Friday, October 31, 2008

The Law of Gravity or What Happens to Dead Cats After They Bounce



PROJECTED ELECTORAL VOTE: OBAMA/BIDEN 356, MCCAIN/PALIN 182
(unchanged)
PROJECTED POPULAR VOTE: OBAMA/BIDEN 52.0%, MCCAIN/PALIN 46.0%
(Obama up 0.2%, McCain down 0.2%)
TIME UNTIL FIRST POLLS OPEN: 3 DAYS, 11 HOURS, 54 MINUTES

Actually kind of a slow day for state polling data this late in the election. No real surprises or major moves. McCain loses ground in our tracking polls for the second straight day, he has given back most of the ground he had gained earlier in the week. In fact, if you look at our projection, it has operated in a very tight band for a long time with Obama's lead being between 4.6% and 7.6% every day from September 27th until now.

In terms of the state moves, there is not much of consequence. Obama gains a little ground in the Dakotas and Montana, but there are very few electoral votes in play there.

McCain, in the remaining 4 days of this campaign (really less now, but we'll give him the benefit of the doubt) would need to close 1.5% per day and flip 22 electoral votes every one of the next 4 days.

On Intrade McCain is now a 6.1:1 underdog, slightly worse than his 5.9:1 position yesterday but a lot better than his worst showing of 8.3:1 a few days ago. Honestly, 6.1:1 is starting to look like a rip off as McCain runs out of time.

One positive news of note for McCain is that he has now reduced Obama's lead in Pennsylvania to under 10% in our projection, for the first time in a long time. It is still not close enough to even be considered a fringe battleground and I doubt he can win it, but it is some confirmation that his strategy there is having some effect.

STATE CHANGES
None

KEY BATTLEGROUNDS
Montana -- promoted from serious to key battleground
North Dakota, Missouri and Indiana remain as key battlegrounds

SERIOUS BATTLEGROUNDS
North Carolina and Florida remain as serious battlegrounds

SUBSTANTIAL BATTLEGROUNDS
Arizona, Georgia and Ohio remain as substantial battlegrounds

FRINGE BATTLEGROUNDS
South Dakota -- added as fringe battleground
Nevada, Colorado, Virginia and New Mexico remain as fringe battlegrounds

On Polling Accuracy
With all of the discussion of polling errors and divergent polls and Bradley effects and reverse Bradley effects, I thought it would be valuable to take a look at historical poll accuracy in presidential races. The result might surprise you -- national polls have been incredibly accurate in every election.

The link below will take you to a site that analyzes final polls results versus general election results from 1936 to 2004.

http://www.newsu.org/angel/content/aapor_polling07/1a_why/accuracy.php

Here are the bottom line conclusions:
In 70 years, the average of polls have never been off by more than 6% on the final spread.
Since 1960, they have never been off by more than 3%
Since 1984,they have never been off by more than 2%
In 2004, they were off by less than 1%, with TIPP, CBS News and Gallup all within less than 0.5% and Harris, Zogby, ABC News, The Washington Post and NBC News within 1%. No major poll was off by more than 4%.

Could this year be different? Sure -- the dynamics are complicated. Figuring out African-American turnout, youth turnout, it's all difficult. And the Bradley Effect is still an unknown.

But the point is, more often than not, if it looks like and quacks like a victory for one candidate, it probably is.

And it looks an awful lot like a victory of Obama on Tuesday from here. The one thing McCain can take some comfort in is that we aren't up to the final polls yet, so he still has some time to close -- but that time is dwindling.

Battleground Early Voting Update
(# of votes, % of 2004 early vote, % edge Democrats-Republicans, % African American)
Colorado -- 1.3M, 125%, 2%, N/A
Florida -- 3.4M, 122%, 7%, N/A
Georgia -- 1.8M, 264%, N/A, 35%
Indiana -- 0.4M, 157%, N/A, N/A
Iowa -- 0.4M, 85%, 20%, N/A
Nevada -- 0.5M, 113%, N/A, N/A
New Mexico -- only 1 county with data but turnout is very high there
North Carolina -- 2.1M, 190%, 23%, 27%
Ohio -- incomplete data but with the 13 counties we do have -- at least 0.5M, 87%, N/A, N/A
Virginia -- only 1 county with data -- it is higher than 2004 but not extraordinary

Early voting ends most places on Saturday, so by Sunday (or Monday at the latest if some states don't report until the next business day) we will have a final picture of early voting.

It's kind of silly for me to give a "time until the first polls open" when twenty-some million have already voted.

The numbers in Georgia and North Carolina continue to be staggering and very favorable to Obama. Other states are also up but without the pronounced Democratic edge, although the edge is growing in Florida (it was about even by party two days ago and now favors the Democrats by 7%.)

Trail Dust
The schedules are now completely insane and I expect them to stay that way for the last weekend.

Today:
McCain -- 3 more stops in Ohio (he has spent two solid days here and 6 stops)
Obama -- 1 stop in Indiana and then home to Illinois to take his daughter's trick-or-treating
No word on VP candidate whereabouts today.

Tomorrow:
Obama -- Missouri then Nevada.
McCain -- Virginia.
Biden -- Indiana then Ohio.
Palin -- no word yet

Obama has also shared his intention to make his final campaign stop on Monday in Virginia, the state that has been the tipping point for him to get to 270 for much of this campaign.

No word on where McCain will finish, but the McCain camp's strategy at this point appears to be to pound the heck out of Ohio and Pennsylvania, so I wouldn't be surprised for the last stop to be in one of those two.

Getting down to the end folks....get out and vote early if you can. If not, please vote on Tuesday.

As much of a political junkie as I am and as much as I've enjoyed the past two years, I'm ready to have an election already!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

McComeback Stalls for a Day, Dead Cat Bounce or Temporary Setback?



PROJECTED ELECTORAL VOTE: OBAMA/BIDEN 356, MCCAIN/PALIN 182
(Obama up 18, McCain down 18)
PROJECTED POPULAR VOTE: OBAMA/BIDEN 51.8%, MCCAIN/PALIN 46.2%
(Obama up 0.5%, McCain down 0.5%)
TIME UNTIL FIRST POLLS OPEN: 4 DAYS, 3 HOURS, 45 MINUTES

McCain's comeback bid took a set back today as a he lost ground in both our popular and electoral projection after 3 straight days of gains. He would now need to pick up over 16 electoral votes per day and over 1.1% in the popular vote per day to be projected even by November 4th.

Almost all of this polling was before the "Obama informercial" last night. We'll start to see tomorrow if it had an impact.

STATE CHANGES
North Carolina -- flips back to Obama -- Obama's lead is small, but he is consistently ahead in all the polls and early voting demographics clearly favor him
North Dakota -- flips to Obama -- his first time leading here in our projections -- some newer polling data would be helpful in determining how real this is

KEY BATTLEGROUNDS
Indiana, North Dakota and Missouri remain key battlegrounds

SERIOUS BATTLEGROUNDS
North Carolina is downgraded from key to serious as Obama opens a 3 point lead
Florida and Montana remain serious battlegrounds

SUBSTANTIAL BATTLEGROUNDS

Arizona is upgraded from fringe to substantial -- it is legitimately close here, although I expect McCain to prevail in the end
Georgia and Ohio remain as substantial battlegrounds

FRINGE BATTLEGROUNDS
Nevada is downgraded from substantial to fringe -- Obama appears to be pulling away here
Colorado, Virginia and New Mexico remain as fringe battlegrounds

Note: Wisconsin didn't last long as a battleground. It drops off today after only a 1 day run.

THE STATE OF THE RACE
McCain is back to being only slightly improved from where he started the week. He needs to run the table in the battlegrounds. Obama has 259 electoral votes that are pretty darn safe (all the Kerry states plus Iowa.) McCain could lose one smaller state, say Colorado or New Mexico, but he would need to win all the rest. His map is George Bush's 2004 win minus Iowa.

The other possibility is that he finds a way to pull off Pennsylvania. Even that feat, against all polling data, would require him to hold on in other key states like Florida and Ohio to have a shot at the presidency.

It's looking bleak for him again, but it still isn't impossible.

THE BETTING MONEY
After bottoming out over the weekend as an 8.3:1 underdog, the tightening polling through yesterday has pulled McCain up to a 5.9:1 underdog. So, like the national and state polls, he has closed some, but is still well behind.

We'll keep an eye on this and all the other indicators over the next 4 days, leading up to our final projection Monday evening

BATTLEGROUND EARLY VOTING QUICK UPDATE
(votes cast, % of 2004 early votes)
Colorado -- 1.1M, 109%
Florida -- 2.9M, 104%
Georgia -- 1.6M, 235%
Indiana -- 0.4M, 157%
Iowa -- 0.4M, 85%
Nevada -- 0.4M, 100%
North Carolina -- 1.8M, 169%
Ohio -- incomplete data -- at least 0.5M, 78%

Normal to slightly high turnout in 4 battleground states. MASSIVE turnout in 3. North Carolina and Georgia early vote demographics highly favorable to Obama (Indiana doesn't publish demographics, other states demographics don't appear to favor either.)

Trail Dust
McCain all day in Ohio. All day tomorrow too.
Obama Florida, Virginia and Missouri. Iowa tomorrow.
Palin Missouri and Pennsylvania
Biden Missouri and Pennsylvania

Can McCain restart his comeback? Will Obama pull away? Have early votes already locked in the outcome?

Stay tuned....

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

No Doubt About It Now, We Have a Race Again




PROJECTED ELECTORAL VOTE: OBAMA/BIDEN 338, MCCAIN/PALIN 200 (OBAMA -33, MCCAIN +33)
PROJECTED POPULAR VOTE: OBAMA/BIDEN 51.3%, MCCAIN/PALIN 46.7% (OBAMA -0.4%, MCCAIN +0.4%)
TIME UNTIL FIRST POLLS OPEN: 5 DAYS, 9 HOURS
It has been building for the past 3 days -- McCain has made his best three day stretch since the Republican convention and the popular vote projection is now the closest it has been since September 26th. As you would expect, the closest battleground states have now switched hands and are narrowly projected for McCain.

Don't get me wrong -- McCain still has a huge gap to close -- he still needs the same momentum he has had the past 3 days (a 0.8% margin shift each day) each and every day between now and the election to be even in the popular vote. And frankly, the electoral map structurally appears to favor Obama in the face of a close race -- Virginia is the tipping point in the electoral college, as it has been for a while, and Obama still leads there by 6.1%. McCain has no realistic path to win without Virginia, Florida and Ohio, all of which he still trails in.

It's funny how you can almost see blue expanding or receding out of the Northeast and Midwest whenever the polls move a few points.

This could well be a dead cat bounce -- we saw this in 1992 with George H.W. Bush and in 1996 with Bob Dole where both candidates closed in the final week of the election only to stall and ultimate lose pretty badly (Bush by 5%, Dole by 9%.) But we also have the example of Al Gore in 2000, who came from behind 4% in the last week to win the popular vote. Ironically, in the week leading up to the election, the popular thinking was that Gore would lose the popular vote but might win the electoral college -- but that didn't happen.

It isn't over yet. Go out and vote for your candidate.

STATE CHANGES North Carolina, Indiana and Missouri all flip to McCain, although all are still extremely close (all 3 projected within 1.1%)

KEY BATTLEGROUNDS North Dakota -- upgraded from Fringe to Key -- one bright spot for Obama, this small prize is very close
Indiana, Missouri and North Carolina all remain as key battlegrounds after flipping to McCain

SERIOUS BATTLEGROUNDS Montana -- downgraded from Key to Serious -- McCain appears to be modestly ahead here
Florida remains as a serious battleground
SUBSTANTIAL BATTLEGROUNDS
Ohio -- upgraded from Fringe to Substantial -- the race tightens a bit here
Nevada and Georgia also remain as substantial battlegrounds
FRINGE BATTLEGROUNDS New Mexico -- added as Fringe battleground Wisconsin -- added as Fringe battleground
Arizona, Colorado and Virginia also remain as fringe battlegrounds

Note: I neglected to mention in my last post that both New Hampshire and West Virginia have fallen off the battleground list. New Hampshire appears to be back comfortably in Obama's hands, West Virginia in McCain's.

Obama's Half Hour

Just finished watching Obama's half hour of paid TV, it was an impressively produced video that strung Obama's message together well and drew on some strong personal endorsements from business and military leaders.

If people are watching, this will have a positive impact for Obama. I just have no idea how many people tuned in that weren't already supporters or political junkies.

Obama doesn't need a big bounce out of this, he just needs to arrest John McCain's momentum for a few days.

We won't see any impact from this in the polls released tomorrow (the survey period will be before tonight), so we will have to wait until Friday to see if this had any impact.

Early Voting Update from the Battlegrounds
(ballots cast, % of 2004 total early voting to date)
Colorado -- 1.0M, 93%
Florida -- 2.6M, 94%
Georgia -- 1.4M, 207%
Indiana -- 0.4M, 140%
Nevada -- 0.4M, 85%
North Carolina -- 1.6M, 149%
Ohio and Virginia still have incomplete data

It is still looking fairly normal in Colorado, Florida and Nevada -- we are on track to be about even with 2004 -- the population has grown a bit in 4 years, so you'd expect to finish at about 105-110% of 2004, all things being equal.

The Georgia and North Carolina numbers continue to amaze. With 1.4 million votes cast, Georgia still has 35% of early voters being African-Americans. In North Carolina, Democrats have been early voting 2:1 over Republicans with 28% of early voters being African-Americans. Clearly, if these trends held, Obama would win both states in a walk. Whether these early indicators mean more black and Democratic votes or merely that the same voters are voting earlier remains to be seen. I don't have a way to capture any of this in my statistical projections, so we'll all just have to watch the news next Tuesday.

Trail Dust McCain was in Florida today. He's headed to Ohio tomorrow.
Obama was in North Carolina, then on to Florida, where he is campaigning with Bill Clinton, who was stumping for him in Pennsylvania earlier in the day. Then it's on to Missouri in the morning.
Biden is also with Obama in Florida today. It appears he will be following Obama to Missouri.
Palin was in Ohio and then traveled to Indiana. She is in Missouri and Pennsylvania tomorrow.

Odd for Biden to be following Obama on all these stops while McCain is using Palin in states he is not in. A tight leash to avoid gaffes, perhaps?

Only a few days left...I think we are all ready to stop talking and start voting. If you can vote early, please do so. If not, please turn out on November 4th, whoever your candidate is. This is an historic election and you just don't know how close it might be.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Race Is Getting Closer -- Maybe? Kind of?




PROJECTED ELECTORAL VOTE: OBAMA/BIDEN 375, MCCAIN/PALIN 163
(unchanged)
PROJECTED POPULAR VOTE: OBAMA/BIDEN 51.7%, MCCAIN/PALIN 46.3%
(Obama down 0.4%, McCain up 0.4%)
TIME UNTIL FIRST POLLS OPEN: 6 DAYS, 9 HOURS

Well, it's officially gotten confusing again. A little bit of poll chaos isn't rare in the week leading up to an election, so let's try to make sense of the madness.

First, for the second consecutive day, McCain has narrowed Obama's popular vote lead by 0.8%, exactly the amount he would need to continue to narrow it each day to be dead even by next Tuesday. This is according to the tracking polls I am using: Gallup, Hotline, Zogby, Battleground, IDP/TIPP and Rasmussen. Two days isn't quite a convincing trend, but if this continues tomorrow, we'll have a real race on our hands.

But, at the same time, just yesterday a Pew Research Poll was released showing Obama with a 15% lead. Since we are only using tracking polls because they are consistently released every day, this doesn't factor into the average. But it begs the question -- why is this result so out of line with the tracking polls?

Also, no state has swung during this two-day run for McCain and frankly, most don't appear to be tightening in the same way as the national polls. In fact, projecting the percentages we have for the states across the 2004 vote proportions would yield us the same 7.2% national lead we had two days ago -- that means we have a 1.8% deviation between the two.

So -- are the tracking polls noise? Is the Pew poll just wrong? Are more states in play than we think?

Let's start by examining our battlegrounds in detail:
STATE CHANGES
None

KEY BATTLEGROUNDS
Montana -- upgraded from serious to key -- we have 3 state polls from the past few weeks
with a spread from +4% Obama to +4% McCain with the most recent from 10/25 from Mason-Dixon showing McCain +4%.
Conclusion: Close, but McCain leading
Indiana -- no change -- 4 recent polls with a big spread from +10% Obama (Big 10) to +6% McCain (Zogby) -- the mathematical averages we have give Obama a slight lead here, but all polls are at least two days old
Conclusion: It more likely than not that McCain has overtaken Obama ever so slightly
Missouri -- no change -- very tight spread among 5 recent polls from +2% Obama (Zogby) to +1% McCain (Mason-Dixon) -- all polls are at least 2 days old
Conclusion: If there really has been 1.8% movement in the past two days, it seems more likely than not that McCain is ahead by a hair now
North Carolina -- no change -- past weeks polls range from +4% Obama (Zogby) to +1% McCain (Rasmussen) -- both the polls I mentioned are exactly two days old
Conclusion: Even with a 1.8% adjustment vs. the most recent polls, Obama still leads by a hair

SERIOUS BATTLEGROUNDS
Florida -- no change -- just released Bloomberg Poll shows Obama up by 7%, other two recent polls have him up by 4% and 5%
Conclusion: Obama still leads here

SIGNIFICANT BATTLEGROUNDS
Nevada -- downgraded from serious to sginificant -- Just released Rasmussen poll has Obama up by 4%, other recent polls have him at +10% and +4% (Suffolk and Zogby)
Conclusion: Obama still leads here
Georgia -- no change -- McCain leads by 1% in just released poll (Insider Advantage), other recent polls have showed him up by 5 to 6%
Conclusion: McCain is ahead, although the margin is in question and the early voting demographics must have him concerned

FRINGE BATTLEGROUNDS
Arizona -- downgraded from substantial to fringe -- McCain up by 5% to 8%, depending on which poll you pick
Ohio -- no change -- Obama up by 4% and 9% in polls released today
Colorado -- no change -- Obama up by 4% and 8% in polls released yesterday
Virginia -- no change -- Obama up by 4%, 7% and 9% in polls released yesterday
North Dakota -- no change -- no recent data to even hazard a guess with
Conclusion: There are no states that I believe have changed hands here

So, if we take the case that the tracking polls are right, it is entirely possible that Indiana and Missouri would flip back to McCain giving him 185 electoral votes and leaving Obama with 353. So, wouldn't change the outcome that much, but again, if McCain continues at this pace, it might get interesting again.

But, ok, this all assumes that the tracking polls are right and the Pew polls is wrong -- how do we know that's true? We don't. But the Pew poll has some oddities in the detail that make me suspect the tracking polls are closer to correct. The Pew poll has a 24% Republican sample vs. about 30% for most other polling firms, which would indicate some sample bias, if you believe the 30% is correct. This alone (assuming those Republicans primarily vote for McCain) would bring the poll down to a 9% edge for Obama if adjusted.

The Pew poll also does one other thing the tracking polls don't do -- it names the list of third party candidates. Interesting point here -- the difference in the Pew number is not so much that Obama is higher (his 52% is within the range of other polls) but that McCain's number is lower and the "undecided/other" bucket is higher. Could it be that voters that vote for McCain when presented two choices go for a third party candidate when presented with names like Bob Barr? I don't know. I do know that Ralph Nader was at 2 to 3% in a lot of polls going into 2004 and got almost no votes. So, I'm inclined to stick with the tracking polls but I'll keep watching.

The truth may be somewhere in between.

Obama's Second Convention
Obama has half an hour of primetime TV at 8 PM Eastern on the major networks tomorrow. This time will be unedited and unrebutted, much like a convention. Ah, the wonders of having a massive campaign war chest.

Will this give a convention-style bounce? Doubtful -- I have to imagine fewer people will watch. But Obama doesn't need a convention-style bounce -- all he has to do is freeze the polls for a few days and he wins -- and it might do that.

I'm certainly curious enough to be tuned in and I imagine a lot of people will watch, just as they did when Ross Perot bought his half hours on TV back in 1992.

Quick Early Voting Update
No real swings in the demographics, so let me just run down early votes cast and percentage of 2004 early votes cast for the battleground states:
Colorado -- 0.8M, 79%
Florida -- 2.1M, 75%
Georgia -- 1.2M, 180%
Indiana -- insufficient data
Iowa -- 0.3M, 79%
Nevada -- 0.3M, 78%
North Carolina -- 1.4M, 129%
Ohio -- insufficient data

As before, the only real states of note are Georgia and North Carolina. North Carolinans have already cast 40% as many votes as they did in TOTAL in the 2004 race.

Trail Dust
Obama is in Virginia and Pennsylvania today. He heads to North Carolina and Florida tomorrow.
McCain is in Pennsylvania and North Carolina today. He heads to Florida tomorrow.
Biden is in Florida today and will be there again tomorrow.
Palin is in Pennsylvania today and is headed to Ohio and Indiana tomorrow.

Expect to continue to see a rotating list of Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida and Ohio as we close this thing out. Obama wins with any 2 of the 5.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Polls Tighten Just a Bit, Electoral Map Stable, A Home State Betrayal?



PROJECTED ELECTORAL VOTE: OBAMA/BIDEN 375, MCCAIN/PALIN 163
(no changes)
PROJECTED POPULAR VOTE: OBAMA/BIDEN 52.1%, MCCAIN/PALIN 45.9%

(Obama/Biden down 0.4%, McCain/Palin up 0.4%)
TIME UNTIL FIRST POLLS OPEN: 7 DAYS, 9 HOURS


Well, I said yesterday that McCain would need to close in by 0.8% per day for the last 9 days of the race to be even come election time. What do you know? McCain closes by 0.8% today in our projection. Whether he can sustain that momentum every day for the next 8 days remains to be seen.

We got a slew of new polls today (28 in all!) but they resolve nothing as the electoral count remains the same. I'd said I'd love a newer poll in Arizona and I got one, and you see why I wanted one. The polling data in North Dakota and Montana still badly needs updating.

McCain now needs to pick up 13 electoral votes (a state the size of Virginia) per day the rest of the way in order to get to 270 on November 4th.

The state polling may not have fully caught up with the national polls as the aggregated state projections would point to a 7.2% win for Obama, whereas the national tracking would point to a 6.2% win for Obama. If you assume a possible 1 point swing, it would move Missouri back to McCain's column, but no other state at this point.

STATE CHANGES
None

KEY BATTLEGROUNDS
Indiana, North Carolina and Missouri all remain as key battlegrounds. Missouri is about as close as they come right now.

SERIOUS BATTLEGROUNDS
Nevada, Florida and Montana all remain as key battlegrounds.

SUBSTANTIAL BATTLEGROUNDS
Arizona -- surprise, surprise, John McCain's home state is now a battleground. I don't seriously expect him to lose here, but it has gotten much closer here.
Georgia also remains as a substantial battleground

FRINGE BATTLEGROUNDS
Ohio, Colorado, Virginia, New Hampshire and North Dakota all remain as fringe battlegrounds

A Little Info on Early Voting
I found a great website that is attempting to track early voting turnout in the general election in detail. The struggle is that a lot of states and counties don't report early voting turnout in a timely fashion or even at all in some cases. Some states provide party and race data, some do not. But the data we do have provide some interesting insight. The complete site can be viewed at the following link:

http://elections.gmu.edu/early_vote_2008.html

Key highlights from battleground states:
Colorado -- 0.7M votes cast thus far vs. 1.0M in all of '04 -- +1% Democrats
Florida -- 2.1M votes cast thus far vs. 2.8M in all of '04 -- +5% Democrats
Georgia -- 1.1M votes cast thus far vs. 0.7M in all of '04 -- no party registry -- 35% of early voters African-American
Indiana -- insufficient data (only Marion county reporting)
Nevada -- 0.3M votes cast thus far vs. 0.4M in all of '04
North Carolina -- 1.2M votes cast thus far vs. 1.1M in all of '04 -- +28% Democrats, 28% of early voters African-American
Ohio -- insufficient data -- only 2 counties reporting

Nothing surprising in Colorado, Florida or Nevada -- they seem to be on track to have about as many votes early as in '04 without much evidenced advantage in who is voting.

Insufficient data in Indiana and Ohio don't give us a clear picture.

But just look at North Carolina and Georgia. North Carolina has a HUGE Democratic advantage, 17% larger than 4 years ago and with higher early turnout. Georgia doesn't have a party registry, but African-American turnout has been driving huge overall turnout. If I were McCain, I would be somewhat worried about Georgia and really worried about North Carolina.

What About Those Pesky Undecideds?
Bill Greener had an article today on salon.com contending that recent evidence would indicate that in a black vs. white match-up, the recent history has shown that the undecideds break late for the white candidate. He offers 4 examples from recent history where it appears all or most of the undecideds broke for the white candidate. Sort of a recent twist on the Bradley Effect. I could dispute some of his facts, such as cherry-picking the one poll in the Tennessee Senate race that Harold Ford lost that support his point vs. other polls that showed a wider spread going in. However, in some states, there seemed to be at least some validity to this trend in the primaries (notably Pennsylvania and Ohio.) So, let's at least not dismiss this possibility out of hand.

I'm pegging the independent draw at around 2% in this race, meaning that 49% will be the amount needed to win in a typical state. This is a little bit arbitrary since most of the polls don't break out "other" and "undecided", but I do the best with what I've got. Obama is currently above 49% in Nevada, Ohio, Colorado, Virginia and New Hampshire but not in Florida, Indiana, North Carolina and Missouri, where I currently show him leading.

So, in this scenario, Obama would still win if the election were held today, but it would certainly make the race a lot closer, by about 3% to 4% depending on the state.

Of course, there are also questions about the likely voter models, which some believe underestimate Obama's support by 4%, so it all might fall out in the wash.

But, so we know the range of possibilities, I will publish on November 3rd not only a final "official" projection, but two what-if scenarios -- a scenario that shows McCain getting all the undecideds and one that shows Obama doing the same.

Ted Stevens Convicted
Alaska Senator Ted Stevens has been convicted on all 7 charges. He's going to jail and not back to the senate. We can probably move one toss-up senate set over to the Dems.

ATF Foils Obama Assassination Plot

Two skinheads were arrested by the ATF for plotting to rob a gun store, shoot up a North Carolina High School in an African-American neighborhood and then assassinate Barack Obama. The two idiots probably wouldn't have survived past step one, but it is a scary reminder of just how many crazies are out there that we will have to worry about until election day and for 4 years after if Obama wins.

Trail Dust

McCain and Obama are BOTH criss-crossing Ohio and Pennsylvania today. McCain moves on to North Carolina tomorrow while Obama continues in Pennsyvlania and then on to Virginia.
Palin is in Virginia, Biden in North Carolina and Florida. Biden stays in Florida tomorrow.

Anyone see a pattern here? OH, PA, NC, VA & FL -- the five biggest prizes that are within 15 points. McCain needs 4 out of 5 to win, really 5 out of 5 if Obama carries Colorado, New Mexico, Iowa.

Stay tuned tomorrow to see if McCain keeps closing the gap....

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Another Lazy Sunday, Not Much New



PROJECTED ELECTORAL VOTE: OBAMA/BIDEN 375, MCCAIN/PALIN 163
Unchanged
PROJECTED POPULAR VOTE: OBAMA/BIDEN 52.5%, MCCAIN/PALIN 42.5%
(DEM down 0.1%, GOP up 0.1%)
TIME UNTIL FIRST POLLS OPEN: 8 DAYS, 12 HOURS

Not much happening on the electoral front. The polls show a tiny pick-up for McCain nationally. No states move, and only 1 battleground change, modestly in McCain's favor. McCain now needs to pick up 0.8% per day to be even by election day and needs to gain 12 electoral votes per day.

Sunday has historically been the slowest day for state poll releases and that trend continues. Monday is usually the busiest day, so stay tuned.

STATE CHANGES
None

KEY BATTLEGROUNDS
Missouri -- promoted from serious to key -- McCain closes in a little here with a Mason/Dixon poll showing him up by 1%, the other recent polls have all showed it close.
North Carolina and Indiana remain as key battlegrounds

SERIOUS BATTLEGROUNDS
Nevada, Florida and Montana remain as key battlegrounds

SUBSTANTIAL BATTLEGROUNDS
Georgia remains as a substantial battleground

FRINGE BATTLEGROUNDS
Ohio, Colorado, Virginia, New Hampshire, North Dakota and West Virginia remain as fringe battlegrounds

THE DEMOCRATIC TRIFECTA
We haven't talked a lot about senate and house races on this site, and I don't generally believe there is enough polling data to drive decisive conclusions in all of these states, but I thought I'd give a quick rundown:
Senate:
There are basically no opportunities for Republican pick-ups in the Senate.
There are 3 seats are that are basically locked in Democratic gains: Mark Warner in Virginia and the Udalls in Colorado and New Mexico
There are an additional 2 seats that are likely Democratic pick-ups: Al Franken in Minnesota (it IS Minnesota) and Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire

So, I think the likely low-end for the Democrats is a 5 seat pick-up or a 54-49 advantage (plus 1 socialist who is really a Democrat and Joe Lieberman, who I don't know how to categorize)

In addition, there are 6 very close races that could go either way:
Alaska -- the outcome of this one is probably with the Ted Stevens jury
Georgia -- Saxby Chambliss should win re-election but has to be worried about the massive African-American early turnout for Obama
Kentucky -- the surprise of the year that Mitch McConnell has a serious challenge
Mississippi -- who figured THIS one to be close?
North Carolina -- it looks a lot like Elizabeth Dole may be toast
Oregon -- I feel bad for Gordon Smith, who has always been a moderate and may well lose his seat

So topside for Democrats (a clean sweep) would be a 60-49 advantage, or a fillibuster-proof majority. The likely scenario is probably somewhere in the middle, around 57 seats for Democrats, meaning they will have an effective working majority of 58 to 59 and will have to peel off 1 to 2 Republicans to break fillibusters.

The house is always almost impossible to project, because there is certainly not valid polling in 435 races available, but the best analysis that I can see is somewhere between a 15 and 20 seat gain in the house. It is not that important the exact margin, because the Democrats will NOT lose ground for sure, and they already have a comfortable working majority in the house.

Traildust
Obama is in Colorado all day today. Obama is off to Ohio and Pennsylvania tomorrow.
No sign of Joe Biden.
McCain is in Iowa and Ohio today. McCain is in Pennsylvania tomorrow.
Palin is in Florida and North Carolina today.

See a theme emerging? Ohio and Pennsylvania are THE keys. McCain has to win Florida and North Carolina too, but MUST have one of the two of those states (in all likelihood two out of two unless he runs the rest of the table), so I would expect the candidates to spend a lot of the closing days there.

Obama/Biden Going on Lockdown?
Is it time to start running clock for Obama/Biden? They haven't done media interviews in several weeks. If I were Obama's campaign manager, I would have an intense schedule of rallies in key battleground states, but would grant zero interviews between now and the election and I have a serious talking-to with Joe Biden so he understands that he must stick 100% to the teleprompter.

McCain on the other hand should exploit the availability of free media -- there is no reason for him not to take chances. Put Palin out there in swing states to rally the base and have McCain speak for the ticket on national and local interviews.

McCain is down to a 7.9:1 underdog in Intrade betting. Looking pretty bleak, but not over yet. Bernard Hopkins beat Kelly Pavlik last weekend and he was a 5:1 betting underdog. Buster Douglas was 20:1 against Tyson.

We'll see if the gap closes any with the new set of polls this week.



Still looking pretty

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Obama's Largest Lead of the Race -- Getting Closer to Over



PROJECTED POPULAR VOTE: OBAMA/BIDEN 52.6%, MCCAIN/PALIN 45.4%
PROJECTED ELECTROAL VOTE: OBAMA/BIDEN 375, MCCAIN/PALIN 163
TIME UNTIL FIRST POLLS OPEN: 9 DAYS, 14 HOURS, 49 MINUTES

This race has never looked worse for John McCain or better for Barack Obama. While Obama's edge in popular vote projection, at 7.2% is slightly below his October 11th peak of 7.6% and his second October 18th peak of 7.5%, it is his third highest water mark of the race.

On the electoral map, Obama has opened up his largest lead yet. Here are the changes:

STATE CHANGES
Indiana -- flips to Obama -- the most recent two polls show Obama up 4% (Survey USA) and 10% (Big 10 Battleground) respectively. I'm much more inclined to believe the Survey USA poll, I don't believe Obama could possibly be up 10% here and we have seen some funky recent results from Big 10.

KEY BATTLEGROUNDS

Indiana -- remains a key battleground after the swap
North Carolina -- promoted from serious to key battleground -- a Rassmussen poll shows Mccain up by 2%, the first poll showing him ahead (although still within the margin of error) since October 7th. We leave it with Obama for now, but it may be getting closer.

SERIOUS BATTLEGROUNDS

Missouri, Nevada, Florida and Montana all remain as serious battlegrounds.

SUBSTANTIAL

Georgia -- promoted from fringe to substantial battleground -- Insider Advantage poll shows Obama up 1%, the first poll to show him with a lead here. Rasmussen poll from the day before still shows Mccain with a 5% edge.

FRINGE BATTLEGROUND
Ohio -- demoted from Substantial to Fringe -- two polls show huge leads for Obama: Big 10 at 12% and Insider Advantage at 10% -- other polls show more modest 3-4% lead
Colorado -- demoted from Substantial to Fringe -- Rocky Mountain News shows Obama with a 12% lead, McCain has not led in a poll here since September 14th.
West Virginia -- demoted from Serious to Fringe -- apparently the one poll a few weeks back that showed Obama up 8% was just an outlier, last 3 polls have Mccain +9%, +9%, +6% (CNN/Time, Rasmussen and Mason/Dixon respectively.)
New Hampshire -- added as fringe battleground -- welcome back, NH! After weeks of being out-of-sight and seemingly in the bag for Obama, the last 4 polls all show Mccain has cut it to single digits -- he still hasn't shown a lead in a poll since September 23rd, but his relentless campaigning here (against the advice of most of us) seems to be starting to pay some dividends
Virginia and North Dakota also remain as fringe battlegrounds

Need Some Polls, Please

To have an accurate projection, there are a few states where there hasn't been much polling that more data is needed.

North Dakota has only had two polls in the past two months, both showed a neck-and-neck race, but more information is needed to establish a clear leader.

Arizona hasn't had a poll in quite some time. Everyone assumes it is in the bag for Mccain, but all the old polls showing him up double digits are from a time when he was even-to-leading in the national polls.

Also would like some more recent polls in Iowa where Mccain has been pushing hard, not sure if he is making progress or not.

All The Things I've Been Wrong About
Since talk is cheap and apologies are precious, I thought I would take some time to reflect on all the mistakes I've made in my predictions this year:
1. Early on in the Democratic nominating process, I felt sure that Hillary Clinton would easily defeat Barack Obama (I'm sure she did too!)
2. I expected the Republicans to nominate a traditional conservative like Fred Thompson (before he fizzled out) rather than John Mccain
3. I said at the time that I thought Sarah Palin would be a boost to the Republican ticket -- clearly she has not been (although I may have been partly right because she did seem to provide an initial bump)
4. I thought the conventions were tied, but clearly Mccain came out ahead
5. When Mccain was a 2:1 dog on Intrade, I said I expected the odds to get closer by election day. They now stand at 7.4:1.
6. I thought Mccain won the third debate -- clearly he hasn't moved the polls

Things I've Been Right About (or at least stand by)
1. Joe Biden was a bad pick for Obama -- he has proved to be a liability at times and hardly ever a help
2. I thought Obama won debates #1 and #2 and I still believe he clearly did
3. I predicted that PUMA's (Party Unity My Ass Democrats) would be a non-issue and they have been
4. I thought that the controversy around the Democratic primaries in Michigan and Florida would be a non-issue by election time and I was right
5. I thought Colorado held the key to the election early on and it still may (although that will get lost if the race is a landslide)

On balance, I've probably been wrong more than I've been right this year. One more reason that my Presidential models are based on statistics rather than my own gut feelings. Presidential campaigns are unpredictable as we have seen throughout the year.

The only person who had this right so far was my wife, who is not a political junkie but after seeing Barack Obama's speech at the 2004 convention stated very directly "there's the next President." It seemed absurd at the time, a black guy with an Arab-sounding name who hadn't even won a senate seat yet. But here we are...

So it with a great grain of salt that you should view my analysis to come.

Early Voting
Early voting statistics are starting to emerge, so I thought I would give a rundown. It is mostly (but not entirely) favorable to Democrats:
Florida -- about 1.5 million ballots have been cast so far, representing about 20% of the likely electorate with an almost even split between Democrats and Republicans. Advantage McCain.
Georgia -- almost 1.0 million ballots have been cast so far, representing about 25% of the likely electorate with a huge advantage in both Democrats and African-Americans. Advantage Obama.
Iowa -- about 0.3 million ballots have been cast so far, representing about 15% of the likely electorate with a moderate advantage in Democratic turnout. Advantage neither as the trend has been Democratic but the numbers have been disappointing to the Obama camp.
Nevada -- almost 0.2 million ballots have been cast so far, representing about 25% of the likely electorate with a moderate Democratic edge in turnout. Advantage Obama.
New Mexico -- about 0.06 million ballots have been cast so far. Advantage neither -- this is only 7 to 8% of the electorate.
North Carolina -- about 1.0 million ballots have been cast so far, representing about 25% of the likely electorate with a heavy Democratic and African-American edge. Advantage Obama.

So, based on early voting turnout, Obama may run ahead of polling expectations in Georgia, Nevada and North Carolina, but may run behind expectations in Florida.

Is It Over?
Rather than definitively answer the question (I just proved earlier how bad I've been at predicting this year), I thought I'd present both sets of arguments.

Why It's Over:

1. Obama has his largest lead of the race with less than 10 days to go.
2. No candidate has come back from this far back with so little time in modern history.
3. Obama has all the advantages going in -- more money, a better ground operation and a by-and-large friendly media
4. The McCain campaign has looked completely disorganized and off message. McCain himself seems unable to mount a coherent attack.
5. The early voting numbers we just discussed are starting to "lock-in" the polls where they stand today

Why It Isn't Over:
1. A lot can happen in 10 news cycles.
2. McCain has a record of "from the dead" comebacks
3. The much heralded youth vote has a history of not showing up on election day
4. Obama consistently underperformed in some key states in the primaries: Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Hampshire. Call it the Bradley Effect or something else, but there is a pattern here that may re-emerge.
5. We don't know what information the McCain campaign has been waiting for the last week to release -- there could still be a bombshell. Remember Al Gore closing 5 points in the final few days of 2000? And that was just a DWI.
6. We have proven over and over again that polls don't vote, people do.
7. Will people really trust Obama on National Security when they walk into the privacy of the polling booth?
8. There is the possibility of mass chaos at the polls this year

Please Vote (!!)

Point number 6 on reasons why it isn't over is absolutely important. Whether you back McCain or Obama, get out and cast your vote, because we just don't know. Vote early if your state permits it, vote on election day if it doesn't. It's the most important thing you can do to protect our democracy.

State Polls vs. National Polls
With so much attention focused in recent days on the wide spread of the national polls, I thought I would attempt to validate the national numbers by comparing the state poll numbers, weighted based on the 2004 vote to the national numbers.

The result?

The state totals shown above would yield a 6.4% edge for Obama nationally. The national projection is 7.1%. Looks pretty right to me.

As a matter of disclosure, my final prediction map will be published on the evening of Monday, November 3rd. Some sites continue to update their projections on election day. I think this is silly -- you aren't predicting anymore when the event is already happening.

For the November 3rd prediction, I will be doing two things to ensure the accuracy of the results:
1. In states where I don't have recent poll data, older poll data will be "aged" based on the trend of the national polls since the state polls were taken
2. Once the data are aged, I will compare the national tracking polls to the composite of the state polls. The average of the two will form our final national vote projection. State projections will then be adjusted slightly to bring the totals in line with the national projection. States with the least polling data will get the biggest adjustment, states with the most polling data will get almost no adjustment.

Later in the week (probably that next weekend as I have to travel again on business starting the day after the election), I will compare my final projections against the Monday, November 3rd projections of other major respected sites such as electoral-vote.com, realclearpolitics.com, electionprojection.com and others. I am committed to accuracy and want to see how I do against these other sites.

Traildust
Obama is back from visiting his sick grandmother in Hawaii and back out on the trail in Nevada today. He hits New Mexico for a rally this evening and then moves to Colorado all day tomorrow.
Biden is in Virginia today.
McCain is in New Mexico all day today. Tomorrow he hits Iowa briefly in the morning and then on to Ohio for the rest of the day.
Palin is in Iowa today and then Indiana this evening.

What became of the proudly announced Pennsylvania strategy for McCain? Is he now effectively conceding the state? If so, he needs to win all the rest of them: everything he is leading (including the battlegrounds of North Dakota, West Virginia, Georgia and Montana) PLUS North Carolina, Indiana, Florida, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, Virginia AND Ohio. Tough climb.

My advice to McCain: focus on the big states. The top prizes are Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and Virginia. Stop spending time in New Mexico, which you will probably lose anyway. Go big and try to pick off one blue state (I guess Pennsylvania.)

My advice to Obama: Don't get greedy. Focus on what you need. Push hard in North Carolina and Virginia (you can easily hit both in single-day visits) and in Ohio and Pennsylvania (again, you can hit both in a day.) Shoring up Colorado is good, but ignore those 4 and 5 electoral vote battleground states. If you win EITHER Ohio OR North Carolina, it is over. Likewise, if you win Virginia and Colorado, it is over. Don't sweat Nevada, New Mexico, New Hampshire, etc. And don't bother with Indiana and West Virginia, they will probably go red in the final analysis.

That's all for this time...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Trying to Make a Story Out of Not Much



ELECTORAL VOTE PROJECTION: OBAMA/BIDEN 364, MCCAIN/PALIN 174
POPULAR VOTE PROJECTION: OBAMA/BIDEN 52.1%, MCCAIN/PALIN 45.9%
DAYS UNTIL ELECTION: 12

Well, I was gone for 4 days from doing my regular updates, and not a lot changed. The popular vote projection is almost exactly where it was (+0.1% for Obama, -0.1% for Mccain) and the only state change is West Virginia.

Here's the latest scoop:

STATE CHANGES
West Virginia -- flips back from Obama to Mccain -- would've been hard to believe that Obama would win this one in the end

KEY BATTLEGROUNDS
Indiana -- promoted from serious to key -- Obama gains ground here, intends to make it a race

SERIOUS BATTLEGROUNDS

North Carolina -- demoted from key to serious -- still very close but Obama opens up a small lead
West Virginia -- demoted from key to serious after switching to Mccain -- Mccain opens up a small lead here
Montana -- added as serious battleground -- polls are tightening here as in North Dakota
Missouri, Nevada & Florida -- no change

SUBSTANTIAL BATTLEGROUNDS
Ohio -- demoted from key to substantial -- Obama's lead here grows just a little
Colorado -- no change

FRINGE BATTLEGROUNDS

Virginia, Georgia & North Dakota -- no change

The Oddity of Poll Divergence, Part 3
For the third time in this race, we have a number of oddly divergent polls. While the total weighted average for the national race has barely budged at all in the past 5 days (it has been between a 5.9% and 6.4% spread the whole time), we've seen individual results all over the place. Today, Zogby had Obama's lead at 12% and IBD/TIPP had it a 1%. Two days ago Gallup was at 10% and Battleground at 2%. I don't know anything I didn't know the last time we saw this, so I can't read anything additional into this volatility unless it turns into some kind of trend.

One piece of poll divergence at the state level that is worth noting is the Big 10 Battleground polls. There have been some huge margins for Obama in several states that other polls had relatively close: Ohio by 12% and Indiana by 10% -- I think that these are outliers that had flaws in the polling methodology -- I can't believe Obama is up by this much, especially looking at other recent polls.

Media Trying Like Heck for a Story
The broad availability of polls has the latest poll the lead story on CNN every night with "the race is tightening" or "the race is widening". Typically they look at far too few polls in far too little depth to really understand what is happening in the race.

Obama does seem to be winning the daily news cycle. Palin's $150K clothes, investigation of Palin in "troopergate" (I hate that name BTW), etc.

Mccain will have to do more than to continue to talk about wealth redistribution for the next 12 days in order to win. It's getting tougher by the day and people are voting in almost all the key battleground states now. If he pulled this one out of the fire, it would be a comeback for the ages, maybe even bigger than Ford's "almost" comeback.

Traildust
Obama was in Indiana today and is now headed back to Hawaii to visit his seriously ill grandmother. He is anticipated to rejoin the trail on Saturday.
Biden was in North Carolina.
Mccain was in Florida. He's scheduled to be in New Mexico tomorrow (didn't his campaign just say he was pulling out there? I'm so confused...)
Palin was in Ohio and Pennsylvania. She is scheduled in Iowa and Indiana tomorrow.
Really? Iowa?

Have Mccain/Palin already punted on the Pennsylvania strategy? They aren't making inroads yet, but as I discussed yesterday, I actually thought it made some sense vs. trying to run the table.

More to come this weekend....

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Brief Update from the Road, Disclosing My Personal Perspective

Popular and Electoral Projections: No Update Today -- Complete Analysis Tomorrow
Days Until Election: 13

As I mentioned in my last post, I am on the road (in beautiful sunny Sacramento, California) and have not had time to analyze the polls in depth and publish a new projection. I will be back home tomorrow night and will attempt to do so -- certainly I will post one no later than Friday.

Topline Projection Rundown:
(1) National Polls are diverging a little but in aggregate are more or less where they were 3 days ago when I posted. The range of Obama's lead in the tracking polls today is between 2% and 10% with an average somewhere in the 6-7% range, more or less where it has been for quite a while.
(2) In the battle for states (the real battle), there are a few changes.

West Virginia will almost certainly flip back to Mccain when I run the numbers -- a number of new polls have showed him with a small to moderate lead there. I never expected WV to go blue in the end.

Florida appears to have tightened significantly and may be even or even slightly in Mccain's column, with the last 3 polls giving Mccain a 1 to 2% lead vs. polls from the prior week showing a 4 to 5% lead for Obama.

Nevada, North Carolina, Missouri and Colorado all appear still be close but in Obama's column with very little change in status in the past week.

Ohio has wildly divergent polls, but Obama is probably very slightly ahead on balance.

Obama continues to hold a moderate lead in Virginia (although it may be getting slightly closer.)

Mccain continues to hold small to moderate leads in Indiana, Georgia, Montana and North Dakota. He will probably win all 4 in the end, except for maybe North Dakota (there simply isn't enough polling data to tell definitively yet and the last two polls were even or Obama leading slightly)

Mccain's Big Bet
John Mccain's latest strategy is to effectively concede a couple of the blue states he was contesting (Wisconsin and Minnesota, he had already effectively pulled out of Michigan) and also stop contesting Colorado, Iowa and New Mexico (which were red in 2004) and focus his resources on just a handful of states: North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

While pulling out of Wisconsin and Minnesota makes sense (he is behind by about 8 points in Minnesota and double digits in Wisconsin) and no one could argue with the need to North Carolina, Virginia, Florida and Ohio (NC, FL and OH are all super-close and big prizes and it is hard to imagine a map where Mccain could lose VA and win), the intent to effectively concede Colorado and focus resources on Pennsylvania, where he is down by at least 10% seems a little crazy at first blush.

But, in the broader context of the race it makes sense.
With no blue states seriously in play (and there aren't any at this point), Obama starts with a base of 252. He is almost sure to win Iowa and New Mexico, which gives him 12 additional electoral votes, bringing his total to 264. To win, Mccain would have to run the table in the remaining close and moderately close states: he would need to win in Florida, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, Missouri, Colorado, Nevada, Indiana and West Virginia. Lose any one of those and he cannot get to 270.

Mccain does not have the financial resources to compete and run the table in all 9 of those states. His ONLY other path is to pick off a big blue state and there is no other blue state that Mccain could even consider going after beyond PA.

Think about it -- if Mccain wins PA, that reduces Obama's base to 231. Let's say Obama takes Iowa, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Missouri -- this would give him 268 and leave Mccain 270. So IF Mccain could win Pennsylvania and hold North Carolina, Virginia, Florida and Ohio, he wins. He can't win under any circumstances without NC, VA, FL and OH, so winning PA effectively means he can concede the other 5 battlegrounds and still win.

It's definitely a long-shot strategy -- he has made no inroads so far that I can tell, but on balance, it may be his best, last shot at winning the race.

The Game Isn't Changing Yet
Every day that rolls by without Mccain being able to shift the focus of the election is making the road ahead of him harder. The news cycles this week have been about Powell endorsing Obama, Sarah Palin's children's expenses and her $150K makeover and the continued economic and stock market woes. Nothing here that helps Mccain.

He is entering territory where he would need an unprecedented comeback.

Obama has the money to counteract any strategy Mccain would employ.

And yet -- some polls are still close, Obama is still barely at 50% in most polls and Mccain still has almost two weeks, which is still a long time in the political world.

Where We Haven't Gone Yet
There are 13 days left and Mccain is still down. Mccain has repeatedly stated that Jeremiah Wright is out-of-bounds for his campaign. His campaign manager is hinting on conservative radio about a shift in strategy.

We all know where this could be headed. This is a test of character for Mccain. Does he care more about his values or about being President? In spite of Democratic criticisms, as I have stated before, I believe that Mccain has largely run an honorable campaign (yes, he's had some ads that have stretched the truth, but so has Obama and Mccain's ads were nowhere near as vicious and unethical as Willie Horton or Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.) If he goes for Wright now, he sells out his principles and proves his Democratic critics right.

He shouldn't do it. But he might. And if he does, we don't know if it will work.

My Personal Perspective
When I enter the voting booth on November 4th, I will be casting my vote for Barack Obama to be the next President of the United States of America.

My endorsement probably means nothing to most, but my reasons may matter to some.

Let me tell you a little bit first off about my voting history, so you can gauge my politics. In the past 6 presidential elections, I supported George H-W Bush in 1988 and 1992 (although with much more enthusiasm in 1988 than in 1992.) In 1996, I voted for Ross Perot in protest of my available choices. In 2000, I supported John Mccain enthusiastically in the primary (and contributed money to his campaign) and then reluctantly voted for Al Gore when George W. Bush was nominated. In 2004, I supported Joe Lieberman in the primaries, then I held my nose and voted for John Kerry, a man who I thought was deeply flawed but preferable to Bush. This year, I voted for Barack Obama in the primary, although the Republican race was effectively decided by the time I voted and it would have been a tough choice which primary to participate in had that not been the case.

In local races, I have voted for both parties. Among Republicans, I have voted for John Warner when I lived in Virginia, Arlen Specter in Virginia and Arnold Schwarzanegger in California. Among Democrats, I have support such individuals as Douglas Wilder in Virginia and Ed Rendell in Pennsylvania.

Before I talk about Barack Obama, let me first talk about John Mccain. Throughout the course of his career, John Mccain has been one of my heroes. He has had a remarkably consistent centrist philosophy and has been a man of prinicple. I have admired his efforts to reign in pork in Washington, his passion for smaller government and his recognition that spending needs to be cut BEFORE taxes are cut. I've admired his work on campaign finance reform. His courage on issues such as immigration, torture, campaign finance reform. His capability to negotiate compromise in the senate to preserve the dual goals of filling federal judgeships while maintaining the best traditions and protections of the US Senate. Even his largely unheralded work to reform the sport of boxing and protect those atheletes health and economic well-being. His right and prinicpled attack on the "agents of intolerance".

Unfortunately, in many ways, Mccain has lost his way. He now supports making the Bush tax cuts permanent without balancing the budget. He voted for the bailout despite it being laden with pork. He now opposes his own immigration bill. He has embraced the very agents of intolerance he once bravely spoke out against. He seems lost on what to do on the economy (we are going to solve the crisis by cutting pork?!) He picked Sarah Palin for the VP slot out of political expediency, when Joe Lieberman would have been his principled pick. Sorry, John, but I just can't be with you anymore.

Not that my support for Obama is purely or even mostly out of dissatisfaction with Mccain. I support Barack Obama because I believe we have the opportunity in this election to make a major change for the better in this country.

First, Obama has the capacity to restore America's image in the world. He has shown throughout the course of the campaign an adept and advance view of geopolitical issues. He is clearly beloved among the leaders of allied nations. He was right on not going to Iraq (that the surge has shown success does not change the fact.) Conservatism, before it was coopted by neocons used to believe in diplomacy first and the use of force only when presented with a clear and present danger to our national security (anyone remember Bosnia?) For all the flack he has taken, he is right on Iran too, a fact that the Bush administration has tacitally admitted by beginning talks with Iran. He is right about Afghanistan, a much amplified presence is needed in that critical area and he is the only one with a credible plan to increase our presence there (by moving troops from Iraq.) Colin Powell's endorsement of Obama is tribute to these facts.

Second, Obama is more right on the key moral issues of the day. It is very likely that if John Mccain is elected president and gets to appoint even one supreme court justice that Roe vs. Wade will be overturned. This would lead to abortions being unavailable to underpriviledge women in states throught the southern US, creating a massive social problem, in addition to my serious moral problem with the government intervening in women's rights in this way. Obama is more right about health care -- it is a crime the number of children who are uninsured in a country as wealthy as ours.

Third, Obama is more right about the economy. Warren Buffet has stated that it is criminal that he pays a lower percentage of his income in taxes than his secretary and he is correct. Mccain has made a lot of hay about wealth redistribution in recent days -- these attacks are bull. It is an undeniable fact that when you look at total taxes paid to the federal government (income taxes, capital gains taxes AND payroll taxes, which are regressive and often ignored by conservatives) divided by total income, the top 1% pay far less in tax rate than the middle 50%. This is wrong. Conservatives point to bold facts like that the 1% pay 40% of the taxes. This is interesting, but irrelevant. The top 1% have 60% of the wealth, their FAIR share would be 60% of the taxes. Conservatives say that taxes will squash business investment. This is also wrong. The economy is consumer driven, not production driven as is proven over and over again as the economy tracks with conusmer confidence. Consumers are in the middle class. Buffett's endorsement of Obama is testament to this fact.

Finally and not insignificantly is the issue of race. In a Gallup poll earlier this year, 9% of voters said they were more likely to support Obama because of his race, 6% said less likely and most of the remaining 85% were probably lying. Not that I think most people in this country are racist, quite the contrary. I simply do not believe that this is an issue that can be ignored. For over 200 years and 43 presidents, we have elected white males to the top office in this nation. We tell our children they can be anything they want when they grow up, but the reality is that this hasn't really been true at the top levels...at least not yet. Electing an African-American (in reality only 50% black, but for all practical purposes, he is black) President is the fulfillment of the American promise -- our core founding principle, which has not yet been fulfilled, that "all men are created equal". If Obama were unqualified, possessed truly radical views or lacked the leadership or capability to be president, none of this would matter. But Obama is none of those things and the significance of the message an African-American in the White House sends to our children, our nation and the world means a lot.

Not that my endorsement is completely without reservation. While I don't fault Obama for sitting on a board will Bill Ayers, he should have known who he was and should have condemned Ayers' terrorism much earlier and much more strongly. Obama should have denounced the rantings of Jeremiah Wright long before it became politically convenient. But Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright are not Barack Obama and I certainly wouldn't pass the test of whether all of my past friends were stand-up citizens, nor would most, I suspect.

Obama was hypocritical for endorsing the prinicple of campaign finance reform, stating he would take public financing and the abandoning it when it was politically convenient to do so. Winning at all costs is no excuse for Obama anymore than it is for Mccain.

But on balance, my concerns with Obama are small for a presidential candidate that has been picked apart for two years and his positives very compelling. John Mccain is a good man who has unfortuantely lost his way and watched his time past. Barack Obama is the best leader for America now.

Note: I assure you that I will continue to provide unbiased analysis of polling data. Nothing in my projection formula, which is statistically based will change. Thank you for reading, especially my Republican friends. Good people can disagree on these issues, just as the two good men at the top of the national tickets do.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Did the Mccain Recover Fizzle? Obama Extends Electoral Lead, Gets Nod from Powell, Sarah Palin on SNL



PROJECTED ELECTORAL VOTE: OBAMA/BIDEN 369 - MCCAIN/PALIN 169
PROJECTED POPULAR VOTE: OBAMA/BIDEN 52.0% - MCCAIN/PALIN 46.0%
DAYS UNTIL ELECTION: 16

Two days after I said the race was undoubtedly getting tighter, Obama adds two states (North Carolina, West Virginia) to his roster (albeit very narrowly) an has his highest electoral lead of the race so far. If you are a Mccain supporter, the one thing that you can take comfort in is that the race does appear to continue to tighten in both Ohio and Florida and Mccain is within reasonable striking distance in both. His problem is that he does not appear to be making the same inroads in Missouri, Nevada, Colorado and Virginia and he likely needs ALL 8 of the states we just talked about to win. He also has been unable to move the needle to create any new swing states (he is getting nowhere fast in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Minnesota.)

Here are the changes:
STATE CHANGES
North Carolina -- flips from Mccain to Obama -- this is the first time that this site has shown Obama in the lead, although other sites have shown him leading off and on for a while. Polls showing Obama narrowly ahead plus incredibly high African-American voting turnout make this a real risk for Mccain.
West Virginia -- flips from Mccain to Obama -- this one is clearly close based on all the recent polls. Do I think this one will stay in the Obama column through Nov 4th? No.

KEY BATTLEGROUNDS
North Carolina & West Virginia -- remain key battlegrounds after narrowly flipping to Obama
Ohio -- promoted from serious to key battleground as Mccain makes inroads.

SERIOUS BATTLEGROUNDS
Nevada, Indiana, Missuori and Florida all remain serious battlegrounds.

FRINGE BATTLEGROUNDS
Virginia, Georgia and North Dakota all remain fringe battlegrounds.

DID THE MCCAIN RECOVERY FIZZLE?
Was it a dead cat bounce we were seeing last week as Mccain closed within a point? Obama's peak lead in national polling was October 11th, where he lead by 7.5% in our projection model. In the next week, he had a downward pattern, with Mccain closing to 4.9% by October 18th (yesterday) -- a 2.6% closure in a week is very significant (in fact, if Mccain had kept that pace, he wouldbe ahead modestly by election day.) However, there is probably some noise in those numbers and yesterday Obama added back a full point of lead. Obama being +5.9% with 100% of the polling now being post-debate is significant. He is back to right where he was prior to the debate, meaning that the debate did not appear to have any impact.

On balance, what I make of all these numbers is this: Mccain has closed slightly, but his forward progress has stalled. Joe the Plumber is past his 15 minutes of fame and Mccain needs a new message to get people to tune in and change their minds. He doesn't have it right now.

The Powell Endorsement
This morning, Colin Powell strongly and enthusiastically endorsed Barack Obama for President. This is a big development -- Obama gave the legal maximum to the Mccain campaign last year, served as Secretary of State in George W. Bush's first term and was widely thought of as a Republican presidential contender in 2000 before he decided not to seek elected office. Powell is one of the most admired and respected figures in the political world.

So does his endorsement really mean anything? Critics will say quietly (although few are likely say it publicly) that Powell's endorsement is one high-profile African-American endorsing another and that race was a major factor in this decision. Maybe. but Powell's endorsement certainly gives Obama credibility on the national security front and continues to make it difficult for Mccain to make the case that Obama is risky, when the most respected military leader in the world endorses his candidacy.

At a minimum, this will be the lead story on the news for Sunday and probably Monday as well and therefore is two more days that the lead stories will be a positive about Obama and that Mccain is not making inroads.

Palin on SNL
Sarah Palin appeared last night on SNL. She was funny and it was nice to have another laugh to go with the great stand-up comedy performances we recently saw from Mccain and Obama (who were great in a joint charity appearance, although for my money, Mccain was a little better.)

It's good not to take ourselves too seriously all the time in politics, but I don't think this will have much impact on the race.

The Road Ahead
Obama will continue to massively outspend Mccain in all the key battleground states. Some of the country will be mildly distracted over the next two weeks following the world series. After the Powell story cycles through, Mccain has basically 14 news cycles to break through with something that will change the race. Obama will also have a half hour with most of the country the weekend before the election, which could have the effect of a second convention and provide him a small bounce.

Mccain needs to be within 3 to 4 points at this time next week to be within striking distance. He has an uphill, but not yet impossible climb.

Traildust

Obama is in North Carolina and Florida. None of the other candidates have published events scheduled, although all 4 will undoubtedly be campaigning.

Traveling On Business Again

I will be busy at a conference next week, traveling Monday through Thursday. It is likely that Thursday or Friday will be the next time that I will be able to make another full post. From there, I have no travel planned until after the election, so I should be with you at least every other day from then on.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Has Obama Peaked Too Soon? Or Is That Poll Static?




PROJECTED POPULAR VOTE: OBAMA/BIDEN 51.8%, MCCAIN/PALIN 46.2%
PROJECTED ELECTORAL VOTE: OBAMA/BIDEN 349, MCCAIN/PALIN 189
DAYS UNTIL ELECTION: 18

Only minor changes to the map. No states shift. Here is the battleground rundown:
KEY BATTLEGROUNDS
North Carolina -- no change -- massive early African-American turnout a promising sign for Obama
West Virginia -- no change -- we've seen a couple of polls now, I guess it really is close, but this one sure is hard to believe

SERIOUS BATTLEGROUNDS
Ohio -- no change -- Obama holds on to a small lead
Nevada -- no change -- Obama holds on to a small lead
Indiana -- no change -- it still seems unlikely Obama can win this one
Missouri -- no change -- Obama holds on to a small lead
Florida -- promoted from substantial to serious -- Mccain appears to be closing a little bit here

SUBSTANTIAL BATTLEGROUNDS

None this time

FRINGE BATTLEGROUNDS
Virginia -- drops from substantial to Fringe -- is this one too far gone for Mccain? Is there any path for him to win without it?
Georgia -- no change -- another state with massive early voting turnout and almost 40% of it African-American -- still a longshot for Obama, but it makes you wonder
Colorado -- no change -- Democratic convention in Denver looking like one of the best moves of the year
North Dakota -- added as battleground -- two close polls in a row, could this one be back in play?

Tracking Poll Redo

I have received a flood of feedback that the IBD/TIPP poll was the most accurate tracking poll in 2004 and should be included in any poll average. Well, the poll just kicked off 5 days ago, so including it makes the history a little dicey, but I decided to include it anyway, in the interest of completeness. Since I'd messed up the history with different polls being included anyway, I went back and plugged the Zogby poll in as well, restating the previous data to include these polls. The net result is very little change to the historical data, but wanted to be transparent about the methodology. Gallup is now weighted 25%, Rasmussen 33%, Hotline & Battleground 9% each, Zogby 13% and IBD/TIPP 11%.

Has Obama Peaked?

In one way, the post-debate didn't go as I anticipated. I expected John Mccain to be declared the winner -- and that didn't happen. I was told by others that while I listened to the entire debate, because I typing notes throughout, I missed a lot of the body language that apparently made Mccain appear smarmy and combative. The post-debate polls all had Obama as the wide winner. 4 for 4 for Obama-Biden.

But did Mccain land some meaningful blows that he can build on? Maybe....the tracking poll results from yesterday (which had almost no post-debate reaction) to today (which had 1 out of 3 days of post-debate reaction in most cases) shows almost no change in lead from Obama +5.2% to Obama +5.5%.

On the other hand, looking at the last week, the race does appear to be tightening just a hair. We are out of the 6-7% range and into the 5-6% range. Not enough for Mccain yet, but with a sample this large and this many days of data, I believe it is a real change.

I expect the end result of this race to be no more than 3%, so don't be surprised if the polls close to that range eventually. Whether Mccain can do more than that I think depends on a game-changer.

What Would a Game-Change Look Like?
I brainstormed possible game-changing events. Here are my thoughts of things that could happen:
#1 A terrorist attack or credible threat
This would refocus the country off the economy and on to national security, which could significantly alter things in Mccain's favor. Anyone think that there is a least an outside chance of a "wag the dog" moment?
#2 A massive stock market recovery
I doubt this will happen and I'm not sure it will matter enough if it does. Most people aren't going to stop thinking about the economy even if their 401K recovers a little.
#3 A major scandal
Obama has an expunged drug dealing charge that gets discovered. Mccain had a child in an affair. Something like that. I doubt this one will happen because these two candidates have been so heavily vetted for so long, but you never know.
#4 ?????
Mccain can't really control 1-3, so he has to try to come up with a 4th. I just can't think of what it is.

Obama is running clock and Mccain is still behind. People are already voting in droves. Mccain needs movement quickly.

Traildust
Obama is in Virginia today. He hits Missouri tomorrow.
Biden is in New Mexico and Nevada.
Mccain is in Florida.
Palin is in Ohio and Indiana.

Maybe Mccain has finally given up on Pennsylvania -- he should -- I can't see a scenario where he would win there.

If I were Obama, I would camp out in Virginia and Colorado. Yes, Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Indiana, Missouri, Nevada, etc. would all be nice to have. But if he wins Virginia and Colorado, he wins the election. Period.

If I were Mccain, I'm not sure what the right strategy is. He needs ALL the states I just mentioned. Certainly, I'd give up on Pennsylvania, New Mexico, New Hampshire, etc. But how to split his time between the 8 states that he needs that he is either behind in or leads by less than a point, I don't know.

All this, and Obama has more money.