Wednesday, October 29, 2008

No Doubt About It Now, We Have a Race Again

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
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.

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