Karl Rove’s Electoral Map

For those who want to see Dr. Evil’s map, I am including it below:



I like Rove’s map because he puts the % that the candidates are up.  You need 270 to win.  McCain needs to win all the ‘yellow’ states and then pick off 41 more Electoral Votes.  If he takes Pennsylvania – he’d still need to get Ohio.  If he gets Ohio, but not PA, he’ll need to take Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada.  He could also take  Ohio, Virginia and Nevada.  Here’s the problem, if the polls are correct, he is not going to make up 11 points in Pennsylvania.

There is definitely a doable strategy for McCain – but he’s got to be perfect.  He’s got nine or ten states he is either behind or tied that he needs to win.  And in all the ‘toss-up’ states, except Montana, he is statistically insignificantly behind.

How tough is it to win those states?  Rove’s map matches nearly everyone else’s – including Real Clear Politics (RCP).  In 2004, the RCP map got only one state wrong in their prediction – Wisconsin.  It went for Kerry when they had predicted Bush.  More comparisons.  In 2004, about a week out, the Electoral College was split 234 for Bush, and 211 for Kerry.  McCain only has 157 in his column.  In addition, in every single toss-up state (except Wisconsin), the candidate who was leading – no matter how slightly – won that state.

The question you need to ask yourself is whether or not you believe the polls.  Do you believe in a Bradley Effect?  Do you not believe more Democrats will show up than in 2004? Do you believe that the youth and African American population will increase?  If you do, then the race is over.  If you don’t, then it still is going to be tight.

My theory is based on a finding by Karl Rove on his website:

There has been an explosion of polls this presidential election. Through yesterday, there have been 728 national polls with head-to-head matchups of the candidates, 215 in October alone. In 2004, there were just 239 matchup polls, with 67 of those in October. At this rate, there may be almost as many national polls in October of 2008 as there were during the entire year in 2004.

There are two factors that tend to have me believing the polls.  The first is there are a lot more of them this year.  We do not know the quality of them, as Karl Rove goes on to say in his article, but the fact is they all tend to be in alignment – somewhat.  That is, the traditional pollsters who have good reputations are showing the same basic results as the new ones.  At the National level – McCain has not led one poll in over a month.  That’s 215 polls.  Not one outlier shows McCain with a lead.  Second, there is a little more variability in the state polls, but the outliers are at both extremes and if you go to the mean, I believe you got the right result.  Look, if you have three pollsters who are doing the polling, there’s a good chane their methodology could be wrong.  But when you have 15-20 pollsters in a state, this will reduce variability.  We see some extremes in the state polls, but most are around what the mean ends up being.

The second factor is I believe the pollsters are getting better.  Polling is a science.  The pollsters are learning from each other (e.g. cell phones, etc.) and improving the quality from mistakes they have made in previous elections.  A ‘Dewey Wins’ banner will never again occur the same way it did in 1948 when they stopped polling a week out. They learned.  They learned in 2000 and in 2004.  Additionally, folks like Nate Silver and Sam Wang and Mark Blumenthal have made a science out of projections based on multiple polls.  They’ve also helped keep pollsters honest and throwing out bad polls.

Believing the polls are acurate, means I believe Obama will win this election.  There are too many states that the pollsters would have to be wrong about for Obama to lose.  It’s not like 2000 or 2004 when it was going to come down to 1 or 2 states.  No, for McCain to win, it has to come down to 9 or 10 states.  Thinking of how close Ohio and Florida (and New Mexico) were in the previous election cycles – it’s hard to believe that McCain would come out on the right side of all those close battles.

Sunday Polls – Mid-Day Update

Just looking at some of the polls that were released today.  Weekends are slow.  However, Gallup (2 polls), Zogby, Hotline and Rasumssen released polls – all of them a rolling average for the last three days.  The average lead for Obama is 7 points.  If you take out the upper and lower extremes, he’s still at about 7 points. He is over 50% and undecideds are 7%.

I also did another examination – if you use the Margin of Error to the extreme in both directions (which basically doubles the effect), Obama would still have a 2 point lead.

The polls really haven’t closed at all.  Weekends, as we have seen for the past few weeks, tend to be Obama’s softest polling days.  This is probably because of the young demographic he pulls, among other reasons.

Tooting my Own Horn?

My analysis last night on the six daily national tracking polls beat Dailykos and Pollster to the punch – the did their analysis this morning!!  They did the same aggregation I did with the polls.  Their conclusion?  Basically the same as mine – the race is stable and tightening has been non-existent.  You can see my post below this one.

So maybe I am not out in left field – eh?

Also intersting to note – my site gives me stats on how people came to find  my posts.  The absolute majority of the searches yesterday was about the AP poll and ‘bias’.  Looks like a lot of scared Democrats or hopeful Republicans recognize the poll as an outlier and were trying to make heads or tails whether to get worked up about it or not.  Speaking of which, polling data today – at the EV/state and national level are very strong for Obama.  More this evening, after all polls are released.

Poll City – Come Get More!

Ok, I am obsessed with polls.  This is partly due to my obsession with this election, but also I am a numbers guy.  By day I am financial consultant/analyst.  So, that’s where it comes from.  Here is one more chart I put together, I probably will not update daily.

This shows all the National Tracking polls that have come out daily since I started keeping track a week ago (exception, Diageo I didn’t have the first day).  There are a lot of other polls that track the race, but these are the six that have daily numbers, including weekends.  To understand how accurate or inaccurate they are, check out Nate Silver’s post yesterday over at 538.com.  He reviews the accuracy of each of these polls.  His opinion, and that of others, is that Rasmussen tends to be the most accurate.  In my poll here, Rasmussen does the best job tracking to the mean.

So what’s the take away, as my clients might ask?  First, the range of the polls has narrowed.  What was a range of 2 to 11 point (or aggregate of 9) lead for Obama is down to a 4 to 10 point (or aggregate of 6) lead.  People smarter than me claim polls will fluctuate wildly early in a race and will come into alignment towards the end.   With the exception of Zogby, we also see the polls either remain at the higher or lower end of the range from beginning to end of the analysis.  This shows consistency in polling numbers within the organization.  Finally, we can see the average of all six of these polls remains relatively stable across the range of dates.

The bottom line is polls are tending to preserve their bias and reporting characteristics, but are trending closer to each other as the electorate’s opinion is getting more entrenched.  Additionally, despite some very good day and very bad days for Obama, overall the race hasn’t changed in the week I’ve been tracking.

And one follow-up note.  I didn’t use all the other polls because I wanted to use consistent data across the period being reviewed.  By adding and taking away polls each day, you will see much wilder fluctuations – you are not comparing apples to apples.  I also believe (with no intelligence to tell me if this is true) that the folks who do these polls every single day are going to be more consistent in their performance for a variety of reasons.  I realize that this is only a week of data and things can change quickly.  But it does give some sense of the state of the race.

According to Drudge – The Race is Even!!

Citing the latest AP/GFK Poll, Matt Drudge has put at the top of his site the race is even.  Now, I am as much of a worrier as the next Democrat, but the poll is wrong and AP and Drudge’s representation is out of date.  Here’s the facts about the AP poll.

1) It is a sample of 1001 Registered voters and 800 Likely voters.  This is on the smaller sample size of the daily trackers.  Some of the sample sizes, by the bigger pollsters are 3000.  Those 800 participants were, according to the AP surveyed over 5 days or 160 to 200 calls a day.  Most of the surveys are over 3 days – so between 300-1000 calls a day (depending on sample size)

2) The poll includes some of Obama’s worst polling days in weeks – last Thursday through Sunday.  The tightening we saw in the other tracking polls late last week and through Monday of this week are only now being reflected in the AP poll.  Additionally, they are including only one day of ‘good’ polling for Obama this week – Monday.  Finally, all the other trackers are through yesterday.  AP’s is through only Monday.

3) The average tracker, prior to adding the AP to it’s total, at Real Clear Politics gave Obamaa 7.4% lead.  Even with this outlier, his lead is still 6.8%

4) Nearly all trackers yesterday provided Obama with a significant boost.  In the same Real Clear Politics trackers, Obama gained about 1.5% from Monday to Tuesday – demonstrating he had very strong polling numbers on Monday.

5) I went back and looked at the polling done Mid/Late October in 2004 to see what type of outliers showed up during the Bush/Kerry race.  Bush won by 2.4%.  The average lead by Bush around the 20th of October – per the Real Clear Politics polls, was 2.7%.  Oddly, or not oddly, the biggest outlier was a +3 for Kerry.  Guess who’s poll?  Yep, AP/IPOS.  They were off the mean by 5.7%.  This year, AP/GFK is off the Mean by 5.8%.  So they are oddly consistent.  What’s also facinating, is the 2004 late October margin matched the ultimate win total for Bush.

The point is to understand what the polls are telling you.  You need to look at a few factors.  The first is partisan weighting.  That is the what makes up biggest difference between polls.  How a pollster views the makeup of the electorate between Democrats and Republicans will drive results.  Second, look at dates, sample size, and total calls per day.  In a very fluid election, the latest results with the biggest sample size will be the best.  Third, understand the overall bias of the polls.  Fivethirtyeight.com and Pollster.com rank the different pollsters (AP/GFK I could not find).

There are biases each way.  While the +14 for Obama yesterday may have been an outlier, the +1 for the Battleground poll yesterday (which also included last week’s data) or +1 for AP are also outliers.  Look at the median and look at the general direction of the polls to get a better sense.  Obama had a tremendous day yesterday.  Today’s results, relatively speaking, are mixed but still good for Obama.

Finally, ignore Drudge. He has an agenda and he’s willing to push it with faulty data. I think he does have a ‘nose’ for news and is a great place to go during slow politics time.  But as everyone is amped up – his portrayal can really affect Democrats and Republicans feeling on the election.  And it is usually not fully accurate.

Breaking: Polls Improve for Obama?

For the last couple of days, Drudge has been providing a ‘preview’ of several polls, including Zogby, the night prior to their release.  As of 10:30pm, he hasn’t put those updates on his site.  That would be an indication of movement back towards Obama and probably a result of the debate last night.

Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight.com made the same observations as I did.

Staying Positive During Obama’s Difficult Polling Time

While we Democrats might be dismayed by the Palin bump, and let’s face it, that’s what it is, it shouldn’t have come as a shock that Obama lost his lead. The pessimists expected it for a variety of reasons (I among them) – attributing it to a convention bounce, a poorly run campaign, the dirty tactics of the Republicans, or a host of other reasons. We can tuck our tails and hide our head in the sand or we can remain positive.

For the less political or polling educated, there are still a lot of reasons to remain positive:

1) A convention bounce typically dissipates after about a week. For Obama supporters, this can be a half empty or half full view. The half full view is that McCain has taken a 4 point lead and a roughly 8 point swing since the convention. If he gives half of it back as the bounce goes away, we are back to even. If he gives away most of what he has earned, Obama has the lead again. The half empty view is he got a bigger bump than Obama. Additionally, since the Palin pick concided with the convention, he may hold more of the bounce.

My prediction is that he will hold more of the bounce than Obama, since Palin has really energized the conservative base. What was 2-3 point lead for Obama prior to either convention, is probably just about a dead heat right now.

2) It’s the state races that matter – not the popular vote. Just ask Al Gore. Granted, I would prefer to have a majority, but really the only thing that matters is the 270 electoral votes. This is where, an Obama supporter, I would hang my hat – and hope. Most of the trends here support Obama. Assuming he wins every state that Kerry/Gore won (the only exception was a flip of NH to Dems in 04 and a very thin margin flip of NM to GOP in 04), he will have 252 Electoral votes and need to pick up 18 more.

Well, as is common sense, the election will come to the toss-up, in-play, battle ground or whatever you want to call them. You can call Michigan and Pennsylvania battle ground states, but I truly believe the chances of losing them are very remote for the Democrats. If you look at the polls, they seem to have decent leads in those states. His lead ranges from 4-7 points. So take them off the map.

What you are left with are a bunch of states Bush won that are tight – tight enough that Obama has the lead in some polls:

Ohio (20 electoral votes)
Floirda (27 electoral votes)

If he wins either of those two states, he wins. I don’t give him much hope in Florida. But Ohio with a large urban area and middle-class area, I think he’s got a good shot.

Virginia (13 electoral votes)
New Mexico (5 electoral votes)/Nevada (5 electoral votes)

If he picks up a combination of Virginia and either New Mexico (which Kerry lost by a whisker in 2004) or Nevada, he wins.

There are other states that are on the table too – Indiana and North Carolina (doubtful wins) and New Hampshire and Colorado (potential wins).

The point is that Obama’s territory is safe and all the fights appear to be on the ground of what McCain needs to win. That should be helpful. You hope the GOP’s message during the convention resonated with the areas already in McCain’s column. It also probably shores up borderline states like North Carolina, Indiana, and maybe Colorado. But places where the demographics are shifting (Virginia, Colorado) or where Kerry made a close run (New Mexico, Nevada), it probably didn’t make much difference.

But all this is reassuring for trends and keeping sanity right now. The election is close enough that a verbal slip, a politically charged event (hurricane, war, crisis), and three debates can and will change the complextion completely. It’s hard not to get wrapped up in all the ‘what if’s’ – I know I am caught up. But until October roles around or trends get significantly more entrenched, no one really can say what will happen next.