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Battlegrounds

Yesterday's article explored the way state polls can verify the accuracy (or its lack) in national polls. But the reverse is also true; once we have a reasonable idea of how the national race looks, we can address where the states really stand in terms of the race. With just three weeks to go, it's no surprise that a number of races have been decided, but what's interesting are the number still to be decided. Now, I'm an accountant not a psychic, and I have been frustrated by the obvious fact that the campaigns' inner circles have some delicious statistical information that nobodies like me are not allowed to glimpse, but here's how I see the states playing out at this time.

Let's start with the states which Senator Obama has locked up, that is, states which are extremely unlikely to be anything but blue come November 5:

District of Columbia (3 EV)
Hawaii (4 EV)
Illinois (21 EV)
Maryland (10 EV)
Massachusetts (12 EV)
New York (31 EV)
Rhode Island (4 EV)
Vermont (3 EV)
Sub-tally: seven states plus DC, 88 EV


Now, let's look at the states which McCain has locked up by the same definition:

Alabama (9 EV)
Alaska (3 EV)
Arizona (10 EV)
Georgia (15 EV)
Idaho (4 EV)
Indiana (11 EV) [it may be close but it will be red]
Kansas (6 EV)
Kentucky (8 EV)
Mississippi (6 EV)
Montana (3 EV)
Nebraska (5 EV)
North Dakota (3 EV)
Oklahoma (7 EV)
South Carolina (8 EV)
South Dakota (3 EV)
Tennessee (11 EV)
Texas (34 EV)
Utah (5 EV)
Wyoming (3 EV)
Sub-tally: nineteen states, 154 EV

If we stopped there, that would indicate McCain was in much stronger shape than Obama, but that image would be misleading. To see why, let's look next at states where the state is not locked up, but the odds are at least 7 to 1 in favor of one candidate.

Obama heavy advantage states:
California (55 EV) [32 to 1 odds]
Connecticut (7 EV) [49 to 1 odds]
Delaware (3 EV) [11 to 1 odds]
Iowa (7 EV) [7 to 1 odds]
Maine (4 EV) [7 to 1 odds]
Minnesota (10 EV) [24 to 1 odds]
New Jersey (15 EV) [7 to 1 odds]
Oregon (7 EV) [7 to 1 odds]
Washington (11 EV) [11 to 1 odds]

Sub-tally: nine states, 119 EV
Running total: sixteen states plus DC, 207 EV


McCain heavy advantage states:
Arkansas (6 EV) [7 to 1 odds]
Louisiana (9 EV) [19 to 1 odds]
North Carolina (15 EV) [7 to 1 odds]
West Virginia (5 EV) [7 to 1 odds]

Sub-tally: four states, 35 EV
Running total: twenty-three states, 189 EV


- continued -


Do the math, and this leaves us with eleven states for our battleground. Here are those twelve states, and where they appear to stand with the state polls reweighted to match historical norms:

Colorado (9 EV) : Range is Obama +5 to McCain +7, probability is 55% Obama at this time
Florida (27 EV): Range is Obama +5 to McCain +8, probability is 65% McCain at this time [turnout especially crucial here]
Michigan (17 EV): Range is Obama +9 to McCain +3, probability is 82% Obama at this time
Missouri (11 EV): Range is Obama +3 to McCain +5, probability is 65% McCain at this time
Nevada (5 EV): Range is Obama +4 to McCain +8, probability is 70% McCain at this time
New Hampshire (4 EV): Range is Obama +11 to McCain +7, probability is 61% Obama at this time
New Mexico (5 EV): Range is Obama +8 to McCain +4, probability is 71% Obama at this time
Ohio (20 EV): Range is Obama +4 to McCain +6, probability is 57% McCain at this time [I keep hearing how McCain is much, much stronger here, but I have no hard data]
Pennsylvania (21 EV): Range is Obama +15 to McCain +3, probability is 80% Obama at this time [however, both campaigns are spending a lot of resources and time here, indicating things are very tight here]
Virginia (13 EV): Range is Obama +8 to McCain +10, probability is 67% McCain at this time
Wisconsin (10 EV): Range is Obama +10 to McCain +4, probability is 78% Obama at this time

If all eleven states fall in according to present probabilities, Obama collects six states and 66 EV, to reach twenty-two states plus DC and 273 electoral votes, while McCain collects five states and 76 EV, to reach twenty-eight states and 265 electoral votes. That's good news for Obama, except for a few details.

[] First, all of the eleven battleground states are in play and could go to either candidate. Present conditions are very likely to change.

[] Second, in all of these states turnout will be very important, and in Florida, Colorado, and Pennsylvania, turnout will be the most important factor.

[] And last, there is a significant representation of independent voters in all of the eleven battleground states. And at last check, just about one-third of the independent voters have not yet decided if they will vote, and for whom they would cast their ballot.


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Comments (27)

Always informative DJ. Tha... (Below threshold)
Ray H.:

Always informative DJ. Thank you for continue to provide this insight. I still wonder why McCain abandoned Michigan if it's still technically a toss up. Maybe those goodies they have that we don't have is telling them it's no longer really a toss up. It will also be interesting to see the impact the jewish/schlepping activities in Florida will have on the final results. I know my grandparents are pretty much unmovable, hopefully the rest of the older community will be the same way :)

Great Job as Usual DJ ... (Below threshold)
PaRep:

Great Job as Usual DJ

IF you could see one state ... (Below threshold)
SOUPY:

IF you could see one state that could change the "outcome" Where would you put your bets?

I don't understand your met... (Below threshold)
Gandalf:

I don't understand your methodology here. You have North Dakota and Indiana as locked for McCain, but West Virginia is a lean McCain? It seems to me that W. Virginia has been more solid than the others.

On the other hand, you have Deleware and Connecticut on the lean Obama but Hawaii on the locked? I haven't seen polls for either Deleware or Hawaii this year, but I remember in 2004 when Bush sent Cheney out there last minute because the polls suddenly showed it within striking distance.

Pennsylvania, Soupy. ... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

Pennsylvania, Soupy.

Gandalf, first off things a... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

Gandalf, first off things are different this year from last year. Aside from that, the short answer is to be careful which polls you pay attention to.

I guess what you're saying ... (Below threshold)
MPR:

I guess what you're saying DJ is," Don't stay home." The last time we did, because of a snit fit, it was disastrous. With the leadership in both Houses after 06'going to the Democrats they did nothing except block any reform on Freddie and Fannie. The committees headed by the likes of Democrats such as Dodd, Frank, Waxmen, Conyers and Rangel wasted time on naming federal buildings and countless hours investigating trivia and the like and did nothing to boost domestic production in the face of rising oil and gas prices. Don't stay home this time. It could get worse.

I hope we can flip Pennsylv... (Below threshold)
Clint:

I hope we can flip Pennsylvania or Colorado. Without them... New Hampshire and Maine's 2nd district is a very, very slender reed....

"" Don't stay home." The la... (Below threshold)
KnightHawk:

"" Don't stay home." The last time we did, because of a snit fit, it was disastrous."
---
Exactly, so don't. ;) Good stuff DJ.

When polls call our house m... (Below threshold)
mag:

When polls call our house my husband tells them that he is voting for the person he is NOT voting for. He says he like to give them a false sense of them thinking the have more votes then they really do. He always votes for demos, but this year-NOT. He is voting for McCain. We both feel McCain is not the best candidate, but compare to obama...just about anyone is better.
I understand people not liking Bush, McCain etc, but how could they feel anything for obama??? I don't consider obama an American, and he will never be my president. I don't like him, his background, his family, his friends, his mentors, his arrogance, and his ideas.

Good anaylsis. Much better... (Below threshold)
Thomas Jackson:

Good anaylsis. Much better than the MSM.

I have never been very clea... (Below threshold)
ORyan:

I have never been very clear on this. What exactly is the statistical transformation you call reweighting to historical norms and why do you think it is appropriate? I have yet to hear what it is or any argument for why it will increase election day accuracy.

Also, why would you put a state like Indiana in the definately McCain column but put a state like California in the probably Obama column? How do you know it will be red? How is that anything more than just an opinion? Another example, California is going to go red like Texas is going to go blue. What are the definitions for these categories? They do not seem very consistent.

Is it it, "states which are extremely unlikely to be anything but blue/red come November 5". Who determines the likelyhood, and how?

Oh the Liberal wackos will ... (Below threshold)
PaRep:

Oh the Liberal wackos will be all over the Cooked cBS/NYT polllike a Fat kid on a Cupcake that has Osama in a 14 point lead

DJI have a few que... (Below threshold)
Larry:

DJ

I have a few questions.

1. How do polls account for those people who lie?

2. Any feel for the Bradley effect?

DJ, Have you heard... (Below threshold)
newton:

DJ,

Have you heard much about the numbers of people who actually hang up the phone on pollsters? That might account for something... or not?

I hung up on pollsters twice this past month.

Oryan, two quick points.</p... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

Oryan, two quick points.

1 - I said clearly this was how I see the races. I gave 32-to-1 odds against McCain taking Cali, it's not as if I was calling it a 'toss up' state. As for Indi, it is locked for McCain, unless something very very bizarre happens, bizarre enough that in my opinion it is out of the question.

As to how I reweight to historical norms, go back and read any of the half-dozen articles where I explained that in detail. I do not need to repeat myself, you need to be less lazy.

newton, they wouldn't relea... (Below threshold)
hyperbolist:

newton, they wouldn't release that data. Response rates for phone surveys are pretty consistent across the board, as are break-offs (hang-ups part way through the survey). Hanging up immediately is tallied as a non-response/non-contact. Hanging up after answering one or more questions would be tallied as an "Incomplete" or "Partial", though partial data (incomplete surveys) are never factored into aggregate reported data.

DJI may have missed ... (Below threshold)
RFA:

DJ
I may have missed the discussion somewhere along the line but I feel like polls taken and weighted based on "registered voters' is being skewed big time by the fraudulent registrations going on all over the place. If the weighting goes to favor the democrats because of this, I see a big win coming for the Republicans come Nov. 4

jus sayin

DJ, where do you derive you... (Below threshold)
MikeW:

DJ, where do you derive your ranges from in the battleground states? I can't recall a poll that had McCain ahead in Colorado by 7.

To all, I am working on a w... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

To all, I am working on a work case which is eating my attention. I will try to answer all the questions in Wednesday's article.

And for a hint about its theme:

Location! Location! Location!

DJ, Stop answering a... (Below threshold)
MPR:

DJ,
Stop answering all these questions and finish your article. Tomorrow is Wednesday.

I saw the CBS news poll and... (Below threshold)
Chase:

I saw the CBS news poll and though what is going on and then my next thought was wow I need to hit a bar. However, a serious question: are partisans so enthused to answer and as a result biasing the results? The reason I ask is that you are more likely to respond to a poll if you are interested in politics and up to date on current events or passionate for one side or the other. Take the CBS poll for example.

On question 78 - 76% of respondents had an opionion on who won the last debate. Only 19% said they did not watch.

On question 79 - 85 % said they are very likely / somewhat likely to watch the next debate.

According to the debate ratings 62 million people watched the last debate. Assuming these are all registered voters in those ratings (no children counted) that is still only 30% of the voting age population.

Either (a) only partisan's answer these polls and these polls measure relative enthusiasm or (2) the average respondent is way too dense to remember if they watched a debate.

When polls call ou... (Below threshold)
When polls call our house my husband tells them that he is voting for the person he is NOT voting for.

And then there's the unknown PUMA count.

Nice work DJ


"I saw the CBS new... (Below threshold)
"I saw the CBS news poll and though what is going on and then my next thought was wow I need to hit a bar."

Chase, good points. Also if you're refering to the newest CBS/NYT's poll, consider the two sources-----one provided fake docs to eliminate Mr. Rathers career and the other passes out fabrications daily and annoints asshats like Krugman. I'd call this a regurgence poll at best.

McCain's within four points and turnout will be crutial for a Republican party that has been Acorn-assisted-out-registered, with the 'thrill up our legs" media in desperation because they know the numbers too.

Vote!

EXCELLENT post....Gr... (Below threshold)
Knightbrigade:

EXCELLENT post....
Great perspective broken down to what counts (EV's)!!

This is a ballgame that can go either way, no matter what the shmucks at MSM think.

HELP..and VOTE... HELP and VOTE.....

Folks, here's what I can't ... (Below threshold)
Juliet16:

Folks, here's what I can't figure out -- where are all these recent votes for Obama suddenly coming from?

Don't tell me the financial crisis generated that many votes for Obama, I am not believing it. Even if I were a working class Dem, I would vote Rep during a financial crisis, because they are the folks who supposedly know about businesses, generating jobs, money, right? Whereas, if things were humming along economically, I might vote Dem instead, in order to gain more consessions from businesses for the job that I already have that is quite safe.


Stay with me now...even thought this is not scientific...

#1 Obama has all of the Dem votes that he won in the Dem Primary and Dems may account for say 38% of the registered voters.
#2 McCain has the Rep votes -- probably nearly all of the Reps who voted in the Rep primary and Reps may account for say 34% of the registered voters.
#3 The rest are a lot of independents who have decided to go Dem or Rep... lets say 50-50
#4 But what about the PUMA's? I have read on PUMA sites that they themselves guess that 40% of the PUMA's will vote for McCain, mainly because they are not happy about how the DNC engineered a win for Obama. Even if it isn't quite that big, still that could be a lot of votes.
#5 A few but not many (1% or 2% of all votes may go to 3rd party candidates).

Many of the polls show that Obama and McCain both are getting similar percent of their own party -- lets say 86% of their party.

Ok, Dems have a slight Party-ID edge, maybe 3 or 4%, I think I've seen somewhere.

Now, if you factor in for McCain 30%-40% of the Puma and/or Reagan-Democrat vote -- many of whom may be misleading pollsters or declining to answer -- and if you factor in a very small Bradley effect...maybe 1 or 2%, then I say that McCain is looking to be in pretty good. shape, assuming he picks off one or two battleground states.

Of course, people have to show up that day, for sure.And, the right votes have to be in the right states.

I realize the economy is worrying a lot of people, but honestly, the Dems don't look that great and the recent ACORN stuff is not helping Obama -- he is looking shiftier and like a snake oil salesman.

And we could still have more "SURPRISES" coming out of the woodwork...in fact, I'd bet on it!

So although this is not scientific and is purely emotional, nevertheless I think it is common sensen to think that McCain can win -- Not by a landslide, but he can win. I noticed in a Hannity interview of McCain a couple of days ago that McCain and his team smiling and joking a lot and looking relaxed and it puzzled me..why so happy? Why? What does team McCain know that I don't know?

So I think the national pollsters are trying to engineer the appearance of Obama taking off, but I am not believing it. Yes, I do think they are intentionally trying to discourage McCain supporters, similarly to the type of coverage they give the entire race...all positive for Obama, all negative for HRC during the primary and McCain recently. Yes, all the pollsters are in the tank a little, some worse than others and yes even Fox/Option Dynamics pollsters, who are hired by Fox, but may have Dem statisticians...


Are the MSM using Psyops techniques? I think so.

Yeah, I share your opinion ... (Below threshold)
ORyan:

Yeah, I share your opinion about Indiana. I just did not realize that was more of a "your predictions list" type of deal.

I am not sure if I found the right post; do you just basically take past (since 1980?) election results in the states and then determine the least squares regression to get a trendline that influences the current results? If I did read your methodology right, I still did not see an explanation for why this will increase accuracy. It sounds pretty reasonable but I think it sort of assumes a greater degree of continuity between elections than actually exists.




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