Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Electoral College Map (9/15/08)

Monday through Thursday last week were chock-full of polls, but as Friday moved into Saturday and Saturday into Sunday the frequency of polling releases decreased. The releases we got, however, did not lack in intrigue. Two Obama lean states took on different trajectories. Following the divergent Marist poll from Friday, the Research 2000 poll of New Jersey was more in line with where FHQ had the Garden state in its weighted average. Minnesota, however, continued to track downward for Obama. The North Star state is gradually making its way through the Obama lean category and closer to being more competitive.

New Polls (Sept. 14)
Star Tribune
New Jersey
Bergen/Research 2000

Just to reiterate, our averages give the greatest weight to the most recent poll, but the established average based on that poll and all the polls between the most recent poll and the one conducted on or just following Super Tuesday in February changes only confronted with overwhelming evidence. Sudden double digit shifts then are treated not as trend makers but as outliers until such time that such a pattern becomes normalized. This guards against some of the volatility we see in some other examinations of the electoral college. In Minnesota's case, we are getting closer to the point when we can begin possibly including it in the discussion with all the other toss up states. For now, though, Minnesota and New Jersey stay right where they are; firmly within the Obama lean category.

[Click Map to Enlarge]

The result is that the map is unchanged from how it appeared yesterday. Obama maintains an eight electoral vote advantage; an advantage that could disappear if New Hampshire's four electoral votes went to McCain. Of course that would cause a tie in the electoral college that would send the election in to the House, but that's a story for another day. [As an aside, I have not included the latest Zogby data in the battleground states yet. I'm planning on looking at the post-convention bounce for McCain and want to treat that data the same way I treated the 34 state polling spree that the firm did at the end of June. If you'll recall I initially looked at Obama's nomination bounce without that data, but revised the June map in my post on the July trends to show the difference those polls made. In the same way that the late June polls favored Obama, this latest round of Zogby polls appears to give McCain edges in some states beyond what we have seen in other recent polling. So, some time this week I'll post those post-convention changes both with and without the Zogby polls.]

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 and New Mexico), 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.

The map fails to change and the Electoral College Spectrum only sees New Jersey and Iowa trade places. In addition, the weekend closed with no additions to or subtractions from the Watch List. Most of these potential changes continue to favor Obama. If for example these moves took place it would mean that Obama would gain the 25 electoral votes from Nevada and Ohio, firm up his position in states like New Mexico and Washington, and bring Montana, North Carolina and North Dakota back into play. As I said yesterday, though, that would require a fundamental shift in the dynamics of the race. If McCain continues to do well, the Arizona senator could bring Wisconsin into play and increase his position in places like Florida, Nevada and Ohio. At the opening of this week, the latter seems more likely than the former. With Wall Street back in the news, though, increased focus on the economy would be a welcome change -- at least in the eyes of Democrats -- from the bounce and all other things McCain-Palin.

The Watch List*
Floridafrom Toss Up McCain
to McCain lean
Georgiafrom Strong McCainto McCain lean
Montanafrom McCain leanto Toss Up McCain
Nevadafrom Toss Up McCainto Toss Up Obama
New Mexicofrom Toss Up Obamato Obama lean
North Carolinafrom McCain lean
to Toss Up McCain
North Dakotafrom McCain lean
to Toss Up McCain
Ohiofrom Toss Up McCain
to Toss Up Obama
Washingtonfrom Obama lean
to Strong Obama
Wisconsinfrom Obama leanto Toss Up Obama
*Weighted Average within a fraction of a point of changing categories.

At the opening of this week, the latter seems more likely than the former. With Wall Street back in the news, though, increased focus on the economy would be a welcome change -- at least in the eyes of Democrats -- from the bounce and all other things McCain-Palin.

Recent Posts:
The Electoral College Map (9/14/08)

The Electoral College Map (9/13/08)

Questions About the Current State of the Presidential Race


Jack said...

What's with Minnesota? Could it be the fact that the Republican convention is in St. Paul? Obama didn't seem to get more of a bounce in Colorado because the convention was there.

Unknown said...

Minnesota presents a bit of a puzzle to pollsters, because you can register on the same day you vote. That makes it really hard to figure out who a "likely" voter is. Without examining the methodology poll by poll, I suspect a sizable chunk of the volatility seen in Minnesota stems from this methodology question.

Anonymous said...

Jack! Where've you been? Good to have you back.

You've brought this up before and I think it is worth being brought up with every poll that comes out of Minnesota. When you throw the polling methodology on top of the election day registration factor, you have a state that makes for messy analysis.

Minnesota has just been quirky so far this year. There have been periods where Obama has held 17 point leads only to see them turn in to 1 or 2 point edges a week or less later.

For instance:
Quinnipiac dropped from 17 to 2 points from June to July.

Rasmussen went from +17 in mid-July to +13 at the end of the month to +4 just after the Olympics began.

That's a wide range over a relatively short period of time and it controls for polling firms. That range is almost as large as the +10 for cCain to +8 for Obama that we had recently. And as I said in that case, the answer for Minnesota likely lies somewhere in the middle. Has the state trended toward McCain? Yes, but this is still an Obama state unless the volatility dies down and we see more consistently competitive polling.

On the GOP's convention location:
I don't know that that played a role in the polling we've seen, but I could see where the "hockey mom" concept would be one that could be related to there. And I say this with authority from the hockey capital of the world: Athens, GA.

Could Obama have done as well in Colorado as McCain did in Minnesota with Palin if he had gone with another VP choice? Schweitzer was a "local" sort of concept that could have played well in Colorado. I don't know; I'm just thinking off the top of my head here.

Jack said...

I've been reading, just I guess haven't had much to say lately. Been busier too; back at college and working on a local campaign here on Long Island.

They do love their hockey in Minnesota, but I'm not sure that caused the whole swing. It's a good idea, though.

Why do some states poll so erratically, while other states seem to be predictable? Just asking as someone who's only taken a summer course in political science and doesn't really know anything. I've learned a good bit from this and other sites, though.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'm one to talk about being gone. Anyway, it is good to have you back. But school is back with a vengeance.

I'll think about your question a bit more when I'm finished with today's actual map update. And I'll pose the question in the comments there as well.