The Electoral Map and Math
John McCain and Barack Obama
Today is election day in the United States of America. Most public opinion polls are showing either a statistical dead heat or predicting that Democrat Senator Barack Obama will narrowly defeat Republican Senator John McCain in the race for the White House. National public opinion surveys also suggest that Democrats will enlarge their majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. However, four years ago, many exit polls inaccurately predicted a win for Democrat Senator John Kerry over incumbent Republican President George W. Bush. As of Tuesday afternoon, the presidential contest appears to be close, not necessarily in the popular vote count but in state by state races.
Russians and other foreigners may not be aware of how the American presidency is decided. The winner is not determined by the margin of popular votes cast for a particular candidate nationwide, but by whichever ticket gathers the most delegates from the electoral outcomes in all 50 U.S. states. This article explains where the American election is most likely to be decided.
This particular electoral map features the number of delegates for each state and pre-election day projections on which candidate will carry which state. The red states are likely to go to McCain, and the blue states to Obama.
As has been the case in the last two elections (2000, 2004), only a handful of American states are "in play" or "battleground" areas for both major political parties this year. Today the key swing states appear to be Florida, Virginia, Ohio, New Mexico, and Colorado, with Missouri and North Carolina also perhaps in play. Winning or losing any particular combination of those states to reach the magic number of 270 electoral votes first will determine who wins. Few analysts or pollsters expect a near-tie at the finish line in Florida like the disputed 2000 cliffhanger between George W. Bush and Al Gore.
So far, Obama appears to have more states already in his column out of the gate, giving him some advantages over McCain. Nonetheless, eight years ago, several news networks predicted a Gore win in Florida prematurely, before the polls closed in the Central Time Zone counties of the northwestern Florida panhandle. News anchors such as CBS news Dan Rather were embarassed when they had to retract their predictions as new returns came in from Florida polling places. The U.S. news networks did not repeat this mistake in 2004, and are not likely to do so in 2008.
Turnout appears to be high at polling places in both Republican and Democrat-leaning districts across the country. More than likely, by the time the sun is up over Moscow tomorrow (around 11:30 PM Eastern Time in the U.S.), both Russians and Americans will know who the next President of the United States will be.