Poll Analysis: North Carolina Blue

There continue to be a few polls out there that may show the presidential race closing, but in general the overall snapshot continues to show a race where Barack Obama enjoys a commanding lead over Senator John McCain.

Looking at all of the data I have at my disposal right now, without any significant changes in polling trends, I would predict that Obama wins the popular vote by roughly 52-48, with approximately 330 electoral votes.

Before we take a look at the polls, I’m just going to go ahead and explain where these numbers come from, and no, they are not coming from my ass.  The popular vote is actually a very generous estimate to John McCain; with McCain hovering in the lower to mid forties, and Obama hovering at about fifty, I’m assuming that undecideds break significantly towards McCain by a ratio of about 2-1 over the course of the next week.

Now, based on polling data that is specifically targeted towards public opinion of McCain’s negative campaigning, this would suggest to me that undecideds will actually break towards Obama by 2-1 giving him a popular vote win of 54-46, but I prefer to remain with the safer estimates.

As for electorate votes, I’m basing this off of Pollster’s current count of state by state ev’s, and I’m suggesting Obama lose all toss up states right now with the exception of Florida where we already know that the Obama campaign is devoting an unprecedented amount of resources, and where he has a small lead and the trend is still in his favor.  In truth, it looks as though Obama could also end up winning Ohio, North Dakota, Missouri, and Nevada, however I caution against getting greedy.  As a point of interest, though, if he were to win all of these states, that would put his electoral vote count at 347.

Also, it’s important to note that if Obama were to lose every single toss up state, but hold on to his strong states and his leaners, he would still come up with over 300 electoral votes.  That includes losing both Ohio and Florida.

Coming back to the national trends, at this stage of the game, with eight daily trackers, and a nearly limitless number of other snapshots out there in the field, let’s just say there’s an awful lot of data out there.  In this post, I’m just going to look at two polls.

The Gallup Daily Tracker is now splitting up its daily reports into three categories; registered voters, traditional likely voters, and expanded likely voters.  Unfortunately, of all three reports, none of them provide very good news for McCain.  The traditional likely voter survey is the narrowest gap at seven points.

As I’ve discussed the “Obama Effect” frequently in the recent past, I think it is important to look at the expanded likely voter trend.  If you’ll remember, my theory on the Obama Effect is that Obama outperforms polls due specifically to likely voter filters and infrequently polled supporters which appears to be at least partially addressed in this Gallup Poll, and according to this turn out model, Obama holds a ten point national lead over McCain.

In general, though, the Gallup poll would seem to confirm that McCain is still looking at a very uphill struggle.  An assertion that would be further validated by a new Pew Research Poll.  At fourteen points, this would be the largest Obama lead I have seen to date, and considering that the Pollster average is at about a six point lead, would seem to be an outlier.

However, the trending is unmistakable, and as I pointed out the other day, you can’t discount that this is yet another poll that puts Obama at about 52 percent.  Again, this would confirm that Obama’s support remains relatively solid at just over the fifty point mark, while McCain’s support seems flaky at best.

In a turn that is poetic justice, the polling data would seem to match the developing narratives of the two campaigns.  Obama is as solid as a rock, while McCain is highly erratic.

What is interesting about the Pew Research poll, though, is not its numbers, but instead the cross tabs.  We get a really good in depth look at the traits, which gives us some insight as to why Obama continues to outperform his opponent in the polls.  In general, Obama has done well to improve his image among the electorate.  He’s improved his standing on handling Iraq and Terror, on being seen as in touch with voter’s concerns, etc.  By contrast, John McCain is falling in these same areas just as his general judgement is being brought into question.

This reflects in general what we have seen from the two campaigns since September.  From the Palin pick to suspending his campaign in the midst of an economic crisis, John McCain has not given voters much of a reason to trust his judgement, nor his temperament, while at the same time, Obama’s even temperament, and ability to remain calm amid a crisis and increasingly negative personal attacks has shown a candidate who seems capable of coping with just about anything thrown his way, and this dichotomy is being reflected in the polls.

All of which brings me back to what really matters, the electoral map.  There have been some developments in the past few days if we look at Pollster’s electoral map again.  West Virginia has returned to the McCain column, though only as a leaner, and Florida has slipped back into the toss up category from the lean Obama category.

But it looks as though Minnesota is about to solidify as a strong Obama state, just as Virginia currently is now a strong Obama state (think of it this way, even if the Bradley Effect is in place in Virginia, he will still likely win the state if the election were held today).

What interested me the most though, was North Carolina.  North Carolina is a state that I simply didn’t think that Obama would be able to carry this election cycle, but Pollster now has it in the lean Obama category.  Don’t get me wrong, I would much rather have Florida back, but having North Carolina scoot into the Obama column is a stunning development to say the least, and has some serious impact on the final days of the race.

Namely, now not only does McCain have to protect North Carolina, he has to win it back, which is pretty amazing considering that this is not even supposed to be a state he has to campaign in.  When we look at this in the context of the fact that Obama has a resource edge on McCain, an electoral vote edge on McCain, and McCain is pulling out of states he realizes he can’t really compete in, having to make North Carolina a last stand state could be devestating, especially if McCain can’t reverse the trends here.

Further, I want to repeat something I mentioned earlier in this post; Obama is now in a position where he can win without Ohio and Florida.  In fact, Obama can lose all of the current toss up states and still come out of this election with a significant win, and in truth this could end up being a fall back strategy should the need arise in coming days.  If Obama needs to, he can pull all resources out of battlegrounds and simply shore up his leaning states and guarantee an election victory right then and there.

However, the winning strategy thus far has been electoral map offense, and in this regard Obama continues to do a phenomenal job.

2 Responses to “Poll Analysis: North Carolina Blue”

  1. Dynamic says:

    North Carolina has, in the past decade or so, been trending towards demographics that traditionally favour Democrats. The development of the Triangle, and the focus on education and research industries, all point towards strengthening Democratic fundamentals.

    Top that with Obama’s extensive and incredible ground game, the dissatisfactioin with Republicans in general and McCain/Palin in particular, and the media narratives, and I can’t see a legitimate source for victory for McCain in NC at all.

  2. DrGail says:

    North Carolina is indeed an interesting case. I used to live and work there, and still have clients and friends there. You’re right, Dynamic, that the Research Triangle area adds a well-educated and generally progressive chunk of people to the mix. One might also expect that the folks hit hardest by the closing of the furniture and apparel mills would also trend Democratic.

    But it really is playing out as a battleground. Witness the woman in the Fayetteville restaurant who shouted “Socialist. Get out of here.” (or words to that effect) to Obama when he and some staffers entered the restaurant. [Where were her manners? That is simply not acceptable to say to a major party candidate for President, no matter how one feels. But I digress.] Witness also the bear found shot, buried under Obama posters, at Western Carolina University. And the list goes on.

    The cities in NC — Charlotte, the Triad area, the Triangle area — have made some great strides in race relations. Each of the major cities has a strong and healthy middle class. The smaller towns and the rural areas, however, show a stark contrast between the wealthy and the poor. The poor aren’t always black by any means, but the poor whites identify more with the wealthy folks than they do with their neighbors.

    It’s hard to tell how this will all turn out in NC. It’s clear that the veneer of gentility usually evident within the state has been scratched raw in many places. Further, the state has quite history of some really nasty politics and political ads, many of which have focused on racial issues in the past.

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