Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Electoral College Map (10/12/08)

The big question of Saturday -- an otherwise slow polling day? Did that new Ohio poll from the University of Cincinnati pull the Buckeye state back into the group of McCain states? [What? You think I'm going to answer that one right away?] What has been established in Ohio -- post-Lehman -- has been a range of results between +8 for Obama to +2 for McCain. In this Cincinnati poll, then, we have a result at the extreme McCain end of that range in Ohio. If we simply take the average of the polls during the three week period since the economic situation began, Obama leads the Buckeye state by two and a half points. That's essentially, two points ahead of where FHQ's graduated weighted average currently has the state. Yes, that seems like Obama has a rather tenuous grasp on the Buckeye state. Well, he does, but it isn't perhaps as vulnerable as you might think.

John McCain would need a series of polls favoring him or one poll, given the current numbers, giving him an edge of five points to bring Ohio back across the partisan line. Yeah, that five point margin doesn't seem like much, but in light of the discussion above about the range of polls in Ohio recently, it does is probabalistically outside of the realm of possibility. One big burst for McCain appears unlikely and the Arizona senator is averaging a little over one positive poll a week in Ohio. In other words, a series of polls favoring McCain in Ohio also seems unlikely in the context of the current environment. It isn't as if McCain hasn't been trying, but somehow the McCain-Palin ticket has to find a way to change the dynamic of the race, if not nationally, then in a few toss up states that could make a difference. We'll discuss those states below with the Electoral College Spectrum.

New Polls (Oct. 11)
Survey USA
Public Policy Polling
West Chester Univ.
Univ. of Cincinnati

Other than Ohio, the only other poll of note on Saturday was PPP's poll of Colorado. I don't want to give short shrift to Alabama and Delaware, but is anyone really surprised by either of those results? Both appear to be in the bag for their respective candidates. Colorado, though, is one of a handful of Bush states from 2004 that may turn blue in November. The more double digit leads polls give Obama in the Centennial state, the better the chances of that happening are. [Well, that meaning Colorado staying blue and switching parties from one presidential cycle to the next.] Like Ohio, though, this PPP poll is at the extreme end of the range of polling out of Colorado, but in this case toward Obama. The range of results in Colorado since the Lehman collapse is slightly wider than the one in Ohio, stretching from +10 for Obama to +3 for McCain. Both are outliers but each is basically equidistant from the average of all the polls over the last three weeks. At +4 for Obama, that average is right on the cut off between what FHQ considers a toss up and a lean state. [And would be safe after that line is moved down to 3 points later this coming week.] And that's indicative of the state of this race. If the Victory Line state -- the state where each candidate passes or would pass 270 electoral votes -- is four points into Obama territory that says something about the difficult position John McCain is in right now. For the record, that four points is the average of polls over the last three weeks -- an Obama period. Over the course of the race since Super Tuesday back in February, Obama holds an edge of nearly three points in our weighted average.

[Click Map to Enlarge]

The polls on Saturday didn't do much to move electoral votes on the map. In fact, for the second straight day, the map and the Electoral College Spectrum remain unchanged. Obama continues to hold 311-227 electoral vote advantage in the projected electoral college tally. And as I said above, it is incumbent upon the McCain campaign to shift the momentum, if not nationally, then in the handful of the closest states. That means going on the offensive in Colorado, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia and defending Florida and North Carolina. The catch for the McCain campaign is that there does not seem to be a silver bullet that hits all of those states at once. They have focused on Obama's judgment and character this past week, but that has not put a dent in the polling advantages that Obama has held, either nationally or on the state level. And with just one debate left, the opportunities for McCain to stem (and reverse) the tide are decreasing.

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 New Hampshire (all Obama's toss up states), he would have 278 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. It is currently favoring Obama, thus the blue text in that cell.

Finally, the Watch List stays the same today as well. As an extension of our target state/toss up state discussion, we should talk about the general trends in each. The momentum is squarely behind Obama in each of the states mentioned above. As such, Florida is the state to keep the closest eye on. The Sunshine state has continued to inch toward Obama over the course of the last couple of weeks. And as I said yesterday, continued pro-Obama polling will push Florida into the blue sooner rather than later. One poll would do it as well if that poll was +10 for Obama, but that is not as likely, but isn't necessarily outside of the realm of possibility.

The Watch List*
Floridafrom Toss Up McCain
to Toss Up Obama
Georgiafrom Strong McCainto McCain lean
Indianafrom Toss Up McCain
to McCain lean
Iowafrom Strong Obama
to Obama lean
Michiganfrom Obama lean
to Toss Up Obama
Nevadafrom Toss Up Obama
to Toss Up McCain
New Hampshirefrom Obama lean
to Toss Up Obama
New Jerseyfrom Obama lean
to Strong Obama
North Dakotafrom Strong McCainto McCain lean
Ohiofrom Toss Up Obama
to Toss Up McCain
Oregonfrom Obama lean
to Strong Obama
Washingtonfrom Strong Obama
to Obama lean
*Weighted Average within a fraction of a point of changing categories.

As we head into a new week -- the week of the final presidential debate of 2008 -- the economy continues to dominate the news, but the McCain campaign has attempted to shift that discussion. And Congresman John Lewis has added another layer to this by comparing the McCain campaign's tactics over the last week to George Wallace's during the 1960s. That bombshell has reverberated around the Sunday morning shows this morning and is likely to be a topic of discussion during the first part of the week. The question now is whether that discussion sustains itself long enough to potentially work its way into the debate on Wednesday night. That is the domestic-themed debate and we have yet to see any discussion of race in these debates, much less the campaign. The Obama campaign has certainly attempted to steer clear of the issue, but it will interesting to see if it becomes a part of Wednesday's debate.

Recent Posts:
The Electoral College Map (10/11/08)

The Electoral College Map (10/10/08)

Open Thread: An Obama Landslide: How Far Could It Go?

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