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Posted by mb7588a in General Discussion: Presidential (Through Nov 2009)
Mon Sep 15th 2008, 04:54 PM
Regardless of the fact that we shouldn't even have to be trying to win this race (Do your damn job, MSM!), the Constitution requires we focus on the Electoral Map to secure the win. I took off my partisan hat, and put on my political scientist hat for this analysis. Going back too far in time is not useful for this type of analysis, so I went only as far as 2000. I hope everyone finds it useful and has something to add.

The map, when blank, looks like this:

Basic principal: It takes 270 to win. Bush "received" 271 Electoral Votes (EVs) in 2000 for the win. Gore was not able to keep several states on the Democratic side that had gone for Clinton in 1996. Bush's "victory":

In 2004, Kerry received 252 EVs. Only three states switched their vote to the other party. Bush successfully flipped Iowa and New Hampshire, but lost New Mexico. Along with changes in the EV distribution due to the 2000 census, Bush netted 15 more EVs than in 2000. The census currently works against Democrats in national elections. However, the party has done well reaching into emerging Democratic markets and there is a lot of room for growth (discussed briefly at the end) in coming elections.

It is highly likely that Obama will win all of Kerry's states (Note: MN, MI, NH, PA will require substantial resources, but polling evidence doesn't really show them as serious battlegrounds at this point.). This is a significant starting point, seeing as most of the states are safely Democratic and almost none are ripe for Republicans to pick from us:

So, the question remains, what are Obama's paths to victory? To find this answer, we must ask, more accurately, what are Obama’s easiest and quickest paths to 270? Anything beyond that is extra credit as far as the Constitution is concerned. So, here we go!

The quickest path would be through one state - Ohio. This is where Kerry placed his eggs (along with Florida) but was defeated rather handily regardless of running the same ads and ground game that he successfully ran in MI, WI, MN and IA. Democrats have hopefully learned from Kerry’s experience that mounting expensive and time-consuming elections in only a couple of big states is not necessarily the best path to victory, though it may be the easiest. One could also make an argument for turning to Florida, but that is a higher mountain to climb than Ohio.

Since Ohio and Florida are difficult one trick EV ponies to wrangle, Obama must disregard the Kerry strategy.

Obama must first add a win in Iowa. This victory is almost certain for him. Kerry lost here by 10,000 votes in 2004. Obama knows how to organize the state and has done so quite successfully once already this year. Democrats destroyed Republicans in turnout there on January 3rd and there's no reason they won't do so again in a state that has been economically depressed because of the early summer floods and other economic issues. This would bring Obama's total to 259 EVs (252 Kerry states + 7 from Iowa).

This leaves a remainder of 11 necessary for 270. Where can Obama get it?

To get victory via only one state, Obama can turn to Ohio or Florida, again. We know both are difficult and not worth the investment because of Kerry’s failure. Virginia is a state that is ripe for Democratic picking. After this cycle, it will have switched from two Republican senators and a republican governor to two Democratic Senators and a Democratic governor all during George W. Bush’s term. That is impressive and nearly unprecedented electoral. With Mark Warner to thank for much of the swing, and his being on the ballot there this cycle, Virginia is Obama’s most likely place to win the 11 necessary for 270.

Without winning Virginia, Obama has a couple other paths to victory. Obama could win CO plus one of NM, NV, MT. Or, Obama could win NM + NV + MT.

I have identified 7 paths for the quickest possible Obama EV victory. I rank them below in order of likelihood based on current polling trends:
1. Kerry States (252) + IA (7) + VA (13) = 276
2. Kerry States (252) + IA (7) + CO (9) + NM (5) = 273
3. Kerry States (252) + IA (7) + CO (9) + NV (5) = 273
4. Kerry States (252) + IA (7) + CO (9) + MT (3) = 271
5. Kerry States (252) + IA (7) + NM (5) + NV (5) + MT (3) = 272
6. Kerry States (252) + IA (7) + OH (20) = 279
7. Kerry States (252) + IA (7) + FL (27) = 286

The 2004 map was blue only on the fringes. It used to be that electoral maps were deciphered by geography, see 1880 ( ) and 1908 for two of the best examples ( ). Political scientists have also traditionally looked at the 38th parallel for national election predictions. Currently, Obama is not doing well enough at and north of the 38th parallel. This is especially true in Northern Virginia, St. Louis and Denver. Today, however, geographic analysis is not enough to predict election results. One must examine and consider the urban vs. rural difference and demographics. Most of the states with a higher urban population (CA, NY, IL, etc.) have gone for the Democrats of late. TX, FL, OH are exceptions to this rule for reasons that have not been well examined. In future elections, Democrats need to capitalize in more of the states that have an emerging urban population – VA, CO and NV, for example. Some of these states may not yet be ready to vote for a Democrat, but Obama only needs a couple of them this time. The urban vs. rural difference is not the only emerging prediction tool – one can also look at governors’ success in the Rocky Mountains and successes in the 2006 Senate races. Democrats must also look at repeated successes in progressive Congressional Districts in the upper Midwest (West and Northwest Wisconsin, for example.) to try to find electoral programs that work in rural areas.

Obama will have a difficult, though not impossible, task in finding 11 EVs. He has to switch Virginia to blue, or a combination of other states. From here, we have to closely watch the polls in IA, VA, CO, NM, NV, MT, and OH. These are Obama’s MUST WIN states in the above stated combinations. While I call this a difficult task for Obama, it appears that the polling trends are not on McCain’s side in scenarios 1, 2 and 3. McCain will not likely be able to stop the Democratic wave in Iowa, Virginia and Colorado. While the popular vote will be within 3 million votes again, and will favor either candidate, a McCain electoral victory is nearly impossible. His strategy to pluck MI, MN or PA to stop Obama is not going to be successful. He is playing a major EV defense and only a minor offense. Obama does not have to play as much defense. I predict this gives him the advantage in his easy paths to 270.
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