Presidential Race Maps Writing on the Wall

Morning Report: The Fundamentals Remain Strong For Obama

Posted Nov 03, 2008 at 1:43 AM by Maurice Berger

A close examination of polling out this morning suggests that while a few states have drawn very close--Florida, North Carolina, Montana, and Missouri in particular--the race is appearing to stabilize for Obama. Ohio and Virginia, though having drawn much closer over the past three days--and remain "Too Close To Call" on Today's Map--appear to lean to the Democrat as of this morning. Several states now appear to be leaning to McCain--West Virginia and Indiana. The great news for Obama: all nine states were won by George W. Bush in 2004. The Democrat holds a solid, unusually commanding lead in nearly all of the states won by Kerry, except Pennsylvania (and according to the Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll this morning, Minnesota, where the race has drawn down to 49% to 46% for Obama). The slight bit of good news for McCain, enough voters remain undecided or are persuadable in enough states to produce a few surprises. (This result would imply that these voters, now mostly white and center-right, would trend towards their demographic--as undecided voters often do--and thus would favor McCain by a considerable margin.) But with Obama at or above the 50% mark in many of these battleground states, McCain would also have to pick off a fairly large bloc of voters who now say they are committed to the Democrat. Obama's overall structural advantage in the Kerry-blue states of 2004 also leaves him in much better shape than McCain: the Democrat's lead in "Safe" electoral votes--in which a candidate has a demographic advantage in a state, leads beyond the margin of error, and has a top-line of 50% or more-- now stands at more than 100, 238 to 127. (Obama's number here could drop to 228 if more polls corroborate a narrowing race in Minnesota.) As of this morning, the map solidly favors Obama. PollTrack expects an enormous amount of fresh polling throughout the day, so stay tuned for updates.

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. 

Daily Tacking Poll Average: Obama Now Up +5.7%

Posted Oct 31, 2008 at 7:06 AM by Maurice Berger

For the second day, Obama's daily tracking poll national average lead has inched upward. As of today, has holds a +5.7% advantage, 48.2% to 43.8%. Interestingly, the IBD/TIPP tracking survey (the most accurate national pollster in 2004) this afternoon reports that a whopping 13% of independent voters still say they are undecided, a scant four days before the election. This, combined with the large number of "persuadable" voters that register in many of these surveys, suggests a bit of volatility in the race.

Persuadables STILL A Factor: 1 in 7 Voters Could Still Switch Their Vote

Posted Oct 31, 2008 at 4:46 AM by Maurice Berger

A stunning factor could still bring surprises in Election 2008: an extraordinary one in seven voters--or 14%--say they could still change their minds by election day. As PollTrack has been reporting, the number of persuadable voters, exceedingly large at this point, has been consistent for weeks. A new Associated Press/Yahoo Poll reports: "With the sand in the 2008 campaign hourglass about depleted . . . a stubborn wedge of people . . . somehow, are still making up their minds about who should be president. One in seven, or 14 percent, can't decide, or back a candidate but might switch . . . Who are they? They look a lot like the voters who've already locked onto a candidate, though they're more likely to be white and less likely to be liberal. And they disproportionately backed Hillary Rodham Clinton's failed run for the Democratic nomination." The make up of this bloc could be a warning sign for Obama. A similar pattern emerged in New Hampshire in the days leading up to the Democratic primary in January: while Obama lead by  +8.7% in PollTrack's  unpublished average--Hillary Clinton captured the state by +2.6%, a swing of 11 points. Significantly, as many as 25% of NH  Democrats--according to polls released in the 48 hour period before voting--said they could still  change their minds. While Obama maintains strong leads in states holding a total of 259 electoral votes, a dramatic shift in persuadable voters towards the Republican could make some of these races closer and swing red-leaning states, like FL, MO, IN, NC, and NV to  McCain.  (Rasmussen's daily tracker this morning, significantly, also reports around 10% of voters are uncertain, persuadable, undecided, or supporting a third party candidate. Among certain voters, Obama holds a +4% lead, 47% to 43%.) Still, the Democrat's structural advantages in statewide races--especially in most of the battlegrounds--make a McCain victory unlikely (but not impossible) at this point.

"Leaners" Lean Towards Obama

Posted Oct 30, 2008 at 2:45 AM by Maurice Berger

While polls contradict each other, some showing Obama significantly ahead, others indicating a close national or statewide race, it's usually the way "leaners" and persuadable voters are counted that makes the difference. In other words, when only voters who are certain of their choice are included in a sample, the race is somewhat closer. When voters who are persuadable or leaning one way or another are factored in, Obama often holds a solid advantage. There is a bit of good news in this for each candidate. For McCain, these numbers suggest a fluidity in the race: neither candidate has sealed the deal with voters. The fluidity of voters leaning towards Obama's may also suggest their reticence or anxiety about the candidate. The good news for Obama is really quite good: with leaning and persuadable voters included, he jumps well over the 50% mark in many surveys and states, suggesting that a solid majority of voters are ready--or nearly ready--to vote for him. The next few days are crucial for both camps. If Obama can successfully close, finally securing leaning, persuadable, and undecided voters he has the potential of a solid, and perhaps commanding electoral majority. But if these voters break for McCain, we may see a much closer race, though the structural stability of the Democrat's numbers--he leads by more than 10% on average in 255 EVs--will make any path to victory for McCain extremely limited and difficult.

Six Days To Go: The Fundamentals Remain Strong For Obama

Posted Oct 29, 2008 at 2:30 AM by Maurice Berger

While most tracking polls showing the race narrowing over the past few days (to within a few points according to IBD/TIPP, GWU/Battleground, Galup (traditional) over the past few days and Rasmussen this morning), the fundamentals of the election still markedly favor Barack Obama. The biggest plus for the Democrat: he now holds "Safe" level leads in states with a total of 255 electoral votes, 259 EVs with New Hampshire, which is trending "Safe." With this potential margin in the electoral college, Obama will need to pick off only one or two more states which now "Lean" to him: a combination of North Carolina, Colorado, Nevada, Virginia, or New Mexico, for example, or even just Ohio or Florida. The only hope for McCain rests on one odd factor in national polling: the large bloc of voters who say they are still persuadable. Rasmussen reports this morning, for example, that among "likely voters" Obama leads by +3%, 50% to 47%. Among voters who are absolutely certain of the decision, the Democrat leads by the same margin, but at 46% to 43%. In the latter numbers, Obama drops well below the 50% mark; just as significant, the pool of decided voters drops to 89%, leaving another 11% who are "leaning," wavering, not sure, undecided, or voting for a third party candidate. Yet, even if McCain were to make up the difference by election day--with a large swing of persuadable voters in his direction--he would still have a major structural disadvantage in the electoral college. If Obama now wins all the states that are now called "Safe Democrat" on Today's Map (a likely scenario if history is any guide), he would only need a few more states to win. With a +6% average in Ohio, +7 in Colorado, +7 in New Mexico, +6.5% in Virginia, +3 in Florida he has a much better shot at squeaking by in enough swing states to cross the finish line. Still if McCain's gains were dramatic--and other factors, such as the "Bradley Effect," which could be skewing polling results towards Obama--were operative, anything is possible. BUT, the opposite outcome may be even more likely: with "Leaners" now skewing slightly to Obama, he could benefit from a swing of persuadables in his direction, movement that could result in an electoral mandate in which true-red states, such as North Carolina, Virginia, and Indiana, and red-leaning battlegrounds, such as Missouri, Florida, and Ohio fall into the Democratic column. Stay tuned.

The Persuadables: Still A Factor

Posted Oct 27, 2008 at 2:25 AM by Maurice Berger

A St. Cloud State University poll released yesterday in Minnesota shows the presidential race tight, with Obama ahead--42% to 37%. (The poll, significantly, also includes cell phone users.) Yesterday's national tracking poll by IBD/TIPP also shows Obama ahead by a modest margin, 47% to 43%. While both polls may spell good news for Obama, both nationally and in an important battleground, they contain one potential red flag for the Democrat and sliver of opportunity for McCain: the large bloc of voters who still say they could change their minds or are undecided. Indeed, in polls that include leaners--voters who favor one candidate or another but say they're not sure--Obama tends to come out ahead nationally and in a number of the battleground states. Take these voters out of the mix by limiting the results to voters who are virtually certain of their choice: Obama leads in most of these surveys as well, but with enough fluidity among the remaining bloc of voters to really mix things up. Take this morning's Rasmussen's daily tracker. Among "certain" respondents, Obama leads, 46% to 41%. This result still leaves a large block that is either leaning, undecided or not entirely certain of their choice. With an enthusiasm level that greatly favors Obama, it's not surprising that he continues to hold an advantage among certain voters who are most committed to their choice. But an appreciable shift among the voters who remain could skew the outcome of election 2008. If those who are now leaning or wavering break for Obama by a large margin, he has the potential of a blow out. If these voters breat even, Obama will win by a modest margin. If they break dramatically for McCain, a much closer race. While Obama's lead in many of the swing states may make it very difficult for the Republican to reach the magic number of 270 (255 Electoral votes are rated "Safe Democrat," for now, on PollTrack's map), a truly historic, last-minute shift of these undecided and persuadable voters could change the dynamics of the race in its final week.

Daily Trackers: It's Still Only A 5% Race

Posted Oct 22, 2008 at 6:16 AM by Maurice Berger

Today's PollTrack average of the daily tracking polls shows a slight uptick for Obama: 49.1% to 43.6%, +5.5%. What is interesting about this averaging is that the distance between McCain and Obama narrows even more when the Zogby survey results--which have been extremely erratic over the past few weeks--are dropped: 48.5 % to  44%, giving Obama an aggregate lead of 4.5%. Of the six polls in our sample, five show the race stable (Rasmussen) or tightening slightly (Gallup, Hotline/FD, IBD/TIPP) and one rates it a virtual tie (GWU/Battleground), with Obama up by +2%, 49% to 47%. Combined with the high number of still persuadable voters, the race remains somewhat competitive, with the decided edge going to Obama. The periodic surveys are equally inconclusive, with Obama registering as little as a 1% lead (Associated Press/GfK) to as much as a +10% lead, NBC News/Wall Street Journal. The probable  reason for this variation: the race remains close among voters who are certain of their choice. The more polls include "leaners," the greater benefit to Obama, who now leads with persuadable voters (who say they may still change their minds).

McCain's Challenge II

Posted Oct 22, 2008 at 3:46 AM by Maurice Berger

Another big challenge for McCain--one that may be impossible at this point to overcome--is his standing with independent and unaffiliated voters. Last night's NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll had sobering news for the Republican: with 13 days to go, Obama has opened a breathtaking 12% lead among independent voters, 49% to 37%. While it is true that Obama does not break the 50% mark with these voters, and some may still be persuadable, these numbers present an enormous roadblock to McCain, who is facing renewed Democratic enthusiasm and a dramatic jump in new Democratic voters. In effect, in a two-party system that is now closely divided by affiliation, unaffiliated voters are the tie breakers. Why are they moving to Obama? [1] His campaign has been very effective at reaching these voters. Obama's first debate performance will probably be seen as a turning point in the election: cool under fire, eminently knowledgeable and focused, detailed in his response to complex questions and issues, the Democrat went far in allaying the doubts (and prejudices) of non-partisan voters. [2] The fundamentals of the economy are NOT strong. McCain's politically devastating remark, made hours before the full impact of the Wall Street crisis would become known, undermined his credibility on the economy at a time when most voters were losing confidence in the country and its direction. With under 10% of the nation believing the nation is "headed in the right direction," a national record, the electorate (and especially non-partisan voters) want a president who can make things better. [3] The Republican brand is suffering. With President Bush also breaking records with an all time low in public approval of his performance--and the Republicans in general blamed for the economic meltdown--independents may be ready for a change. Until the meltdown, McCain's own reputation as an independent and maverick helped to convince these voters that he, too, was an agent of change from the policies of the current administration. Indeed, until the Wall Street disaster it appeared as if he could actually win, despite the ailing Republican brand. What a difference an economic crisis makes.

Persuadable Voters: How Much Of A Factor?

Posted Oct 21, 2008 at 4:54 AM by Maurice Berger

With one tracking poll this morning showing the race virtually tied (GWU/Battleground: 48% to 47%, +1 DEM) and another showing the Democrat with a healthy lead of +8%--and the latter, Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby, leaping from a virtual tie on Monday--it looks like things are a bit fluid right now. What might account for these differences? For one variations in likely voter models and other statistical markers and methods. For another: persuadable voters. As PollTrack has been reporting, certain voters account for about 85% of the electorate right now, according to most polls. A small number more are undecided or are voting for third party candidates. The lion's share of those remaining, the roughly 12% of the electorate who are "persuadable," say they could change their minds. This effect is registering in some of battleground state polls as well. Here is the Concord Monitor/Research 2000 analysis of its most recent polling in New Hampshire: "Obama has solidified his support, according to the poll, with 45 percent of those polled proclaiming themselves "firm" in supporting the Illinois senator. McCain, an Arizona senator, garnered the firm backing of 40 percent of those polled. Still, 15 percent of those polled said they could change their minds, leaving the race still fluid with two weeks to go before Election Day." Indeed, the day before the New Hampshire Democratic primary, Obama had an average lead of +8.0%. What no media outlet noticed (except PollTrack, though you'll have to take our word on this): the large number of persuadable voters still in play less than 24 hours before the vote. And, of course, Hillary Clinton went on to win the state. Will persuadable voters produce an election day surprise? Or will they continue to break for Obama (leaners now favor him by a small margin), thus assuring him a solid win? Let's take a look at the persuadable numbers a few days before the election.

"Persuadables": Why So Many At This Point?

Posted Oct 19, 2008 at 1:38 AM by Maurice Berger

While Obama enjoys a national lead of around +5%, PollTrack notes a trend inside many of the national (and statewide) polls: an unusually high number of uncertain or persuadable voters. Rasmussen, yesterday, reported an Obama lead of +5%, at the PT national daily tracking average. But when voters were pressed as to the certainty of their vote, the race breaks down thusly: "Forty-four percent (44%) of voters are certain they will vote for Obama and not change their mind. Forty percent (40%) say the same about McCain. Thirteen percent (13%) have a preference for once candidate or the other but still say they might change their mind." At this point in a presidential cycle, the pool of persuadable voters usually winnows down to single digits. Why the uncertainty? And when will these voters decide? Indeed, an appreciable shift in one direction or another could still alter the dynamics of the race, though it is important to note that the Democrat's lead among "certain" voters mirrors his +5% national advantage among likely voters, giving him a significant head start with leaners who also now tilt slightly in his direction.

Tonight's Debate: Trying To Convince The "Persuadables"

Posted Oct 15, 2008 at 3:59 AM by Maurice Berger

One interesting detail of todays Rasmussen's daily tracker suggests that tonight's debate could be important: the number of still persuadable or undecided voters is now at +15%. "Just 42% are certain they will vote for Obama while 40% say the same about McCain. That two-point gap is much closer than the overall numbers. It’s also much closer than the 45% to 38% advantage among core supporters enjoyed by Obama heading into the second Presidential Debate last week. Overall, 12% of voters remain persuadables who favor one candidate or the other but could change their mind. Those, plus the 3% who remain undecided, are the target audience for both candidates in tonight’s debate." Rasmussen reports a +5% lead for Obama (50% to 45%). Other surveys indicate a broad spectrum of leads for the Democrat--from +14% to +3%. These variations may also impact on the actual number of persuadable voters.