Friday, May 9, 2008

Obama's Slide Revisited

Last week's post examining Obama's position in the electoral college in the post-Wright, post-"bitter" political environment sought to demonstrate that while, Obama had gotten some flak over both issues, he had only really lost ground in a handful of highly competitive swing states. Those changes were seemingly small, but in a closely contested race, that often means the difference between winning and losing a state. And Obama was on the wrong side of several of those states, falling 80 electoral votes behind John McCain in the electoral college projections.

Comparing the newly weighted maps to the original starting point at the end of March is like comparing apples to oranges to some extent, though. Those original maps didn't weight the more recent polls any more heavily than the older ones, so it isn't a true comparison. What happens to those March maps when the original data set is weighted to discount older polls is vastly different depending on which Democrat is considered the nominee. The Obama-McCain outcome was exactly the same: Obama 273-McCain 265. In the Clinton-McCain scenario, Clinton's deficit was larger than it had been in the original, unweighted projection. Instead of trailing by 90 electoral votes, she was down 325-213 to McCain.
All the weighting does is confirm what is already known: Obama was enjoying his highest point during the tail end of February and into March. Clinton, on the other hand, was on the opposite end of the spectrum during that period; enduring the Obama streak of victories. What has happened over the six weeks since is the interesting part, though. Clinton has taken a 112 electoral vote deficit and reduced it to 16 while Obama's 8 electoral vote advantage has disappeared and been replaced by a 44 electoral vote loss to McCain. [It was worse last week--80 electoral votes--at the height of Jeremiah Wright's second act. Of course, that may be mere coincidence.]
Overall, both the Democrats were down on average relative to McCain over this period (For comparison see Wednesday's maps.). But Clinton was up enough where it counted and down in places where she was already down to affect a positive change in her electoral vote total. The former first lady lost just 0.32 points on average to McCain but brought both Florida and Pennsylvania into her column to actually draw closer to the Arizona senator. She faltered in 18 states' poll averages but gained in 12 others. The new maps below depict the changes in these averages from the end of March until now.The picture is slightly different for Obama. He fell in the poll averages by an average 1.48 point to McCain. He, too, was down in some states where he already lagged behind McCain but his gains mostly came from blue states. Six of the 9 states where he gained were states where he was leading the presumptive Republican nominee already. He did gain in both Pennsylvania and Ohio, but not enough to swing the vitally important states in the blue. Obama differs from Clinton in that he lost ground in over twice as many states as he gained. Where Clinton saw two states turn blue and lost none, Obama lost three (Colorado, New Hampshire and Virginia) without gaining any.
What does all this mean? Well, the fact that both Democrats lost ground on average to McCain could indicate that the divisiveness of the battle for the Democratic nomination brought both candidates down. On the flip side, the argument could be made that those aren't losses for the Democrats as much as they are indicative of John McCain reaping the fruits of his labors in trying to shore up the conservative base of the Republican Party. Also, the fact that Obama lost more ground to McCain relative to Clinton could mean that the increased scrutiny after his string of victories and subsequent losses to Clinton in Ohio and Pennsylvania brought him back down to earth after his late February high.

After the events of Tuesday night, it will be interesting to see if Clinton falls in these polls averages and whether the inevitability of Obama's nomination gives him any boost.

Recent Posts:
Unpledged Add-On Delegates

Kansas is Back in for 2012! But for How Long?

The Electoral College Maps (5/7/08)


Robert said...

As I indicated in the discussion group, Obama seems to have bottomed out in polls as of last week about this time and has been rising ever since (even before Tuesday's results). The trend seems to be continuing. I think the divisiveness of the Democratic race and the attention it has received in the press rather than McCain's fence building has been the major factor in the head-to-head polls recently. At present the Republican base sees him as more conservative than their earlier fears, while the independents are seeing him as the centrist 2000 McCain and the one that Rush et al. despise. If and when the Democrat race is resolved, it will be more difficult for McCain to appeal to both groups. In addition, Iraq remains relatively stable. It is not likely to remain this stable between now and November.

Josh Putnam said...

According to a Pew poll done last month, independents prefer Obama over McCain, 52-41. And that was in April (not really Obama's best month)! Yeah, McCain will have a tough row to hoe coming back toward the middle.