Between mid and late September, the big story in terms of the state-by-state polls was McCain’s loss of his ‘medium’ states – i.e. those where he had some lead, but not a large one – such as Florida and North Carolina into ‘toss-up’ territory. Obama had managed to garner a few extra ‘strong’ electoral college votes, but nothing seemingly irreversible.
So, what’s happened in the last four weeks? Well, Obama’s overall increase in the national polls is very much old news at this stage, so what can state-by-state polls tell us above and beyond? Obama’s national performance is unsurprisingly replicated in RCP’s state-by-state poll statistics: he has managed to increase his vote by 3% or more in 22 of the 35 states covered by RCP, while McCain has only done similar in two states: Maine, which is solid Obama country, and Texas, which is of course safe McCain territory.
Of most note, from the state by state results, are the following:
- Pennsylvania (21 votes), exceeded in electoral college votes by just four states, now looks like solid Obama territory, where his lead has increased from 48-44 to 51-41.
- Ohio, worth 20 votes, has also moved from a toss-up towards Obama – four weeks ago, McCain had 1 point lead. Now, he trails 50-44.
- Michigan (17) now looks unassailable for Obama, while the much-mooted Georgia (15) upset remains a possibility: in the last four weeks, McCain’s lead has shrunk from 12% to 6.8%.
- There have been significant gains for Obama in other Tier 2 states, such as Virginia (13), and in particular Minnesota (10) and Wisconsin (also 10).
They are the most important changes – most other gains haven’t really had an impact. So where does that leave us all with only a couple of weeks left?
On September 1, McCain had 99 electoral college votes from 9 states of the 32 or so polled ‘in the bag’ (i.e. with a lead of 10% or more) and just one other state leaning (Georgia). Eight weeks on, all he has to show by way of gains are the three electoral college votes of Montana, where he enjoys a 5.6% lead.
Barack Obama could count, eight weeks ago, on the 156 electoral college votes of eight states, varying in size from California to Maine. Since then, he has added a further seven states – most notably Pennsylvania (21) and Michigan (17) as per above – and seventy-six electoral votes. Another 47 votes in four states are leaning towards Obama, including the sizeable Ohio (20) and Virginia (13).
So, with all that bad news for McCain, where are his glimmers of hope? Unfortunately, they don’t look like they’re hiding in the remaining undecided states. The five states that are still in toss-up territory, as per RCP’s listings, contain 69 electoral college votes – 42 of which are in Florida and North Carolina. Both of those states lean slightly towards Obama, as do two of the other three.
Perhaps his hopes lie in the possibility that people are more likely to say they’ll vote for Obama than actually will, as some have suggested. Or that the turnout from Obama demographics such as the young and African-American will be low. Then again, for each commentator saying that, there are others who believe that young voters are grossly under-represented in traditional polls conducted using landlines. Who knows?
Still, it could be worse… Just take a look at the Economist World Vote. Obama 8,957-31 McCain. Cuba’s status is surely the biggest turn-up for the books!
Altogether, a simple sum of all the strong, medium and weak votes for both candidates gives Obama a whopping 337-128 lead. As was famously once said, “they think it’s all over…”