Friday, October 24, 2008

The Electoral College Map (10/25/08)

I had trouble pulling myself away from the Frontline biography [The Choice 2008] on McCain and Obama long enough to write this. Alas, I managed, and if you're interested, the Frontline special is linked above. [Good stuff.]

And the Friday polls? Well, for once a Friday was actually a pretty good day for polling releases. Typically, we've seen the number of polls drop off significantly on Friday, and while there was a decrease compared to Thursday's massive release, to have 19 polls to end the work week gives us something to examine heading into the weekend.

New Polls (Oct. 24)
Capital Survey Research Center
Strategic Vision
Insider Advantage
Strategic Vision
Insider Advantage
Research 2000
New Hampshire
North Carolina
North Carolina
Strategic Vision
OhioInsider Advantage
OhioPublic Policy Polling
PennsylvaniaStrategic Vision
South Carolina

The question of the day? Was the polling any better on Friday than it was on Thursday for John McCain? The short answer is yes. There weren't any Indianas or Montanas in the blue and Iowa and New Hampshire, at first glance, looked much closer than they have been recently. A closer look shows us that while both were tighter than they had been compared to other polling of late, there were differing results compared to the last poll conducted by the same firm in those states. The previous time Rasmussen surveyed both Iowa and New Hampshire, Iowa showed the exact same 8 point margin for Barack Obama as September turned into October.

The Illinois senator's margin in New Hampshire, however, dropped six points from 10 t0 4 over the same period. Of all the states, New Hampshire seems to be one that moves the most in conjunction with how the national polls are trending. But that may not be the case here. John McCain has a base of support among the independents in the Granite state dating back to his 2000 run for the Republican nomination, and it could be, though I can't confirm this on Rasmussen's site [The toplines from the last poll aren't up anymore. When and if they reappear, I'll check.], that the few undecideds have decided to line up behind McCain. We don't have the October 1 toplines, but the previous Rasmussen poll of the Granite state shows the same number of undecideds during the last week of September as there are now, 3%. So, that may not be the reason the margin has closed.

[Click Map to Enlarge]

Outside of those two instances of McCain gains, the rest of the day was kind of a mixed bag. Sure, Obama was up a point in the latest Insider Advantage poll in Georgia (Yes, Georgia! I wouldn't mind seeing the Peach state get competitive. It's good for business.), but that was balanced out by the six point advantage McCain had there in the Strategic Vision poll. Still, even if the former is disregarded, that six point edge for McCain is smaller than the lead had earlier in the month. And it should also be noted that Insider Advantage has periodically had Georgia much closer than the other polls of the state throughout this election year. It was a couple of polls earlier in the summer from the organization -- +1 and +2 for McCain -- that raised the possibility that Georgia could be in play. Yes, that talk had been around since Obama's Super Tuesday victory in the state, but those two polls certainly didn't hurt that perception, giving them some actual independent polling evidence of the potential closeness. At this time though, it looks like Georgia is still out of Obama's grasp.

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.

There was a similar canceling effect with the Ohio polls of the day as well. On the one hand, Insider Advantage's survey of the Buckeye state confirmed the double digit margins in the Quinnipiac and Big Ten polls a day earlier. But on the other, Strategic Vision showed a 3 point McCain lead. That's a pretty big margin, but we have seen this in Ohio before. [Within a week of each other late in July, PPP and Rasmussen had polls showing an 8 point Obama lead and a 10 point McCain lead respectively.] The late-night release of the PPP poll carves out a nice position between the two other Ohio polls of the day at seven points. My intuition tells me that even that is a bit high, but is indicative of the shift toward Obama since the Lehman collapse triggered the economic bailout situation on Captiol Hill.

The Watch List*
Coloradofrom Obama lean
to Toss Up Obama
Floridafrom Toss Up Obama
to Toss Up McCain
Georgiafrom Strong McCain
to McCain lean
from Obama lean
to Strong Obama
Missourifrom Toss Up McCain
to Toss Up Obama
Montanafrom McCain lean
to Toss Up McCain
New Mexicofrom Obama lean
to Strong Obama
Virginiafrom Toss Up Obama
to Obama lean
*Weighted Average within a fraction of a point of changing categories.

But on a good Friday poll day, nothing changed on the map and little else changed in the rankings reflected in the Electoral College Spectrum. Georgia did move enough to be added to the Watch List, but the Peach state isn't likely to move any more than into the McCain lean category between now and election day. FHQ's measures aside, for Georgia to move into the blue on November 4, it would take something on the order of a 10 point win nationally for the Illinois senator. I suppose that could happen, but we rarely see such resounding victories in presidential elections, especially, as Seth Masket has continually cautioned, since this is an "open seat" presidential election. In those situations, the losing candidate is typically able to get to at least 45% of the vote. That would put ten points as the ceiling on what a winning candidate can achieve.

Finally, Nevada also moves off the Watch List for today. What? With no polls? Yeah, keep in mind that every state's average changes everyday now. That is because the weighting scheme is dependent upon the number of days since Super Tuesday to determine the weight of each poll conducted since that time. Nevada, as we said the other day, was a few thousandths of a point from moving off the list, and has gotten that fraction as the weighting has changed since.

Recent Posts:
The Electoral College Map (10/24/08)

While You Wait for the New Map, Here's a...Map

The Electoral College Map (10/23/08)


Jack said...

When McCain is only up six in a Strategic Vision poll (a firm that tends to lean a few points Republican, I think), and down by one in another poll in Georgia, he's in trouble.

I'm not going to tell you what to think about Georgia, given that I'm very much a Northeasterner who has spent a total of one day in Georgia, and that was in what I presume is a Democratic-leaning city in Savannah (I'll probably be in Georgia again this winter). But it looks to me that Obama has a chance to win it, though McCain is obviously the favorite.

Incidentally, caught a few minutes of a Martin/Chambliss/Buckley debate on C-SPAN2 the other day, though too little to make any judgments, and I'm quite a poor judge of debates anyway.

Speaking of the Senate race, the Insider Advantage poll shows Obama doing better than Martin. That seems odd to me, but you know more than I do about the Peach State. Is that as surprising as I find it?

Unknown said...

Josh--you've got the prepositions for Georgia flipped in the Watch List.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Scott. That's been fixed. I been transitioning into full-time HTML editing of those tables -- its more efficient -- but I haven't worked all of the kinks out yet.

Also, I saw that you added an update of your electoral college analysis. I'll try and get a new version of that up tonight or in the morning.

I agree that McCain is in trouble in Georgia as compared to just two weeks ago. But I'm even more skeptical of Obama's chances here than I am about North Carolina. However, if inevitability slips into the picture and this turns into a wave election (heightened Democratic participation with some Republican crossovers and stay-homes), Georgia is probably about the extent to which Obama can stretch things on the Spectrum. That would be all the McCain lean states and Georgia. And if the margins in future Peach state polls continue to come in at or around what we have seen over the last week or so, Georgia will move into that category.

McCain can go after Pennsylvania all he wants, but his efforts are certainly compromised by having to defend those pink toss up states among others.

Jack said...


Just want to clarify that I agree that Georgia is a longshot. One poll showing Obama with the tiniest of leads does not mean much. Combined with the fact that a Republican-leaning pollster had McCain only up by 6, it suggests competitiveness, but nothing more.