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News from the Votemaster

New Table Available Showing Tipping Point States

A week ago, Nate Silver, the resident political statistician at the NY Times (and founder of wrote a column in which he introduced a new definition of "swing state." Most writers use the term to mean a state that could go either way in November. Silver redefined it as the state that puts a candidate over the top after he has won all the easy ones. I don't especially like this use of the term "swing state," but the concept is interesting.

Yesterday, a reader pointed out that I was already doing the computation Silver talked about. All I had to do was label it better, so I did. To Sing Along with Mitch (Miller, not McConnell) (i.e., follow my description) you should open a second copy of your browser (or at least open a second tab using CTRL T) and point the second copy to

The states are listed from most blue to most red based on the current polling data, so the order of the states here will change almost every day. The blue states are sorted in descending order by the "Lead" column, that is, how far ahead Obama is. The red states are sorted in ascending order by the "Lead" column, that is, how far ahead Romney is. In this way the entire column goes from most blue to most red. Check the table to see that you follow so far.

The states that the candidate is ahead by 10% or more are in a dark blue or dark red color. The states where he is ahead 5-9% are in a middle blue or red. The "barely" states are in a light tint. This is the same division as the "strongly," "likely," and "barely" on the map.

Starting from the top, it is virtually certain that Obama will win all the dark blue states. In the column labeled "Obama EVs" you can see that capturing all the "states" from D.C. to New Jersey gets Obama 210 electoral votes. These are pretty close to a sure thing.Now suppose he also captures the middle blue states (Maine, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania). This brings him to 244 electoral votes.

Now it gets dicier. If he can win Virginia, Oregon, and Nevada, he has 270 exactly and wins. In Silver's terminology, Nevada is the "swing state" because it is the one that put him over the top. I think "tipping-point state" is probably a better name for it.

From this table, you can see that Obama doesn't need any states where Romney is currently ahead. If he can hold the dark and middle blue states, and get 26 electoral votes from the "barely" states, he is home free.

Romney fans can play this game, too. Just start at the bottom and read upwards. If Romney wins all the dark and middle red states (again, based on current polling, not historical data), he has 181 electoral votes, as shown in the last column. Add in the barely states and he gets to 243. So Romney has to win Iowa and a few currently barely blue states. For him, the tipping point state is Nevada. That shows how deeply into blue territory he has to reach in order to win.

This table will be updated every day with fresh data. I think it gives a good impression of where we stand and where the battles will be. This page can be reached by clicking on "Current score by state" in the main menu.

Also on the main menu is a link "Electoral vote graphs." It also gives insight into where we are and the trends.

Ideas for Other Pages Are Welcome

The idea for adding the cumulative EVs came from a reader. Other ideas are also welcome. Even better is if you want to make a page yourself that could be added to the Data galore page. It could be historical data (e.g., age of Presidents by party), current information (links to books on written by sitting senators), or anything related to the election that might be of interest. It is easy to make up a page. Just download this template and edit it. Dynamic pages that change with the data are also possible. You'll need to write a shell script or C program that runs early in the morning (on a Linux server) to create the HTML page. If you are interested, ask me.

Presidential Polls

State Obama Romney   Start End Pollster
California 57% 36%   May 27 May 29 SurveyUSA
Colorado 46% 45%   May 22 May 24 Marist Coll.
Iowa 44% 44%   May 22 May 24 Marist Coll.
Nevada 48% 46%   May 22 May 24 Marist Coll.
New York 56% 31%   May 22 May 28 Quinnipiac U.
Ohio 44% 46%   May 29 May 29 Rasmussen

Senate Polls

State Democrat D % Republican R % I I % Start End Pollster
Nevada Shelley Berkley 44% Dean Heller 46%     May 22 May 24 Marist Coll.