Addendum -- Flood Of New State Polls

[ Posted Thursday, September 18th, 2008 – 23:04 UTC ]

[This is really an addendum to yesterday's article on state polls, but it's just going to be a quick update.]

Yesterday, I did a roundup of the state polls and the electoral math outlook for the presidential race. Today, I checked the numbers as I do every morning, and over thirty states had new poll numbers -- an astonishing amount of data for one day. Even Washington, D.C. got polled, for the first time ever in this election cycle. It's easy to see why D.C. doesn't get polled much, since the outcome isn't exactly in doubt -- the spread in this poll is greater than any other state at 82% for Barack Obama and a paltry 13% for John McCain.

But with this flood of data coming in, I thought it'd be worth a quick note today on the movement these new polls show. At first glance, it looks like more bad news for Obama, since McCain is back over the magic number with 274 electoral votes, while Obama only has 243. But when you look closer, you can see what could be the beginning of a very good trend for Obama. Perhaps. As always, nothing's written in stone.

So here are all the states who moved, just in the last day:

Starting with McCain's good news, Arizona and Texas moved from Weak to Strong. Due to Texas' huge 34 electoral votes, this will move the graph lines significantly. But since neither state was ever much in doubt for him, it's not really that surprising. Two states moved to Barely McCain, Virginia (from being tied) and Colorado (from Barely Obama). McCain is now up by one point in Colorado, and two in Virginia. But both of these states have been essentially statistically tied for the entire race, and either one of them could go for either candidate on Election Day, so McCain can't count on either one of them at this point -- meaning their status as Tossup states remains unchanged.

But there was bad news in McCain's numbers as well. Montana and Louisiana moved from Strong to Weak for McCain. And even more alarming for the McCain campaign are Florida and West Virginia moving from Weak McCain to Barely McCain. Florida was looking more and more like a lock for McCain, but Obama is enjoying a rapid upswing in support there this week. If Obama can continue this movement and actually win the Sunshine State, their 27 electoral votes may put him in the White House before any of the other time zones even stop voting. The contest is also narrowing in West Virginia, but since it isn't polled much it still looks (from available data) like McCain may take their five electoral votes in the end (he's been consistently leading here).

Obama has some bad news on his side of the column as well, but it's likely just a momentary bump in the road for him. His home state of Illinois changed from Strong to Weak, but this is the only poll yet which has shown him at under 10 points ahead (he's currently up by six), so it's pretty safe to assume he'll pick up their hefty 21 electoral votes on Election Day. A bit more troubling is that both Oregon and Wisconsin moved from Weak Obama to Barely Obama. Hopefully Obama can bounce back in two regions which are at the this time looking a bit soft for him -- the Pacific Northwest (both Washington and Oregon are now Barely), and the Rust Belt (currently Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan are Barely Obama, and Pennsylvania is tied).

But there's good news for Obama in the numbers as well. New York had softened to Weak Obama for the last month or so, and it returns to Strong Obama today. This was entirely expected, but it's comforting to see nonetheless. And New Mexico, which had flirted with being Barely McCain for a single week (likely one outlier poll), is now all the way back to being Weak Obama. Obama's up by eight points again in New Mexico, which is also comforting to see.

Obama seems to be the one with the momentum right now, which should start showing up in states across the board in the next week or so. He needs to shore up his support in the crucial big states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Illinois, as well as the medium-sized Wisconsin, Minnesota, Washington, and Oregon.

And, crucially, he needs to flip a few of the Tossup states his way. But luckily for him, McCain now has a record high number of electoral votes in the Barely column -- meaning he's leading Obama there by less than five points. States Obama needs to flip (in order of likeliness): Colorado, Nevada, Virginia, Ohio, Florida, Indiana, and West Virginia.

The ideal situation would be for Obama to continue his momentum to regain his lead in electoral votes right before the first debate happens.


-- Chris Weigant


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