We last surveyed the electoral math a week and a half ago, but as we get closer to the election, the poll data will stream in faster and faster, meaning we've got to keep up by pacing these columns faster as well.
While the overall split between the candidates hasn't changed a whole lot since last time, the dynamics of the race underlying the overall numbers has indeed shifted for both candidates. The news was slightly better for each candidate in some regards, and slightly worse in others. All around, Barack Obama is holding onto and improving on his post-convention bounce, and Mitt Romney continues to struggle to make any ground, while slightly strengthening his base.
Here's how the election would break down if held today. Obama's electoral votes (or "EV") start from the bottom of the chart and are measured in blue, while Romney's start from the top and are in red, with ties colored white in the middle. As mentioned, this chart has stayed fairly stable:
[Click on any of theses graphs to see larger-scale versions.]
Both candidates spiked downward briefly, as states posted tied polls, but then mostly recovered. New Hampshire is still tied, bringing Obama down minutely to 61 percent. Romney ended as he started, around 38 percent.
Thirteen states this time around showed significant shifts in polling, but by the end of the period three had wobbled back to where they started. Michigan briefly lost support for Obama, then regained it, and each candidate lost a state to a "tied" poll before regaining it: Obama in Colorado, and Romney in North Carolina.
Romney's good news balanced his bad news, as two states got stronger and two got weaker. Polls in both South Dakota and Georgia showed Romney has locked up these two, while Indiana got weaker and Arizona got alarmingly weak for Romney.
Obama had more good news than bad this time around, as one state considerably weakened while five strengthened. Connecticut is now all but a lock for Obama, and four very critical swing states are looking better and better: Nevada, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin. New Hampshire is still tied, which is a major drop in polling there for Obama.
Let's take a closer look at each candidate's chart, starting with Mitt Romney:
[Definition of terms: "Strong" means 10% or better in the polls,
"Weak" means 5% or better, and "Barely" is under five percent.
"Weak" means 5% or better, and "Barely" is under five percent.]
Mitt Romney started out this period (from the last vertical line, signifying when the last of these columns ran) with Indiana dropping from Strong to Weak. He almost immediately offset this loss with two polls from rarely-polled states, Georgia and South Dakota, which moved them both into Strong Romney. A bigger blow to the Romney team was losing Arizona from Weak to Barely, continuing a downward slide for Romney in the state. Can Obama actually compete in Arizona? If I were Romney, that thought would be worrisome, to say the least. North Carolina was briefly tied, ominously putting Romney's total in the chart at below 200 EV for the second time this month.
Overall, Romney recovered and ended where he started, with a total of 206 EV. Within the categories, it was a mixed result, as Romney actually improved his Strong numbers from 128 EV to 136 EV, but lost ground on the more important "Strong Plus Weak" metric, falling from 181 EV to 170 EV. This is not only a low point for Romney's entire campaign here, but is also a full 36 EV lower than it was two weeks ago. That is a trend which is heading into some dismal territory for Mitt Romney's campaign.
By comparison, let's take a look at Barack Obama's chart:
Obama started off this period losing Michigan from Strong down to Weak, but by the end had captured it back. Colorado moved from Barely to Tied, but then bounced back as well. More worrisome (although proportionally much smaller) was the loss of New Hampshire from Weak all the way down to Tied, where it remains today. But from this point on, the news was all good for Team Obama, as Wisconsin and Virginia moved from Barely to Weak and Connecticut moved from Weak to Strong once again. The biggest news was at the end, when Nevada and Ohio also moved from Barely to Weak for Obama.
Overall, Obama's total didn't change much, and actually slipped back from 332 EV to 328 EV, with the loss of New Hampshire. Below the surface, however, Obama started with a small slump but then came roaring back. His Strong number started at 208 EV, fell to 192 EV, and then rose to finish at a whopping 215 EV -- nine more electoral votes than Mitt Romney's overall total, it bears pointing out. At the same time, Obama more than doubled his count in the Weak category, from 33 EV to 69 EV. The only bad news Obama got (other than New Hampshire) was that he didn't manage to steal away any Romney states -- which isn't all that bad of news, at this stage in the race.
The biggest news for Obama is that he has now hit a significant milestone in the electoral race, one he has already managed to accomplish three times already -- Obama's Strong Plus Weak number now stands at 284 EV, which is 14 more than he needs to win a second term. If the election were held today and all the polls stayed firm, to put this another way, it would not matter how Colorado, Iowa, North Carolina, and Florida voted, because Obama would win without their votes.
Obama managed to increase his Strong Plus Weak number by 43 EV this time around, while Romney lost ground in this category. Last time we compared the two, Obama had a 60 EV lead over Romney, but this time Obama's Strong Plus Weak is a monumental 114 EV better than Romney's add up to. That could be the start of an insurmountable lead, although we still have almost six weeks to go and things could always change.
As always, my picks rely more on my gut than just raw poll numbers, and are nothing more than how I am personally filling in the electoral map these days. Slightly different categories are used, to avoid too much confusion, and full lists of each category's states appear at the bottom, along with a check on which states either haven't been polled at all this year, or haven't been polled in quite a while.
Likely States -- Obama
Safe Obama (15 states, 186 EV)
Obama gains one state in the rock-solid "Safe" category, as Connecticut -- even with its bizarre Senate race -- seems like a total lock for Obama at this point.
Probable Obama (6 states, 74 EV)
Lots of movement within the Probable category, as Obama loses two states (one up, one down) and gains two to replace them. Connecticut moved up to Safe Obama, but New Hampshire fell down to only Leaning Obama. To replace them, we're moving up Virginia and Wisconsin. By polling numbers alone, these two states look better and better for Obama, and I've got a good feeling about both of them, so they land in Probable Obama this time around.
Likely States -- Romney
Safe Romney (19 states, 156 EV)
Romney adds two states to his Safe category, as Georgia and South Dakota move upwards.
Probable Romney (2 states, 14 EV)
Romney loses three states here, as Georgia and South Dakota move up and Arizona moves down to Lean Romney.
Lean Obama (5 states, 63 EV)
This category saw the most action during this period, as Obama loses three states, holds onto one, and adds one to Lean. Wisconsin and Virginia both moved up to Probable Obama, which was the good news. The bad news was New Hampshire moving down here. I almost moved New Hampshire all the way down to Too Close To Call, but I think they just had one bad poll and Obama is stronger than an actual tie in the state. Colorado also weakened, and has been weaker than New Hampshire recently, so I did move it down to Too Close To Call. Four states stayed in this category since last time around. Florida and Iowa still can't be seen as stronger than Lean Obama, and while a case could be made to move up Nevada and Ohio, their firming up is so recent that more time must be given to see whether Obama can hold onto his edge.
Lean Romney (2 states, 21 EV)
Missouri stays weakly in Romney's camp, and Arizona can't be seen as any stronger than Lean Romney right now, either. Arizona could even migrate down to Too Close To Call eventually, but more polling is needed before such a drastic move.
Too Close To Call (2 states, 24 EV)
Mitt Romney's hold on North Carolina remains tenuous at best. Colorado moves into this category as well this time, as Obama's advantage is just as razor-slim as Romney's in North Carolina right now.
Barack Obama not only got a bounce from the Democratic National Convention, he consolidated it and began setting a very positive trendline in the Electoral College. By my figuring (feel free to disagree in the comments, as always), Obama has 260 EV in his pocket right now. Mitt Romney has slipped to only being able to count on 170 EV. Obama needs only ten more electoral votes to cross the finish line out of all the tossup states, while Romney needs an even 100 EV to do the same.
As time goes by, it's getting harder and harder to see how Mitt Romney is going to accomplish that mighty feat. President Obama, on the other hand, needs only Florida, North Carolina, or Ohio to nudge him into victory -- or any two of New Hampshire, Iowa, and Nevada. His paths to victory are becoming ever more numerous, while Mitt Romney still has to capture virtually every single tossup state remaining -- Romney needs 100 EV out of only 108 EV available.
Of course, we are heading into debate season, so things could always change, but at the moment it is looking decidedly good for an Obama win.
[Electoral Vote Data:]
(State electoral votes are in parenthesis following each state's name. Washington D.C. is counted as a state)
Barack Obama Likely Easy Wins -- 21 States -- 260 Electoral Votes:
Safe States -- 15 States -- 186 Electoral Votes
California (55), Connecticut (7), Delaware (3), Hawaii (4), Illinois (20), Maine (4), Maryland (10), Massachusetts (11), New Jersey (14), New York (29), Oregon (7), Rhode Island (4), Vermont (3), Washington D.C. (3), Washington (12)
Probable States -- 6 States -- 74 Electoral Votes
Michigan (16), Minnesota (10), New Mexico (5), Pennsylvania (20), Virginia (13), Wisconsin (10)
Mitt Romney Likely Easy Wins -- 21 States -- 170 Electoral Votes:
Safe States -- 19 States -- 156 Electoral Votes
Alabama (9), Alaska (3), Arkansas (6), Georgia (16), Idaho (4), Kansas (6), Kentucky (8), Louisiana (8), Mississippi (6), Nebraska (5), North Dakota (3), Oklahoma (7), South Carolina (9), South Dakota (3), Tennessee (11), Texas (38), Utah (6), West Virginia (5), Wyoming (3)
Probable States -- 2 States -- 14 Electoral Votes
Indiana (11), Montana (3)
Tossup States -- 9 States -- 108 Electoral Votes:
Tossup States Leaning Obama -- 5 States -- 63 Electoral Votes
Florida (29), Iowa (6), Nevada (6), New Hampshire (4), Ohio (18)
Tossup States Leaning Romney -- 2 States -- 21 Electoral Votes
Arizona (11), Missouri (10)
Too Close To Call -- 2 States -- 24 Electoral Votes
Colorado (9), North Carolina (15)
No polling data since June:
(States which have not been polled since the beginning of July, with the dates of their last poll)
Maryland (5/21), Rhode Island (2/22), South Carolina (1/13), Tennessee (5/9), Texas (5/13), and Utah (6/21).
No polling data at all, yet:
(States which have not been polled so far this year)
Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Washington D.C., Wyoming.
Electoral Math Column Series Archive:
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