Saturday, September 13, 2008

Maybe the GOP Won the Conventions After All

Mccain/Palin up 2-3% in National Polls, Obama/Biden leads Electoral Vote 273-265

In my post last week, I stated that I thought the GOP and Democratic conventions had been a stalemate. Since that posting, it would appear that I underestimated the impact of Sarah Palin (more on why I am saying her and not John Mccain later) on the race, at least in the near-term following the conventions. It is clear now that the dust has cleared that we went from what was a tied race nationally to one that Mccain/Palin now leads by 2-3 points (depending on which average method of the polls you use.)

Interestingly, the electoral map has not shifted as much as one would expect with this shift. There are two reasons for this. The first is a short-coming of the methodology we are using, which inherently lags national trends a lot as it uses the average of various other projection websites, which in turn rely partly on the average of state polls. This takes time to cycle through and accurately reflect the electoral map. This is not the primary reason, however, as there have been a ton of state polls in key swing states following the conventions. The primary reason is that the GOP "bump" out of the conventions is primarily in the southern US. USA Today did an excellent piece that showed that what Palin essentially did for the GOP ticket was solidify its southern base and was not nearly as helpful in the key swing states.

So, we may legitimately have a race where Mccain/Palin leads by 2-3 nationally but trails slightly in the electoral college map. The worse news for Mccain, as you will see below, is that the structure of the map still favors Obama -- there are many more possible pick-ups for Obama than for Mccain based on the current state of the race. Now, this will become irrelevant if Mccain/Palin gets up by say 5 or 6 points, but matters a great deal in a close race.

Anyway, here are the chnages in the last week (colors represent candidate who improved):

Nevada -- goes from Blue to Red -- remains a key battleground state

Ohio -- goes from Blue to Red -- demoted from key to serious battleground state

Colorado -- remains Blue -- demoted from key to serious battleground state

New Mexico -- remains Blue -- promoted from potential to substantial battleground state

Virginia -- remains Red -- demoted from substantial to somewhat battleground state

Indiana -- remains Red -- demoted from somewhat to fringe battleground state

Alaska -- remains Red -- goes from fringe to non-battleground state

(note: due to the Palin pick and the double-digit lead now enjoyed by Mccain/Palin, I have elected NOT to make this a potential battleground. I have also dropped Georgia as a potential battleground based on strong polling for Mccain/Palin and the Obama campaign's decision to remove resources from this state.)

Battleground States are now as follows:


Nevada -- may well decide this race if it stays this close -- Obama clings to a small lead


Ohio -- must win for Mccain, he leads but it remains close with strong support for Obama in the northern part of the state. If Obama wins, he wins the race.

Colorado -- probably a must win for Obama, who currently leads as he has for months, but narrowly


New Mexico -- probably a must win for Obama -- hispanic voters the key


Virginia -- must-win for Mccain -- if Obama wins here, he doesn't need Colorado or New Mexico. 25 point lead for Mccain in the western part of the state overcomes Obama's strength in Northern Virginia and Richmond for now.

Florida -- definite must-win for Mccain -- counting on a good showing with Cubans and Jewish voters as well as dominance in the pan-handle

Montana -- showing for Mccain right now -- Obama pulling out resources -- probably will drop off as a battleground in future weeks

North Dakota -- same as Montana -- probably safer red than the predictions show right now


Indiana -- probably a flight of fancy by Obama to think he had a shot here -- no Dem has won in many cycles

New Hampshire -- Obama needs this state that Kerry won, the only potential flip for the GOP from 2004 so far -- Obama still leads though in spite of Mccain's strong base there


Iowa -- interestingly, Mccain has made no in-roads here so far -- they just don't like him in corn country

Michigan -- polls show it tightening -- must-win for Obama

Minnesota -- GOP convention there fails to move the needle so far -- must-win for Obama

Missouri -- he's been leading there for months, so why is Mccain campaigning so hard there? Does he know something we don't?

North Carolina -- my vote for the next state Obama concedes by removing his resources

Pennsylvania -- atom bomb on Obama campaign if he loses here -- polls show low single-digit lead

South Dakota -- left it on here since North Dakota and Montana are still technically in play, but it is likely this one won't become a serious contentions

Mccain's problem remains that if he wins every single battleground (excluding the "potentials") he wins 283 Electoral Votes, 13 more than needed for victory. By contrast, Obama winning all the battlegrounds results in 355 Electoral Votes. Clearly Mccain needs to dominate -- he cannot afford losses in places like Virginia or Ohio or even for Obama to take Colorado and one other state.

The Sarah Palin effect

Post-election polling indicated that BOTH in terms of ratings and in terms of public response, the major convention speeches were ranked:

1. Sarah Palin (by a significant margin)

2. Barak Obama

3. John Mccain (way behind Obama and Palin

4. Joe Biden (WAY behind the other 3)

Clearly, PALIN made the inroads for the GOP. While everyone has already forgot Biden was in this campaign, she is the rock star for the GOP, outshining even Obama's speech-giving ability. Whether a ticket can be sustained by the bottom remains to be seen.

Next big event is the first debate in Mississippi on Sept 26th. I expect only small movements until then, unless major news breaks.

Stay tuned...if it was interesting before, it's downright compelling now.

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