Friday, October 3, 2008

The Electoral College Map (10/3/08)

After the debate there was plenty to talk about last night, but the state polls released during the day yesterday and into the night/early morning were certainly noteworthy as well. In total there were 16 new polls in 14 states. And in most cases, the post-Lehman conventional wisdom prevailed. In most cases...

New Polls (Oct. 2)
Insider Advantage
Insider Advantage
Public Policy Polling
Survey USA
Insider Advantage
New Hampshire
New Hampshire
St. Anselm
New Mexico
New Mexico
Survey USA
North Carolina
Democracy Corps

Florida, Michigan and Ohio polls continue to indicate an increased level of support for Obama that is in each individual poll at or above the margin of error. And New Hampshire has followed suit, with a couple of polls that have the margin in the double digits for Obama, countering a handful of polls -- no not a string of them -- that had tightened to the 1-2 point range recently. In fact, New Hampshire is starting to look something like Michigan with these two new polls. Yet, it was among the states listed as targets in the McCain campaign's conference call yesterday concerning the decision to pull resources out of the Wolverine state. The Granite state was on the outside looking in in Politico's accounting of those targets. They only listed Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

We also see this in a few red states where the margins are closing. Georgia, Kentucky and Montana all show Obama gaining, but McCain is at or above the 50% mark in each of those states (in the polls above) and at this late point all three are likely too far away to make a real effort to swing. In North Carolina though, well, that's a different story. Surveys of the Tar Heel state continue to find Obama ahead there. Since the market downturn, Obama has been ahead in all the North Carolina polls save the ARG survey that was released earlier this week.

Changes (Oct. 2)
Toss Up Obama
Toss Up McCain
Toss Up Obama
Toss Up McCain

However, there were some exceptions to the conventional wisdom rule discussed above. But it wasn't all bad for McCain. Traditional red state, Nebraska didn't budge and the Ciruli poll out of Colorado had the Arizona senator within one point. In fairness, though, Nebraska is right where we'd expect it to be given the current climate and the median date in which Colorado poll was in the field was September 21 was the night the Lehman collapse became public knowledge.

And then there were the polls out of Minnesota and Virginia. After CNN's poll of the North Star state inflated the state's average, that poll was exposed -- and more time will ultimately tell the tale here -- as an outlier in the post-convention period for Minnesota. Still, this is the first poll McCain has led in Minnesota since the same one point margin was the result of a mid-March poll of state (also by Survey USA). We were in Jeremiah Wright land during that time though. That was during that stretch after McCain had wrapped up the GOP nomination and the Democratic nomination race was in the midst of that stretch of no contests before Pennsylvania's primary in late April. Similarly, CNN's poll of Virginia had the same effect as the one it did in Minnesota. And having that 10 point Obama lead lose the weighting that goes with being the most recent poll in our average, meant that Virginia moved back into McCain territory. This was the case in Nevada as well.
[Click Map to Enlarge]

With Nevada and Virginia retaking their spots in the McCain toss up category, the map reverts to the way it looked two days ago: Obama 273-McCain 265. Again though, this underscores just how close it is in the three states of Nevada, Ohio and Virginia. Virginia actually jumped Ohio in the process of turning pink and that indicates the extent to which Ohio has drawn closer this last week.

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), 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. It is currently favoring Obama, thus the blue text in that cell.

You can see that Virginia jump well on the Electoral College Spectrum as well as Minnesota's move past New Jersey and closer to toss up status. The other change of note is New Hampshire swapping positions with Colorado on the stregth of the two new polls out there yesterday. Colorado is now the sole state occupying the role of Victory Line. If the candidates win all the states they are ahead in on the map and win Colorado (which is favoring Obama now by more than two points currently), that candidate will win the presidency. The Centennial state is the state each candidate needs to surpass 270 electoral votes.

The Watch List*
Iowafrom Obama lean
to Strong Obama
Michiganfrom Toss Up Obama
to Obama lean
Missourifrom Toss Up McCainto McCain lean
Nevadafrom Toss Up McCain
to Toss Up Obama
North Carolinafrom McCain lean
to Toss Up McCain
Ohiofrom Toss Up McCain
to Toss Up Obama
Oregonfrom Obama lean
to Strong Obama
Pennsylvaniafrom Toss Up Obama
to Obama lean
Texasfrom Strong McCainto McCain lean
Virginiafrom Toss Up McCain
to Toss Up Obama
Washingtonfrom Strong Obama
to Obama lean
*Weighted Average within a fraction of a point of changing categories.

Yet Colorado is not on the Watch List. In fact, none of the Obama toss up states are within a fraction of a point of switching categories. Correction, Michigan and Pennsylvania are, but that potential move is not toward McCain. The three McCain toss ups we discussed earlier are in that range, though, and any new poll out of Nevada, Ohio and/or Virginia should be watched closely now that we are almost under a month until election day. There were no additions to the list today, but Minnesota was its lone loss. The North Star state is now comfortably within the Obama lean category. Well, comfortably unless more polls show McCain ahead there. As always, we'll have to see.

Recent Posts:
Live Blog and Open Thread: The Vice Presidential Debate

Where is McCain Playing Offense Now that Michigan is Off the Table?

Is the Obama Campaign Planning for This Contingency?


Jack said...

North Carolina has a +3 poll for Obama and is still a McCain lean? What will it take to move it to tossup? Please make some comment about how it would take an Obama +10 poll, because then that will happen, like it did when you mocked that possibility in Virginia.

Anonymous said...

North Carolina has been my test case for a potential change in the formula.

Actually, it wouldn't take a completely outlandish result to get Obama into that toss up category. With the Elon poll (Obama +2) from today included, a five point Obama lead in the next poll would bring him under that lean/toss up threshold.

But I can act like that would be nearly impossible for a poll of that margin to come out. It may be the mocking that triggers the change. But I will say, it took a couple of weeks after I called for more polling in Delaware for us to actually get some. My powers are apparently limited.

Jack said...


I'm frankly very disappointed that you just don't get it. Mocking works, requests do not.

I guess the problem here is that there are polls from a month or two ago that really don't mean much that are really weighing down these averages. Who was ahead in August really don't matter in October.

Just out of curiosity, how many +5 polls would it take to put Obama ahead in NC?

Anonymous said...

I don't get it.

...which is why I am suspending this blog effective immediately to deal with the issue head on. We must return mocking to the blogosphere (or at least FHQ).

It would take a lot of 5 point polls to put Obama in the lead. 10 put a dent in the average, but only got it to around two.

This weekend, when I have a bit more time, I'll look into the effects a progressive weighting structure would have on the average. Discount all the polls but the ones from March more so than the ones from August. That would be similar to the half life formula 538 has in place, but I wouldn't completely phase out a poll.

Jack said...

For some reason I took "suspending this blog" seriously for a moment. It took me a while to get the reference. I guess after nine months of this (just counting from Iowa) even the most politically obsessed person starts to miss the obvious.

"Discount all the polls but the ones from March more so than the ones from August. That would be similar to the half life formula 538 has in place, but I wouldn't completely phase out a poll."

That sounds good. I'm sure you'll come up with something that works great.

Anonymous said...

All of what I'm about to say is only my opinion.
There are 5 true toss up states in this election and Bush won them all in 2004.
Here are the margins that Bush won these states in 2004:
Ohio 2.1%
Nevada 2.6
Colorado 4.7
Florida 5.0
Virginia 8.2

It's hard for me to believe that Virginia would change 8.3% in one direction(to Obama) therefor don't be surprised if/when McCain starts polling better in Virginia.

Florida I could see being a squeaker for McCain barely winning the state.

Let me jump to Ohio before tackling Colorado and Nevada.
Ohio depends on how the "Reagan democrats" decide to vote, if they reject Obama then McCain will squeak one out here, if they are alright with Obama then Obama will win the state.
Therefore Ohio to me is the purest of pure toss up state.

It's hard for me to believe that Colorado is a better chance for Obama than Nevada considering Nevada's white population is 58% and Colorado is 72%.
Both states I expect Obama to win, but don't be surprised to see Obama start polling better in Nevada than Colorado.

Of the 5 states that I listed, here are my predictions and margin of victory APPROXIMATELY.
1 Nevada- Obama 3-4% Closer To 4
2 Colorado Obama 1-2% Closer To 2
3 Ohio Toss Up Winner Less Than 1/2% Leaning McCain
4 Florida McCain 1-2% Closer To 1
5 Virginia McCain 3-4% Closer To 3

Anonymous said...

I also think neither candidate will get 50% of the national vote.
My prediction APPROXIMATELY 48.50 Obama-45.50 McCain, 6% third party.
If the election wasn't so close I think 3rd party voting would be higher than the 6% I'm predicting.
Most third party voting will go to Barr and Baldwin from potential McCain/republican vote.

Anonymous said...

Rasmussen has a new poll out today of Nevada showing Obama +4.
You're probably gonna have to turn Nevada blue tomorrow.

Unknown said...

How did Obama get a +1 in Nevada, then lose the state?

Anonymous said...

A good question, Paragon. Nevada (and Virginia and Ohio) are so close now in our averages that small things count. In this instance, a change in the value of the most recent poll; the one that is given the greatest weight in our methodology. Obama had a five point lead in the CNN poll yesterday and when the weight was taken off that poll and went to the one point lead he had in the Insider Advantage poll. The drop from 5 to 1 is what caused the switch.

But again, this just simply points out how competitive Nevada is.

Jack said...

I wonder how much this Minnesota poll means. Yes, I read the 538 post and I know that McCain's putting a lot of resources into the state (which explains why MN is not moving towards Obama as the rest of the country does), but coming after an Obama +12 poll we'll have to see which one is an outlier. Or maybe they both are. The polling in MN has been so crazy this year. My guess from the numbers I see is that the reality right now is that Obama ahead by a few points there.

Anonymous said...

That's my feeling on Minnesota as well, Jack. It is closer, moving against the tide across much of the nation, but still favoring Obama. Maybe not by as much as our map would indicate (see new post), but not as close as some others have it either.

I think the CNN poll is the outlier. But we really do need more polling in Minnesota.

Jack said...

One other thing about MN: There was another SurveyUSA poll out that day on the Senate race that had Coleman up by 10, when most polls show it as about a one point race. Would they have asked the same people each question? The sample sizes are the same.

I'm no expert on polling, and I have no idea if this is a reasonable thought, but if they were the same people, that suggests that this poll got more people who tend to lean Republican. I don't know if SurveyUSA weights by party ID, but even if they do it's simply possible they got a lot of Republican leaning independents.

Again, my hypothesis could be completely foolish for all I know - I'm speculating on a subject (polling) I don't know much about. Which is something Sarah Palin does all the time.