Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Ninety Days and Counting

Ninety days from today, we go to the polls to elect the next President of the United States. While Wikipedia lists ten parties and two independent bids, for all practical intents and purposes we know that the two real contenders are the presumptive nominees for the Democratic and Republican parties, Barack Obama and John McCain, respectively. No one knows who's going to win yet. Three months is an eternity in national politics. But we can look at trends, and that's what I'm going to do in the first week of each month between now and November.

Data Source

I will be using the website for my data. Why this site? Simple. Polls can be misleading, sometimes deliberately so. What these guys do, they take all the polling data available, and and then do some statistical jiggery-pokery to arrive at a best estimate of what the data really say. Which is to say, an individual poll might be full of skew and spin, but taking all of them together averages out any polling bias there may be.

Electoral College Estimates as of 8/6/2008

Strong D: 231
Lean D: 53
Toss-up: 97
Lean R: 35
Strong R: 122

Total D: 284
Total R: 157

Bear in mind that the magic number is 270. The first man past that post on Election Night takes it all. Also, bear in mind that the national trend poll is virtually meaningless. We do not elect the President by national plebiscite, at least not yet. The real election for President still takes place when the Electoral College meets. With this in mind, and looking at the map, some obvious facts present themselves.

What John McCain must do: McCain must win every toss-up state, and also win one of Michigan or Ohio. Look for McCain's campaign to begin targeting one or both of those states, to try to calve it off of Obama's "lean"list. If he doesn't, he's toast; there just aren't enough toss-up states on the table to put him over the top.

What Barack Obama must do: Obama must hold on to all of his "lean" states, as well as all of the states where he enjoys a strong lead. Just that. If he can pull that off, he'll come away with 284 EC votes plus whatever of the toss-up states fall his way.

The way to bet: As of this writing, it's looking like Obama takes it in a not particularly close election. McCain will have to turn up the heat, big-time, and that's a risky thing to do; while Obama simply has to avoid unforced errors. If McCain can carve off either Michigan or Ohio, it's a real race again.

To be continued, sometime in early September...

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