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The Obama Eighteen

Courtesy of the Politico, Barack Obama’s campaign has telegraphed the electoral focus of its fall campaign. Three are its highest profile defenses (PA, WI, MI), one is a Kerry state in which McCain runs particularly well (NH), and 14 are Bush 2004 states where Obama thinks he has an opportunity to gain on the previous map (IA, NM, OH, CO, VA, FL, MO, NV, IN, ND, NC, MT, GA, AK).

Let’s take a look at how FiveThirtyEight breaks down each of these states in terms of polling average, trend adjustment, 538 regression, and 538 prediction.

This map shows a baseline of Obama 200, McCain 139.

John McCain’s best slicing and dicing of the public polling data within the 18 states is the polling average. Obama leads in Iowa (+6.2%), Wisconsin (+6.0%), New Hampshire (+6.0%), Pennsylvania (+5.5%), New Mexico (+4.3%), Ohio (+4.0%), Colorado (+2.5%), and Michigan (+1.9%) for a total of 93 EVs. McCain’s states are North Dakota (+0.6%), Florida (+1.4%), Indiana (+1.8%), Missouri (+2.2%), Nevada (+2.8%), North Carolina (+4.7%), Alaska (+5.7%), Montana (+7.3%), and Georgia (+8.6%) for 93 EVs. Virginia is dead even, so after adding in the base EVs, the tally would be Obama 293, McCain 232, Unallocated 13.

When we adjust for trends in the polling data, we find ourselves in landslide territory. Obama leads in Iowa (+9.3%), New Hampshire (+9.0%), Wisconsin (+8.8%), Pennsylvania (+8.5%), Ohio (+7.1%), New Mexico (+6.1%), Colorado (+5.2%), Michigan (+4.6%), North Dakota (+4.4%), Virginia (+3.7%), Missouri (+3.3%), Indiana (+2.1%), and Florida (+1.0%), for a total of 158 EVs. McCain holds North Carolina (+0.5%), Nevada (+0.8%), Alaska (+2.8%), Montana (+3.1%), and Georgia (+5.4%), for 41 EVs. Under trend adjustment, the tally adding to our base would be Obama 358, McCain 180.

Under the 538 regression model, Obama leads in Iowa and New Hampshire (both +10.0%), Wisconsin (+8.7%), Pennsylvania (+8.6%), Michigan (+8.0%), Colorado (+7.1%), Ohio (+7.0%), Nevada (+5.4%), New Mexico (+5.2%), Virginia (+3.0%), Florida (+1.6%), and Missouri (+0.5%) for 149 EVs. McCain holds Montana (+0.3%), North Dakota (+2.0%), North Carolina (+2.5%), Alaska and Georgia (both +3.6%), and Indiana (+3.7%) for 50 EVs. Added to our base, the regression tally would be Obama 349, McCain 189.

Finally, the 538 projections as of June 25 show Obama winning Iowa (+9.4%), New Hampshire (+9.3%), Wisconsin (+8.8%), Pennsylvania (+8.5%), Ohio (+7.1%), New Mexico (+6.1%), Colorado (+5.8%), Michigan (+5.2%), Virginia (+3.6%), Missouri (+2.7%), Florida and Indiana (+1.1%) and Nevada (+0.7%) for 160 EVs. McCain projects to hold North Carolina (+0.8%), North Dakota (+0.9%), Montana (+1.8%), Alaska (+3.0%), and Georgia (+5.0%) for 39 EVs. With the baseline, Obama 360, McCain 178.

Under these numbers, McCain needs to gain 2.5% on the polling averages to win (adding Virginia, Michigan and Colorado). He needs to gain 5.2% on the trend analysis to win (to flip Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Virginia, North Dakota, Michigan and Colorado). Percentage-wise, McCain’s toughest task is the regression model, since to win he has to gain 7.0% all the way up Obama’s list to claim Ohio (Michigan, Florida, Virginia, New Mexico, Nevada and Ohio). Under our projection figures, McCain needs to reclaim Nevada, Indiana, Florida, Missouri, Virginia, Michigan and Colorado to win the presidency. That’s a polling gain of up to 5.8%, again with Colorado being the final clinching state (working back up Obama’s list) for the third of our four models.

The bad news for McCain in these numbers that among the “safe” Obama base states, Obama holds double-digit projection leads in every one of those states, with the lone exception of Oregon (+9.4%), discussed yesterday. Minnesota is next closest, projected at Obama +10.9%. The rest are just not remotely in play without a huge game-changing event in the race. Moreover, 538 currently projects a number of McCain’s “safe” base states in single digits (alphabetically Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia – see sidebar). While Obama isn’t likely to win these states, our models show Obama coming closer to winning them as we sit here in late June than McCain is to winning safe Obama states like Delaware, Maine, Washington, etc.

Finally, there is the matter of the one EV in Nebraska’s 2d congressional district, which Obama’s camp explicitly added to the list of eighteen. Eventually, we will add broken-out data for this district and refer to the Obama-defined battlegrounds as “the 18.2.”

If John McCain’s camp identifies a similar roster of states it sees as battlegrounds, we will analyze that list as well.