The Field Projects: Obama, 307 Electoral Votes, McCain 231
By Al Giordano
November 4, 2008 - it begins a few hours from now - brings an extraordinarily difficult Electoral College map for those of us in the habit of trying to project election results.
We can thank Howard Dean and his fifty-state strategy for making it so.
There are armies mobilizing to get out the vote for Obama in Indiana, Georgia, Missouri and, of course, Florida and Ohio - states that I've projected "red" here - that very well might prove the projection map I've posted above to be too conservative. (Just as there is a certain unpredictability in Montana, North Dakota and even in South Dakota - or Arizona! - that could turn them blue this year.)
But I do sense that people are getting ahead of themselves, much too swayed by the polls, without reading them carefully enough.
The sheer inertia of history works against the suggestion, now projected, that Democrats have, over four short years, made up a twelve point deficit in North Carolina, an eight point deficit in Virginia, and a five point deficit apiece in Colorado and Nevada.
And yet it is so.
I have leapt North Carolina and Nevada ahead of other states where Obama has been polling better than in those places because the combination of changing demographics in these growing states , new voter registration numbers and early voting totals, I believe, will place them in Obama's column. Very similar demographic and organizing factors were at work all year in Colorado and Virginia.
If you ask me, "was there any state you almost marked blue, Giordano, but at the last moment you balked?" I hinted at it this morning: for the same demographic and early-vote count reasons as the four I've just mentioned: It is Georgia.
(I likewise think that Obama, while not winning a majority in them, will surpass his polling averages through much of the deep South: Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina and Alabama, in particular. And if this does turn out to be a Reagan-sized landslide - I'm certainly not saying that's not possible - don't be surprised if one or more of those impossible states turns blue.)
You'll also note that my previously stated qualms are calmed about Maine's Second Congressional District - Obama will win it - and I think Obama will surprise and win Nebraska's Second Congressional district, two of five CDs in the country that offer a sole Electoral College vote.
And as for McCain's targeted blue states - Pennsylvania and New Hampshire - I'm convinced Obama has turned the corner in both places, although his margin of victory will likely be closer than the polls suggest if only because McCain has dropped a disproportionate amount of his resources into those states.
Now, what about Ohio and Florida? It is true that Obama leads in the polls in both big states. FiveThirtyEight.com projects Obama with an 80 percent likelihood of winning Ohio and a 64 percent likelihood in Florida.
But while this year is demonstrating to America and the world that a new country is emerging from the ashes of the old, there are segments of older populations in Florida and Appalachia (which includes a significant swathe of Ohio) whom I believe, based in part on my reporting from the ground, that pollsters have marked as "undecided" or "won't tell" but whom will vote - however unenthusiastically - for McCain. (Most of them are among those that always vote: I don't buy the idea that low spirits will keep them home tomorrow.)
And the difference in some states, once again, might be found - particularly in Ohio, Florida and Missouri - in the very small number of "liberal" voters that vote for Nader (some of whom, sadly, out of a liberal form of racism that they don't recognize when they look in the mirror). Just sayin'. For Obama to win Missouri, for example, the Nader vote has to collapse to near zero.
An interesting point of trivia: If this exact projection comes true it will be the first time in memory that a president won the White House without the support of Missouri. (The Show Me State - whom I pretty much alone projected for Obama prior to the February 5 primary - was kind to my projection last winter. I was tempted to bet on her again but in the end I try and make these calls coldly and rationally without nostalgia or superstition.)
Another point of trivia: Remember Senator Clinton campaign's argument last spring for how its candidate could win the general election? It was to win all the Kerry states plus Arkansas and either Ohio or Florida. I would not want to be a Democrat today looking at that narrow path to victory.
Now, you might be in one of those states working to exceed my projection, and to you I say: prove me wrong. Please, you won't make me mad or disappoint if you do. I do think it will be very close in some of those states. And if you demonstrate over the next 24 hours that I am wrong, I'll have the joy and gratitude of the teacher or organizer who can then claim that his students surpassed him in his field.
A 307 Electoral Vote victory - in which Obama exceeds 50 percent of the national vote - may not meet the much higher projections of many respected colleagues. But - no doubt - it would nonetheless be a gargantuan Electoral College landslide: exceeding George W. Bush twice for Electoral Votes and Bill Clinton twice in the popular vote, by a significant amount in all cases. And, frankly, 307 Electoral Votes would have the exact same effect as 270 or 400: a win is a win is a win, and yes, you did.
If Florida and Ohio don't make the leap this year, will the press proclaim the existence of a "Bradley Effect"? Probably. But it won't precisely be that - these are not voters that lied to pollsters claiming they would support Obama and then went back on their word. And this sub-group of voters is restricted mainly to two regions - Appalachia and Florida - which are demographically older than the rest of the country.
On the other hand, Obama's projected victory south of the Mason-Dixon line in Virginia and North Carolina, and his near-victory in Georgia (with coattails likely sending the US Senate race there into overtime and a December re-vote), will create a new narrative that will twist up the little pea brains of the Caucasian pundit class. It will be important to the narrative to focus on that in the post-election spin. (And I hate to put this in such blunt terms, but four-and-even-two-years from now, a lot of the voters that couldn't evolve quickly enough this year, well, they'll have finished out their natural years by then and no longer will be voting: and some of the survivors among them will have seen their fears morph into a surprised hope because of the policies to be enacted that will benefit them.)
There is a gray area between those that think America can't or won't change and those who seem to think that change must occur absolutely or it's time to do a Chicken Little dance. But that is not how history generally occurs. The page of history turns because people organize and struggle to make it so. That's what has just happened, and is about to be ratified.
There could well be a better result than I have projected for Obama tomorrow night. And, yes, there could be a massive landslide. And every point higher than 307, if it comes, will be celebrated as greatly as number 270.
But I also happen to think that 307 is a very nice number, and that only this candidate could have pulled it off for the Democrats.
This has been a year to remember forever. Carry it through to its conclusion and if you're going to prove me wrong, you know on which side of 307 I'm secretly hoping you will do it.
And once you've done it, don't go away, please: we've got lots more work to do.
Update: I was just watching MSNBC here in Florida, and this ad came on the air with Paul Simon singing "American Tune." I started screaming at the TV set: "Oh no! What product did Paul Simon sell his song to? I'll kill him!"
Then when the "product" logo comes on at the end, my mom and my gal laughed at me:
As much as I dislike independent 527 ads in general, I thought this one, in specific, worked.