Electoral Map and Crayons
By: Mark W Adams

States again are drawn with their size relative to their votes in the Electoral College.

Obama is down 14 Electoral votes from my map last week, and McCain is up three. Throughout August Obama had just enough or not quite enough to win it all, now back down under the 270 vote threshold like he was three weeks ago. Again for the fourth straight week, McCain's overall performance has improved slightly, but he has a tremendous amount of ground to make up doiing it one 3-vote state at a time while Obama retains a huge lead, still +75 votes.

At this rate McCain might overtake Obama, but not for a year or two. More significantly, the fallout from the conventions is just starting to appear in the state-by-state polling. All partisans of any stripe must agree that the Democrats put on a show that was the height of presidential perfection, and it looked like Jerry Springer ran the GOP festivities. That should be reflected shortly.

First, the Electoral College Scoreboard from the Polling Aggregators:

RealClearPolitics: O-238 / M-185 / TU-115 / Obama +53

RealClearPolitics W/O Toss-Ups: O-273 / M-265 / Obama +8

Pollster.com: O-260 / M-179 / TU-99 / Obama +81

Electoral-Vote.com: O-301 / M-224 / TU-13 / Obama +77

FiveThirtyeight.com: O-310.6 / M-227.4 / Obama +83.2

Sadly, Alaska I fear is hopelessly red now with Yukon/Caribou Barbie on the GOP ticket. (I wonder when Palin will ask McCain to switch places?) The good news is that we are a long way from reading the last election related story from the Northern Frontier. New polling up there is a bloodbath swinging towards the McPalin team and the GOP right down the line, even helping the despicable Ted Stevens who got a huge boost. Palin is still polling in the 80s for approval and the announcement of her as McCain's Veep has shook up their world.

Note the more (ahem) conservative "rolling average" approach of RCP in awarding close/toss-up states seems to favor John McCain more than Obama. They are only holding back a decision on 16 more EVs than Pollster.com, RCP counting MI and NM as toss-up where Pollster has them colored blue, but RCP puts ND and MT in McCain's column which are considered toss-ups at Pollster.


538.com of course forces toss-ups one way or the other and uses a weighted average of all polling, counting older polls less and looking at the track record of the various outfits ringing the phones. Their 83.2 EV advantage for Obama is quite the landslide any way you count it. Pollster analyzes trend lines and also shows an 81 EV route.

Good old Electoral-Vote.com simply uses the latest poll, averaging polls done within a week of each other, which can make it the most volatile yet up-to-date tracker. However, even though they use a similar methodology as RCP for awarding states in the strong/leaning/tie categories, their addition of a third "barely" group explains why only Virginia's 13 EVs show up in their calculations as "exactly tied."

So what about OHIO OHIO OHIO?

CNN/Time and Quinnipiac both have very recent polls that give Obama a slight one point edge in the Buckeye State (a statistical tie of course) that is enough to flip it a light shade of blue in every aggregator but RCP -- which includes a pre-conventions Rasmussen poll (who have consistently favored McCain in Ohio by a far bigger margin than anyone else) that had the GOP contenders up 5 points, plus one of those goofy Columbus Dispatch mail-in polls in their survey average. Thus according to RCP, and only RCP, Ground Zero of the battleground states is an ugly red when leaners are pushed. It's blue or toss-up state everywhere else, just. I'm calling it a tie for now.

Older Rasmussen data (McCain +1) also explains RCP pushing Virgina into the Republican column in their no toss-up map even though the most recent polling there, a day before Joe Biden joined the Obama campaign, is from PPP which has Obama up by 2 -- a three point swing with corresponding trends affecting Pollster and which should be reflected in the 538 weighted approach (but isn't). You'd think E-V would be reporting Obama up 2 per the PPP poll instead of being the only dead heat on their map, but from the way they present their data (in graphic form only) I can't tell if they even included PPP in their VA analysis -- which means they're going by Rassumussen and calling a less than one percent fraction a true tie instead of rounding -- which explains reporting the VA Rasmussen poll a one pointer for McCain everywhere else.

Some miscellaneous changes I include are Nevada from lean Obama to toss-up with the latest CNN poll (pdf) showing a true tie when independent candidates are on the ballot (Nader getting 6%, Barr 5% and McKinney 3%). Obama wins by 5% of registered voters if it's just between him and McCain. Look out for the spoiler effect in this most unlikely state.

I'm a bit leery to change North Dakota to light blue even though the only polling there in the month of August had Obama up by 3 came out right in the middle of the Democratic Convention. It's North Dakota. It should be an automatic red state. That fact that it's in play is fantastic, but SaraCudda's Anne Oakley impersonation should be enough to keep it slightly red unless Obama puts some cash in there to steal those 3 EVs.

Pennsylvania is now firmly an Obama state as far as I'm concerned. Every August poll has him ahead by a comfortable margin, averaging a lead of over 6 points and only below the margin of error in one poll. The Dems are spending a lot of time and money there to shore up the lead. Tom Ridge alone won't turn things around all by himself and unlike Obama and his Scranton, PA native running mate who are crisscrossing the state, the McCain camp seems to be ignoring it. Of course the wrinkly old guy and his sidekick the hockey mom are starting out in Michigan (where the Dem advantage isn't so great) and Wisconsin where the GOP is losing by double digits in one poll, so who really knows if they even have a strategy. None was apparent judging by the last week's soap opera.

Colorado is a real mixed bag on all the aggregators, ranging from slightly favoring Obama to toss-up, yet the last poll there was taken at the start of the Denver convention, a three day survey period by CNN/Time whose midpoint was the day of the Biden selection showing McCain up by one. I'm pretty confident once the post convention polling comes in, it will go back to blue, but it's a toss-up for now.

Florida is still a surprising toss-up. I was all ready to paint the Sunshine state red on the strength of six straight August polls showing a steady rise in McCain's popularity -- until the last one by Mason-Dixon taken as things got started in Denver, erasing what had become a 7 point McCain advantage from Strategic Vision to a one point squeaker in Obama's favor in one day -- the day Biden got picked. Other than Alaska I don't know where Palin will play (they hope Ohio), but no doubt Biden is a game changer too, at least in Florida. I think the Delaware Senator needs to work on his tan this fall.

That should do it for this week in trying to stay inside the lines while I color in the map. Next week should be interesting as more polling reflects the full impact of the Democratic Convention and the first reactions to the GOP Convention and Sarah Palin -- and what the public thinks about McCain's judgment in picking her. I imagine things will pretty much settle out in about two weeks and barring the nearly inevitable October Surprise, we should have a good feel for where we're going and what needs to be done. As of now, just as it was when we started these up at a month ago it's Obama's race to lose.