I've been obsessively tracking four electoral vote websites since May, watching the results while compiling a spreadsheet with a graph showing the ups and downs of the predicted electoral votes over the past four and a half months.
I harvest the data from Real Clear Politics (which is definitely right-leaning), Electoral-Vote.com (which is just as skewed as RCP, but to the left), electionprojection.com (ran by a hard core Christian... who was more accurate in 2004 than RCP or Electoral-Vote), and CNN's electoral calculator (which has solid data, but doesn't project any toss-up states beyond the brutally obvious... making the race look like it's somehow tighter than it is).
I use these four sites, because I exclusively used electoral-vote.com back in 2004... and then I discovered that it wasn't nearly as accurate as I hoped when it came to projecting the final results of the election. Kinda embarassing when the evangelical Christian's website (serving up political commentary with an eye towards scripture...) was more accurate than a lefty computer science professor.
Anyway, when you look at the data, there are several big trends. First is Obama being a hundred electoral votes ahead during the summer. Republicans still hated McCain and despite the Hillary leftovers, Obama could do no wrong. August saw Obama's EV lead evaporate because McCain got off the straight talk express and slung mud like never seen before. Obama took the high road, was slow to attack back, and as such his lead was smashed to peices, and for a brief period of almost a week, John McCain took the lead in the EV count. The Democratic convention helped return Obama back on top, but the Republican convention (and Palin's unveiling) pretty much cemented Obama's electoral vote lead to about about ten points. What really changed the dynamics of the race was the bailout bill and the growing awareness that the economy was tanking. A few days of Obama doing better in the polls was coupled by the overall realization that Obama always scores better with voters when the topic is the economy. Given that Republicans hate the idea of the government "socializing" Wall Street, and that McCain was for it, he really paid the price for that support in the polls.
Right now, Obama's lead is farther than McCain's than at any time during the race. In fact, while 129 electoral votes are up for grabs in states that are polling within 5% for either candidate, Obama currently has a 190 EV lead. Not too shabby. Of course, we have 28 days to go, so really anything could happen. Obama's lead can evaporate as quickly as he gained it... but honestly, I'm optimistic that if trends continue, Obama will win by a wide margin... and most likely have at least 57 senators (and a large majority of the House) backing him up in Washington. Get ready for one party politics again, the ancient eighty year old liberals on the Supreme Court to be replaced by younger fifty year old liberals, and the Democratic agenda/steamroller being the subject of republican talk radio for the next two years.
Then again, tomorrow is the second debate, and Obama could admit to being a gay terrorist who will cede America's power to Osama Bin Laden. Unless something like that happens, it will probably take that for McCain to win this election.