Ronan Lyons | Personal Website
Ronan Lyons | Personal Website

McCain solidifies his electoral votes – Pennsylvania, Michigan teeter

I had been wondering how long it would take for the electoral college system to reflect the polls, in the US presidential election. For quite a while, Obama seemed to be struggling in the polls but well ahead when all that was translated at the state level into electoral votes (EVs).

It seems that it’s finally happened! Real Clear Politics’ assessment of the polls and EV implications has Obama ahead by just one vote. I decided to have a look at the figures myself, as a non-expert of the whole college system. I looked at the figures from 1st September and from 12th September, to see where the change was happening, and drew out some ‘key points’, like a good consultant! First up, the bad news and the good news for Barack Obama – there’s more of the former!

Obama’s bad news

  • Pennsylvania (a chunky 21 EVs) has fallen from being an Obama likely to a toss-up – he was +6.8% and is now just +2.3% ahead of McCain.
  • Obama has also seen his lead shrink in the other large toss-up state that’s currently in his favour, Michigan (17 EVs), from +3.2% to +2.0%.
  • Indiana (11 EVs), a huge pro-Bush state in 2000/2004 (by 15-20%), was Obama +0.5% but has now swung substantially in McCain’s favour – he leads by 4.7%.
  • Obama’s is even taking a hit in states where he is probably safe, e.g. in New Jersey and Washington (together 26 EVs), his lead in both is has fallen by 1% and is now below 10% in each.

Obama’s good news

  • Minnesota (10 EV), however, has moved towards Obama, from +2.3% to +7.0%, while he has also almost doubled his lead in Iowa (7 EVs) to 9%.
  • Colorado (9 EVs) has gone from being a virtual tie (McCain +0.5%) to an Obama lead of +2.3%, while his lead in New Hampshire (4 EVs) is small but growing (from 1.4% to 3.3%).
  • His lead has grown in New York (31 EVs), already solidly pro-Obama.

So leaving out the solid states, there is bad news for Obama in states worth 49 EVs, and good news in states worth only 40 EVs. What about John McCain?

  • Florida (27 EVs) has moved from being a toss-up, McCain +1.8%, to looking little more solid for McCain – it’s now McCain +5%.
  • In Georgia (15 EVs), which was already leaning towards McCain, McCain’s lead in the polls has doubled to 13.4%.
  • North Carolina (15 EVs) has moved from toss-up with McCain tendencies (+4.3% in his favour) to being solid McCain ground (+11%).
  • Virginia (13 EVs) was a tie last time but is leaning towards McCain, by +2.6% – perhaps not a big surprise, as it was Bush +8% in 2000/2004.
  • Gained Indiana (11 EVs, as per above) and improved his lead in Missouri (11 EVs) from 2% to 7%

Nevada (5), New Mexico (5) and Montana (3) are new to the RCP polling stats. McCain is ahead by 9% in the latter, but the other two are both toss-ups and are split – Obama leads in New Mexico by 2.3%, while McCain leads in Nevada by 1%.

So, defining ‘Strong’ as a lead of 10% or more, ‘Medium’ as a lead of 5-10% and ‘Weak’ as a lead of less than 5%, how have things changed since the start of the month?

  • Obama’s ‘Strong’ count has fallen from 156 to 130 (269 are needed in total). The fall of 26 is spread relatively evenly across medium and weak Obama EVs, but by simple polls, it suggests that Obama would get 246 EVs out of the 35 states for which there are data available.
  • McCain’s big improvement has been turning his weak votes, of which there were 82, into Mediums or even Strongs – having trailed Obama 156-99 in strong EVs at the start of the month, he’s just one behind now (130 to 129). He’s also moved about 25 votes from weak to medium.

By my simple count of the polls, and including college votes of every strength, Obama still has a healthy 246-219 lead, although that’s almost a halving of his lead in about 2 weeks. It’ll be very interesting to check in again in two weeks and see whether that’s a temporary bounce due to the Palin effect or whether it’s the start of a prolonged trend!

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