Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Electoral College Map (7/16/08)

Another Wednesday and another look at the electoral college. Since Sunday there have been 10 new state-level polls in 10 states. And while the location of some of these polls is helpful in updating our overall outlook for some states in regard to the electoral college, the collective message to take home is that they merely confirm the two presidential hopefuls' positions relative to each other in these states.

New Polls (July 13-15)
Public Policy Polling
New York
North Carolina
Survey USA+5
South Carolina
Public Policy Polling
South Dakota

The polls in Louisiana, Michigan and Minnesota are the only ones on the list that break more than three points from the established averages. However, little changed in each of those states, much less the other seven states. South Dakota's result brought it down a notch on our scale, making the Mount Rushmore state a lean toward McCain (down from being strong).

Changes (July 13-15)
South DakotaStrong McCain
McCain lean

That the Public Policy Polling survey in South Carolina is in line with FHQ's average is also of note (possibly the only thing of note in this collection of polling data). The consensus on the Palmetto state, at least in the electoral college collection over at DemConWatch, is that South Carolina is one of the safer states for McCain. I don't necessarily disagree with that despite our average here that places it within the toss up category. As Nate Silver pointed out last week though, the states most similar to South Carolina are North Carolina and Georgia. Now that doesn't mean that South Carolina fits equally in between those two (Well, it does geographically.), but it does give us a range that the state would reasonably fall into. Granted that's a pretty wide range: from the high side of the toss up category to the low side of the strong category. However, given its neighbors, that's about where our expectations are for South Carolina: at this point a lean to McCain (For the record, South Carolina is new to the Watch List on the line between a toss up and a lean to McCain.).
[Click Map to Enlarge]

Since only three electoral votes shifted categories, the map remains nearly as it did on Sunday. South Dakota turns a lighter shade of red but still provides McCain with a comfortable enough lead. Its northern neighbor makes you wonder whether the Mount Rushmore state could become more competitive. It could be, though, that the opposite is true: North Dakota appears tighter than it actually is. And as I said, the Watch List adds only South Carolina in this current iteration. These 14 are the states to watch for as new polling emerges.

The Watch List*
Alaskafrom McCain leanto Toss Up McCain
Arizonafrom Strong McCainto McCain lean
Floridafrom Toss Up McCain
to McCain lean
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 Obamato Toss Up McCain
Oregonfrom Obama leanto Strong Obama
South Carolinafrom Toss Up McCain
to McCain lean
Virginiafrom Toss Up McCainto Toss Up Obama
Washingtonfrom Strong Obamato Obama lean
Wisconsinfrom Obama leanto Toss Up Obama
*Weighted Average within a fraction of a point of changing categories.

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

Can the World Position Itself for the Next President Before the Actual Election? In 2008, it won't be easy.

The Electoral College Map (7/13/08)


Robert said...


We discussed a bounce for Obama earlier. It looks like both McCain and Obama are trending down, but Obama is going down faster than McCain.

BTW. I plan on going to the live discussion group on Tuesday. I assume it is still on. Are you going to be there?

Unknown said...

Looking at the RCP average, Obama is right at a low he's hit two times before in the last few months. Looking at individual poll numbers, Obama seems to have a core of support at about 44%. Individual polls go as high as 51%. That's remarkable uniformity, given that it represents both a couple of months and many polling methodologies. There no longer appears to me to be any trend up in Obama's numbers, but as long as he doesn't go below 44 in any poll (count Rasmussen tracking "with leaners" for this purpose), there hasn't been any fundamental change in his level of support.

McCain is different. The lows in the average keep getting lower. If he has a core support level, it looks like it's about 36%. In recent months he's never topped 46% that I can find. That's more variability than Obama shows, meaning that when McCain is at the top of that range, his support is softer.

It seems reasonable to assume that in this period of relatively low interest by the public, people aren't shifting from Obama to McCain or vice-versa so much as moving in and out of undecided status. That implies that over the last couple of months, the numbers are steady at something like this:

Obama core: 44%
Obama leaners: 7%
McCain core: 36%
McCain leaners: 10%
True undecided and third party: 3%

Yes, this clearly underestimates the true undecideds a bit, because some of the range in polling is not due to leaners, but to statistical uncertainty, and also a few people might really switch between candidates (notably former PUMAs). But it does illustrate what the relative challenges for the two candidates are:

Obama just has to hold serve. If he can get all the leaners now to go to their respective corners, he probably wins, although if he doesn't peel off any McCain leaners it's going to be awfully close. A little bit of electoral politicking (taking stances that sacrifice support in solid blue states in return for some key swing states, for instance) seals the deal.

McCain, on the other hand, has to get a chunk of those Obama leaners to do something: if not vote McCain, then stay home, vote for Nader or Barr, write in Clinton, whatever. On top of that, he has to hold on to his own leaners and make sure his unenthusiastic base turns out. That requires a change in narrative, not a grinding ground game. There are plenty of opportunities for that, with conventions, debates, etc., but it has to be a game-changer. Thinking about it this way, it's clear why McCain wants the joint town halls and why Obama has shied away.

Robert said...


Excellent points! I went back and looked at the site and might put McCain's core, but your analysis makes sense. Obama seems to be following your strategy indicate as his electoral vote is now up from 302 to 322. Much can happen between now and November, and the conventions will be very important. I will be watching the RCP poll averages closely.

Anonymous said...

Here is that RCP link from Rob.

This is a good discussion. Thanks for adding to a relatively boring update of the electoral college map here. I'm lucky that the polls didn't shift anything from last Sunday through Wednesday. It made the post easy but dangerously low on new details. I'll try and get the new map out tonight, but I don't like to rush them because that's when I tend to make my mistakes.

Oh and Rob, as far as I know, the discussion group is on for Tuesday. Paul's emails have been sparse but I'd assume the meetings are still happening. I got back to Athens yesterday after three weeks on the road and I'm planning on being there Tuesday.