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FiveThirtyEight

Politics

Those with field experience may recognize the conventional wisdom/general rule that 5 points is the most a great field program’s ground game can make up against an accurate poll of voter preference.

According to 538 regression analysis, there are currently eleven states closer than 5 points, most of which show McCain with a narrow lead to defend.

In order of closeness and color coded by who currently leads, they are:

1. Virginia, 0.2%
2. Missouri, 0.3%
3. Nevada, 0.6%
4. New Hampshire, 1.0%
5. Michigan, 1.5%
6. Ohio, 1.6%
7. Indiana, 1.7%
8. North Carolina, 3.3%
9. North Dakota, 3.8%
10. Florida, 4.0%
11. Montana, 4.5%

Electorally, the 39 states and DC that lie outside this 5-point range: Obama 252, McCain 157.

For what it’s worth, there are twelve states between 5 and 10 points, and each candidate has 6 of them. Obama’s are Colorado (+5.1%), Pennsylvania (+5.7%), New Mexico (+6.3%), Wisconsin (+6.4%), Iowa (+8.7%), and New Jersey (+9.4%), for a total of 67 EVs. McCain’s are Alaska (+6.1%), South Dakota (+6.6%), West Virginia (+8.2%), Louisiana (+8.9%), South Carolina (+8.9%) and Georgia (+9.9%), for a total of 43 EVs.

What the 5-10% group tells us is that while Obama is currently pressing McCain hard in the under 5% group, if McCain could apply an across the board 2% adjustment in his favor in every state, suddenly there would be 11 states under 5% and McCain would hold a lead in seven states ranging in closeness from Ohio (+0.4%) to Indiana (+3.7%). Obama would hold a lead in four states ranging from Colorado (+3.1%) to Wisconsin (+4.4%) with Pennsylvania and New Mexico in between. And Obama would lead 207-205 electorally in the states outside the 5% margin.

If we want to arbitrarily mark the line at 8%, Obama leads 207-151 electorally with 17 states being inside that margin. Obama leads in 7 of those states that hold 86 EVs, and McCain leads in 10 with 94 EVs.

Obviously, the state races will change over time with some tightening and some being put away. Organization, energy and GOTV programs will make an impact, but we can only speculate right now as to which campaign will take better advantage of the ground game.

What’s especially interesting about the close states is what a cultural range those states represent. Montana, New Hampshire, Virginia, Michigan, Nevada and Florida are all culturally such different states that it seems obvious the battle lines in this race haven’t settled in yet. In a month or two after the country has had some time to size these two candidates up side by side, we should start seeing some stronger patterns emerge. But for now, let’s be a little thankful that this isn’t yet another dreary three-state race (OH, FL, PA).

UPDATE: With Nate’s updates and new polling data tonight, some of the numbers have shifted. There are now twelve states under 5 points, as New Mexico became closer (+2.5%). Here’s the new list, with the 38 + DC states outside the margin: Obama 247, McCain 157.

1. Missouri, 0.3%
2. Nevada, 0.4%
3. Indiana, 0.7%
4. Michigan, 1.6%
5. Virginia, 1.8%
6. Florida, 2.0%
7. New Mexico, 2.5%
8. New Hampshire, 2.6%
9. North Carolina, 2.7%
10. Ohio, 2.9%
11. North Dakota, 3.2%
12. Montana, 4.2%

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