Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Delaware Speaks!

More precisely, we finally have a poll from the First State (so named because it was the first state to ratify the new Constitution in 1787). The Rasmussen poll of 500 likely voters gives Obama a 55%-43% lead in Delaware、within a point of the lead my model has been showing. I've been adding Delaware to the model (it takes time because I have to go through every state in which Delaware meets the correlation threshold for that state, which is most of them, and add the Delaware data for that state). In the process, I have observed that this new information changes the vote totals in each state where Delaware meets the threshold by at most several thousand votes. If you conclude that this is because Delaware is unimportant, you are probably wrong. In spite of its small size (about 2,000 square miles) and tiny population (about 850,000), Delaware is an important bellwether in US presidential elections.

This is because Delaware has an incredible amount of cultural and economic diversity in spite of its small size. The economy of the north is based on industry (Du Pont is headquartered there) and services (most of America's corporations are legally based there). Philadelphia is but minutes away by train or car and, not surprisingly, the accents and attitudes are northern. But travel to the south of the state and things quickly change. Roughly around the middle of the state the accents change and one enters the world of the southern US, and along with the change in accents is a change in attitude. The landscape is rural and pastoral; chicken farming dominates the local economy in the south of the state. The north and its attitudes seem far, far away.

The result is a state that is a microcosm of mid-size urban and of small town/rural and of that great cleavege of America, the North and the South. For decades the state voted within a percentage point or two of the vote shares at the national level. While Delaware has been pulled more into the orbit of the northeast in recent elections and thus has become more Democratic, the state remains a consistent indicator of the state of the race at the national level.

There was also a poll from New York that showed Obama with a five percentage point lead. While its hard to believe that Obama is only up by five points in New York State, it is our first post-convention poll from there and the results of this poll did have some impact on conditions in other states, most notably Pennsylvania, Michigan and Minnesota. There are now 10 states on the list of swing states (that is, a lead for either candidate of less than four percentage points).

The five states on the list in Obama's column are must-win states for Obama and he simply can't afford to have a single one of these states slip into the Republican column.

At the national level, the polling showed a very slight movement towards Obama which had little impact in our model but which should begin to make a dent in McCain's lead as it continues over the next several days. McCain's lead in the popular vote is 2.2 percentage points and his Electoral College lead remains at 283-255. I expect Obama's momentum to continue for at least the next several days as voters assess the impact of Wall Street's meltdown on their own well being. There is every indication that this is going to remain a close election for at least the next several weeks.

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