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FiveThirtyEight

Politics

In Wisconsin, a UW-Madison/Badger Poll has Barack Obama leading John McCain by 4 points, but Hillary Clinton trailing him by 6 points.

It is states like Wisconsin that are responsible for giving Obama at least as strong an electability argument as Hillary Clinton. Forget, for the moment, all that stuff about Obama expanding the map. While the Obama electoral map might be more “fun” than Hillary’s, and has the potential to be a little bit more robust in terms of electoral strategy, for the time being Obama is a little too far out of range for states like North Carolina or Montana to be characterized as something other than curiosities. If Obama gains 2-3 points against McCain across the board — sure, some of those states will become interesting. (For that matter, Hillary Clinton could put states like Kentucky and Tennessee into play if her numbers improve globally). But for the time being, it’s probably best to focus on more earthbound sorts of advantages.

The thing is however that Obama does have some significant advantages over Clinton, even without the map-expanders. These are in states that I call the Group of Nine: Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Nevada, and New Hampshire. Presently, we have 61 polls listed from among these states. Of those 61 polls, Obama outperforms Clinton in 57 of them, and ties her in two others.

These states, somewhat spread out over the country, otherwise have a fair amount in common. They are, as a group, whiter than the rest of the country, better educated than the rest of the country, more Mainline Protestant than the rest of the country, and more rural than the rest of the country — some of these characteristics fit with the media-approved caricatures of the race while others do not. They are purple states, but they are not ‘centrist’ states in the way that, say, Ohio or Missouri are. Instead, they have high numbers of independents, and they tend to weave together different political traditions from the left and the right that somewhat balance one another out. They tend to have active and engaged political bases, but can be somewhat anti-establishment.

The Group of Nine states account for 80 electoral votes; Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania collectively account for 68. That 12-EV gap, not coincidentally, is very similar to the advantage that Obama presently holds over Clinton in our simulations.

p.s. There’s also a new Capital Survey poll out of Alabama that shows McCain leading both Democrats 55-36 (+19). Alabama and Oklahoma are the only two states in the country where both Democrats presently have 0% win percentages.

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