Seven short days remain in Presidential Election

To me, someone who’s been covering this process since December of 2006, it seemed like it would never end. It’s hard to believe that during the time when I’ve been writing on this site and covering the election, I have finished my Bachelor’s degree and moved 300 miles to a new state. It’s been a long time, just shy of 2 years at this point, but only a couple months shy.

Friends and loyal readers, we’re heading down the end now and the race is clearly shaping up as the polls seem to tighten, depending on the source, though Obama still commands a lead.

The national polls are one thing, however, the individual states matter more at this point since the election hinges on just a handful of states. Here’s a look at each state with a bit of analysis, for what it’s worth.

North Carolina:

North Carolina went for Bush twice, by around 12 points in 2000 and 2004. My gut feeling is that North Carolina will stay red this year given past performance.


Florida:

Florida, as you know, was the hinge for the 2000 election in which Bush won by 0.1%. Bush won it again in 2004 by 5 points. Florida is a finicky state since local and state politics are very red, though based on the past two elections, it could easily go either way.


Ohio:

Ohio went for Bush in 2000 by 3.5 points and 2004 by 2.1. Ohio, up until very recently, seemed to be much closer to tied. Clearly now though the polls indicate Obama has some advantage. We’ll see how this shapes up over this week but right now Obama’s looking good.


Pennsylvania:

Pennsylvania has been a blue state in the last two elections, going 4.2 for Gore in 2000 and a mere 2.5 for Kerry in 2004. I wouldn’t call it solid for Obama, especially since Hillary Clinton won the primary and western Pennsylvania seems to heavily favor McCain. Many news reports indicate that both McCain and Obama internal polling indicate a 4 to 5 point race but who knows. Either way, current polls put Obama in a good spot.


Virginia:

Virginia is an enigma this year. In the past two elections, it broke fairly hard for Bush twice by 8 points in 2000 and 2004. It has been a red state since 1964, however, this year Obama is looking for an upset. Northern Virginia is somewhere around 60/40 in favor of Obama. The more rural areas of central and western Virginia break toward McCain. I can’t make a call here since history would say this state will stay red, however, polls don’t agree so we’ll see what happens.


Colorado:

Colorado has been a red state the last two times around, going 8.4 for Bush in 2000 and then 4.7 for Bush again in 2004. This year could be different as you can see by the polls. Again though, with history as a guide, this has been a red state but anything could happen come Election Day.


Missouri:

Missouri is a fascinating “bellwether” state. According to the Wikipedia:

The Missouri bellwether is a political phenomenon that notes that the state of Missouri has voted for the winner in every U.S. Presidential election beginning in 1904 except in 1956. Missouri is also considered a bellwether of U.S. views on hot-button social issues such as stem cell research, school vouchers, and same-sex marriage. Some economists also consider the state a bellwether for economic trends such as consumer confidence and unemployment.

Obviously then Missouri went for Bush in 2000 by 3.3 points and again in 2004 by 7.3 points. As you can see, the polls have it basically tied, which is interesting. Obviously the “bellwether” phenomenon isn’t perfect and can always be broken, as in 1956, but we’ll see what happens this time around. Right now, the polls bode well for your candidate, depending on who you support since it’s essentially tied, under 1 percentage point which is well within the margin of error.

Report from AOL News on late upsets:

PRINCETON, N.J. (Oct. 27) – There have been only two instances in the past 14 elections, from 1952 to 2004, when the presidential candidate ahead in Gallup polling a week or so before the election did not win the national popular vote: in 2000 (George W. Bush) and 1980 (Jimmy Carter). And in only one of these, in 1980, did the candidate who was behind (Ronald Reagan) pull ahead in both the popular vote and the Electoral College and thus win the election.

The 1980 example is not necessarily one that John McCain can hope is duplicated this year. Reagan’s late-breaking surge that year is generally attributed to the only presidential debate between Carter and Reagan — held one week before the election, on Oct. 28 — which seemed to move voter preferences in Reagan’s direction, as well as the ongoing Iran hostage crisis, which reached its one-year anniversary on Election Day. After trailing Carter by 8 points among registered voters (and by 3 points among likely voters) right before their debate, Reagan moved into a 3-point lead among likely voters immediately afterward, and he won the Nov. 4 election by 10 points.

The 2000 example may have greater similarities to the kind of upset McCain hopes to achieve. Despite Bush’s generally leading position for much of the last month prior to the 2000 election, the race narrowed in the final few days, and Gore squeaked out a popular-vote victory, 48.4% to 47.9%. Of course, Gore failed to win the Electoral College vote and, thus, the election.

Races have tightened toward the end of the campaign in other years, although not to the point where the second-place candidate was able to win either the popular or the Electoral College vote. In 1968, the race between Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey narrowed over the last month of the campaign, from double-digit leads for Nixon in late September to only an 8-point lead for him among registered voters in polling conducted Oct. 17-22. By Gallup’s final pre-election survey, conducted Oct. 29-Nov. 2, Nixon held only a 1-point edge among likely voters, and ultimately won the election on Nov. 5 by less than 1 percentage point, 43.4% to 42.7%.

There are a few scenarios right now.

1. Polls having Obama up by 10 points are correct and we might see a landslide.

2. Polls showing Obama up 10 points are over estimating Democratic and minority turnout, thus invalidating the poll.

3. Polls with the race at 4 to 7 points under the traditional model are correct, could tighten further giving McCain an opportunity

You can basically pick a scenario since, as I reported on with Jay Cost from RealClearPolitics.com the other day, the pollsters all disagree on the correct polling model this year. Thus, the same holds true on the state level where different pollsters have varying results based on polling model and the amount of Democrats, Republicans and Independents they include in the poll.

Polls with Obama up by 10 points or more tend to have a split around 40 percent Democrats, 30 percent Republicans, and 30 percent Independents. This can vary by 4 to 5 points in each group either way.

Polls with Obama up by 3 to 5 points tend to have a close split between voters mirroring likely voters in past elections. The term “likely voter” means someone who voted in the last election and will most likely vote again. The “registered voters” is more straightforward and means literally people registered to vote, however, they may or may not vote this time around.

So there it is, that’s where we are. Hope it was informative for some who may be watching the polls daily. The state polls may change quite a bit in the next 7 days, one way or another.