Monday, September 15, 2008

The Electoral College Map (9/16/08)

Life always proves that if you wait long enough, what you're waiting for will eventually happen. Well, we've finally got a new poll out Delaware. And you know what? Having a vice presidential candidate from the First state is worth about three points. The last time Delaware was polled was back in February and not-even-nominee Obama's advantage over John McCain was 9 points. Seven months later with the addition of Joe Biden to ticket, Obama is now ahead by 12 points. But hey, we've got a new poll out of Delaware.

New Polls (Sept. 15)
New York
Survey USA
Survey USA

The rest of the changes for today are pretty much par for the course; all the way from that +32 in Utah to the tie in Survey USA's poll of Virginia. But this list is not without its anomalies. For starters, the other poll out of Virginia -- from Rasmussen -- has Obama ahead by four while the firm's survey in Pennsylvania has McCain up by two. That's the Arizona senator's first poll lead in the Keystone state since the end of April. Not as large a gap as the one between polls in Delaware, but a large gap nonetheless. Pennsylvania has been tighter lately but the scales had yet to tip in McCain's direction. Now they have. But will that remain the case? Possibly, but Pennsylvania, like Virginia, is settling in as a toss up state and it likely to stay there for the duration of this campaign. The other poll of note is the Siena poll out of New York. That five point Obama edge is far below some of the other polls we've seen out of the Empire state. However, it feels a lot like the Marist poll out of New Jersey over the weekend: a bit too much like a tease for Republicans. If New York is on the table then Obama really is in trouble. I just don't think it is, though.

Changes (Sept. 15)
DelawareObama leanStrong Obama

Despite some interesting results, the only poll that triggers any noticeable change is the Rasmussen poll of Delaware. Biden's selection seems to have done something in the First state that hasn't happened across either of the two previous cycles: move Delaware out of the "lean" category. The First state has been in that 7-9 point range both in the polls and in the voting booth for much of this decade. Having a favorite son on the ticket makes a typically reliable Democratic state even more reliable. And hey, it's one state other than Ohio that has flipped toward Obama over the last week.

[Click Map to Enlarge]

Those three electoral votes shifting even deeper into Obama territory doesn't really do a whole lot to change the map. In fact, the 273-265 edge that Obama held prior to the addition of the 12 new polls from nine states above. We are to a point now where it appears as if we have a pretty good idea about where the battle will be over the next 48 days. Several states like Montana and North Dakota have become more red and in the process have shifted the battle more onto formerly Obama turf.

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.

***Colorado is the state 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 Electoral College Spectrum gives us a better idea of how this is playing out. The real fight right now is among the eleven states from New Mexico on the left to Missouri on the right. The 143 electoral votes combined will likely decide who wins the election on November 4. Recently Colorado and New Hampshire had collectively shared the distinction as the Victory line -- the line at which 270 electoral votes would be passed for each candidate. Only with New Hampshire hypothetically on the McCain side and Colorado on the Obama side, the tally for each candidate came to 269 electoral votes. Now however, the Granite and Centennial states have switched positions. So now, instead one candidate having to win both states, McCain only has to win Colorado -- in addition to the states in pink -- and Obama has to win both states to surpass 270. Both states are currently favoring Obama in our weighted averages. What the shift does, though, is place added importance on Obama winning Colorado. Without it, the path to victory gets tougher if the Illinois senator is not able to peel off any of those pink states.

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
Virginiafrom 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.

Nevada, Ohio and Virginia remain within a fraction of a point of switching over to Obama's side, though. And all three are accessible to Obama at the moment. But Michigan and Pennsylvania tightening up is good news for McCain. Until we get more polling out of Indiana, the battle in the current environment -- one that favors McCain -- makes this campaign a battle for Obama to shift the narrative of the campaign in a way that brings Indiana, Florida and Missouri -- the last three pink states on the Electoral College Spectrum -- into play. Without that shift, the list of swing states contracts to the eight states from New Mexico through Virginia.

Recent Posts:
The Electoral College Map (9/15/08)

The Electoral College Map (9/14/08)

The Electoral College Map (9/13/08)


Anonymous said...

Obama seems to be winning the week. The John McCain statement yesterday that the economy is strong is one that he is backing away from at every stop.

Now a top campaign aide has claimed that McCain invented the BlackBerry.

It also looks like Palin's unfavorables are climbing.

Finally, The RCP national average shows evidence that McCain's numbers are coming down, while Obama seems to be leveling off.

By the end of the week, it will become apparent if these events, particularly with reagrd to the financial news, are bringing Obama back.

Anonymous said...

Here are those links from Rob:

Obama on McCain and the economy

McCain and the Blackberry invention

FiveThirtyEight on Palin's unfavorables

Real Clear's national average

Jack said...

Yes, the Siena poll shows a surprisingly small lead in one of the nation's four most Democratic states, but that's not the oddest poll to come out of my home state. In April Marist did a poll that had McCain up by 2 against Obama while down only 2 against Hillary.

I really don't see Obama winning FL. To me, there is no reason he should be able to do better than Gore or Kerry did. I would think Floridians would be more receptive to candidates like them than they would be to Obama, especially since Florida is one of the few swing states that has, if anything, gotten more Republican.

Virginia's probably harder to read because this is the first time it's a swing state in many years. I wonder if the economy will push Ohioans towards Obama eventually, but he's seemed to struggle just a little in the polls there lately. And I refuse to believe that Pennsylvania can go Republican unless McCain wins in a landslide.

Anonymous said...

I shifted your comment from earlier over to this post so it won't get lost in all those retrospective looks at the map. It seems more appropriate here.

Also, here is more on Palin's current favorables/unfavorables from The Monkey Cage.

Unknown said...

I'm feeling a little under the weather, so maybe I'm missing something obvious, but...

Why is New Hampshire yellow in the electoral college spectrum? It seems like Colorado is unambiguously the victory line right now.

Anonymous said...

And I've been looking at this too much. You're right Scott. I'll have a fix up shortly.

Robert said...

While I would think that the shakeup in Wall Street would adversely affect McCain the Deregulator, he still seems to be hanging on to the independents by charging Obama with political opportunism. How are they getting away with this? It will be interesting to see if the Friday and Saturday polls indicate a shift. If Obama can't pick up points with the financial situation, it's hard to see what else he can do.

Unknown said...

Robert--yes, this period is an interesting test of strategies. McCain/Palin are persistently lying and ignoring their previous records. The media is increasingly calling them on it. A McCain campaign spokesman replies that they're "running a campaign to win."

With that kind of bald-faced lying, my guess is that it works until it doesn't, and then it's catastrophic. Independents right now can't choose Obama without also discrediting John McCain, American least the 2008 version. That's not a small bridge to cross, but once it's done, it's done.

McCain/Palin seem to be betting they can get away with it with enough people to get them to election day. I suspect they can't. As far as when the dam breaks, it might not be due to a major story. Some fairly innocent remark or interesting photo or anecdote may cause everything else to suddenly be seen in a different light. It's like a gestalt shift.

Robert said...


I think you are right that once the dam breaks it will be bad news for McCain/Palin, but I am not convinced it will break before the election.

Anonymous said...

I keep coming back to the debate in 1980 as a guiding example here. Here is a watershed moment when the "dam broke" and people felt comfortable voting for Reagan.

Now, are the dynamics in 2008 different? Yes. We have more than one debate and it isn't right on top of the election. The debate bounce, it could be argued, was still in effect when the votes were cast. Should either McCain or Obama do well in the debates, there will be an over two week period for the system to calm back down (just as it has in the time since the conventions ended).

So I can see voters getting comfortable with Obama following the debates. However, there is some daylight there in the interim between the final debate and the election and McCain could use that time to bring any boost to Obama back down.

Unknown said...

Josh--I actually think we're moving past the Obama comfort level issue. The McCain campaign has taken control of the narrative, and they've moved away from every line of attack that paints Obama as exotic, inexperienced, or not ready. Instead, they've opted to out-Obama Obama, running on enthusiasm and "change."

When they do that, they gradually shift the campaign from a referendum on Bush (which it was before the primaries) to a referendum on Obama (which it's been for the last half-year) to a referendum on McCain. The McCain campaign thinks they can win a referendum on McCain, and Robert's right--they might.

But that changes the debates a bit. I think people expect Obama to be a bit boring, and he's a disciplined if not inspired debater. If he's a bit boring, it doesn't hurt, as long as he doesn't sigh or look at his watch or something. McCain, on the other hand, has tried to position himself as a flashy maverick. At times he's been a maverick, but he's never really been flashy. Right now it looks like he wins if he can pull that off, but it's a tall order.

Your point about the timing of the debates is important, though. That least two weeks could hold some surprises.

P.S. Some evidence of this kind of shift. In Rasmussen tracking, McCain's "very unfavorable" rating is at an all-time high, while Obama's has stayed about the same or dropped a little. They're within 3 points of crossing, at which point it becomes clear that McCain is more the story than Obama...

Anonymous said...

Good points Scott. I suspect you are correct. And that again goes back to your point about the dam breaking. It is an all-or-nothing proposition for McCain. If the election is a referendum on him, then he has to be on the right side of things on November 4. If more of these Carly Fiorina flaps arise, undermining the campaigns stances on and ability to deal with economic issues, then that referendum won't be a pleasant experience for the Arizona senator.

More on the debates: Timing is one thing but format is another. McCain will find it easier to be "flashy" in the second debate because of the town hall format. The first and third debates, however, are sit-down affairs, not the standing behind a lectern ones that we got four years ago. The sit-down debates are boring by nature and that may be to Obama's advantage (...especially if the perception is that he will be disciplined, yet on the boring side.). But the perception ahead of time counts.