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October 2008
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Electoral College: Very Very Bad Polling Day for McCain

Polls in 20 states today. Category changes in seven states. ALL SEVEN move toward Obama.

This was a very bad day in the polls for John McCain.

In order of electoral vote weight:

Ohio (20 ev): Obama’s lead in Ohio once again goes over 5%. Ohio is again out of swing state territory. It has bounced back and forth over the past few days though, so it would be no surprise if it moves again.

Indiana (11 ev): Indiana flips to Obama as he takes the lead in the last five poll average of the state for the very first time.

Arizona (10 ev): As more polls come in for Arizona, John McCain’s lead in his own state drops below 5% and Arizona becomes a swing state.

Mississippi (6 ev): John McCain’s lead in Mississippi drops below 10%. This is a long way from being a swing state, but it shows even McCain’s strong states are weakening.

Nevada (5 ev): Obama’s lead goes above 5%, making the state no longer a swing state.

New Hampshire (4 ev): Obama’s lead goes above 10%, moving the state from “Weak Obama” to “Strong Obama”.

Montana (3 ev): McCain’s lead in Montana in the five poll average drops below 5%, making this once again a swing state.

All of these changes together mean we have this new summary:

McCain Best Case – Obama 311, McCain 227
Obama Best Case – Obama 406, McCain 132

If everybody gets their leans – 375 Obama, 163 McCain

This is frankly just stunning. Lets look at this.

If John McCain wins every single swing state… that is, every state he is ahead in, plus every state Obama is ahead in by less than 5%… then he still loses by 84 electoral votes.

If everybody just gets every state they are currently ahead in, then Obama gets 375 electoral votes, which is one common definition of a landslide.

If Obama actually wins all of the states McCain is ahead by less than 5% in as well, he will top 400 electoral votes.

A quick recap here…

All Obama has to do is hold the states he is ahead in today, and he wins by a landslide, and he has the opportunity to make that win even bigger if he steals some McCain states.

And even if he doesn’t win Florida, North Carolina, Indiana and Missouri… which are all indeed very close and could go either way… he still wins by a substantial margin.

McCain’s only hope is that basically EVERY swing state (plus some Weak Obama states) pull a New Hampshire. As a reminder, if you had categorized the Democratic Primary between Obama and Clinton in New Hampshire by my Weak/Strong/Lean categories, Obama was ahead based on a “last five poll average” by 8.6%, which would have made New Hampshire “Weak Obama”. But Obama lost that primary. So it does happen. It is not impossible. And you would expect that every once in awhile that would happen just by poll error alone, but you also had significant events happen in the last couple of days before that primary which happened too late for the polls to reflect them. That could happen again.

But… it would have to happen not just in one state, but in a LOT of states. The chances of that happening are not zero, but they are very small. fivethirtyeight.com actually puts a number on that in their simulations. As of today, they give a 3.8% chance of McCain managing upsets in enough states to win.

I’ll stick with my methods and categories though, and say that at the moment McCain has no path to victory. If he manages to move a bunch of states before election day, that may change. But so far, there does not seem to be any trend in his direction. In fact, the trend toward Obama is continuing. States that seemed to be absolutely impossible for Obama are now in play. It really does seem that we now are just debating just how massive Obama’s win will be. McCain winning is not a possibility that is seriously in play at the moment.

There is only one word for where we are now: Wow.

Edit 18:49 – Fixed a typo and a miscopied McCain total in the everybody gets their leans case.

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