"The Apocalyptic 8?": Soon, We Find Out...

By Al Giordano

Very soon - within a week or two - we find out if this is really the Electoral College map we're working from in 2008:

On its surface, the pre-convention Electoral College map looks a bit like the Bush-Kerry map of 2004 with the very important exceptions of Colorado, New Mexico and Iowa leaning blue. And what a difference those three states would make: that between victory and defeat.

Now, here's the same map with 19 battleground states in play:

That there are, this late in the game, ten toss-up states and another nine leaners is testimony to the success of Howard Dean's "Fifty State Strategy." Some of them are only in play today because the groundwork has been laid and the new voter registration has been organized for two years now. And note that thirteen of the 19 battleground states went with Bush in '04, compared to only six that went for Kerry: that's a nightmare for the Republican Party to have to defend 13 from "its" territory.

But - with readers asking where they should deploy their efforts - which will emerge as the most prioritized "swing states" in play? Based on the (mostly pre-convention) map, here's what I suspect but am waiting for the new wave of post-convention state-by-state polling, new voter registration numbers, and whispers from Obama Fellows and staffers to their best online confidante, to confirm...

Among "Leaning Obama" states I think Iowa and Minnesota are likely very safe "blue," with Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Oregon almost there, and in that order.

Among "Leaning McCain" states, the Obama field organization and newly registered voters have them each somewhat in play - Georgia, Missouri, Montana, and North Dakota - but each is so far more likely to end up in the "red" column on election day. I'm not saying that Obama supporters should give up on those states - indeed, to capture any one of them would make McCain's defeat all the more likely - but, rather, I'm just saying nobody should count on them to put Obama over the top.

If the post-conventions map stays essentially as it was pre-conventions, then these base numbers - Obama 238 Electoral Votes, McCain 174 - leave Obama 32 Electoral Votes from the goal line whereas McCain would have to grab 96 of the remaining 126 to win the contest.

Among the "toss up" states:

The western troika of Colorado (9 Electoral Votes), New Mexico (5) and Nevada (5) contains three states where Obama's organization is pushing hard and has better chances than not to change the national map, especially since McCain's choice of Palin won't help him with Hispanic-American voters (to whom the Alaska governor might as well be a "Minuteman" loon). They are, together, more important this year than Ohio (20) or Florida (27). Each is a huge priority and offers a great opportunity for the Democrat. In each of them, it's a ground war over which side registers and turns out more votes.

Michigan (17) is where Obama should win but - in large part because there was no real primary opportunity to organize early there and corresponding spike in Democratic voter registration - it is frankly the 2004 "blue" state that should concern the Obama campaign the most. I won't be surprised if in the coming days Chicago shifts its nomadic volunteer focus from Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin to Michigan, at least until the voter registration deadline in Michigan closes on October 5. The McCain-Palin campaign is prioritizing Michigan for good reason; it's potentially their map-changing move.

My gut instinct is that Indiana (11), Missouri (11), North Carolina (15) and Ohio (20) - with apologies to everyone working so hard in those places - are likely to go with McCain (although Ohio is somewhat more in play). That said, if Obama wins in just one of those places, I can't construct a scenario in which McCain could offset it with anything but Michigan, and even doing that might not be enough for the GOP ticket).

So our 18 battleground states really come (mostly) down to eight, in this order of size:

Florida 27

Ohio 20

Michigan 17

Virginia 13

Colorado 9

Nevada 5

New Mexico 5

New Hampshire 4

There you have it: The Apocalyptic 8.

I would place Virginia (13) on the level of the three western swing states: ground zero in the field organization war.

The two wildest of wild cards are New Hampshire (4) and Florida (27). It is in those places that the "air war" of campaign ads and messaging count substantially more than in the rest of the swing states. They also happen to be states filled with people that were not born in them, making them more culturally erratic. New Hampshire is that way because the state is - as anyone that lives there will testify - just plain freaky (we saw in the Democratic primary how its sentiments shifted almost overnight due to a few publicly shed tears, and its higher-than-normal military veteran family base and pride might prove fertile ground for McCain despite the Democratic Party advances there of 2006.

And, as I've said before, Florida is the one "red" state where McCain's choice of Palin as VP might bite him in the ass, pushing elderly Jewish voters (and some coastal small businesspeople dependent on tourism and worried about the impact of offshore drilling on their livelihoods) back into the arms of the Democratic Party from which they have strayed in recent presidential elections, as well as younger Cuban-Americans who are - in large thanks to Joe Garcia - an especially fun wild card. I don't think the Palin pick helps with them and could, likewise, hurt McCain.

In any case, because neither side can rest easy regarding Florida or New Hampshire, each has to construct a victory map that doesn't include either of them. Many Democratic bloggers doing this sort of math seem to take New Hampshire for granted. I don't. (And because they're wild cards, they nonetheless still deserve very high priority status.)

So, if this map holds in the post-convention bounces and counter-bounces, how does Obama get those extra 32 Electoral Votes he needs? The quickest path is to build a firewall around Michigan (17), and then win the three western swing states (19 combined). That would bring him to 274 (even without New Hampshire).

But there are so many more scenarios and winning combinations available for the Democrat this year than there were four years ago. I think 538's index is extremely helpful for those trying to figure out where they will go to do the heavy lifting over the next 8 weeks:

(The "return on investment" index serves as a decent guide of where individual volunteer efforts can have the most impact.)

Here's another factor: There are states where Obama's primary or caucus organization shone so bright that it got a head start and may not need outside help as much: Colorado and Virginia (and "leaners" Iowa and Minnesota, both of which I suspect will soon be considered "safe blue").

There are two states where Obama never got the chance to build an early organization, but McCain did: Michigan and Florida. Outside help is probably of high value there.

There are states where the Obama-Clinton wars upped Democratic voter registration so high that the Democrats are gaining an edge: Pennsylvania, Nevada, New Mexico, and New Hampshire, and another, Ohio, where it's not yet clear if that will help the Democrats in November or not, mainly because the race-baiting may still be causing residual bleeding in the Appalachian counties.

What would I prioritize among these?

First order of importance: Virginia, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada (with out-of-state help focusing on the latter two).

Second order of importance: Building a firewall around Michigan (by registering more voters there before October 5.)

Third order of importance: Wild cards Florida and New Hampshire.

"Hail Mary" pass: Ohio.

Beyond "the apocalyptic eight" - Virginia, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Michigan, Florida, New Hampshire and Ohio - if you're an Obama supporter in any of these next states, you'll want to remain at your post and fight like hell to register new voters (in most, that must be done by October 5): Indiana, North Carolina, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Wisconsin, Missouri Iowa and Minnesota.

There are two Congressional Districts in states that choose Electoral College electors by district that could be in play: Nebraska's 2nd (Omaha and environs, 1 EV)...

 

And Maine's 2nd (Bangor, Downeast and northern Maine, 2 EVs)...

If you are there or near those places, you'll also want to remain at your posts.

(The Maine district has been considered "safe blue," but it's one of those idiosyncratic regions, filled with sportsmen and very rural, where McCain's choice of Palin could give Obama a run for his money.) In fact, I would recommend that all Mainers and Nebraskans - or people with relatives or friends in those places - put on a special push in those districts rather than travel to other states.

Correction: See Mainer's update and correction in the comments section about how Maine's Electoral votes are divvied up. He/she agrees that it's necessary to target CD 2, but corrects that it's not two EVs per district, but, rather, 2 EVs to the statewide winner and one EV apiece at stake in each Congressional District vote.

Those two CDs could end up being tie breakers (you'll note on the top map above that if New Hampshire, alone, switches from blue to red, and nothing else on that map changes, the total will be 269-269, with complete chaos ensuing next).

And there is one crazy wild card state where, if you're already there or near there, I think could provide a positive surprise for Obama: Mississippi. I haven't seen the new voter registration numbers (anybody have them?), but the results of the special Congressional election held there last Spring - where the Democrat won despite race-baiting GOP ads linking him to Obama and his ex-reverend - plus the fact that the Obama campaign was super-organized in the March 11 primary and the state's huge African-American population - have the "celestial choirs singing" into my ear: "remain at your posts!"

I want to stress that these are only preliminary thoughts: I won't start offering more elaborate projections and scenarios until the post-convention state-by-state situation becomes clearer in the middle of this month. But if little changes, we've got "The Battleground 19" and, within them, "The Apocalyptic Eight."

The "Fifty State Strategy" was never so naive as to suggest that come November all fifty states would be in play. But it has succeeded in stretching the swing state map from its precarious obsession with two states - Ohio and Florida - by a factor of 950 percent already. (And particularly in the midwestern plains and mountain west, could still lead to some surprises that, while unlikely, are not out of the realm of possibility: Montana and North Dakota already have the McCain campaign pinned on the defensive, and don't yet write off Kansas, South Dakota, or even Idaho, just sayin'.)

It is an attainable goal that by October 5 Obama could take Michigan off the table. But right now it's McCain's best shot at changing the game. Much of the next four weeks has to be about new voter registration in Michigan, and the results of that will determine whether the Apocalyptic 8 can be narrowed down to seven or less.

Update: I should add that the folks that are running the campaign have better access to internal polling and new registration numbers than anyone, and questions about where you should go are obviously better addressed to them and their field staff than to me or anybody outside of it. For example, despite what my impressions are about Indiana, they seem to be pushing very hard there. Obama was there today, in Terre Haute, laying down the gauntlet:

 

Update II: Any Field Hand that can organize a posse of 30 people - as this emailer did - gets to dress me down this way:

 

Al,

 

You are killing me. I just organized a trip of 30 to Indiana today. You have to reconsider. I guarantee--every state that touches Illinois will be blue come election day.

 

 

Heh.

Comments

Al, Why are you so

Al,

Why are you so pessimistic about Ohio? It was a near win in 2004, now has a popular Democratic governor, and surely Biden has more appeal in the rust belt than Sarah Palin? I thought that the Palin choice makes the situation more difficult for Obama in the West, and easier in the rust belt.

Thanks for this early preview

I have forwarded this to IL folks who are pondering which direction to head to volunteer for the campaign.

Thanks so much Al

 This makes me feel better about my choice to volunteer in NV.

Ohio

Anonymous - As I said before, one factor is that such a large swathe of southeast Ohio is culturally Appalachian - it might as well be Kentucky or West Virginia - and the Ohio primary was particularly polarizing with those voters, with Senator Clinton screeching "shame on you, Barack Obama!" and such.

And, frankly, I don't trust Governor Ted Strickland, even though he's a Democrat, to take the prophylactic anti-fraud measures that, for example, Tim Kaine has applied in Virginia. His support seems lukewarm and borderline suspicious.

Obviously, to win Ohio would be a victorious game-changer for Obama, but I'd warn against making it the obsessive focus it was in 2004. It is a potential path to victory, but it is not the path of least resistance that I see in Virginia and the three western swing states.

As a Californian

It is nice to know that my state can make a difference to swing over and help out turning Nevada blue.

I'll take a lukewarm Dem Governor over Blackwell anyday

What few people know is the amount of trickery that happened with Cleveland and Ohio votes in general in 2004. Our Secretary of State was elected on a platform of improving the vote and making it fairer, so we don't need to fear out and out vote and voter suppression or fraud.

Personally, I think Ohio will turn blue-Cleveland and Cincinnati and Columbus will outdo Appalachian Ohio by miles and miles. The rural vote just isn't that numerous that Republicans could win without fraud last time.

Just a feeling: but I think Montana will flip. It voted for Clinton in 1992 and with a Democratic Governor it should be a narrow but good win.

Nevada is more diverse than even 4 years ago, and is suffering the brunt of the housing and economic crisis. No way they go Republican this time. In fact, in 2000, Al Gore came within 4 points in the polls and narrowly lost the state.

New Hampshire is suburban Boston now, and should at least narrowly go for Obama.

Will be biting my nails for a winning report re Obama.

 

Great insights

And appropriately intense, without being chicken-littleish or concern-trollish.

 

I think this is my first post since you moved from Rural Votes -- since then I have moved from New York to Virginia.  While I was dedicated to working for Obama no matter what, it heartens me a bit to know that my time and effort here may have even more impact than it would in my former home state.

 

Here's to the ground game and to community organizing!  Only two more months left to go.

worrisome

If we need to do all this, in all these states, in a year where the fundamentals are so against the GOP ... it makes me nervous as hell.  Al, do you really think Obama is gonna win Virginia, Colorado and Nevada?  Just because these tossups were red last time doesn't mean McCain is in trouble, in my view.  If Obama loses them all by 2 instead of 10 or 20, we're still sunk.  If this comes down to Colorado late on election night, I might not survive.  And if we lose Michigan?   Death.

Michigan

Doing my duty tonight and heading out on a bar crawl/voter registration event, and I'm taking as many friends with me as will join.

I'll see if I can find some numbers in relation to how many have been registered so far in Michigan or on campus (in Lansing/East Lansing).

What Did You Expect? A Cake Walk?

Nick - If you find any of this "worrisome" it's because you would have been grossly over-optimistic to begin with. What you call "the fundamentals" have been mitigated by the unexpected (from the same media talkers that told you about the so-called "fundamentals") nomination victory of the Republican that is best known for running against Bush in 2000.

And, as we can see on this map, Senator Clinton's negative campaign tactics did inflict some general election harm on Obama, particularly in Appalachia. Most folks that hang around here were noticing that back when it happened.

In your case, it's probably a positive thing that you look at this map and worry. And yes, brace yourself to wait for Mountain Time poll closings (or even Pacific time, in the case of Nevada and Oregon) on election night before you may know the result.

Elections, by definition, are not sure things. Frankly, if Clinton or Edwards had been the nominee, this map would look a hell of a lot worse for the Democrats, with millions staying home and despondent.

Reality based analysis

I like it. Conservative in expectations. A great starting point for the fall campaign. I would much rather be in Obama's shoes than McCain's. According to AP Dems have increased the voting electorate dramatically with the voter registration drive.

Obama will get them out there to vote. He has a good electoral vote base to operate from. After the RNC we have a bigger motivation than ever, and my Dem. friends are feeling it. This is the dark side of the Force, the evil empire we're fighting, the James Dobsons of the world taking control of the nuclear button, worse than W. The stakes are bigger than they have ever been in my lifetime of 60 years.

Love this.

Al, I am right in the middle of writing my diary for about canvassing in Nevada this last weekend. It was an optimistic eye opener.

Small nitpick.

538's Return-on-Investment Index is based on the cost and concentration of tv commercial air time for each state, and so it's a guide to efficient ad buys-- not necessarily the most effective states to push volunteer efforts.

 

If you're wondering where to go...

Call or email Chicago and tell the campaign what time you have available for travel.  If you can go anywhere, tell them that.  And go where they send you.

During the primary season they sent me places I would never have expected.  They have more polling data and more info on the  ground game than any of us.  And so far they've been pretty good at all this. :-)

TV ad buys are indicative of demographics

Dave - What's the practical difference? Of course I know that 538's index is based on that (you seem to imply that I said otherwise, when I said nothing at all about it). TV ad buy prices are determined by how many people are watching in a given market. They also provide as good a measurement as any of "bang for the buck" in terms of "bang for the volunteer hour" and the relative percentage of voters in that state one can reach by, say, going door to door or making phone calls, the same as via TV ads.

If there's a significant differential, I'd like to hear it.

Ohio

I live in the central Ohio area and, despite living in a hugely republican suburb near the University, the number of Obama signs vastly outnumber the McPalin signs. And I agree with the poster above who said something weird went on in the primaries in Cleveland. The African American turnout there was suspiciously low for Obama, and I have to wonder if the late Stephanie Tubbs Jones, and her rabid (bless her soul) support of HRC did have an effect?

Cincinnati, traditionally an ultra conservative town, could go McCain?

But Southern Ohio could very easily be turned around with some campaigning by Strickland, and you're right, Al, he's been far too quiet in his support of Obama. I'm really disappointed in him as he could at least neutralize the Southern Ohio vote, if not turn it to blue with a bit of "vouching for" Obama the way Joe Biden is.

Another disappointing Governor has been Ed Rendell in PA, who swore he was going to work as hard for Obama as he did for Hillary after the primary. Barely heard a peep out of him either, and given Youngstown, OH's proximity to Pittsburgh (and it's media market), he should have some influence on that vote as well.

Obama will get them out there to vote.

Bill, a slight correction WE will get them out to vote ( * _ * )

Cake walks and nail biters

Al - Personally, I was hoping for a blow-out, a landslide, an election as lopsided as 1984, but blue.  I wanted to be complacent, and not have to work too hard this fall. :-)

The good thing about a nail-biter, though, is that Obama's supporters have always come through in tough times.  We gave in the 24 hours after New Hampshire, and again after the Palin speech.  Obama volunteers flooded South Carolina.  And on and on.

I think we'll have a better campaign now that we know it looks tight.  We just have to go out there and keep on going... the goal is in sight now.

I Am Not Grossly Optimistic, but ...

Let's assume that the Obama campaign understands the above and accepts the general look of what is in play and so forth. The whole thing seems to me predicated on the idea that the election will be close.

Here are some possible thngs that might influence that assumption and turn the election into a clear, if not landslide, win for one or the other.

WORST CASE OBAMA

The most obvious would be an incremental and successful campaign by the Rovians based on largely subliminal appeals to fear. This could be aided and abetted by debate losses, random gotcha moments and so forth. The lesson learned is that we did not fight back effectively.

WORST CASE MCCAIN

There is most definitely a smoking Palin gun. The mere willingness of the McCain forces to try to STOP the Troopergate investigation coupled with the High Noon stand off between Palin and the press corps means we are building up to a moment which could work for her or against her. If against, the recession of Palin importance would represent a huge blow to the tenuous McCain cobbling of the campaign into a faux reform model. Even without a Palin meltdown, and I have not touched on every possobility for the same reason that I refused to deal on my blog with similar imputations intil they were admitted, the sheer contradictions within the McCain model of today would create an incremental increase in Obama's fortunes leading to a clear win or landslide.

Another loss harbinger would be health issues relating to McCain.

Another would be his simple inability to escape an umbilical Bush connection.

The John Stewart send up of McCain's big night (JED has it) is practically a Dem. playbook.

The flip side of worst-case Obama could be a serious case of alienation from all things Republican including spiteful impunity politics. This could fuel a simple decency landslide.

In short while it is obvious there needs to be prioritizing for a close and subtle battle,  imponderables can sometimes determine outcomes.

Aran

Strickland and Rendell are Clinton loyalists.  They will do the bare minimum.  Some Clinton loyalists hold the same contempt for Obama that the Clinton and McCain campigns do/did.  Don't expect too much from them as they are looking ahead.

The Dakotas

Al, I disagree that North Dakota leans towards John McCain. I would say that it is the biggest surprise of the entire election, and that it is a 100% bona-fide tossup. The polls are showing a tight race, and Obama even had the lead in one mid-summer sample. The two Dakotas, states that I've lived in for a total of 19 years, are fertile ground for an Obama victory on November 4th.

North Dakota is a particularly rich target because it doesn't have voter registration, which means that anyone who wants to vote can simply show up, present an ID, and cast a ballot! What an amazing opportunity to get Native American reservations, college students at UND in Grand Forks and NDSU in Fargo, Democrats in Bismarck, and senior citizens in the west to the polls.

Many will be quick to dismiss the state because it only has 3 electoral votes, but it's easier and cheaper to advertise in than New Hampshire (which only has 4 EVs, anyway) and it provides a good opportunity for some of the Minnesota volunteers to head to eastern ND now that their state is largely solidified. The religious demographic of North Dakota is heavily skewed towards Lutherans - one of Obama's best religious voting blocs- and he gets a lot of support from mainline ELCA voters.

Local press gave Obama huge front-page stories when he showed up earlier, and they'll do it again if he returns, because ND rarely gets national visitors. He should come again and barnstorm around the state for 2 days. Tellingly, the Obama campaign just opened more field offices. They know they have a shot, and they're coming on strong. Did I mention it's dirt cheap to campaign in North Dakota?

Going late on election night

Allow me to preface this by saying the I want Obama to win in any configuration of states that it takes. I just want him to win. If that means every eastern state goes 100% for Obama and the election is called mid-afternoon, hooray for America.

That said, I have no patience for whining from ANYONE about having to wait until the results from western states come in before the outcome is known. It seems I've spent my whole life having the election be called by the media before our polls even close. Kinda makes people out here apathetic. Apathy is bad for Democrats and bad for change. I can't imagine how pointless voting for president must seem in AK and HI. It's the same kind of whining that gets people agitating to "reform" the primary process and just go to a national primary because they'll "just die" having to wait for each individual state to go through a process. Seriously, just get over yourself.

If I had my way, there wouldn't be ANY announcement until the next morning.

A Landslide is Also Possible

Rachel Q - I'm offering the most conservative analysis I can. Using those same numbers, Obama could also sweep the "toss up" states and would get 364 electoral votes to 174 for McCain. Toss in Montana, North Dakota, Missouri and Georgia - still plausible - and it's a 396 to 142 blow out. Add Mississippi or say a surprise in Kansas, you're talking 400+ electoral votes.

Also possible is a McCain romp: if he got all the "toss up" states it would be 300 to 238, not that far off from the Bush v. Kerry numbers but not the same scale of landslide as the potential Obama has to create one.

It's just too early to tell which way the swing states will swing. If the popular vote is Obama +5, that would lead to an electoral landslide (even though, technically, a popular vote landslide is by definition a lead of 10+ points). But I think projections - even in their infant stages - should remain conservative.

Information about Maine

First an explanation, then a correction and then some information about Maine.

There are 4 electoral votes in Maine. The way the electoral system works in Maine is that whoever wins the state gets two electoral votes. Then the other two evs are allocated based on who won the electoral district. So if one candidate wins the state and both cds, he gets 4 evs. If one candidate wins the state but only one cd, he gets 3 evs.  So with the 2nd cd, two electoral votes are not at stake.

In 2000 and 2004, the 1st cd was strong for the Democratic candidate and the 2nd cd was far closer. The same seems to be true this cycle as well, although the district is also getting a lot of attention because it includes the hometown and current residence of Senator Susan Collins. Allen represents the first district and is less well known and less in tune with certain aspects of the culture in the 2nd cd. So working the 2nd cd is helpful both to Obama and Allen.

Game Changer Few Want to Talk About

I've read accounts online that say McCain doesn't look well. Age 72 and his health challenges combined with the stress of a modern Presidential candidacy are probably taking more of a toll than we know. Even Barack on occasion looks tired after 19 months, and he is in supremely good shape. Before the convention, he was campaigning 5 days a week and one appearance a day. Now he will have to at least double the number of appearances just to keep up with Obama, and cut back on the rest. Now usually a VP helps by making some appearances, but Palin is so bad that she can't help him in that way-she can't even make appearances on her own.

I bet the McCain Campaign sits around him like a worried mother, hoping that there's no health downturn of any sort. Even a cold probably worries them at this point. If America had to even truly consider that Sarah Palin would have to shortly move up to the top spot, that alone might be enough to flip a few states.

overselling FL and underselling MT and OH?

My first impressions are that you may be overselling the case in Florida and underselling Ohio and Montana.

Florida is one of the few states that Clinton would have done better in. It's also one of the states where Obama's choice of Biden will help him and McCain's choice of Palin will hurt him. Nevertheless, I see this mostly being about the top of the ticket here and the demographics of age is a tough nut to crack. It definitely warrants effort, but strkes me as more of a hail mary pass than Ohio. There have been few polls showing Obama with a lead of any size, but several with a solid McCain lead. Maybe these grandparents day cards will help, but fear, age, and experience has a real chance of trumping hope there.

Anything short of a big nationwide victory for McCain will involve a nail-biter in Ohio. Obama definitely has a ceiling as about half the population will not vote for him under any circumstances. But this is a ground game/turnout state. Chanting "Ohio Ohio Ohio" like Russert did in 04 would be foolish (and maybe that's your point), but whichever side turns out the most voters (minus election irregularities) will win here. That's reason enough to keep dumping a large (but not foolishly large) amount of resources in the state.

I see two possible reasons that Montana is off your list. First, I think Palin might really help here. She's obviously eliminated the somewhat longshot of Alaska from contention and Montana is the most Alaska-like of the remaining states. Second is that Montana will turn blue after Colorado turns blue and Colorado has the advantage of its hispanic population. Colorado + either NM or NV is likely to be a victory, but I still think Montana could be an important part of a backup plan if things go poorly in Michigan. There's no Ross Perot in this election, but the state likes Obama far more than it liked Bill Clinton. Plus, this could be the only state in the country where Bob Barr has an actual effect on the outcome.

Idaho

It's the biggest longshot I can think of, but I'll be pushing as much as I can in Idaho since I can't travel much, being a student. But I'm going to try to make it over to Oregon and Montana at various points when I have the money. We're doing tons of voter registration drives on campus this semester, though, so maybe the universities will at least make it closer than it has been for as long as Idaho has been around.

Personally, I'd love to have it flip just to see the looks of pure bafflement on the pundits' faces. The look on Keith's face when Obama won the caucus here by a LOT was priceless.

I'm making plans to relocate for the next two months . . .

This discussion is making me very nervous.  I am like Rachel Q above . . . I was hoping for a blowout.  OK, so I'm back to reality.  I will see about going to either Florida or Michigan since Texas will probably stay red (darnit!!).  I was hoping that we could push the Latino population since they comprise 37.4 percent of the voting population, but looking at Rick Noriega's money v. John Cornyn's (he's outmatched 10-1), looks like we are not rallying that group.  So I'll vote early and pack up to work in a state where I'm really needed.

This all so frustrating for me.  While I'm not as knowledgeable in these matters as most of you guys, it still boggles my mind that people would vote for the SAME PARTY that got us into this mess in the first place.  It should be a clear choice for people--get rid of the culprits that stole our constitutional rights, destroyed the economy, got us in an unnecessary war that saw many of our young people killed or maimed, destroyed our standing in the world, etc., etc.  That should be the overriding argument against ever putting these people back in office again.  We argue about the Palins and the other "symptoms" rather than  what I believe is the true issue--the Republican Party as it is today.  It need to go.  Period. 

View from Appalachia

I haven't commented since the URL switch either, but felt compelled to chime in.

I'm involved with the campaign in Page County, VA, where we have unprecedented enthusiasm for the Democratic ticket this year. Our office is about 9 miles west of the Appalachian Trail, though I admit we've had a significant influx of residents who are escaping the high cost and density of DC, which could skew comparisons with more centrally Appalachian areas.

However, as we call around this very Republican county, we're getting very similar numbers of Obama and McCain supporters, with a huge number of undecided voters. And when those voters share the issues that matter to them, they're almost always the ones that Obama is strongest on.

This week, we've started to see a marked increase in volunteers, as well as more people who say they usually vote Republican, but can't do so this time. Ironically, it's the Republican convention that seems to be triggering better results in our polling, especially Palin's speech. She certainly energized our base, and I don't get the impression that she played well here among independents.

The negatives in Appalachia for us include racism, evangelical dominance in the culture and media, and a recent tradition of voting Republican. However, my gut says that racism is unlikely to tip many voters from Obama or to McCain, as the most racist folks are already voting Republican. Instead, I expect it to keep apathetic voters from making a choice. And, while the culture is dominated by evangelicals, they are not a majority. Finally, this corner of Appalachia is fiercely independent, and many of those Republican voters are more Libertarian in spirit. Obama has strong appeal to those voters, and most of the Libertarians I know intend to vote for him. (They are in utter disbelief that Bob Barr got the nomination.)

We've recently gotten several enthusiastic volunteers who, only two weeks ago, were Hillary holdouts.

I guess all I'm sayin' is don't discount Appalachia. This is an area ripe for the pickin', especially when it comes to voter persuasion. A strong populist message could easily override the negatives we face here. And volunteers in the local campaigns are the best people to carry that message.

What about California...

Al, I love your analysis and it makes perfect sense. As a Californian (and SF East Bay), I have a dilemma. I work a nine to five that is not flexible, I also have a part time gig which is pretty demanding, so time is limited. I have done everything I can by donating regularly and some phonebanking, and just did some weekend voter registration. I live in a heavily Latino neighborhood and met last nite with some community activists who are concerned about getting the vote in this neighborhood. I am hosting a strategy session on the 14th. This is my question: I can manage one weekend to go to Nevada; but outside of that, I'm going to need to stay local. How do I maximize my efforts here where so many people have said to me, "don't worry, California is blue" ... but I keep thinking that each voter is still important, if for no other reason than to get people invested in the process. i will be 60 years old on November 5; I have beautiful brown children and grandchildren. There's not a gift in the world that would rival my ability to give them a future... 

Kathleen Hargan, I live in

Kathleen Hargan,

I live in Florida and i have done some canvassing and what I have noticed is that Latinos say they support Obama but they are enthuastic about him. Is that the same situation in California?

Colorado

that's where the Utah for Obama offices are pouring their resources and voluteers.
for now I volunteered for  the 10 days before Nov 4th of GOTV in CO.

 

 

Virginia registration

Here's a link describing the voter registration drive in Virginia that confirms your assessment of Virginia as a high prospect to flip.

49,000 new Dems in Aug. 36,500 in July, 28, 000 in June. On track to register 150,000 new Dems by Oct. deadline- in addition to the 142,000 new Dem voters in the primary. 290,000 plus Dem voters increase this election year!! That's what you call enlarging the electoral universe.

Kathleen, The comment should

Kathleen,

The comment should have read:

 

I live in Florida and i have done some canvassing and what I have noticed is that Latinos say they support Obama but they are not enthuastic about him. Is that the same situation in California?

Michelle's Jewish connection

This might play well in Florida. It's not a gag.

http://www.forward.com/articles/14121/

Michelle Obama Has a Rabbi in Her Family

Re: TV ad buys are indicative of demographics

Al - One of the components to the Return on Investment Index was the "bleed" factor of tv markets. For example, buying air for northern Indiana effectively meant buying air from Chicago, an expensive and largely ineffective tv market to buy from. Volunteers don't "bleed." (They do, but that's usually fixed with medical attention.) The value of putting your shoe leather to work in Gary is much higher than the value of buying ad time, much higher than the RoII would show.

Helpful analysis

Al, I felt the same thing during Clinton’s assaults that either way this nomination goes, we will pay for this bitterness later. Any way, what is to be done now? Who is the out-of- state-help most affective to help us win Ohio and Pennsylvania – do you think President Clinton would be a big help. I think he has more credibility in addressing economic woos than Sen. Clinton (former popular president). Finally, pardon my ignorance but can you please explain to me this focus on small towns and rural areas. My understanding is urban areas are more populated than small towns. So, why is the McCain campaign putting all of its energy on rural areas?

re hit them all they all can work

the map above that AL shows to win is basically the Gore map plus CO and NH. not much is talked about this but Gore would have won if he had carried NH. they should be ashamed in NH. but I doubt they are.

obviously the electoral weights have changed in 8 years so the Gore map no longer wins with just NH. we need CO or any other battleground state. that is the point we just need one from many. OH or FL is a closer. VA is a closer.

I just can't see MI going red with unemployment at 8%.

McCain has to win all we just need one or two. I like the odds.

Anya, Rural votes can offset

Anya,

Rural votes can offset votes from urban areas.

 

 

Bleed Factor

Dave - Agreed regarding Indiana and that "value of shoe leather" factor would probably raise that ranking some of Virginia (because of the expensive Washington DC market), New Hampshire (ditto with Boston) and Iowa (which is served by Nebraska and Illinois media markets), and around the edges of Ohio (small parts of the population served by West Virginia and Pennsylvania markets). Good point.

Hi from the Reddest State in the Country: Utah

Apparently, the Utah Obama campaign agrees with your assessment. I have already a call to do a Register to Vote trip to Colorado this month; I said YES. It seems nice that Utahns can actually do something to get their candidate elected because this is highly unusual feeling.

I was telling folks while I was in Denver about Utah and that all the work was gearing up for the Utah primary on Super Tuesday, because for the general here, individual votes become extraordinarily lost in the sea of red. As you can imagine, in all my 15 years here, there has been only sporatic presidential campaign ads, billboards and bumper stickers (and FORGET campaign visits from either side). When the national elections roll around, you wouldn't know it living here. (PS: I know that is much else to do otherwise in registering, working etc on a local level; the point here is the national level elections in Utah).

However, what you point out above really brings home the difference between this and past presidential elections. I know I am used to NEVER being able to make any difference at all here BUT Utahns are being asked to go to neighboring states, and that is a great feeling. It does start making one think individual efforts can help.

So, I can feel the effects from a) the Obama campaign and b) what you write about Al - the 50 state strategy. Great News.

And, I was on the nation's highest ranked alternate music radio station and its' number one morning show for under 35 in the region on Friday. Ok, I do it every Friday morning... but was surprised when the hosts took extra time out of the show to ask about my visit to Denver. They took extra time also to ask about Obama's economics in my opinion. This would have reached 10-20 thousand listeners at a minimum. I had my Denver "flair" on - that great big blue button that says: "Ask Me How Many Houses I Own." That was a big hit.

Micheline

Thanks for the explanation!

Lost Causes

Maybe some more knowledgeable Field Hands can help me out here, and I'm certainly no political strategist, but why is Obama focusing so hard on Missouri? Missouri to me just seems like a giant sinkhole. I know it's hard to poll and that Obama pulled of a brilliant upset in the primary when St. Louis came in late, but I just don't see how he wins the state.

Other states like MT and ND could be easily winnable with the effort that's being wasted (no offense to anyone who's working their heart out there) on a state that's been the Republcian equivalent of New Jersey. NJ always looks good to the GOP until about 15 days before election day, and then the Dem support coalesces and they win big. IMO, Missouri is our New Jersey - it's a giant tease that won't turn blue unless there's a landslide.

I mean, Obama has dozens of field offices, 150+ paid staff, millions of dollars of ad time and several visits, and he's still down by 10 points.

I think they need to get the hell out of MO focus on some winnable states. NC keep, because it's close to Virginia and could possibly be won. IN keep, because media spills over into OH and MI and it's cheap. Unless their internal polls are great, I don't know why they're wasting their time in Missouri. It's just not there for them.

From CA, I believe we're going to take NV

My husband went to the opening of the Northern California field office Thursday night. (I stayed home with a fussy baby, who only slept after McCain started speaking.) I was astounded to hear his estimate of 500 people, spilling out into the street until the police arrived and got them onto the sidewalk. I was thinking maybe 50-60 people would show up.

DailyKos has a diary (not by us):

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/9/4/22450/85438/573/587271

They handed out flyers which basically said GO TO NEVADA, NOW. They had 3 weekends organized in September, Southern Californians to Las Vegas and Northern Californians to Reno and Carson City. If you can't go in you can phone bank, but with a less than 4-hour drive from the Bay area to Reno, about the same from LA to Vegas and the weather cooling this month, I bet a lot of folks head over. Oregon was also listed as a possibility, but not as strongly at all.

 

Pinning down the rival

BlueSD - The fact is that the Obama campaign has enough millions to play hard in some states more likely to go to McCain precisely in order to force McCain to spend time and money there to defend them.

Remember that they've got staff in all 50 states, and have staffed up in Montana and North Dakota, too, probably at comparative "per capita" levels as in Missouri. When you have two million donors it's no longer a matter of spending one place at the expense of another, but, rather, in addition to the other.

And Missouri's proximity to Illinois along with the general midwest strength of the candidacy does make it, like Indiana, a potential for a surprise.

The past two elections ('00 and '04) were atypical in that the state by state results were so symmetrical. If you click back through the maps for 1996 and 1992 (where the Ross Perot factor upset the apple cart) you see a much different map. If you click the Reagan-Bush I elections, you see a very different map. Remember that Carter beat Ford in '76 while losing California, Oregon and Washington (but winning Texas and Florida!). The map changes radically with each new generation. Don't start to think that the results of the last two presidential elections are all that determinative for this one.

The Jimmy Carter Map

KD

Uncharted Territory

For the first time in my lifetime, its the Democrat who has more money, far more money than the Republican who is taking public funds. How that will play out we probably won't know until next week when McCain has run through his primary money and now has to rely on his limited public funds. When that happens I think we will know just where McCain has to spend his limited funds. Also, about money: big Dem donors can now give freely to all levels of the ticket, so Obama will get some, the Senate will get some, everybody else will get the rest.

People talk about the 527's, but it's pretty late to ramp up efforts either financially or organizationally. Obama's been at it for a year, his fundraising and his offices long at work. The Republicans have mostly sat on their hands and now have to do a rush job to put up something in 60 days through the churches. Late efforts-said by this procrastinator-is never as good as early and long efforts in quality and thoroughness. Palin's absence won't help here either if they are counting on her to rally the religious right troops.

To sum it up, I believe Obama's strategy is like the primaries: force McCain to burn through his money and then lay down the baseball bat in October between McCain's shoulders for the win.

 

New Hampshire

Thanks so much for this post Al.  I recently moved from Virginia to Vermont and was moping about the fact that I wouldn't be in VA to help it turn blue, but I can see from your post and the comments that NH is also important.

@Kathleen Hargan - I think you asked what if you are in a blue state but can't travel much, how can you help.  You should go to your local  office, because a lot of the phone banking (at least that is how it is in Vermont), is calling Obama supporters in Vermont to ask them if they can volunteer.  And maybe these folks can travel.  It's all about building the web.  A giant pyramid scheme.  Hee hee hee.

KD

That one Maine electoral vote is important

I'd like to reiterate Al's point that the single electoral vote from Maine's 2nd cd is important. In 2004, Bush visited twice and Edwards visited once. In 2000, there were visits from Bush and Lieberman.  (I guess that tells you that the Democrats saw it as a slightly lower priority than the Republicans). Karl Rove said after 2000 that if it were not for the DUI story breaking -- which broke in the Maine newspapers quite hard the weekend before the election, because the DUI happened in Maine -- that he thought they would have won the 2nd cd.

As per the rest of the country, Obama is out organizing McCain in the state and, from what I hear, lots of new volunteers are streaming in and they are being put to work. And the Senate race, which is part of the coordinated campaign is heating up, too.

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About Al Giordano

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Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.

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