Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Breaking down some polling

I've been looking at this site electoral-vote.com, which compiles recent presidential polls and puts them together into a projected electoral map. The site currently has Obama up 317 electoral votes to John McCain's 221.

One thing you learn when you do campaign work is that if you can keep your opponent below 50%, you have a shot, no matter what else is going on.

According to electoral-vote.com's map, of the states in which John McCain is ahead of Barack Obama, he is at or above 50% in:

Idaho - 4 EV
Wyoming - 3 EV
Utah - 5 EV
South Dakota - 3 EV
Nebraska - 5 EV
Oklahoma - 7 EV
Texas - 34 EV
Tennessee - 11 EV
Kentucky - 8 EV
Alabama - 9 EV
Georgia - 15 EV
Arizona - 10 EV

These states combined represent a total of 114 electoral votes. Those are the states that McCain can definitely count on in November.

Obama is at or above 50% in the following states:

Maine - 4 EV
Vermont - 3 EV
Massachussets - 12 EV
Rhode Island - 4 EV
Maryland - 10 EV
Washington, DC - 3 EV
New York - 31 EV
Illinois - 21 EV
Minnesota - 10 EV
Washington - 11 EV
Hawaii - 4 EV
California - 55 EV

That's a total of 168 electoral votes.

Already, Barack Obama has a significant advantage over McCain and can play a lot more offense.

Here are the states where McCain is beating Obama, but doesn't hit 50%. I'm putting in bold those states where the current margin is tighter than the result of the '04 election:

Kansas - 6 EV
Nevada - 5 EV
Arkansas- 6 EV
Louisiana - 9 EV
Mississippi - 6 EV
Florida - 27 EV
South Carolina - 8 EV
North Carolina - 15 EV
West Virginia - 5 EV
Indiana - 11 EV
Montana - 3 EV
North Dakota - 3 EV
Alaska - 3 EV

That's a total of 107 electoral votes. These are the states where Obama can conceivably spend resources to break down McCain's lead. Interestingly, none of these were Kerry states in '04.

Finally, here are the states where Obama is beating McCain, but doesn't hit 50%. I'm again putting in bold those states where the current margin is tighter than the result of the '04 election. I'm also going to put in italics those states that went to Bush in '04:

New Hampshire - 4 EV
Pennsylvania - 21 EV
New Jersey - 15 EV
Connecticut - 7 EV
Virginia - 13 EV
Ohio - 20 EV
Michigan - 17 EV
Wisconsin - 10 EV
Iowa - 7 EV
Missouri - 11 EV
Colorado- 9 EV
New Mexico - 5 EV
Oregon - 7 EV

That's a total of 146 electoral votes. These are states where McCain can spend resources. Two things to note here: Obama's margin is either similar to or wider than Kerry's in all but one of these states. That's a very different picture than the states McCain is defending. Also, as we can see, 6 of these states were Bush states in '04, so McCain is again on the defense here.

Let's add it up.

Obama has 168 electoral votes nailed down. He has 146 that he'll need to work to defend. And he has 107 electoral votes to wrestle away from McCain.

McCain has 114 electoral votes nailed down. He has 107 to defend from Obama. And he has 146 that he can wrestle away from Obama.

It's pretty clear that the electoral map in November is going to look very different from recent elections. These results seem to show that a lot more Bush states are going to be in play than Kerry states, which gives Obama an automatic advantage. Assuming nothing catastrophically horrible happens, we can almost guarantee Obama most, if not all of Kerry's states. We absolutely cannot say the same for McCain.

Edit: There are a total of 19 Bush '04 states in play, and only 7 Kerry states in play.


  1. The real issue is not how well Obama or McCain might do in the closely divided battleground states, but that we shouldn't have battleground states and spectator states in the first place. Every vote in every state should be politically relevant in a presidential election. And, every vote should be equal. We should have a national popular vote for President in which the White House goes to the candidate who gets the most popular votes in all 50 states.

    The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC). The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral vote -- that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    The major shortcoming of the current system of electing the President is that presidential candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or worry about the voter concerns in states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. The reason for this is the winner-take-all rule which awards all of a state's electoral votes to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state. Because of this rule, candidates concentrate their attention on a handful of closely divided "battleground" states. Two-thirds of the visits and money are focused in just six states; 88% on 9 states, and 99% of the money goes to just 16 states. Two-thirds of the states and people are merely spectators to the presidential election.

    Another shortcoming of the current system is that a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide.

    The National Popular Vote bill has been approved by 18 legislative chambers (one house in Colorado, Arkansas, Maine, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Washington, and two houses in Maryland, Illinois, Hawaii, California, and Vermont). It has been enacted into law in Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and Maryland. These states have 50 (19%) of the 270 electoral votes needed to bring this legislation into effect.

    See http://www.NationalPopularVote.com

  2. I fully agree with and support this measure. But until we have a national popular vote, we still have to deal with the electoral college, which is where this kind of polling data come in handy.