2008 Electoral Vote Maps

SurveyUSA has “interviewed 600 registered voters in each of the 50 states” and found that, if the election were held yesterday,* Barack Obama would get 280 Electoral Votes to John McCain’s 258 while Hillary Clinton would win 276-262.

They issue the following caveats:

There are specific limitations to this exercise. The winner’s margin in each state is not always outside of the survey’s margin of sampling error. Rather than show states where the results are inside of the margin of sampling error as “leaning” or “toss-ups,” SurveyUSA for this illustration assigned Electoral Votes to the candidate with the larger share of the vote, no matter how small the winner’s margin. The Democratic nominee is not yet known. Running mates on neither side are known. These are not surveys of likely voters, these are surveys of registered voters. Those caveats stated, the exercise is a remarkable foreshadowing of how contested, and how fiercely fought, the general election in November may be, regardless of who the Democratic nominee is. And the exercise speaks to which states may vote one way or the other, depending on who the Democrats nominate.

If nothing else, it’s a useful reminder (as if we needed one after the last two elections) that we elect presidents on a state-by-state basis rather than a national popular vote.

What’s truly remarkable about these results is not the close margins but rather the variance between the two projected races. My initial reaction was “What state does Obama take that Clinton doesn’t?” It turns out that the maps are markedly different:

2008 Electoral Vote Maps - Obama McCain

2008 Electoral Vote Maps - Clinton McCain

I’m frankly dubious that all those states are truly going to be in play. Then again, McCain is a different kind of Republican and Obama a different kind of Democrat than we’ve seen in several cycles. And Clinton is a uniquely polarizing figure.
*It wasn’t.

FILED UNDER: 2008 Election, Public Opinion Polls, , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    Here’s a different perspective for you. I am one of those conservatives who would vote for Obama over McCain. I won’t explain why, it would take too long.

    But I won’t vote for Hillary over McCain for one simple reason: the military. Hillary has clearly shown a total contempt for our military and it’s my opinion that we owe them too much to inflict upon them someone like Hillary.

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    I thought of posting here on this survey yesterday and, frankly, I’m glad I held off because your post is, no doubt, better than the one I would have come up with.

    I do think the survey highlights some things I’ve been suggesting for some time.

    Unless you believe that the survey dramatically understates the results for Democratic candidates, the election in November won’t result in a landslide victory for Democrats, electoral or otherwise. The election looks more as though it will be much like the last four: a very narrow victory reflecting a country with sharply divided opinions and candidates that don’t claim overwhelming support.

    Note the states that the survey suggests are in some degree of play: Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Colorado, North Dakota, Kansas, Iowas, Arkansas, Michigan, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Virginia, and Florida. Like you I don’t believe it. Note also the states the survey suggests aren’t in play, specifically, Ohio. I think it’s more likely that some of those states e.g. New Jersey aren’t actually in play and some e.g. Ohio are.

    Finally, this survey is of registered voters not likely voters and the ratio of registered to likely varies by state. I think we should be cautious about drawing too many conclusions just yet.

    I continue to believe that external events not under the control of the campaigns, regardless of who the eventual victor on the Democratic side may be, will be likely to decide this election and I think that the closeness suggested by the survey supports that view.

  3. The McCain-Obama mapmaker has to be on drugs. They have North Dakota going republican. Lets review North Dakota presidential races since 1992.


    Bush 62 Kerry 35


    Bush 61 Gore 33


    Dole 47 Clinton 40


    Bush 44 Clinton 32

    Do I need to go back further to show ND isn’t going to go Democratic in 2008?

  4. Nebraska having two congressional districts go Democratic is also loopy. Lets just look at the 2000 totals.

    1st CD- 59-36 for Bush
    2nd CD- 57-38 for Bush
    3rd CD- 71-27 for Bush

    So the chances of Obama getting two electoral votes from Nebraska are about as likely as my getting elected to Congress one day. ZERO

  5. Dave Schuler says:

    One more thing I wanted to mention: Missouri has been carried by the victor in nearly every presidential election for the last 150 years.

  6. Anderson says:

    Hillary has clearly shown a total contempt for our military

    Okay, McGuire, I’ll bite: how has Hillary “clearly shown a total contempt for our military”?

    You have examples, obviously – please share them.

  7. Paul says:

    I don’t think we can rule out an electoral college count of nearly 400 for either Obama or McCain, as a match-up between those two could really see a big shift either way depending on events, debates, gaffes, and the mood of Joe Sixpack, who right now would consider voting for either. (Hillary could win but not big). But the maps obviously have some silliness. Could Obama win North Dakota? Well, perhaps, but if he does he sure as heck will also be carrying PA and NJ. Likewise, could McCain win liberal Washington against Hillary? Sure, he could win a lot of states against Hillary. But if he does, he would also be carrying WV, Ark and NM.

  8. Anderson says:

    Anyone want to help McGuire out on Hillary’s “contempt for the troops”?

  9. yetanotherjohn says:

    Look a little closer at the data.

    For Obama, he has 4 states with 20%+ margins for 35 EV (lets add the unpolled DC into the category for a total of 38 EV). These are his safe beyond a total collapse of the campaign seats. He has NY at 15% (31 EV), four states at 14% (29 EV) and two 11% states (65EV). This gives him 160 EV which are pretty safe. Note that Ohio, which went for Bush in 2000 and 2004 is in this category (20 EV).

    He also has two 10%, one 9%, three 8% and two 7% states that are also pretty safe but given the earliness of the poll, registered vs likely voters, etc. can’t just be assumed (total 73 EV). Note that one is Minnesota (7% 10EV) which could turn if Pawlenty was the VP pick. So in all, he has 233 EV that are pretty safe or better. Not bad. Note that three states that went for Bush in 2000 or 2004 are in this category (21 EV). Nothing says Ohio and these states can’t change, but there is a change involved.

    North Dakota 5% (3EV), Nevada 4% (4 EV), Michigan 2% (17 EV), NH 1% (4 EV) and Virginia 0% (13 EV) all have to be taken with a big grain of salt. Total is 42 EV. Note that there are three states in this mix that when for Bush in 2000 or 2004 (11 EV). Add in the 2 split decision points for Nebraska to get the 280. All in all 52 EV are states that switched from 2000 or 2004.

    Now look at McCain vs Obama.

    Three states at 20%+ for a total of 21 EV. Four states at 15% to 19% for 28 EV. Six more states in the 11% to 14% for 49 EV. Four states in the 6% to 9% range for 31 EV. Using the same standard as above, this gives McCain 129 pretty safe or better EV.

    Alaska (5%, 3 EV), PA (5%, 21 EV), SD (4% 3EV), SC (3% 8EV), Nebraska (3% and 3EV in a split decision), Florida (3%, 27EV), Texas (2% 34EV), NC (2% 15 EV) and NJ (0% 15 EV) for a total of 129 EV.

    This would seem to indicate McCain support is a lot weaker. But does anyone really think Texas is going to be a 2% margin state? The only two states that McCain is getting that Bush didn’t get are PA (21 EV) and NJ (15 EV).

    So all in all, that is Obama taking away 54 EV (including the 2 from ND) in 9 states and McCain taking away 36 EV in two states. All in all, there are 173 EV in the +/- 5% category, indicating that the election could go either way.

    Now lets look at Clinton.

    She has one state at 23% (NY 31EV), Two states at 17% and 18% (16EV), three states at 11% (47 EV), three states at 10% (65EV), two at 9% (37 EV) and one at 6% (4 EV). Add in DC and this puts her at 203 EV in the pretty safe category. Arkansas (11% 6EV), Ohio (11% 20 EV) and Florida (9% and 27 EV) are the switched states.

    NJ (5% 15EV), Delaware (5% 3 EV), WV (4% 5EV), Minnesota (4% 10 EV), HI (4% 4 EV), WI (4% 10 EV), NM (1% 5 EV) and PA (0% 21 EV). Total is 73 EV. Two are switch states (10 EV).

    McCain has seven states from 20% to 39% (38 EV), ND (19% 3 EV), Indiana (17% 11EV), Arizona (14% 10 EV) and SD (11% 3 EV) for 27 EV.

    Three 10% states (26 EV), three 9% states (25EV), three 8% states (16 EV), NC at 7% (15 EV) and three 6% states (49 EV). And you seriously have to be smoking something to think TX is within 6% for Clinton. Total is 105 EV. Two states are switches from 2000/2004 (OR 6% 7EV) and NH (8% 4 EV).

    CO (5% 9 EV), IA (5% 7 EV), MO (4% 11 EV), WA (2% 11 EV), TN (1% 11 EV) and MI (0% 17 EV) for a total of 66 EV. Three are switches from 2000/2004 (OR 65 7 EV, IA 5% 7 EV and MI (0% 11 EV).

    All in all, Clinton flips 5 states for 63EV and McCain flips four states for 42 EV. 139 EV are in the +/- 5% category.

    Bottom line is Obama vs. McCain have 173 EV in the +/- 5% category and 71 EV in the flip from 2000/2004 category. Clinton vs. McCain have 139 EV in the +/- 5% category and 93EV in the flip from 2000/2004 category. So both of these races are shown to be in contention with the Obama having more marginal EV in contention.

  10. Dorothy says:

    Oregon and Washington in McCain’s column if Clinton wins the Democratic nomination? No way. Oregon and Washington have been and will remain ever so blue no matter who the Republican candidate is.
    I don’t know who the mapmaker was that made that blunder, but there is no way these states will go red.