the banking in the Charlotte area as well. Charlotte isn't as blue as the Triangle area to the east, but 2004 was the first time that Mecklenburg County was blue in a presidential election in my memory. Alright, moving on...

[Can you tell I'm from North Carolina? Maybe you can even tell that I'd like to return.]

Anonymous said...

It may be time to revisit the formula we're using. I wanted things to be responsive but not too responsive to volatility over the summer, but things may have swung in the opposite direction here. Not being responsive at all to these changes isn't a plus. On the one hand I don't want to overreact to polling fluctuations, but on the other I don't want to miss a meaningful and lasting one.

I was going to say that I would wait it out until I drop the toss up/lean and lean/strong thresholds down following the debates. But that may be too late. The shift may have already completed. I'll look at a few scenarios tonight and see what develops.

Off the top of my head, I'd be resistant I think to just simply putting more weight on the most recent poll. That would potentially be too volatile. However, I may go back to what I was doing during primary season -- when we were getting a fair amount of polling: taking the three most recent polls and weighting them against all the rest of the data. That, I think, is a good place to start.

Here are those links from Rob: