Sunday, September 07, 2008

Fun with (electoral) maps

Now that we've pushed our way through vice presidential selections and party conventions, we're settling into the actual horserace of the campaign as both Barack Obama and John McCain have less than 60 days until Election Day.

As one would expect, the post-convention bounces have arrived with Obama opening up a lead of five or more points following the close of the Democratic National Convention, and the McCain camp effectively neutralizing that with the Sarah Palin announcement and following Republican National Convention.

Of course, national tracking polls don't really tell much of the story, which is why looking at the electoral vote tracking is a much better gauge of the race. Two sites I like are Electoral Vote and Five Thirty Eight (both also focus on Senate and House races too).

Looking at their numbers, a little less than two months out Obama still appears to be a favorable position, though the Palin pick and convention bounce will help McCain in places like Florida and Colorado which have trended toward Obama in recent weeks.

Based on the state of the race now - and knowing the winning candidate would need 270 votes - Obama is looking at 210 'safe' electoral votes and McCain is sitting on 176 'safe' votes. From there, Obama has the edge in four key states that would put him over the top in Pennsylvania (21), Ohio (20), Michigan (17) and New Mexico (5).

I would expect Obama to take Pennsylvania and Michigan and, as of now, I'm thinking Ohio goes his way too. The Palin pick makes that state more interesting, but I think economic issues are going to be more at play there than whatever she brings to the ticket.

I do think, though, that Palin's presence takes places like Montana and North Dakota - Mountain West states that are trending Democratic at the state level and where Obama is either holding slim margins or running strong - off the table. Perhaps I'm wrong about that, who knows.

Florida is one of two wild cards. The state didn't warm up to Obama during the primaries, but McCain's positions on Social Security might hurt him with elderly voters and no one knows how Palin will play with them. I think it ultimately falls for McCain, but I'm not sure.

Virginia is the other one. Before the Palin pick, I would have put money on the state going blue, but her presence on the ticket will energize social conservatives who still have some pull in this state. While the Mountain West states are undergoing a switch to swing state status across the board, Virginia is the only state on the east coast not named 'Florida' that is shaping up that way. I think McCain wins it though, meaning he'd also take North Carolina.


Blogger Rich said...

I don't believe Palin does squat for Montana. One of the reasons it's trended Democratic in recent years is because of the GOP's continuing pandering to the religious right. Montana is the least religious state in the union; they just don't give a crap about gay marriage or any of that jazz.

I'm guessing Montanans, being a fairly straightforward, no-BS kind of people, will see through Palin like Knowshon sees through a defense.

4:41 AM  
Blogger Jmac said...

That's a valid point.

The new USA Today national poll has McCain up 10, which seems to be an outlyer for me as the other post-convention ones showed a tie to a three-point lead for McCain. We'll have to wait until the rest of the tracking polls comes out today to gauge the full bounce, but that one seems a little off to me.

Another thing to consider that was pointed out by one pollster I was reading was how the Palin pick will primarily impact national numbers by expanding McCain's leads in states he was on tap to win anyway (by boosting his standing with social conservatives in places like Alabama or Mississippi).

7:14 AM  
Blogger Sara said...

I think the upper Mountain west (Dakotas, Montana, etc.) are probably out of reach now for Obama but I still think he will pick up or hold onto New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado. If he can hold the rust belt states and squeak it out in Virginia, that's enough.

10:21 AM  
Blogger Jmac said...

If he holds the rust belt and takes New Mexico and Nevada, he won't need Virginia.

Which would be good for him since I don't see him winning Virginia anymore. He's got a good chance to flip New Mexico and Nevada though, more so for the former.

2:09 PM  

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