One Day to Go and McCain Is Between Barack and a Hard Place

11/03/2008 05:13 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Tomorrow, Barack Obama will become the first Democratic Presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter in 1976 to win an outright majority of the votes cast on Election Day -- and with it a sizeable majority of electoral votes -- making him the next President of the United States.

We make this projection knowing that the gap is closing both nationally and in key states; it is our sense, however, that this trend would have to continue for another 10 days for the election to swing back to McCain.

The following is our rationale for going with Obama:

  • The economic recession/financial meltdown dominated the headlines from mid-September to mid-October. The war in Iraq remains enormously unpopular. Bush's approval ratings are near an all-time low for modern Presidents. And the GOP brand is weak and fractured. As a result of these factors, a majority of this hugely dissatisfied electorate will be voting Democratic to change the direction of the last eight years.
  • October was the worst month for the stock market in 21 years. Yes, last week was an improvement, but the month of October was unkind to John McCain and the GOP. Last Thursday, the government reported that the economy contracted from July through September - the first time consumer spending had decreased in 17 years.
  • With this environment as a backdrop, Obama will pick the GOP lock on the electoral college by winning six states George W. Bush won in 2004--Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Iowa, Ohio and Virginia--en route to an electoral vote rout.
  • This election was always about Obama and McCain was never able to paint him as either "unfit" or "unprepared." Nor was McCain able to give people a clear reason to vote for him.
  • In an ironic twist, it was Obama who defined McCain in a negative light rather than the other way around. They started by claiming that he was "confused" four months ago and then painting him as "erratic" in the last 60 days. Of course, team McCain and the candidate himself contributed to this. It will be interesting to count the gross rating points that went behind contrast ads on both sides. My guess is that the Obama campaign might win that count as well.
  • Terrorism and national security virtually disappeared as election issues. These two issues dominated a large part of the national dialogue in 2004 and helped give Bush his re-election victory.
  • New registrants, young voters and black voters are going to break with historical pattern and vote in disproportionately high numbers, giving Obama huge margins in certain states and propelling him to victory over an exhausted and disengaged GOP base.
  • The Democratic ground game will prove to be vastly superior to the Republican operation (money can do that).
  • The turnout will be between 58%-60%, which would be its highest level since 1960. If the total number of voters exceeds 130 million (meaning more than 61% of eligible voters will have voted) then the Obama win could be an electoral landslide because the Democrats have a built-in six-eight point advantage in terms of party identification.

The LCG regression vote model projects that Obama will win by six percentage points tomorrow. We project the following popular vote distribution:

Obama 52.5%
McCain 46.5%
Other 1.0%

Below is our regression projection line. Today's analysis produced the usual curve, which shows McCain losing by 8.6 points. However, if you look at only the last 40 days--which roughly corresponds to the first week that voters digested the impact of the financial crisis (the week of September 25th)--you begin to see more clearly the McCain descent and recent uptick. When we built a separate model for that period, it produced the green line, showing McCain losing by just 6.5 points. McCain pollster Bill McInturff is correct: there has been some movement in the last 10 days. However, it is too little and way too late.

regression nov 3.png

We project that Obama will decisively win the electoral vote:

Obama 311 EVs
McCain 227 EVs

He will accomplish the above by winning the previously-mentioned Bush 2004 states as well as Pennsylvania. The following is our last updated EV projection map and some commentary on specific states:

map nov 3.png
  1. Obama will carry three western Bush states - Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico. However, it is important to note that all three were very close in 2004. Bush only won Nevada by two points and he won New Mexico by just a single point (6,000 votes). The Latino population in Nevada will tilt toward Obama and that will deliver the state. New Mexico nearly went Democrat in 2004 and it will do so this time around due to huge Obama margins in Santa Fe. The demographic shifts in Colorado made it vulnerable for the GOP even without the ideological symmetry with Obama. Colorado has been in the Obama column for a month.

    CO nov 3.png

    NV nov 3.png

  2. McCain lost Iowa the moment he secured the GOP nomination because of his past opposition to ethanol subsidies. Bush only won the state by 10,000 votes in 2004 so it was a toss-up to begin with.

  3. Obama will win Pennsylvania by a sizable margin. Yes, the rural vote will go to McCain, but it will not be nearly enough to compensate for the margins Obama will rack up in the Philadelphia suburbs. In 2004 Kerry won PA 51%-48%, carrying 53% of the Philadelphia suburbs. Obama will perform even better than that tomorrow.

  4. Obama will win Virginia by four points by swamping McCain in northern VA, particularly Loudon County. He will be the first Democrat to win the state since Lyndon Johnson.

    VA nov 3.png

  5. McCain is going to win Indiana. Bush won by 21 points but its proximity to Illinois and the economy have made it a toss-up. However, the GOP base has come home in the final days.

  6. The two candidates will split the mega-battleground states of Ohio and Florida, with Obama taking the former and McCain the latter. Ohio has been hard hit by the economy and Bush only carried the state by two points in 2004. It will be close but should end up in the Obama column. Florida could really go either way but our sense is that McCain - with the help of Governor Crist and votes in the I-4 corridor - will pull out a very narrow victory.

  7. Missouri and North Carolina will be the closest states to call but both should end up in McCain's column. Both are tough calls with several polls showing it dead even, but our sense is to go with history. In North Carolina Dole will lose but McCain should win. Missouri will give McCain a narrow win and some redemption.
  8. MO nov 3.png

Finally, here is how we see the Senate and House races:

Democrats will increase their majority status in the Senate by 8 seats to 59. We are projecting that incumbent GOP incumbent senators Smith, Stevens, Coleman, Dole and Sununu will all lose. In the House we project a 31 seat gain for Democrats.