Presidential Race Maps Writing on the Wall

Daily Tracking Poll Average: National Average Tightens Overnight

Posted Nov 02, 2008 at 5:31 AM by Maurice Berger

This afternoon, four of five tracking polls out today report that the race has tightening over the past 24 hours (except for the erratic Zobgy survey). Today's PollTrack daily tracking poll average indicates that Obama's lead is down -1.3% from yesterday to 49.8% to 44.8%, for an aggregate advantage of +5% DEM. One poll, TIPP, the most accurate in 2004, reports a dramatic tightening of the race (Obama by +2%, 47% to 45%): "The race tightened again Sunday as independents who'd been leaning to Obama shifted to McCain to leave that key group a toss-up. McCain also pulled even in the Midwest, moved back into the lead with men, padded his gains among Protestants and Catholics, and is favored for the first time by high school graduates." One other thing to consider, with Obama's national lead down to 5%--and his lead in high-population Kerry-blue states such as NY, IL, CA, MA, and NJ ballooning to 15-25% in most--the shrinking national total might also suggest that the races in more highly competitive battleground states may be drawing closer. Stay tuned.

Daily Tracking Poll: Obama Up Again

Posted Nov 01, 2008 at 9:29 AM by Maurice Berger

Today's PollTrack daily tracking poll average shows Obama up +6.3%, 50.2% to 43.9%. This is a slight uptick from yesterday, though one poll--GWU/Battleground which has shown the race at around +4% DEM all week--does not issue trackers over the weekend. Several things to note: IBD/TIPP today reports the undecided block at +8.7%. Zogby, one of this cycle's more erratic pollsters, writes this morning that the McCain "made solid gains in Friday's single day of polling," pulling into a lead on that single day, 48% to 47%. And AP/Yahoo yesterday reported a staggering 14% of voters who say they are undecided or still persuadable and thus could change their mind by Election Day. Is this volatility real? Hard to say. The good news for Obama: he leads in all national surveys, has a near lock on almost every state won by John Kerry in 2004, has McCain struggling in a number of true-red states (NC, VA, IN, ND, MT), and has a considerable structural advantage in many battleground states --from early voting that favors him to a top-line above the 50% mark on average in many of these contests. The possible good news for McCain: most of the undecided and much of persuadable bloc is made up of voters who demographically trend Republican. Most undecided voters, if they actually vote, usually break towards their demographic. (Many polls actually indicate a very high degree of enthusiasm among uncertain voters, a sign that they may show up in the end.) A large bloc of undecided voters--if it is true that this bloc hovers around the 8-10% mark nationally--moving lockstep in one direction or another could still significantly impact the race. 

Obama: Ad War Dominance

Posted Oct 29, 2008 at 6:44 AM by Maurice Berger

In a sign of the economic disparity between the two presidential campaigns, Nielsen reports that Obama continues to outspend McCain in the key battleground states: "In Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, Obama placed 155% more ad units (62,022 vs. 24,273) than McCain between October 6 and October 26, 2008... Obama's advertising continues to be heaviest in Florida, where he ran 18,909 ads between October 6 and October 26, outpacing McCain's 5,702 ads by 232%." Over the past few days, Nielsen reports, McCain has closed the gap slightly. More eye-popping, perhaps, is the Republican's newest ad buy: Montana, a state George W. Bush won by nearly twenty points four years ago." Yet, despite this enormous disparity, the race remains close in most of these states, though all, except PA, lean Republican.

McCain's Challenge III

Posted Oct 23, 2008 at 3:17 AM by Maurice Berger

Another of McCain's challenges--filtered through the ever watchful eyes of PollTrack--can be summed up in four words: Obama's "Safe Democrat" advantage. As of this morning on Today's Map (and trending similarly on Tomorrow's Map) Obama approaches the magic number of 270 electoral votes even without "Leaning Democrat" states: of his 286 EVs on Today's Map, 255 are "safe," meaning that his average PT lead is large enough (at this point) to probably overcome  a range of possible problems, from the so-called Bradley Effect to lower turn-out among his most ardent supporters. By contract, McCain now holds on to 137 "safe" EVs. On Tomorrow's Map, McCain's "safe" EV count jumps slightly to 160. The good news for Obama: no matter the apparent fluidity and/or variations of his lead in the national numbers, his substantial leads in many states may be impossible for McCain to overcome. Indeed, the 10% or greater advantage Obama now maintains in many states has historically held: candidates this far ahead in statewide polling in mid-October inevitably win those states in November. Could this election defy history? Yes. But with each passing day, Obama is looking increasingly secure in enough states to dramatically limit his opponent's path to victory.

Hotline/FD: Obama Way Ahead in The Battleground States

Posted Oct 13, 2008 at 6:23 AM by Maurice Berger

Hotline/FD tracking, this morning, reports that although the national numbers have drawn a bit closer, with Obama up +6%, the Democrat continues to hold a collective double-digit lead in the battleground states--51% to 38%--defined in the survey as Colorado, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin.  The finding may be misleading, however. For one, these states together represent an appreciably smaller sample than the national poll as a whole, thus are subject to greater statistical variations. Also: these numbers do not reflect differences in the intensity of state to state support for the candidates. In other words, while the Democrat, according to most polls, holds a substantial lead in some swing states (PA, NH, MI, WI), the race appears to be considerably tighter in others (OH, FL, VA, NV, CO). The enormous upside for Obama: he is leading (in some cases by significant margins) in all of the states won by John Kerry in 2004, while McCain is struggling in a number of Bush states.

Electoral Math: Another Positive And Important Sign for Obama

Posted Oct 09, 2008 at 1:55 AM by Maurice Berger

With Obama's numbers up nationally and leaping in many battleground states, it's worth nothing another barometer of the Democrat's success of late: the rapid and steady rate with which states have moved into the safe Democrat column on Today's Map. Generally, if a candidate is ahead in a state in early-October by a percentage outside the margin of error, he wins the state in November. (The margin of error is the numerical fluctuation that accounts for statistical error in a poll, as much as +5% in either direction). To lead Safe in PollTrack's assessment is to cross a far higher threshold: a PT safe advantage is usually +10%, well outside the margin of error.  PollTrack relies on more than just numbers and mathematical formulas (a problem with most other electoral websites--they make determinations based on formulas, not a deeper assessment that includes events on the ground, demographics, and historical precedents.)  So a safe designation on PollTrack implies  a truly solid lead, based on polling data and history and  supported by recent demographic and voting trends in the state.On Today's Map this morning, Obama has 206 safe electoral votes; McCain has 158. More significant: McCain has NO safe votes in battleground or swing states. Obama, on the other hand, maintains safe leads in three: Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Iowa. Additionally, another six swing states are "Leaning Democrat." Discounting the Obamican/50-state theory--the argument made early on by the Obama campaign that it could dramatically flip Republican and independent voters in traditionally Republican states--historically red states are not battlegrounds. And it is only in these states that McCain leads. Only West Virgina can bee seen as a marginal battleground, though it's gone Republican in the past two cycles. The upshot: McCain has a difficult, uphill battle. Right now he has little traction on traditional Democratic turf (Obama now leads in all the states won by Kerry in 2004 and Gore in 2000, including the three that flipped: New Mexico, New Hampshire, and Iowa). McCain is struggling even on traditional Republican turf (take Indiana and North Carolina, for example). Is a McCain win impossible? No: the national numbers suggest that Obama is not walking away with this election and enough swing states remain competitive to keep the race relatively close. Still, though national polls may be tightening, so is McCain's electoral playing field.

Ohio: Improvement For Obama

Posted Oct 01, 2008 at 5:55 AM by Maurice Berger

After weeks of trailing McCain in Ohio in PollTrack's poll average, Barack Obama has taken a small lead in the state. This is another sign of the Democrat's momentum over the past week and an indication that the Republican is having trouble holding on to some of the battleground/swing states won by George W. Bush in 2004.

The State Of The Race: 45 Days To Go

Posted Sep 19, 2008 at 1:33 AM by Maurice Berger

Yesterday, a rush of statewide surveys resulted in a changed Today's Map. What are the implications of Indiana going from red to gray, Minnesota from blue to gray? One important observation: it looks like the national divisions of 2000 and 2004 are still around. With the exception of usually true-red Indiana (PollTrack still believes the state will eventually trend back to the Republicans), the same swing states are drawning down to a tie. (And, yes, despite the fact that no Democrat has won the state's electoral votes since LBJ in 1964, Virginia is now a swing state: it has actually grown bluer in recent years. Consider the 2006 senate race, where Democrat James Webb defeated Republican George Allen by a mere 8,000 votes.) PollTrack suspects that these divisions may be sharpened by the relative strengths and weaknesses of the two candidates. McCain has been able to solidify the Republican base, take the lion's share of the very dependable (re: voter turnout) 65+ demographic, and appeal to independents. Obama does well with urban voters, young people, African-Americans, and Hispanic voters. The problem for both: they each appeal to the same constituent demographics as Gore and Bush, Bush and Kerry, leaving a slim pool of swing voters (married suburban women, for example) to essentially break the tie. PollTrack suggests that other factors--preeminently Obama's race, women disaffected by the Obama campaign's handling of Hillary Clinton, McCain's age, and Palin's  religious conservatism--are making it difficult for either candidate to eat into the other's base or to pick off large segments of independent and unaffiliated voters.

PollTrack: Close But Trending McCain's Way

Posted Sep 09, 2008 at 1:49 AM by Maurice Berger

Looking at the bulk of national polling completed entirely after the Republican National Convention, PollTrack now sees the race as statistically tied but trending in McCain's direction. It appears that the RNC was successful in erasing Obama's "bounce," increasing voter party identification for the Republicans, and improving McCain's numbers in a range of categories, from his potential as leader and commander in chief to his handling of Iraq and the economy.

The thing to watch: state polls. Are national numbers translated into an improved performance for McCain in battleground states? The earliest signs suggest an up tick in support for McCain in some of these states.

Another thing to watch: the media's vetting of Palin. Will the luster wear-off her candidacy? If so, will races that now favor McCain--Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina, Missouri, all states with significant Evangelical populations--become closer?

The Palin Effect I: Women

Posted Aug 31, 2008 at 1:48 AM by Maurice Berger

Pollster David Johnson of Strategic Vision reports that in OH, PA, WI, MI--battleground states central to this election--Obama is under-performing other Democratic candidates in recent cycles. According to the organization's president, Obama, in these states, is "only leading John McCain by 2% to 3% among females where traditionally there has been a double digit lead for Democrats." 

Was McCain's choice of Palin, in part, meant to appeal to these women? Over the past few days, PollTrack has noted a tendency among pundits and journalists to distort the attitudes of many of these voters, treating them as a monolithic bloc of feminists disaffected by Hillary Clinton's loss yet unwilling to vote for a candidate who supports gun rights and rejects abortion rights.

The reality on-the-ground is more complicated. Some--if not many--women in these states were Democratic or independent voters who supported Hillary Clinton. And, yes, some remain disgruntled. But many of these women are also, like Palin, pro-life and pro-gun. Thus, she may well be appealing to these voters, spurring McCain's support among women in these battleground states who continue to be disinclined to vote for the Democratic ticket.


Tomorrow's Map Today UPDATED

Posted Aug 29, 2008 at 9:30 AM by Maurice Berger

In addition to new calls this morning on Today's Map, PollTrack has updated Tomorrow's Map Today to reflect recent polling trends in a number of battleground states.