Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Electoral College Map (10/19/08)

The slow Saturdays continue, but this week's has given way to news-packed Sunday, which from all indications will favor Obama heading into the new week. But Colin Powell endorsements and the revelation that your campaign has raised $150 million during the month of September tend to do that. It isn't as if the McCain campaign didn't try in their own right to create a topic of discussion at the outset of a new news week. Sarah Palin's appearance on Saturday Night Live was pretty funny.

New Polls (Oct. 18)
North Carolina
Research 2000/Daily Kos

All those links aside, Saturday lacked as far as the number of polls were concerned, but certainly did not lack in impact. The Hamilton poll of Florida showed Obama ahead by four points and that once again shifted Florida to the blue side of the partisan line (see Electoral College Spectrum below). Like Nevada, Ohio and Virginia before it, the Sunshine state took a couple of days to work out the kinks. All four have turned blue recently, but all four took some time to switch over fully, switching, then switching back before turning blue for an extended period of time. Now, it could be that Florida turns pink again and stays there, but if the Sunshine state is like any of its fellow Obama state converts, then it is likely to stay blue for a little while. Yeah, I realize there's only a little while left in the race. That makes this (re-)move even more significant. But Florida is still close and I'll address what McCain will need from the polls in the coming days to pull it back to the Republican side of the partisan line.

Changes (Oct. 18)
Toss Up McCain
Toss Up Obama

There were also new polls from North Carolina and Wisconsin. Neither is particularly out of line with other recent polls in the Tar Heel and Badger states. Both, however, are outside of the weighted averages of each here at FHQ. Wisconsin is already in the strong Obama category, having switched due to the fact that the threshold between the strong and lean categories was dropped to seven points just yesterday. But the Badger state's movement further into safety for Obama has continued unabated following the meltdown on Wall Street. The same is true in North Carolina. The starting point is all that differs. Wisconsin has hovered between a lean and a toss up for Obama most of the year and has moved into a stronger position for the Illinois senator. North Carolina has also moved into a stronger position for Obama, but started out as a McCain lean state and has gone back and forth between a lean and a toss up for much of the summer. The polling movement in the Tar Heel state since late September has favored Obama and pulled into a much more competitive status, but it still favors McCain at this point overall.

[Click Map to Enlarge]

With Florida on the blue side of the partisan line again, Obama's advantage in the electoral college is back up to 138 electoral votes. But as was pointed out in yesterday's update, the toss ups on the blue side of the Electoral College Spectrum just serve the purpose of padding the stats so to speak. If Obama wins in his strong and lean states, he will pass 270 electoral votes without needing any of those toss up states, blue or pink. In terms of entering the White House that means that Obama would work closer to mandate-claiming electoral vote margin on election day. But there are still two weeks left in this race. Let us not put the cart before the horse, eh, Democrats.

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 Colorado (all Obama's toss up states plus Colorado), he would have 274 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.

And as there are two weeks left, there's still something to talk about strategy-wise. There are two potential dynamics at work here that we likely won't have a firm answer to until (or after) election day. On the one hand, there is no evidence that there is a Bradley effect at play in this race, but we never really find out until the votes are cast. On the other hand, there's the possibility that there is, as the panel on This Week called it this morning, an Obama effect; that there are conservatives who are telling friends and, more importantly, pollsters that they are voting for McCain but will vote for Obama instead. Should it continue to look as if Obama will win as comfortably as it seems he might at this point, those folks may be more inclined to jump on the bandwagon. Again, we won't know that either effect (or a combination of the two) is taking place until after the fact. [Hey, we have to have something to examine after the election, right?] Regardless, Obama's financial situation puts McCain and his campaign at a real disadvantage, causing them to play defense in Bush states instead of competing effectively in states like Michigan or Wisconsin.

The Watch List*
Coloradofrom Obama lean
to Toss Up Obama
Floridafrom Toss Up Obama
to Toss Up McCain
Indianafrom McCain lean
to Toss Up McCain
Minnesotafrom Strong Obama
to Obama lean
Missourifrom Toss Up McCain
to Toss Up Obama
Montanafrom McCain lean
to Strong McCain
Nevadafrom Toss Up Obama
to Toss Up McCain
New Mexicofrom Obama lean
to Strong Obama
North Carolinafrom Toss Up McCain
to McCain lean
Ohiofrom Toss Up Obama
to Toss Up McCain
Pennsylvaniafrom Obama lean
to Strong Obama
West Virginiafrom Toss Up McCain
to McCain lean
Wisconsinfrom Strong Obama
to Obama lean
*Weighted Average within a fraction of a point of changing categories.

Turning to the Watch List, Florida, Nevada and Ohio are still the states to watch closely for the time being. Those three along with Missouri (which joined the list yesterday...but was mistakenly omitted) are the states that could cross the partisan line in the event new polling is released. Missouri is a long way off from completely switching over, though. The Show-Me state's magic number is at 14 for Obama. In other words, it would take a poll showing Obama up 14 points to pull the state into the blue. The more likely route is that a series of polls favors Obama between now and election day. The situation in Ohio is similar for McCain. It would take an 11 point margin favoring the Arizona senator to turn the Buckeye state pink. Of course, that is more a function of the number of polls conducted in Ohio over the course of this campaign. The reality is that Ohio is close and has been throughout the process. The magic numbers for McCain in Florida and Nevada are more manageable, but no less difficult for the Arizona senator to overcome down the stretch. In Florida, McCain needs a +3 margin in the next poll to turn the state pink, and in Nevada, the Arizona senator would need a six point margin to accomplish the same.

There is some evidence that the Obama surge has peaked and is receding at the national level. On the state level, the evidence so far is scant, but the state polls tend to run on a lag behind the national polls. This week will be the time to see if that recession spreads to the state polls as well. There are some battleground polls out already today that may shake things up, but we'll have to see their effect a little later.

Recent Posts:
The Electoral College Map (10/18/08)

Reminder and a Note

The Electoral College Map (10/17/08)

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