Home / Election Analysis: Keep an Eye on Ohio, Pennsylvania and the West

Election Analysis: Keep an Eye on Ohio, Pennsylvania and the West

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For various reasons, some of them detailed in my recent article Counting Your Chickens Before They Hatch, I think that the pollsters and the pundits and the increasingly sold-out media have missed some of the key trends in this presidential campaign. They've concluded that it's a lock for Obama and are acting like he's already won.

It's all about the electoral vote breakdown. NBC has Obama leading 286 to McCain's 157 with 95 toss-up votes. CNN has Obama leading 291 to 157 for McCain with 90 electors up for grabs. The normally very solid RealClearPolitics has the electoral race at 278 for Obama to 132 for McCain with a big 128 electors undetermined. That shows a substantial shift away from Obama and towards undecided from their numbers yesterday.

My take on this is simple. I think that somewhere between 3% and 6% of voters who may claim to support Obama when they are polled will change their mind and vote for McCain in the privacy of the voting booth. I think this is a small factor in the northeast, slightly larger in the mid-Atlantic and west, and most significant in the south and among working class voters in the midwest. I think enough voters in these areas fear change and are attracted to McCain's populist, anti-socialist message that last minute doubt will sway their vote.

The map below shows how I think the electoral vote will break down.


I have McCain at 250 electors, Obama at 228 and 60 undecided. For McCain to get to 270 electors and win he needs to take either Pennsylvania or Ohio or the western combo of New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada which would produce a tie. For that to turn into a win he'd also need to pick up one of the electoral districts in Maine or Nebraska, which is a possibility. For Obama to win he would need to pick up either Ohio and Pennsylvania plus one of the western states. If I were to project a final result I'd say McCain gets Pennsylvania, Nevada and the upstate Maine elector, for a total of 277.

What's more, if the story which broke yesterday about Obama promising to destroy the coal industry makes it into the major media outlets in the next 24 hours he could very well lose both Ohio and Pennsylvania as miners desperate to keep their jobs rush to the polls, so the McCain margin might be even larger.

In some ways this may be a best case scenario for McCain, but the momentum is on his side now and if you accept the theory that the media has jumped to a premature and misguided conclusion and that McCain's unorthodox campaign has hidden strengths, then it might not be far off. Watch the coverage on election night and you can see if I'm a brilliant seer or overly optimistic.

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About Dave Nalle

Dave Nalle is Executive Director of the Texas Liberty Foundation, Chairman of the Center for Foreign and Defense Policy, South Central Regional Director for the Republican Liberty Caucus and an advisory board member at the Coalition to Reduce Spending. He was Texas State Director for the Gary Johnson Presidential campaign, an adviser to the Ted Cruz senatorial campaign, Communications Director for the Travis County Republican Party and National Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus. He has also consulted on many political campaigns, specializing in messaging. Before focusing on political activism, he owned or was a partner in several businesses in the publishing industry and taught college-level history for 20 years.
  • If you read the transcript of what Obama said to the Chronicle, he wasn’t actually pledging to destroy the coal industry. He was talking about coal-fired power plants that haven’t even been built yet.

    Newsbusters seems so intent on exposing liberal media bias that they’re introducing a rather precarious lean of their own.

  • Lee Richards

    Karl Rove has it Obama 338-200, with PA +10% for Obama.

  • zingzing

    you know, the irony of this article is that dave’s last article was saying that liberals were proclaiming victory… and here we are with two articles saying mccain’s gonna win and not one article (at least not of this sort, or so directly) predicting an obama victory.

  • Lee Richards

    More predictions:

    George Will picks Obama 378-160;

    Ed Rollins says Obama 353-185;

    Morton Kondracke has Obama 379-159.

    The list could go on and on and on.

  • Zing, the left is just slower off the mark – speaking of which, Mark Schannon has just finished his article predicting an Obama win.


  • zingzing

    we aren’t slower off the mark… oh the pun… we’ve actually got the polls on our side, so what are we going to say? everyone–everyone–is predicting an obama victory. just go look at any reasonable poll. it’s got obama well ahead. and it’s been that way since, oh, i dunno… july? earlier?

    i’m confidant that obama will win this. the numbers–which is what mark’s article is about–also say that it’s his to lose. something extraordinary will have to happen for him to lose it. i’m not saying that’s out of the question… but to see mccain taking every toss-up state is quite ridiculous. then again, there’s 2004… and 2000…

  • zingzing


  • Jonathan Scanlan

    Lets just be honest… no one knows who’ll win… it is is just as likely that the media have covered the story for so long that they can’t step back and reappraise.

    But that said, a person would have to be a pretty firm supporter to stick it out through those long lines. At the very least they’ll have to spend the time in line deciding, and in all liklihood they’ll end up talking to supporters of one candidate or another.

    Heck, I bet the campaigns could get away with providing election booklets in place of flyers.

  • Cindy D

    ROFLOL! Dave you are freaking KILLING me here!!!!!

    That is your electoral map???


  • Cindy D

    My husband is asking me what is wrong. He hasn’t heard me laugh this hard since Dr.D gave his interpretation of the McCain hugging Bush book cover which made me laugh out loud really! all day long, (once when I was alone I got a look from a neighbor) and my poor husband repeatedly asking what is so funny, I had to keep saying “same thing”.

    Dave! Your map is nearly that funny!

  • …Are you serious? You made Colorado Blue and every other state Red? That right there tipped me off that there is a problem here.

  • zingzing

    have you really got maryland going your way? what kind of research did that take? last i saw, maryland was +20% or so for obama.

  • Chris, every poll shows Colorado as a toss-up or Obama leaning, so I wouldn’t say my choice to put it as a toss-up (not blue) is that surprising.

    Zing, I counted Maryland as part of the Obama total, but apparently I made it the wrong color. I’ll see if I can fix it.


  • zingzing


  • zingzing

    still, you’re really putting your load on pennsylvania there. florida is running (as usual) totally fucked up right now. and north carolina and vagina, as we north carolinians are apt to call it, fucking little teenagers that we are, are not in the pocket yet. one little thing goes wrong for mccain and it’s all obama all over your mama. yeah, i made that up. it sucks. i know. get used to it. he’s gonna fuck the shit out of all your republican mothers. a good old raping! uh! get used to it! delete that. it’s awful, i know. but, it is election day in the middle of the atlantic somewhere. so, it is useful to know. that we will rape your asses. have you noticed my good mood today?

  • Oops, looks like tiny little Rhode Island was the wrong color too. Fixed now.


  • Jet

    Dave, in the spirit of giving you equal time, and before you get too excited, you might want to look at this… Click Here

    …and revise your cute little map there

  • Jet

    Instead of running your cursor over a state, actually click on it for detailed poll results.

  • Jet

    Okay, here’s what the latest CNN poll of polls shows.. I’ll leave you guys to do the math…

    Nebraska-McCain takes all 5
    New Hampshire-Obama
    New Jersey-Obama
    New Mexico-Obama
    New York-Obama
    North Carolina-McCain
    North Dakota-Obama
    Ohio-McCain (unfortunately)
    Rhode Island-Obama
    South Carolina-McCain
    South Dakota-McCain
    West Virginia-Obama

  • Jet, my map isn’t based on CNN’s polls. It’s based on the aggregate of polls at realclearpolitics.org adjusted for what I perceive as the conceptual errors in the polling.

    Repeating CNN’s projections which are based on those same faulty assumptions and suspect weighting doesn’t address the basic problems.


  • Arch Conservative

    Jet did the CNN poll really say that it was unfortunate that McCain is leading in Florida?

  • Arch Conservative

    I meant Ohio. sorry.

  • Jet

    I can’t believe you couldn’t figure out that that was an editorial comment. I put it in parenth-parentzse-uh pre-uh those curvey things.

  • Maurice

    We all have our morning rituals. I like to look at the Yahoo pictures and get an idea of what they consider the news. This morning it is loaded with pictures of Obama. No pictures of McCain. Not sure if that is their way of promoting Obama or if they just think McCain is going to lose so why put up pictures of him.

    Certainly the media has made colossal blunders.

  • bliffle

    This is an interesting comment:

    “…Obama promising to destroy the coal industry makes it into the major media outlets in…”

    I’m not in favor of destroying the coal industry, but it’s influence must be constrained. Coal supplies about half of our electric power and a disproportionate share of our CO2 emissions.

    Big Coal has achieved this through political influence, not merit. Mostly from small states which have disproportionate influence because they have 2 senators, just like a big state. Wyoming, for example.

    Coal picks up research projects with the promise of ‘clean coal’ , but there is no such thing. All coal is dirty. The best they can do is capture the emitted CO2 (by employing an expensive oxygen-enriched burn environment) and then piping the CO2 to a remote location, pumping it a mile or two underground to a (hopefully) stable substrate.

    It better be stable, because if it leaks to the surface then mammals (like us) can die of asphixiation. that’s why they haven’t been able to get site permits for pilot plants.

    There are no operating pilot plants for ‘clean coal’.

    Coal will remain dirty.

    The emissions from coal threaten to kill us all.

    All the USA electrical requirements could be supplied from a single large Solar plant in the Nevada desert, estimated to be 25 to 90 miles on a side (by various calculations). No emissions.

  • Zedd


    Come on…. even now? Today? Brother you need some laying of hands. This has got to be a psychological thing. Whats up????

  • Bliffle, I have to question your idea on the giant Nevada solar plant.

    Using current technology a 90 mile by 90 mile area would produce a very generous maximum of 1 trillion watt hours of power. Current US electricity consumption is about 5 twillion watt hours, so your giant solar plant just isn’t big enough.

    Solar cell output is about 5wh per square foot, so to produce 5 tillion wh you would need an area about 200 miles by 200 miles, maybe a bit more.

    Ok, the land space for that is available in Nevada or West Texas. That’s not a problem.

    The problem is that what you’re talking about is many times the total number of solar cells ever produced. The cost would be greater than our current national debt and it would consume so much petroleum and other resources that I can’t even imagine where they would come from.


  • Jet

    Sweet! according to their polling map, Obama has Ohio by 6 points!

  • Jet

    Whoops, sorry that’s CNN

  • Jet, don’t set your hopes on CNN. Their polling seems to be retarded in some way. They’re saying that Wisconsin is leaning McCain which seems totally unbelievable.


  • Jet

    Dave, click the link at #17-according to their on-line map they have Obama taking Wisconson by 53 to 42. Where are you getting that?

  • Jet

    Dave you need a more reliable source for your reliable source!

  • zingzing

    so… no one has commented. dave, you missed. such is life. for




    and the house and senate too. get really used to it

    it’s our turn.

    send me an email about moon, as you haven’t yet.

  • zingzing

    alright, 2 years. whatev.

  • pleasexcusethisinterrutpion


    If I had seen this map days ago I would have told you it was laughable. First of all the premise of your article – that people of declared support for one candidate will switch to the other at the last minute – is completely unfounded. Barring some massive Bradley effect, which has been proven largely irrelevant since the 90s, this doesn’t occur. What you really should have been looking at is the breakdown of undecideds. The absolute best a candidate can almost ever do is claim about all of the undecideds. Once Obama’s support topped 50% in these battleground states it pretty much sealed the deal – even if all the undecideds went to McCain he would lose.

    A few of your more amusing allocations:

    Virginia solid McCain – Obama’s support there has been 50-51%. No one in hell McCain won it.

    New Mexico toss up: again no way in hell McCain won this.

    FL as solid red – should have been toss up.

    Colorado – Obama had this locked down, McCain was hardly campaigning in the state. Obama polled 51-52%, undecideds could go all McCain and mean squat.

    North Carolina and Indiana should also have been toss up.

    Dave your fundamental failure was not distinguishing between undecideds and those who had declared support for a candidate. All of the signals were there for Obama wins in VA, CO, NM – McCain wasn’t even bothering. Why do you think he tried a surprise attack on PA where he was down by almost 20% in the polls? In short, because he had no other options. He saw some weakness in the polls there and went for it realizing he was never going to win CO, NM, VA.

  • pleasexcusethisinterrutpion

    The failures of polling are too often exaggerated. If you are familiar with them and know how to use them you can accurately predict the results in any state within 2%.

  • pleasexcusethisinterrutpion

    And don’t tell me I have the benefit of hindsight, I would have laid down my savings with 20 or 40 to 1 odds this past week. I can tell you I tried – I was looking to take bets with 10 to 1 odds this week but found no takers. Too bad I don’t live near you.

  • pleasexcusethisinterrutpion

    In addition, all of the polls are using weighting systems based on hypothetical assumptions about demographics, voter turnout and voter attitudes which have no basis in anything except the partisan wishful thinking of the pollsters and their employers. With McCain running such a wildly unconventional campaign, clearly based on a completely different set of assumptions, the talking heads seem foolishly arrogant in their premature conclusions.

    I take it this applies to you now?

  • pleasexcusethisinterrutpion

    I mean honestly, I follow polling and elections very closely and I can tell you that the assumptions made in this article – esp to project a VA McCain win – are absurd. Does Dave really think he is the first to have thought of all this? Does Dave really think the entire polling industry – including McCain’s own internal polling – shows massive favoritism to Obama which not one single professional polling expert has noticed?

    Most predictions fell between splitting the undecideds 50-50 and 80-20 to McCain. The real result, on a national level, will fall in that field.

  • Barack Obama swept to victory as the nation’s first black president Tuesday night in an electoral college landslide that overcame racial barriers as old as America itself. Source.

  • PETI, I never claimed to be any good at these predictions. I should have included a disclaimer that this was for entertainment only, not for wagering. I certainly would never have bet on it.

    If anything what I presented was the scenario under which McCain could win. If the scenario was faulty then he would not win. It was, he didn’t.


  • Maurice

    Zedd #26

    I probably need more than the laying on of hands. The thought of a brother beating the odds is overwhelming. Today I am overcome. Nothing negative needs to be said today.

  • Zedd


    I feel you. Much love.

  • @ # 39, 41:

    Before the actual vote all things were possible, however unlikely. Dave simply highlighted a possible path to victory for McCain.

    The king of poll nerds, fivethirtyeight.com’s Nate Silver, writing in the New York Post a few days before the election, presented a similar scenario, which he gave about a 5% chance of actually happening.

  • Lisa Solod Warren

    Nate Silver rocks. Nerd that he is. He really called it. I doubted he could be that RIGHT. But, boy, is he uncomfortable being on T.V.

  • He wasn’t the only one, Lisa. The two other sites I follow at election time, Electoral-vote.com and Election Projection, also got it pretty much on the money. (Caution led them both to call Indiana – and in the case of the latter, North Carolina – for McCain, but effectively the vote was a tie in both those states so you can hardly blame them.)

    In the run-up to the Big Day, we kept hearing from Republicans that ‘you can’t trust the polls’ and ‘they’ve been wrong in the past’. That’s true to some degree, of course, but sites like these three have demonstrated that if you gather a hell of a lot of polls, and develop some sound algorithms for analyzing them, you’ll be able to predict the final outcome with a high degree of accuracy.