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.
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.
And the 2000 election results map on the U.S. News Web site:
Politicians come and go. But the political landscape doesn’t really seem to change, does it?