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Election Preview: McCain Still in Ballgame

Obama Can Not Close the Deal

One week out from an election that could affect the course and direction of America for the next thirty years — we have a real choice between two very different candidates. An aging war hero who has championed himself as the maverick, an unconventional legislator once loved by the media, now ridiculed as out of touch. A young, energetic first term senator, whose intellect is not legitimately challenged, but whose associations with terrorists, racist pastors and the liberal fringe call into question his adherence to a free-market, capitalist society and economy.

Both candidates have clung to the mantra ‘change.’ Neither candidate, however, has closed the deal. For John McCain that’s a relief — for Barack Obama that’s a point of tremendous frustration.

We hear that poll after poll has this race as a done deal . . . hardly.

Last week we looked at the fifteen battleground states — there isn’t much that has changed in the methodology of reviewing those particular states and their most recent polling.

In interpreting the polls, remember the rules:

  1. Look at likely voters, not registered voters.

  2. Look at the demographic of the sample being polled.

  3. Look at the sampling assumptions made by the pollster — has it affected the weighting of the poll.

  4. Remember that Barack Obama nearly always polls higher than he receives at the ballot box.

Now, let’s add two more rules in looking at battleground polling.

  1. If Obama is not at 50% in the last week, then Obama has not closed the deal. If McCain is at least 43% and there is not less than 5% undecided, then this state is in play.

  2. Undecideds at this point — in the absence of an incumbent candidate — will tend to break for the non-change candidate. For our purposes, the ‘change’ candidate is Barack Obama.

Applying these rules, what states are legitimately still in play? Are there any exceptions to this rule? Perhaps.

The states that are legitimately in play, which currently favor Obama, but which McCain will win include Indiana, North Carolina, Missouri, and Florida.

Florida – from RCP – BO – 48.4 JM – 45.1, with 6.5 percent undecided. Assume 2% will vote for 3rd party candidates, leaving 4.5 undecided. BO will typically underpoll by 1%, leaving him at 47.4 percent. McCain will get the majority 4.5% undecided – by a ratio of 2/1. So, if McCain picks up 1% from Obama and 3% from undecided voters, he will receive about 49.1% of vote and Obama 48.9% of vote. Look for McCain to win Florida by .5%, but he will win.

Missouri – from RCP – BO – 47.4 JM – 46.8, with 5.8 percent undecided. Assume 2% will vote for 3rd party candidates, leaving 3.8 percent undecided. BO will typically underpoll by 1%, leaving him at 46.4 percent. McCain will get the majority of the 3.8% undecided – by a ratio of 2/1. So, if McCain picks up 1% from Obama and 2.5% from undecided voters, he will receive 50.3% of vote and Obama 47.7% of vote. Look for McCain to win Missouri by 2.5%, but he will win.

Indiana – from RCP – BO 48.0 JM – 45.8, with 6.2 percent undecided. Assume 2% will vote for 3rd party candidates, leaving 4.2 percent undecided. BO will typically underpoll by 1%, leaving him at 47.0 percent. McCain will get the majority of the 4.2% undecided – by a ratio of 2/1. So, if McCain picks up 1% from Obama and 2.8% from undecided voters, he will receive 49.6% of vote and Obama – 48.4% of vote. Look for McCain to win Indiana by 1.2%, but he will win.

North Carolina – from RCP – BO 48.6 JM 47.1, with 4.3 percent undecided. Assume 2% will vote for 3rd party candidates, leaving 2.3 percent undecided. BO will typically underpoll by 1%, leaving him at 47.6 percent. McCain will get the majority of the 2.3% undecided – by a ratio of 2/1. So, if McCain picks up 1% from Obama and 1.4% from undecided voters, he will receive 49.5% of vote and Obama 48.5 %. Look for McCain to win North Carolina by 1%, but he will win.

Contrast these states with the following states, applying the same assumptions: Colorado and Virginia.

Colorado – from RCP – BO 51.5 JM 44.5, with 5.0 percent undecided. Assume 2% will vote for 3rd party candidates, leaving 3.0 percent undecided. BO will typically underpoll by 1%, leaving him at 50.5 percent. McCain will get the majority of the 3.0% undecided – by a ratio of 2/1. So, if McCain picks up 1% from Obama and 2% from undecided voters, he will receive 47.5 percent of vote and Obama 51.5 percent of vote. Look for Obama to win Colorado by 4%.

Virginia – from RCP – BO 51.3 JM 44.0, with 4.7 percent undecided. Assume 2% will vote for 3rd party candidates, leaving 2.7 percent undecided. BO will typically underpoll by 1%, leaving him at 50.3 percent. McCain will get the majority of the 2.7% undecided – by a ratio of 2/1. So, if McCain picks up 1% from Obama and 1.8% from undecided voters, he will receive 46.8% of vote and Obama 51.2% of vote. Look for Obama to win Virginia by 4.4%.

Now, let’s take a look at some interesting states – Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Ohio – from RCP – BO 49.8 JM 43.4, with 6.8 percent undecided. Assume 2% will vote for 3rd party candidates, leaving 4.8 percent undecided. BO will typically underpoll by 1%, leaving him at 48.8 percent. McCain will get the majority of the 4.8 percent undecided – by a ratio of 2/1. So, if McCain picks up 1% from Obama and 3.2% from undecided voters, he will receive 47.8% of vote and Obama 50.4% of vote. Look for Obama to win Ohio by 2.6%.

Pennsylvania – from RCP – BO 52.0 JM 42.2, with 5.8 percent undecided. Assume 2% will vote for 3rd party candidates, leaving 3.8 percent undecided. BO will typically underpoll by 1%, leaving him at 48.8 percent. McCain will get the majority of the 3.8% undecided – by a ratio of 2/1. So, if McCain picks up 1% from Obama and 2.5% from undecided voters, he will receive 45.7 percent of the vote and Obama 52.3 percent of the vote. Look for Obama to win Pennsylvania by 6.7%.

While we could also look at New Hampshire and Nevada — I am going to presume the following New Hampshire is going for Obama and Nevada will go for McCain.

Based on my analysis above, the next president will be Barack Obama, with 306 electoral votes.

Is this race over? Heck no. I think that there are three states where Barack Obama’s underpolling is understated – that’s right Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. In Ohio, if Barack Obama underpolls by 2.4% or greater, McCain wins. In Pennsylvania, if Barack Obama underpolls by 4.3% or greater, McCain wins. In Virginia, if Barack Obama underpolls by 3.2% or greater, McCain wins.

Such underpolling is distinctly possible given Obama’s past history in these states and the demographics of the electorate in these three states.

Bottom line is this — the candidate that wins three of the following four states: New Mexico, Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania, will be the next president of the United States.

Update next Monday.

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