Thursday, October 30, 2008

Frozen Market and Pacific Overview

Not only are the credit markets frozen, the presidential election markets have frozen up as well. The latest updated polls show no change in the national popular vote:

And neither in the Electoral College vote:

And not even in the current national electoral map:

Forget about any significant change in the swing states compared with yesterday:

At least there was a tiny bit of movement in the Bellwether states:

Our regional series concludes with an overview of the Pacific region. [Note: This detail was added later.] This is another familiar region in the US for myself as I lived in California as a youngster and in Washington state as a young adult.

California and Oregon had joined the Union by the piviotal election of 1860 and both states voted narrowly for Abraham Lincoln by narrow margins in that election. Being that both states were originally settled by people from the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions, it is not surprising that both states voted like Republican northern states between 1860 and 1888. From 1892 (when Washington state joined the Union) to 1960 the region leaned very slightly Republican (and Oregon more so). The region (including Hawaii which joined the Union in 1960) has tilted Democratic since the pivotal election of 1964, especially Hawaii and Washington. From 1992, the region has voted Democratic as a bloc and it appears that this region is poised to do the same in 2008:

The Race Tightens Further and Outer West Overview

[Note: Text was added to the original graphs and tables.]

John McCain's modest recent momentum continued over the past 24 hours as he reduced Barack Obama's lead in the national popular vote by 0.4 percentage points:

However, the electoral vote distribution remained unchanged with Obama continuing to hold a solid lead:

Although there was no change in the Electoral College vote, the national electoral map continued to show some movement towards McCain as Virginia slipped into the swing state category:

Among the swing states, McCain further consolidated his lead in Florida and crept closer to Obama in Nevada. The race continued to tighted in Colorado while, as I noted above, Virginia joined the swing state club over the past 24 hours:

In the Bellwether states, McCain inched closer to Obama in both Missouri and Ohio. However, Obama continues to lead in both states and McCain has a considerable uphill climb to capture these two crucial states:

We continue our regional series with what I call the Outer West. These states surround the Lower 48 Inner West states of Idaho, Wyoming and Utah and they include (going clockwise from north to west) Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada.

These mountainous and far-from-heavily populated states have an electoral history not dissimilar to that of the Inner West states. The Populist candidate James Weaver carried Nevada and Colorado in the 1892 election while the populist Democratic candidate William Jennings Bryan carried the region with more than 80% of the vote (note that Arizona and New Mexico did not become states until 1912). The region voted Democratic as a bloc in the three-way 1912 race and in 1916 and the region leaned Democratic through the 1948 election. Although Outer West has leaned Republican since the 1952 election the region has become more competitive in recent elections. Bill Clinton carried four of five states here in 1992 and three states here in 1996 and although George W. Bush carried every state in the region in 2004, his margin of victory was 5 percentage points or less in three of these five states. There is every indication that the Outer West will be among the nation's most competitive in 2008:

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Bit Tighter and Inner West Overview

[Edit: The written material here was added later in the day]

John McCain has trimmed another 0.2 percentage points off of Barack Obama's popular vote lead, which now stands at 5.6 percentage points according to my model:

There is no change in the electoral vote breakdown compared with the previous day:

The current electoral map remains unchanged from the previous day:

Among the swing states, McCain has made solid gains in Colorado over the past 24 hours and he has narrowed Obama's lead in Nevade to 1.0 percentage points. Meanwhile, Florida has seen little change since yesterday:

Among the bellwether states, while McCain made some headway in Missouri over the past 24 hours, reducing Obama's lead there by 0.8 percentage points, there was virtually no change in the Ohio figures:

Our regional series moves west to what I call the Inner West states which include Alaska, Idaho, Wyoming and Utah. I have some familarity with this region as I lived for a time in Idaho when I was young.

This mountainous, sparsely populated part of the US is conservative and throughly rock-ribbed Republican and it is easy to imagine that these states have been Republican forever. In fact, Idaho voted for the Populist candidate in 1892 (when Idaho and Wyoming joined the Union) and all three Lower 48 states voted for the populist Democrat Bryan in 1896 (when Utah became a state). In the 14 presidential elections between 1896 and 1948, Idaho voted Democratic nine times while Wyoming and Utah each voted Democratic seven times. The region began to trend Republican beginning with the 1952 presidential election and, with the exception of the pivotal election of 1964, the region has voted as a Republican bloc in every election (Alaska joined the Union in 1960). This election will be no exception:

Monday, October 27, 2008

Some Tightening and the Mid-America Overview

The race has taken a turn for the tightening one week before Election Day. Polling over the past 24 hours suggests that Barack Obama's popular vote lead over John McCain has shrunk by 0.6 percentage points:
Obama's lead in the Electoral College remains solid and unchanged from the previous day:

However, the national electoral map shows more change over the past 24 hours than we have seen for some time. Colorado has rejoined the swing state club while Indiana's sojourn in the clube turned out to be rather brief indeed:

McCain has opened up a bit of space over Obama in Florida over the past 24 hours, although the race there does remain tight. He's also closed the gap in Nevada and is within striking distance in that state. Obama however continues to lead in the bellwether states of Missouri and Ohio:

Our regional attention today turns to what I call the Mid-America region highlighted in the map below. The states are, in descending order from north to south, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and spawling Texas:

This region had a strong populist streak in the late 19th century. The Populist candidate James Weaver finished either first or second in every state in the region in the 1892 presidential election (with the exception of Oklahoma which did not join the Union until 1912). This region was also fertile territory in 1896 for the populist Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan and both the Progressive candidate Teddy Roosevelt (except in Texas and Oklahoma) and the Socialist candidate ran well in the region in 1912.

Texas was an exception since it was, of course, part of the Confederacy while it and Oklahoma voted like Deep South states until 1952 when both states became Republican leaning. The other states of the region had turned solidly Republican by 1940. Texas is the only state in the region that has not voted Republican in every election since 1952 and the region has voted as a Republican bloc since 1980. This is likely to be the case in this election as well:

Flipping, Flopping Florida and Upper Midwest Overview

Although the overall vote shares was unchanged since yesterday:

Florida's flipping back into the John McCain column means that McCain is back over the 200 electoral vote total:

The revised current electoral map is:

Among the swing states, McCain saw a very slight improvement in Indiana in addition to his retaking the lead in Florida. Barack Obama's lead in Nevada was unchanged:

However, Obama's leads in the bellwether states of Missouri and Ohio were little changed:

Our regional focus shifts today to the Upper Midwest, a region somewhat dear to my own heart being that Michigan is my native state. This region is highlighted in the map below:

The map below gives a closeup of the six states making up this region:

The region was as reliably Republican as any region in the country between 1860 and 1960. Michigan and Iowa voted Republican 21 out of 26 times in that period, Indiana 20 times, Wisconsin and Minnesota 19 times and Illinois 18 times. This Republican leaning however had a progressive streak as evidenced by Teddy Roosevelt carrying Minnesota and Michigan on the Progressive ticket in 1912 while Robert LaFollette did the same under the Progressive banner in his home state of Wisconsin in 1924. With the transformation of the Republican party into a more libertarian and later religious conservative party beginning with the pivotal 1964 presidential election, the Upper Midwest region became somewhat reliably Democratic leaning. This has especially been the case in Minnesota (the only state to vote Democratic in 1984), Wisconsin and Michigan. Although Illinois and Illinois and Iowa have voted Republican 6 times of 11 since 1964, they have leaned Democratic since the 1988 election. Only Indiana stands out, having remained steadfastly Republican throughout the post 1964 era ignoring the shifting sentiments in adjacent states.

This time around however even Indiana may vote Republican should the national sentiment shift sufficiently between now and election day next week. Indiana is the only state where McCain appears to have a chance of carrying. The remainder of the region, including Obama's home state of Illinois, appear safely in Democratic hands at this juncture:

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Florida Flips (again) and Florida Overview

It was a light polling day made even lighter from my perspective since the number of polls I am using in the model has been dramatically reduced from before. There's a bit more movement towards Barack Obama over the past 24 hours:

This movement is enough to put Florida (back) in the Democratic column. As a result, Obama has stretched his lead over John McCain in the Electoral College to 349-189:

Not only has Florida switched to light blue, Indiana has gone pink:

Indiana is under threat for the first time in the campaign. The numbers for the three swing states are as follows:

The bellwether states of Missouri and Ohio have slipped a further notch into the Obama camp:

Our regional focus shifts to Florida, a unique state that really doesn't fit comfortably into any other region in the country.

Massive in-migration over the past five decades from the industrial midwest, the northeast and Latin America has produced a complex mosaic of influences and cultures unlike any other in the US. The northern panhandle section of the state, which has seen less in-migration from the north, still retains its Deep South character. In contrast, the Gulf of Mexico western side has seen a significant in-migration from the Great Lakes states which gives this part of the state a more moderate flavor. Meanwhile, the Atlantic eastern side of the state has seen large-scale in-migration from the northeast (particularly from the New York City metropolitan region) and from throughout Latin America, especially from nearby Cuba. Most of the Cuban immigrants are refugees from Castro's regime and have largely supported the more anti-communist Republican presidential candidates. As a result, Florida trends very slightly Republican in presidential elections. The same appears to be the case in this election, however, the national level support for Barack Obama may be enough to give him the state's 27 electoral votes.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Simplied Model and The Bellwether States

It indeed appears that the gaggle of polls sucking up internet bandwidth are (as a whole) somewhat biased towards Barack Obama. Eliminating the gaggling horde from the model and tuning the model just a bit to better blend the remaining national and state level polls, Obama's national popular vote lead over John McCain dropped by about 1.5 percentage points. Unless the professional pollsters are missing something big going on out there, I suspect that the results below represent an accurate assessment of were we are now with just over 11 days left to go.

My new model gives Obama a 6 percentage point lead over McCain, an increase of about 0.4 percentage points since yesterday (that is, with this revised model):

The model adjustment actually gives McCain a small lead for Florida's 27 electoral votes and giving him 216 votes in the Electoral College:

The revised national electoral map gives McCain a narrow lead in Florida and a dark red tone for North Carolina:

If you compare this map with the presidential market map found on Intrade, you will notice that the market is currently pricing Obama ahead in Florida, North Carolina and Indiana. Polls from the Rasmussen, SurveyUSA and Research 2000 organizations suggest that these states are currently tossups. Evidence from the national polls and from polls in other states correlated with these three states suggests that McCain has slender to slight leads in all three. So why is the market on the Obama side of the trade in all three states? I think its confusion from the (apparently) biased gaggle of polls.

The swing state club is presently quite exclusive:

Florida is truly a toss-up state and may well stay that way until election day. Montana, South Dakota, Indiana and North Carolina all remain a touch or two over the swing state 52% line on the McCain side. On the Obama side, Virginia and Colorado are both just on the dark blue side of the swing state 52% line. Any movement one direction or another will put these states in close play.

Our regional series continues with an overview of the Bellwether States of Missouri and Ohio (running west to east in the map below):

These two states have an astonishing track record of being on the winning side of presidential elections. In the 26 presidential elections since Teddy Roosevelt won a full term in the White House by blowing out Alton Parker in 1904, Missouri has voted with the winner 25 times (missing only in 1956) while Ohio has voted with the winner 24 times (slipping up in 1960 and 1944). Since the pivotal election of 1964, Ohio's two-party vote share has differed from the national share by an average of only 1.1%. Missouri's difference from the national share has averaged only 1.6% during the same period. In other words, if you have a good handle on the state of the race in Ohio and Missouri, you have an excellent idea regarding the state of the race in the rest of the country. As the table below shows, Obama has a clear lead in both states:

Note how the percentage total for the two states differs by only 0.2 percentage points from the estimated national average. John McCain has his work cut out for him. If he does not close the gap in these two states, he will not win the election. Period.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Garbage in - Insight Out

The results from a number of state polls from the industrial mid-west and Pennsylvania conducted by the Big Ten Battleground Poll and released over the past 24 hours were incredibly favorable for Barack Obama. Their polling gave Obama a 22 percentage point lead in Michigan, a 19 point lead in Minnesota, a 12 point lead in Ohio and a really eye-opening 10 point lead in Indiana. As I will show shortly in another post, a 12 point lead in Ohio suggests that Obama is, more or less, up by about 12 percentage points nationally. The results from an Ohio state poll conducted by Quinnipiac University gives Obama and even bigger 14 point lead in Ohio suggesting that a national lead of about 14 points for Obama. The overall sense is that Obama's lead is now growing by leaps.

The problem is that a weighted average of the national tracking polls gives Obama about a 7 percentage point lead over McCain and that McCain has actually gained slightly on Obama over the past 24 hours. The difference between the national tracking polls and these state polls is not just a matter of statistical uncertainty since the Big Ten and Quinnipiac polls are internally consistent across states. Rather, such polling results (and those conducted by other polling organizations) may well be the result of some type of bias. If the reader is interested in this issue, this AP article gives an overview of what type of biases may produce this result.

My model has been designed to deal with isolated polls of dubious quality, since such polls tend to average out in the wash giving, in the end, a reasonable outcome. However, a flood of such polls as noted above is a completely different issue. To deal with this problem, I have decided to strip out polls from organizations other than major professional polling organizations like Gallup, Rasmussen, SurveyUSA and Research 2000. This will take a bit of time and I may not be able to get the revised results out until later in the day. I have checked out the results using only the national tracking models. There is a very slight reduction in Obama's lead, but it does not appear at this time that any significant change has been made compared with yesterday.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Mixed Signals - Deep South Overview

Another day, another bunch of polls. For some reason, today's polls, taken as a whole, contain more noise than usual. As the volume of polling increases and the number of organizations taking polls expands as election day nears, the amount of noise contained in the polls overall should increase.

Barack Obama has gone up another tick in the overall popular vote over the past 24 hours:

But there has been no change, once again, in the electoral vote breakdown:

The current national electoral map remains frozen as well:

Among the swing states, Obama's lead in Florida has narrowed a bit, while he has extended his lead in Nevada a touch; North Carolina is more or less unchanged:

The race in the three nominally Republican states under threat by Obama are more or less unchanged except in South Dakota where John McCain has extended his lead:

Our regional series continues with an overview of the Deep South. This region (which includes the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina running west to east) is shown in the map below:

This region was the heart of King Cotton, the heart of slavery and the heart of the Confederacy. Not surprisingly, it's presidential politics is deeply wrapped up in this historical past. The end of the civil war brought the occupation of the North's armies and, with it, freedom for the slaves. As part of this freedom, the former slaves were able to vote and vote they did - for Republican presidential candidates. This ended, ironically, with the election of the Republican Rutherford B. Hayes in the 1876 election. Hayes' election was hotly contested and was consummated through a deal with southern Democrats by which the north's occupying armies would leave and the south would be returned to its own devices. The result was a repression of Blacks that would not be undone for nearly a century (and in some ways is not complete). As an example of the supression of the right to vote in the region, a total of 845,671 votes were cast in the region in the 1876 election, a figure that would not be exceeded there until 1928. The denial of suffrage to Blacks (and to poor Whites as well) transformed the region into the single most reliable Democratic regional bastion between 1880 and 1944. In this period every single state in this region cast its electoral votes Democratic in every election without exception.

This changed when the conscience of the Democratic party was, after too many decades, finally tweaked and the then young mayor of Minneapolis, Minnesota rose to address the 1948 Democratic convention in Philadelphia. The mayor was Hubert H. Humphrey destined to become a US senator and vice president of the US but who fell just short of the presidency in the 1968 election. It was a speech of courage and conviction, a speech that demanded civil rights for everyone in America and a speech that ranks as one of the great political speeches in American history.

Humphrey's demand was too much for the Deep South. Then Governor Strom Thurmond of South Carolina (who would serve as US senator from the state from 1956 to 2003 before finally retiring at the age of 100) ran for president in 1948 on a segregationist platform in response to the Democratic party's acceptance of a civil rights plank in its party platform. Although receiving only 2.4% of the vote nationally, he received 53.1% of all Deep South votes cast as well as 39 electoral votes carrying every state in the region (with the exception of Georgia). Although the region would support Democratic candidates between 1952 and 1960 (with the exception of Louisiana in 1956, which supported the Republican candidate, and Mississippi in 1960, which elected an unpledged slate of electors), the undercurrents of change in the region were evident.

This change was manifested in the pivotal election of 1964 when the Republican candidate Barry Goldwater, running on a state's rights platform, would capture every state of the Deep South. Unfortunately for Goldwater, he would carry not a single other state in the Union, save for his home state of Arizona. Fortunately for future Republican presidents such as Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George Bush I and II, the region would in general become a bedrock of support for Republican presidential candidates.

And so it is in this election. In spite of a clear trend towards Barack Obama nationally, the Deep South region appears likely to cast all of its electoral votes for the Republican candidate John McCain: