Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Remarkable Electoral Vote Stability

Obama/Biden holds 273-265 Electoral Vote lead, now lead in average of national polls by 2-3%

I'm itching to give everyone a new map, but I just can't....the same one still holds. I predicted a couple of posts ago that we would see a lot of stability in the electoral map until the debates took place, but even I would not have predicted that not a single state would have changed hands since immediately after the convention. Obama holds on to his ever so fragile lead in the electoral vote while evidentally re-establishing a lead in national polls.

The latest list of battleground states is as follows:
Key Battlegrounds
Still none (no change from last post)

Serious Battlegrounds
New Hampshire -- stays Democratic but moves from potential to serious battleground -- some polls have been out showing Mccain with a marginal lead while others still have Obama ahead. If there is one state that Mccain could win that Bush didn't, this is it.

Substantial Battlegrounds
Ohio -- stays GOP but moves from somewhat to substantial battleground as Obama gets ever so slightly closer in this always razor-thin state.
Nevada -- stays GOP but moves from fringe to substantial battleground -- Obama has made up a lot of ground here in the last swing state to close the polls on election night.

Somewhat Battlegrounds
Colorado -- reduced from serious to somewhat as Obama seems to have re-established his lead here
Pennsylvania -- no change -- Obama still leads, but still too close for comfort for the Dems
Virginia -- promoted from fringe to somewhat -- Obama is back in the mix in what has become a north/south crossroads state

Fringe Battlegrounds
Minnesota -- no change -- still can't figure out why this isn't a slam dunk for the Dems -- did the GOP convention really matter that much?
Florida -- added as fringe -- back in the mix -- can Obama convince Jewish senior citizens that he is one of them?
Wisconsin -- added as fringe -- like Pennsylvania, would be a huge upset for the Mccain crowd
Indiana -- added as fringe -- no way this should be in play but it has been on and off for several months now...could Mccain really lose here? In a state Bush won by 20%???

Note: New Mexico and North Dakota have fallen off as battlegrounds, I have elected to keep BOTH as potential battlegrounds due to relatively close polls in North Dakota and previous close polls in New Mexico.

Potential Battlegrounds
Michigan -- Sarah Palin is out stumping hard -- is this because she will appeal to voters from that part of the country or becacuse Mccain would rather focus on states he has a better shot at winning himself?
Missouri -- Mccain has backed off the heavy campaigning to focus elsewhere -- Obama hasn't been here in a while -- could this one be sewn up for the GOP now?
New Mexico -- should stay Obama, but it was polling Mccain as recently as a couple of weeks ago
North Carolina -- surprisingly close polls plus amazing voter-registration push by the Obama campaign. Could a massive turnout of new voters and African-Americans swing this one his way?
North Dakota -- would be a weird upset, but Mccain can't seem to pull away
Montana -- one of the whitest, gun-lovingest states in the union -- so why the heck is Obama so close?

The Odd Electoral Math
It is peculiar to see a 4-6 point swing in national polls (from Mccain/Palin leading by 2-3% to Obama/Biden leading by 2-3%) and see no movement in the electoral college. Interestingly, while Obama has closed the gap in several states as he has gained (Ohio, Florida, Virginia) and solidified his lead in others (Colorado, New Mexico), Mccain has also closed the gap in several states that were not previous battlegrounds (Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Minnesota, New Hampshire and to some extent Michigan.) What we have here may be the effect of the conventions sinking in -- that voters who were crossing party lines are coming back home to their core parties and the electoral map is realigning along with it.

Differing Views on 269-269
3bluedudes.com has a posting today that shows a decidedly different view of a 269-269 tie than I presented. Recall that I said, when the chips were down, if the election went to the House of Representatives, congress would vote along party lines and Democrats would win, full stop. The tie is still looming -- just switch New Hampshire to GOP and we are there. Or give Obama Nevada and take away Colorado. There are a bunch of other plausible combinations.

It was a good article that presents some interesting counter arguments but I respectfully disagree with the article's conclusions. Here are my thoughts on the major points discussed:
(1) Elector Defection
While it is true, as the article states, that electors in many states are not law-bound to vote for the winning candidate and there have been changes in the past, I do not think that it is a realistic scenario in a 269-269 vote that an elector from one side or the other jumps ship to make it 270-268. My reasons are:
a. Electors that are selected from each state are party loyalists and not prone to jump to the other side
b. In recent years, there is almost no history of electors jumping to the other side. Electors that didn't vote for their state's candidate were typically voting in protest -- such as the elector in 1988 that voted for Lloyd Bensen for President to point out that the Democrats had lost the election by having their ticket backwards.
c. Even in an election as controversial as Bush/Gore -- not 1 elector jumped ship from either side

(2) Democrats controlling less than 26 states in the new congress
Not going to happen. The landscape is caustic for the GOP in congressional elections. No way that they pick up control or splits in 25 states.

(3) Single Democrats in narrowly controlled states jumping ship to vote for their states selection
This is probably the most realistic scenario for chaos, but I do not believe it will happen in a significant enough way to make a difference. Democrats will likely control 30+ delegations in the new congress, I can't see that many defections. The voting public is not going to demand that people commit to vote along their district's lines prior to the election -- the issue will not even come up in a real way unless there is a 269-269 split.

Debate Tasks
Goals for each of the candidates in the Presidential debate:
(1) Mitigate the experience gap by showing an equal command of the facts as Mccain
(2) Come off as more decisive than in the past
(3) Hammer Mccain for supporting deregulation of the lending industry
(4) Keep saying "Bush 44" 100 times an hour
(5) Make people comfortable that you can handle national security
(6) Let us know you want it -- get nastier if you need to

(1) Come off as a populist rather than a member of the old guard
(2) Hammer Obama for being indecisive -- on Georgia, on mortgage bailouts, etc.
(3) Convince voters that you really do have the kind of economic chops to handle the financial crisis that we are in
(4) Present yourself as the agent of change that has actually done it
(5) Let us know you are a nice guy too -- be complimentary of Obama while you tear him down

I expect massive ratings for the first debate (40 million wouldn't surprise me) -- the first debate is by far the most important -- this may well set the trajectory for the rest of the campaign -- or it may change nothing -- we shall see.

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