Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Electoral College Map (10/20/08)

After Saturday's [eventual] update, the comments turned into a wish list of which states should be polled that had not been polled in a while [or every much recently]. Most of that wish list was comprised of states from two basic categories: 1) Blue states that had either polled really closely following convention season but has not really been revisited since or 2) Red states with neighbors that had had tight polling margins but lack of survey work being conducted within their borders. There's one from each category among the nine polls from seven different states. Maine represents the first group while Montana meets the description of the second.

The Pine Tree state had been polling in the low to mid-teens in favor of Obama for much of the summer. But since that time, Maine has drawn closer after a series of polls that came out immediately after the conventions and extended past the bounce period. Only time and more polling will tell us whether this new poll is an outlier or not.

In Montana, there has just been a drop off in polling; not that there was ever a flurry of them from the Treasure state. But after the Palin selection and the conventions, both Montana and North Dakota seemed to jump toward McCain and that appeared to have held up around and after the Lehman collapse triggered the financial sector's problems (the latest round of them at least). But within the last week a few polls from North Dakota have had us all rethinking how well those two states would fall in line with the McCain-Palin ticket. The answer looks to be not as well as originally thought perhaps. Sure this is just one poll, but Montana is essentially back where it was prior to convention season: close, but likely out of Obama's grasp. [Yes, 2008 is the never say never election, but I'll stick by that choice of phrasing until we get some more evidence.] The real news is that the Treasure state is not necessarily a complete write-off for Obama at this point. But it could be a temporary jump as was the case in...

New Polls (Oct. 19)
Research 2000/Daily Kos
Research 2000/Daily Kos
Research 2000/Daily Kos
Star Tribune
Research 2000/Daily Kos
West Virginia
West Virginia
Public Policy Polling

...West Virginia. The Mountain state drew considerably closer within the last week, but on the strength of a couple of polls out today, moves back into the McCain lean category after a short stint as a toss up. That Obama +8 margin in the ARG poll last week, shook things up some, but West Virginia has worked its way out of the mix for the time being. It is certainly closer than has been in the last two presidential cycles, but like Montana, West Virginia just feels like another one of close but not quite states for the Illinois senator.

Changes (Oct. 19)
West Virginia
Toss Up McCain
McCain lean

As we said earlier today, the Powell endorsement and the September fund-raising total for Obama made this a difficult news day for John McCain. It did help that there was some added daylight in West Virginia, but that was cancelled out by the shrinking lead in Montana. There was a solid poll out of Kentucky, but that was cancelled out by the continued double digit Obama leads in Minnesota and Wisconsin. And what does that leave the Arizona senator? Well, there is that one point lead in Ohio. Sadly though, McCain has averaged one or two leads a week among all the polls that are conducted in the Buckeye state and, typically, they are one or two point edges. Meanwhile, Obama has had results ranging from a tie to six points. Ohio is still very close, but it favors Obama ever so slightly all the same. An already poor news day (and one leading into the new week) was not helped especially much by the polling that was released.

[Click Map to Enlarge]

And though, West Virginia's five electoral votes shifted toward safer McCain territory, the underlying electoral vote distribution remained the same, 338-200 for Obama. What West Virginia's exit does, though, is to trim the list of toss up states by one more state. The toss ups now number just six with just 91 electoral votes at stake. Obama has the advantage in four of those six states and has the polls trending in his direction in the remaining two. Now, it is true that the national polls have seemingly peaked for Obama, and this week will be about determining whether the state polls will follow, and if so, by how much? In the end, even if McCain was able to sweep the toss up states, he would still come up short in his bid for the White House.

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.

The Watch List loses both Montana and West Virginia as both are now wedged in the middle area of the McCain lean category. The focus though centers on the four states we spoke about yesterday. Florida, Missouri, Nevada and Ohio are still the states to watch. All retain the same magic number today with the exception of Ohio -- the only state among that group to be polled today. The Buckeye state would have to hand John McCain a lead of 10 points in the next poll to swing the state in the Arizona senator's direction. That's down a point from a day ago. Missouri is already among the McCain toss ups, so that one is the easiest for the Arizona senator to keep. Florida, however, is his most likely target. It would take a three point lead in the next poll out of Florida to shift the Sunshine state across the partisan line into McCain territory.

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
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
Wisconsinfrom Strong Obama
to Obama lean
*Weighted Average within a fraction of a point of changing categories.

One other state to watch is Pennsylvania. The Muhlenberg College tracking poll saw Obama peak last week and is starting to show signs of drawing closer. But the question with the Keystone state, is how much closer. The Illinois senator is already pretty consistently over 50% in most of those polls and if the margin settles in around the 10 point mark, Pennsylvania will sooner rather than later shift into the strong Obama category. If that one goes off McCain's list, the Arizona senator's options will be severely limited.

Recent Posts:
The Electoral College Map (10/19/08)

The Electoral College Map (10/18/08)

Reminder and a Note


knickelbein5 said...

what would it take to move north Carolina into the lean Obama column? We have seen some consistency in low single digits there so realistically do you think he can win that state?

Anonymous said...

My response grew too long. See here for the my reaction in full.

Good question.

Anonymous said...

Alright I give up on believing that Virginia is going to be close/tight.
Rasmussen is a very reliable pollster and they have a new poll out for Virginia with Obama +10.

Anonymous said...

Here's that Virginia link from Anon12:09. That definitely says something. First that's a ten point margin from Rasmussen and second, this poll is not going to be a part of the Rasmussen/FOX battleground polls that are likely to come out this afternoon.