Wednesday, September 24, 2008

With Colorado, Obama Crosses 270 (Almost)

Regular readers will recall a column from a few days ago in which I took the interactive map on and variously lit- and un-lit its states according to those that were projected as "safe DEM" or "likely DEM" (blue), "safe GOP or likely GOP" (red), and "leans DEM" or "leans GOP" or "tossup" (still un-lit). At that time, still mid-way through the state-by-state polling reaction to the Wall Street meltdown, the tally I came up with was an impressive 260 for Mr. Obama: all the Kerry states, minus New Hampshire, plus Iowa and New Mexico, solidly in his column.

Moreover, the list of un-lit states was for Mr. McCain alarmingly widespread and, in most cases, traditionally solid for Team Chickenhawk--ranging from Florida and Virginia in the east, to Montana and Nevada in the west, and passing along the way through several states without any one of which McCain is placing a congratulatory phone call on November 4th instead of receiving one. In all, McCain could only count on 170 electoral votes, by the rubric I'd employed to light my map:

We may also recall that state polling of this sort is notoriously laggard, by its very nature--and that even as Mr. Obama's bounce in the national polls seemed to have topped out or at least paused to catch its breath (about which much more, anon), the earlier column suggested that individual states could still shift into- or out of someone's column on little explanation beyond the sheer inertia of this very, very big change in the dynamics of this election. So it may come as little surprise, then, when I report to you on the basis of the latest few rounds of state polling, that Mr. McCain's map has managed somehow to get considerably worse.

For one thing, neither Pennsylvania nor Michigan have held to the tightening trend-line we were seeing last week and the week before--a trend which would have seen Mr. Obama sinking time resource and field personnel into Kerry states at a pace that could easily be spun by Steve Schmidt as a sign of frantic trouble for Camp Blue. Not anymore. The fivethirtyeight regression shows neither state in the ominous "lean DEM" category, and indeed the margins in both states have opened to an extent that neither appears to be a sound investment for McCain. Only in New Hampshire has the GOP ticket continued to keep things close, with fivethirtyeight still calling it tight enough to qualify for a "lean DEM" (if only just), and so we leave that Kerry state, and that Kerry state alone, un-lit for Mr. Obama.

But in the meantime, new battleground polling data has continued to flood the blogosphere apace, and with it news that one of the states on which Mr. McCain had been counting, North Carolina, has been downgraded to "lean GOP"--a development that would be less shocking if the state had not seen such enormous influxes of well-educated, urban professionals (ironically in the banking sector), or if the GOP ticket was reversed. Never mind: without North Carolina on election night, McCain simply and unequivocally cannot win the election.

Even worse, two successive polls in Colorado, one released on the 18th showing D+4, and the other released on the 21st and showing D+7, have prompted the fivethirtyeight team to shift Colorado from "leans DEM" to "likely DEM," which by our protocol allows the state to be lit up blue for the first time in this entire election. The new Obama coalition--without winning any single one of the states that remain genuinely in play, without winning New Hampshire or Florida or West Virginia or Montana or Ohio or Missouri or Nevada or Virginia or Indiana or North Carolina--garner an electoral tally of 269, enough to force the election to the House of Representatives. Should Mr. Obama carry the first congressional district of Nebraska, which he fully expects to do, this tally becomes 270 and the matter is settled on election night. Mr. McCain, by contrast, has seen his solidly reliable total dwindle to 155 over the same timeframe--losing not just North Carolina from the previous count but teetering now on the verge of losing South Carolina to the undecided category as well.
Clearly what McCain needs desperately at this moment is a fresh infusion of good news. Too bad for him.

It happens that, shortly after ten o'clock last night, Newsweek released to the larger media the story that for the past three years the McCain Campaign's Manager, Rick Davis, has been receiving a personal retainer from Freddie Mac in the amount of $15,000 per month. This, you understand, a mere days after the team of Lost 'Nam / Lose Iran went to the front page with an advertising buy accusing Obama of being in cahoots with that very same institution. (And by the way, CNN's main page doesn't include a single reference to the story. Readers are encouraged to use the "contact us" form on the CNN website to vociferously and repeatedly complain, until they do.)

If the Davis story blooms into a full-blown round of incoming for McCain (as we can help to ensure happens by pressing our favorite media contacts for more coverage), the end result could easily be a juxtaposition of McCain-distortion and McCain-guilt so Orwellian that not even a seasoned double-talker like Rick Davis can survive it. Pressing this story could, conceivably, result in Mr. Davis' resignation from the campaign--and with that development it seems vanishingly unlikely that Mr. McCain would have the time and down-range luck to recover.

Other news stories of recent cycles have been less substantial, but hardly less damaging to the McCain/Palin cause, either. First there was the kerfuffle over McCain's thirteen automobiles, at least three of which were produced by foreign emblems. Ordinarily neither I nor the general public would have a lot of patience for the playing-up of a story like this (file it under "so, what?" if you ask me), but for the small problem that Mr. McCain has been repeatedly quoted in Michigan as saying that he never, ever buys a vehicle that isn't from an American manufacturer. In a bizarre attempt to repair the damage, the McCain team swiftly responded with the news that only one of the cars is actually Mr. McCain's, and that the rest are registered to him but driven by other members of the family--apparently proving once and for all that using national television to admit felony insurance fraud is preferable in this country to driving a car that happens to have been built in Japan.

Meanwhile, Nevada has become a quietly looming, recurring news story that hurts McCain every time it gets a mention. Between the massive influx of semi-idle Californian volunteers whose productive efforts would have been wasted in their own state, to the enormous registration drive being carried out at this very moment by the Obama campaign, and the very real possibility that Washoe County (Reno and Sparks area), a previously reliable Republican stronghold, could tip blue in this election cycle, the silver state may yet tell a deciding part of the overall story and, if it does, it won't be a story with a happy ending for the GOP.

There is also growing push from within the mainstream press to refuse to cover Sarah Palin any longer, until she assents to greater access. And while the general public no longer trusts the mainstream press to be outraged by Palin's refusal to talk to them, the story has nonetheless bitten hard into Palin's appeal, on the related grounds that it begs serious questions about her ability to govern. In a recent tracking poll, Ms. Palin's favorable/unfavorable split was revealed to have switched from +10 or +12 to something more in the range of -6, making her now the least popular of the four major candidates--even after Mr. Biden laid a hand on the shoulder of a wheelchair-bound supporter and said, "We're asking you to stand up to the negative ads, and stand up for Barack Obama." I don't know much about elections, but I think you can take it as read that, when you're running behind a guy who said those things to somebody in a wheelchair, you're having a bad week.

The Obama/Biden ticket is now polling nine points ahead in the latest national track, a change of eleven points from just eleven days ago, and pushing hard on the outside envelope of a margin that can be closed by even the most capable and luck-smiled candidacy, which McCain/Palin manifestly is not. With a little over sixty hours until the first debate (as these words are written), the situation for McCain/Palin could hardly seem capable of getting any worse. Except for the small problem that it is, indeed, going to get worse: This evening Ms. Palin will be interviewed by the humorless and unimpeachable Katie Couric, the same journalist who so humilated Cindy McCain that the latter has not assented to a single interview of any kind, since.

All of us should of course remain vigilant at this hour to the very real prospect of Karl Rove / Bob Corker dirty tricks. Each of us should, this very hour, pick a major media website and use its contact form to demand a thorough vetting of the Rick Davis / Freddie Mac retainer. Everyone should volunteer at his or her local field office, not just to phone bank but to door-knock; as ugly a process as this is, it's a proven winner--a recent article in fivethirtyeight points out that every twelfth successful door-knock nets the campaign a vote from someone who would not otherwise have supported the candidate.

But all of us should do one more thing, along the way, too: We should enjoy what's happening in this election campaign, right now. We should savor it. We should delight in it. We should own it and quietly revel in it. The good guys are winning--and it's been far too long since the last time that was true.

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


Anonymous said...

Another great article. I don't have much to add to the discussion, but I wanted you to know how much I appreciate your writings.

Dave O'Gorman said...

Thank you!!!