Monday, September 1, 2008

Welcome to the War Room, Sept. 1st Ed.

I don't know about anyone else, but personally I'm almost as sick and tired of writing stories about Sarah Palin as I am about reading them--especially now that some mainstream media outlets are suggesting that Palin's storm-surge of sanctimonious hypocrisy earlier today actually helps her with Evangelicals. Truly unbelievable, folks. Clearly I needed a break from machinating on the infuriating reality that someone who was running for a PTA seat when John Kerry was running for President, could in a few short months be President. I had to quit thinking about this while I still had fingernails left to pull out during the Vice Presidential debate next month.

Fortuitously, it's a good time to set all of this nonsense aside for a spell, specifically to saunter across the cyber-studios here at Cinema Democratica, and have ourselves a gander at our old friend the electoral college map--especially hard on the heels of the news that Obama has opened a plump little national lead and, if the crosstabs are right, that it's a lead that might not even be a "bounce," but may instead represent a structural improvement in Obama's support among independents.

...Okay, I have a confession to make before this goes any further: I'm pacifying myself with this exercise.

For the first time in over forty years, the structural elements of the election all favor the Democrats--from ground-game to banked voter database to fundraising to depth of party identification and all the way back around to enthusiasm to vote for one's candidate, Mr. Obama holds a clear and, in some cases, logistically insurmountable advantage, and this advantage has real-world implications in the very real-world of electoral votes. Even when a rapid-fire series of news cycles starts falling McCain's way (though a cynic would say that the besotted network news editors may have been giving some of them a nudge or two), a staunch Democrat like the Key Grip can always take a deep, cleansing breath and return to the internal polling data on a state-by-state basis, lighting up maps that haven't looked this blue since one Republican incumbent said "I'm not a crook" and left, after which a second one said "Poland is in Tierra De Fuego," and pardoned the first one.

To begin with, the Key Grip sees no reason -- no reason -- to buy the McCain camp's internal numbers suggesting that even a single John Kerry state is in danger of flipping. And really, let's face it folks: when a thrice-decorated war hero can spend the whole summer and fall lying flat on his stomach for charges ranging from non-patriotism to looking French, followed by four years of the sort of dissatisfaction we've been saddled with by his incompetent campaigning, it seems vanishingly unlikely that any state plumping for Frenchy Swiftboat in '04 would now somehow turn around and decide that what it really wanted was to put Sarah Palin behind Teddy Roosevelt's desk. (Damnit! I promised I wasn't going to fume about this anymore!)

So with the Kerry states, Obama sits comfortably on 252 with nothing to lose. That much gets us a map that looks like this:

...courtesy, incidentally, of my good friends over at 270 to win, which is a terrific way to burn-up an hour of work time, even before one discovers the "simulation" section.

Clearly Senator Obama does not get to the White House with 252 electoral votes any more than John Kerry did, but his "secure" states actually extend a little further, in my view--specifically to Iowa, where an unusually informed and participatory electorate ("first in the nation," and all that noise) is galvanized in opposition to Mr. McCain, owing to his opposition to ethanol. New Mexico, likewise, is polling double-digit leads for Team Obama, though the dynamic behind this breakout is far less straightforward to explain. Perhaps McCain's reversal on immigration reform? Who can say. Point being, with Iowa and New Mexico added to Kerry's total, Senator Obama clocks-in at 264:

So far, so good, right? All the way to 264 without calling up the ground troops, the field offices, the banked text-message voters? Without all the MONEY? Yes. Of course it's good. But the fun of an exercise like this is inversely proportional to its silliness, too. Anyone can go to an electoral map site and award New York to John McCain or present Obama with Utah. Not a very satisfying experience, speaking only for myself. We need to turn some states red that we'd really rather see blue--if only to improve our barometer on just where this whole thing stands.

For starters, lots of people have invested lots of energy talking about Florida, but I live in Florida and, sorry fellow Obama supporters, it ain't gonna happen. Besides, it's a frightfully expensive state because of all the different media markets, it has too many different constituencies that would need to be appeased for the state to "flip," and, above all, Florida might be the only state in the Union in which McCain's skin cancer and hideously swollen left gland actually help him, rather than hurt. At all events, paint Florida a shade of red that would only look good on Katherine Harris' toenails, until further notice.

Missouri, too, is going to be a steep uphill climb, despite recent victories by Claire McCaskill and the like. With McCain running hard-life at Saddleback (and especially now that he's chosen a -- wait a minute, I promised! -- running mate), on November 4th Missouri will look about as blue as my blood, folks. And that ain't blue.

I love playing with the idea of Congressman Heath Schuler helping tip North Carolina by the slimmest of margins, and after all Libby Dole is without question in the fight of her life to keep a Senate Seat that she had about as much claim to as I did, at least in terms of residence, but even with the reverse coattails I don't think a recently energized hate-and-switch crowd will let the state of legalized bear hunting slip away.

Our map, you'll notice, is coming into focus:

If I'm right about all of this (and who would still be reading if I wasn't?), then Obama sits solidly on 264, all but impervious to conventions, debates, and the fickle winds of electoral current events, while Old-Man-POW and his sidekick Annie Yokley are on 227.

And why is that so much fun to think about, on this evening when almost nothing else is fun to think about? Because, you see, of the remaining four states--Virginia, Ohio, Colorado and Nevada--McCain must win all four of them. Even if Obama wins Nevada and cedes the other three (something he and his steely-eyed campaign whiz-kids have no intention of doing), the race ends up at 269-269 and Obama takes it in the House. There is even significant talk (though for now it is unconfirmed), that the Obama people are so electorally savvy that they will invest maximum effort into snaring a tiny sliver of Nebraska, along a corridor from suburban Omaha to Lincoln, thus netting a single electoral vote and putting them squarely on 270 under worst-case conditions.

Obviously there is much electioneering to be done and many hills left to climb. McCain has proven nothing if not resilient to his own best efforts to sabotage his candidacy, he and his fellow angry white guys were just handed a Gustav-sized reprieve from canceling their four-day hatefest, and Obama has--just in case anyone has completely forgotten--recently strapped himself to a Syracuse-Law-educated time bomb that goes home every night to Delaware on the train.

But the message is unmistakable, and it should be received in all quarters as stirringly good news for Team Obama, and for the fate of the larger country in which they've already run so well and so smartly and with such class and poise. Indeed, of all the many things have already changed, in this election cycle, the one thing--as this exercise shows--that hasn't changed, is that this year the White House is Barack Obama's to lose.

Dave O'Gorman
(The "Key Grip")
Gainesville, Florida

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