Has the political landscape changed?

If the United States elected its president via popular vote, national polls on the race for president would be a lot more meaningful. A Gallup poll out this week, for example, shows Barack Obama with a mere 4-percentage-point lead over John McCain.

Interesting, and relatively meaningless since this isn’t the way the U.S. elects presidents. That’s why sites that track polls in individual states are far more fascinating, since the individual states’ votes for president determine the number of electoral votes. When it comes to electing a president, all states are not created equal.

One of my favorite sites to do this is also the first one to do this. Electoral-vote.com awards electoral votes based on individual state polls and the degree of support for a particular candidate. (Update 9:56 pm Tues. Coincidentally Zogby unveiled the same sort of thing today.)

Today, for example, the site sees a 320-218 electoral vote lead for Sen. Obama.

That’s not close, except that at least 58 votes are in states that usually dabble in supporting a Democrat until it actually comes time to vote — Colorado, New Mexico, Ohio, Virginia, and Indiana among them. Those states are all “weakly” favoring Obama, according to the latest polls.

Put those votes in McCain’s column, and now he leads in the electoral count 276-262.

If you’re Barack Obama or John McCain, where do you think the battleground states are now?

As you pick through various polls, what’s interesting is how little America’s political landscape has actually changed. Take this map from the USA Today polltracker. The orange is “too close” and the gray is “not enough” data. Red is Republican and blue is Democrat, of course.

usa_today_map.jpg

Democrat are strong in the Northeast, the West, and two liberal states in the Upper Midwest. Republicans control the South.

Compare that to the 2004 — and admittedly slightly cheesy, now — results map on the MPR Campaign 2004 site.

2004_election_map.jpg

And the 2000 election results map on the U.S. News Web site:

2000_election_results.jpg

Politicians come and go. But the political landscape doesn’t really seem to change, does it?

  • JohnnyZoom
  • JohnnyZoom

    After looking at the cartogram, the importance of the rust belt is striking.

  • brian

    “not enough” data

    Hmmm… I wonder how Illiinois and Utah are going to go in November…

  • bsimon

    I too find electoral-vote.com to be an excellent resource.

    Possibly most shocking: NC as barely Dem, along with SC & GA as weak GOP. Next: TX as weak GOP.

    The political landscape definitely changes. US demographics change, for one thing. The political parties also change. It wasn’t long ago that the GOP leadership was talking about a ‘permanent Republican majority’ in Congress. If Dems start talking like that, place your bets for them to lose control of Congress.

  • Brittanicus

    Is this just another distraction, that really is limited in it’s scope? When other problems dwarf this situation in comparison?

    Trying to placate both sides of the conflagration on immigration, isn’t going to work? Senator McCain has fumbled over this growing issue, that is now out-of-control. Neither Obama or McCain are stewards of stopping overpopulation, because after a blanket AMNESTY which both have proposed. Millions more will appear on our doorstep, expecting more of the same. Diversity Alliance for Sustainable America http://www.earthtimes.org/ have stated in it’s article that if the U.S. grants amnesty and gives citizenship to 12 to 30 million illegal migrants, as Senators Obama and McCain propose.All those naturalized citizens could possibly add 120 million U.S. and foreign-born relatives to the U.S., in the next 20 years whom all would CONSUME MAJOR ENERGY.

    We all know the consequences of illegal immigration, that has already taken a serious toll on jobs and the quality of life in America. Not enforcing our laws has become an unparalleled financial benefit for predatory businesses, but a growing chaos on the streets and highways, as America tries to cope with the propagation of congestion and pollution. Do not think Canada is exempt from this monolithic issue, as the free movement of cheap labor is the obnoxious agenda of the free trade, open border globalists.

    Leading Democrats have refused to sponsor the SAVE ACT (H.R.4088) for enforcement only, All American patriots (no matter their country of origin) should join for free http://www.numbersusa.com and learn about the facts and the next AMNESTY conflict.

  • brian

    GA being weak Republican isn’t quite so shocking if you look back a few more elections. Clinton won it in 1992. 1992 is a much more speckled electoral map. (wikipedia has a link at the top where you can click back and forth between election years. Each page has an electoral map at the top.)

  • http://www.greatdiv.com Charlie Quimby

    Plotting numerical values (popular or electoral college votes) over areas is inherently distorting. Even if we understand that Wyoming and New York have extremely unequal influence, the eye gives that red area from Arizona to Montana much more weight than it deserves.

    So be sure to look at Johnny Zoom’s cartogram link.

  • Amanda

    Very nice pictures, i’ll use this for the Magazine i have to create for my English class. I’m writing about Bush’s young life, and his presidency. even after his second presidency too. lol weird.