Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Electoral College Map (8/10/08)

After this past week's look into the hypothetical, let's return to the non-truncated version of state trial-heat polls data and glance at the electoral college outlook. Despite eleven new polls out in 9 states, little changed in FHQ's projections of how the electoral college would breakdown.

New Polls (Aug. 6-9)
(With Leaners/ Without Leaners)
Capital Survey Research Center
New Jersey
New York
New York
Survey USA
Wisconsin Policy Research Institute

It is difficult to say definitively whether this set of polling is more favorable to McCain or Obama, but what we can discern is that, on the whole, they maintain the status quo in FHQ's weighted averages. If, for the sake of parsimony, we focus on this data and count the Rasmussen polls "with leaners," none of these state polls break more than three points from our average with the exceptions of Alabama and Oregon. It is odd though that both polls echo the previous polls in those states by the same firms. Capital Survey Research Center's late June poll in Alabama showed the same 13 point McCain advantage that it does now. Likewise, the Oregon poll from Survey USA has the exact same 3 point Obama edge that the firm's mid-June poll in the Beaver state had. In both cases the polls show significantly smaller margins than the combination of other polls show. Other than the Zogby poll in June (11 point McCain lead) and the June poll from Rasmussen, no Alabama poll has had a margin less than 18 points since February. In Oregon, no poll other than Survey USA has shown the state to be any closer than eight points since late March. These two polls then are out of the ordinary compared to most of the other polls from both states while at the same time being consistent with past polls conducted within the last two months in these states by the same firms.

Of the remaining states where polling data has been released since Wednesday, Michigan and Missouri are also of note given that the pair of states is within the toss up category. In Missouri, the polling results have been erratic since mid-May, but still comes out closer to McCain than Obama currently. Of the ten polls since that point, six have favored McCain and the other four have given the edge to Obama. May is also the month to note in Michigan polling as well. The three polls released in the Wolverine state in May all showed McCain ahead by small margins. Once the calendar turned to June (and Obama claimed the Democratic nomination), the polling margins moved in Obama's direction. The Illinois senator's bounce there peaked in late June and early July before a series of polls showed a tighter race there (yet one that still favors Obama). Incidentally, Michigan has been blue since just after Obama wrapped up the nomination. Based mostly on those May polls showing McCain ahead, Michigan had moved into and stayed in the red (during the span of FHQ electoral college projections from April 30 through June 11). Long story short, Michigan is a toss up state that favors Obama while Missouri is a toss up state that favors McCain.
[Click Map to Enlarge]

With no changes to the map, the underlying 298-240 electoral college tally remains static. Obama maintains that 58 electoral vote advantage based in large part on the number of electoral votes in states in which he holds a solid advantage over McCain. As I mentioned in the hypothetical look at what our averages would be by including just polls conducted since June, this is not unlike the delegate advantage that Obama held over Clinton following his post-Super Tuesday sweep of contests during February. That provided him with the cushion necessary to effectively win the nomination. Are we looking at a similar scenario here? We cannot definitively say, but that 81 electoral vote advantage in "strong" states is the difference at the moment. How the toss up states break will have a great deal to say about who ultimately wins this election, but if those states are divided approximately evenly between both McCain and Obama, then it looks as if Obama will likly have enough electoral votes to claim victory.

The Electoral College Spectrum
* Pennsylvania is the state where Obama crosses (or McCain would cross) the 270 electoral vote threshold to win the presidential election. That state is referred to as the victory line.

Having said that, though, our Electoral College Spectrum (states ranked from most pro-Obama to most pro-McCain) still shows a two state spread between the partisan line and the victory line (where the candidates pass or would pass the 270 electoral vote threshold) with the latter just within the blue states that signify Obama advantages. McCain, given the current FHQ averages, has the least amount of work to do in Ohio and Nevada to swing those states in his direction. Given the current trends, Colorado and/or Michigan are likely to supplant Pennsylvania as the victory line state. Since June, only Rasmussen has shown anything less than a 7 point margin in the Keystone state, while Colorado and Michigan have had, on average, tighter margins during the same period. Regardless of the victory line, McCain's best bets for switches are the six toss up states in light blue.

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

Turning our attention the the Watch List (states most likely to switch categories), Nevada and Ohio remain the only two states among those six that are at all close to moving into the red. And while McCain can play offense in those two states, the Arizona senator likely has to play defense in Virginia to prevent Obama from picking off the Old Dominion. Of the remaining states on the list, only Florida and New Mexico are bordering on coming into play.

One thing to keep an eye on as we head into the new week is how the Olympics will affect the frequency of polling. Will the polling firms opt to scale back their polling operations while at least some of America's (a majority?) attention is shifted to the games in Beijing? We've had bursts of polling recently, but there still appears to be a general underlying trend of about 20 polls every week. If there is a drop below that line over the course of the next two weeks, we'll likely have an easy answer to this question. If there isn't a drop, good for us. More polls.

Recent Posts:
On VP Announcement Timing and Graphic Naming -- Some Housekeeping

What Would Happen If...

The Electoral College Map (8/6/08)


Robert said...

We've talked about national issues and local issues. If McCain wants to pick up Nevada, he is going to need to moderate his views on nuclear power. With 45 new nuclear plants to come on stream from a McCain administration, the waste load for Yucca Mountain is bound to increase.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I note that both Florida senators, one R and one D, are opposed to offshore drilling.

Unknown said...

Josh--I'd still like to see the Electoral College Spectrum accompanied by a number that indicates exactly where the 270 falls. By my count, Obama gets 273 if he wins PA and everything on his side of that. That must mean McCain wins 286 if he wins PA and everything on his side.

Knowing those numbers makes it much easier to evaluate scenarios. For example, McCain could trade Michigan for Pennsylvania and still win. In fact, he could also throw away Nevada under that scenario. But trading Pennsylvania for New Hampshire only puts him in a tie, which would be messy, but ends up with an Obama win.

From there, it makes it easier to evaluate Robert's comment. McCain really doesn't need Nevada. If McCain wins PA or MI, he probably doesn't need NV. If he doesn't win either, NV probably won't do him any good. The one scenario which is even remotely plausible in which NV is crucial is if McCain wins CO, and loses PA, MI, and NH. Then he needs NV. But that's really it. So if it helps him nationally (and there are some interesting recent Gallup numbers that shine some light on that), then it's worth it to him to throw away Nevada.

Robert said...


Good points. It looks to me like McCain is throwing away NV. He may be making a play for PA if he nominates Tom Ridge as his VP. Of course, there may be a run on duct tape by the Obama campaign.

Unknown said...

Or he picks Romney and makes a run at Michigan. Hmm...the pro-choice guy or the Mormon? Maybe that's why Obama is putting money into Georgia...

Anonymous said...

Obama is hitting McCain hard on the Yucca Mountain issue in a new Nevada-based ad. They are mindful of the issue I'd say. The Obama folks continue to pick and choose their spots...just like during primary season.

Anonymous said...

I haven't forgotten about addressing that electoral vote issue. I played around with a few things the other week and nothing really looked good. Last week I got caught up preparing for this semester's upcoming classes and got sidetracked. However, I'll look at a few things this week and see if I can put an alternate version in Wednesday's post.