September 24, 2008
2. Will race sink Obama?
The problem for Democrats is that the last two elections were decided by less than three points, and this year is that close, so even a small racial vote could tip the balance here. As of September 14, the average of national polls complied by RealClearPolitics.com showed the horserace essentially even. Assuming that undecided white voters will break heavily against the black candidate in the privacy of the voting booth, Obama is actually behind right now. As my former boss, CNN Analyst Bill Schneider used to say, any black candidate below 50 percent in late polls in a two-way race is extremely vulnerable.
#8 Is Obamas support too geographically concentrated? Obama will probably carry New York, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia by a total of 5 million votes, but in an electoral-college system where each states winner gets all the states delegates (except in Maine and Nebraska), it wouldnt make any difference if he carried these states by one vote each. If the national popular vote is close, that means that McCain is ahead in most other places: Generally speaking, Republican votes are more efficiently spread across the small states of the Heartland. By carrying battleground states by one percent or less, McCain could win the election without winning the popular vote.
I made point #8 to some friends recently about the popular vote versus the electoral college. States like CA, NY and MA have become even more Democratic the last few years, meaning that a Lamppost-D would probably win a huge majority of votes in those states. However, those votes do not translate to other states, meaning that a handful of states will almost definitely decide the election. I don't have a feel overall on how things will go, but I'll make a stab at a couple of states:
1) Virgina: I predict that McCain will carry the state, albeit by a small margin. Fairfax County, a Democrat stronghold, has grown a lot the last few years. However, polls in VA historically under count that final GOP vote tally by 5%-8% (Dole was behind by a couple of points, but won by 4% against Clinton). Even if that discrepancy is now down to 4%, McCain will almost certainly win the state's electoral votes if polls going into election day show him within 2%-3% of Obama.
2) Colorado: Right now, I think that Obama will probably win the state's electoral votes. If he does not, I think that it's over for Obama. The possibility exists that the debates will cause a shift, or Joe Biden will make another spectacularly Bidenesque gaffe to turn the tide, but I'll go with my gut.
3) Florida: McCain wins here, unless he goes on an axe-wielding rampage in a retirement community.
4) Ohio: It's gonna be close, but I think that McCain wins here as well. Too many 2nd Amendment voters live in that state, I believe, for Obama to win. Also, I think that we could see a 1%-2% Bradley/Wilder (for us VA residents) effect at play.
5) New Hampshire: This one's tight and could go either way. I might change my mind, but McCain is popular in this state and I think that it will flip into the GOP column.
6) Pennsylvania: If the election were today, McCain would almost certainly carry it over the "no clean coal" ticket. Also, there are a large number of blue collar Democrats in the state who appear to be less than fond of Obama, although this group's antipathy will be offset quite a bit by the fact that the state is strongly pro-union. Kerry won PA by a narrow margin over Bush in 2004 and I would normally expect a similar result this year. However, the anti-coal message of the Democratic ticket, the anti-elitist sentiment against Obama, combined with, again, a small Bradley/Wilder effect will flip this state to McCain by a slim, slim margin.
7) The rest of the states remain their election day 2004 color.
That's my political analysis of how the race stands TODAY. How it will look after the debates is anyone's guess. Also, I have way of predicting what national and/or world events might occur before election day that could influence the race. I'll revisit this analysis right before the election and, afterwards, compare it to the actual election results.
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