If you haven't already, you should start reading a website called FiveThirtyEight. I can't speak on his methodology for analyzing polling numbers (I can say Nate Silver does similar work for Baseball Prospectus), but his commentary tends to be spot on. For example his overview the makeup of Illinois, which includes this gem "Jubilation if and when Obama wins the Presidency, culminating in a rally in Chicago's Grant Park that may draw one million souls. It's not a Cubs' World Championship, but most Illinoisans will take it; what kind of odds could you have gotten in 1908 that a black dude would get elected president before the Cubs won the Series again?"
Or, this one for Katie, which had I told her when we first meet, she might have dismissed me outright "When we ran Illinois through our similarity score matrix, one of the first states that came up was California. The comparison seems counterintuitive at first, but each state contains a similar mash-up of demographics, of city, suburb, sprawl, and farmlands, and the two states have voted with one another every year since 1964."
Of course he doesn't have it quite right, Lake County is indeed one of the most wealthy areas around Chicago and in Illinois, but wealth does not always equate to Repubilcan. For pure Republican pull, Dupage county is where it is at.