Back before the financial crisis exploded into the national conscience, I did an electoral projection based on how I saw the states breaking at that time. Going off of the 2004 electoral map, I gave Barack Obama all of John Kerry’s states as well as Iowa, New Mexico (the two states that flipped red in 2004), and Colorado, and didn’t think John McCain could turn another state in his favour. If the election broke down that way, Obama would win the electoral vote 273-267, and thus the presidency. You can imagine my surprise, then, when late last night word broke that the McCain campaign was giving up on all of those states. This would be election suicide, were it not for the fact that apparently McCain is figuring on being able to give up on those votes by stealing Pennsylvania’s 21 electoral votes. However, not only does Obama have a double-digit lead in Pennsylvania in most polls, but even if McCain sees something in Pennsylvania that no one else is seeing and he takes the state, he would still have to hold on to all of the Bush 2004 states, and he’s trailing right now in Nevada, Missouri, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida, and in many of those states by significant margins. I just don’t see how that could possibly happen, barring an October or November Surprise of epic proportions.
The only thing that troubles me about the Obama campaign’s approach right now is that instead of shoring up their leads in those states, they’re expanding their reach into states like West Virginia and Kentucky. I don’t want to discount the possibility of Obama taking any of those states, but his positions in some of those states is not ironclad; some polls have McCain well within the margin of error now in Florida and Ohio. There are a lot of factors that we just can’t take into account right now — undercounting of youth voters in polls, the Bradley effect, the tendency of young voters to not show up in the numbers that they appear they’ll show up in before the election — but Obama can’t afford to take any state for granted at this point, and it feels like that’s what his campaign is doing by concentrating ad buys in states where he’s still down more than five points with just two weeks to go until the election.
I’m still curious as to how the Senate race will go. Assuming the Democratic candidates win in Alaska, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Oregon — where they’re leading, albeit by small margins — and get the four that they’re pretty much assured of having, they’d only need to steal one more seat to get a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, which would really facilitate getting legislation passed in the next congress. There are three seats where the Democratic candidates are in striking distance — Kentucky, Georgia, and Mississippi (Roger Wicker’s seat) — and if McCain’s fortunes continue to diminish, I have to believe that the presidential candidates might turn attention to those states, and possibly Minnesota if it remains close, to try to influence the Senate election. I’d imagine that the Democratic party leaders are probably even more interested in retaking the old Max Cleland seat than the old Paul Wellstone seat, so maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that the Democrats and Obama might be putting more resources into Georgia for the next two weeks.