Sunday, September 7, 2008

Lots of Conventions, More of the Same Electoral Maps

A great deal has happened in the political world since the last blog I wrote -- the selections of Joe Biden and Sarah Palin as running mates and the two conventions.

In total, taking the entire two weeks in perspective, I'm going to call these rounds a draw. Both parties had, in total very successful conventions, although I would contend that there were areas of opportunity in both.

For the Democrats:
Highlights -- Obama's acceptance speech and Michelle Obama's speech on 1. Barack showed stunning oratory (as we have come to expect from him) in front of an enormous and enthusiastic crowd. Michelle Obama showed that she possesses similar brilliant skills to her husband and did an impressive job connecting their personal stories with the American story.
Lowlights -- The lack of a theme in day 1, probably too soft (at least through the first half of the convention) in attacking the Republicans beyond vague generalities about being like Bush, the high media focus on the Clintons and the party unity story.

For the Republicans:
Highlights -- Sarah Palin's speech (probably the best speech of either of the 2 conventions), brilliant attacks on the democrats by Rudy Guliani and company, excellent PR from canceling most of the activities on day 1 (plus, it let them push Bush and Cheney back to Washington), the second half of Mccain's speech
Lowlights -- the first half of Mccain's speech -- who opens with praising Bush? How can the party of national security let protestors get in?, all the negative (and probably unfair) PR buzz about Palin's family.

It will be several days before the polls fully sort themselves out, but early indications are that both parties got bounces that will likely largely negate each other and we will be looking at a close race.

Which brings us to the electoral map...amazingly, very little has changed. The only changes in my calls are as follows:
Nevada moves from Obama to Tie -- this one will be very close in the end....Latino turnout will be key.

Obama's lead is 293 to 240 for Mccain with 5 votes (Nevada) a tie. Battleground states are as follows:
Key Battlegrounds
Ohio -- still could be the key to the whole election -- promoted from substantial battleground in the last run -- can Obama get the urban turnout he needs? Can Mccain get white fundamentalists in the southern part of the state to show up for him in November?
Nevada -- will Hispanics be there for Obama? Can Harry Reid help him?
Colorado -- will the Democratic convention in Denver seal it for Obama? What will happen with turnout in Denver?

Substantial Battlegrounds

Virginia -- Northern Virginia and Richmond vs. the rest of the state. Will it stay Red or will Khaine and Webb deliver for Obama?

Somewhat Battlegrounds Indiana -- could Obama seriously contend in a state he got smoked in the primaries that is almost always Red? Have to admit the closeness of the polls confuses me on this one.
Florida -- should be close but should stay Red. Obama still struggling with Jewish and Cuban voters and not a hit with the over 55 crowd. Mccain popular with military crowd.
Montana -- Obama is apparently a hit in the rural mountain states. Democratic governor and strong performance in the primary -- could actually see this one swinging this election.
North Dakota -- same story as Montana.

Fringe Battlegrounds Alaska -- Palin pick probably seals it for Mccain, but Ted Stevens still looming.
New Hampshire -- was Blue last time, but Kerry was from the neighborhood and this state has always loved Mccain, although apparently not Obama based on the primary results.

Potential Battlegrounds
Georgia -- can Obama rally black voters and score an upset?
Iowa -- Obama way out in front in recent polls, and this state has never loved Mccain, but it is usually a bellweather for national polls
Michigan -- could the hockey mom from Alaska help Mccain here?
Minnesota -- Republican convention held here -- possibly to foretell a state that they will focus on upsetting Obama?
Missouri -- has dropped of the list, but could Obama find a way to rally here?
New Mexico -- looking like Obama all the way at the moment, but it is in Mccain's neighborhood and has a history of being a swing state.
North Carolina -- polls are close, large number of black voters. Is it just wishful thinking by the Dems or could Obama really win here?
Pennsylvania -- state has been trending Blue, but Obama got roasted in the primary. Can Mccain turn out enough rural voters and convert a few Hillary voters?
South Dakota -- could the same story as Montana and North Dakota play out here?

Just a few parting thoughts:
This electoral map looks remarkably similar to 2004 with a few states swinging to Obama. For all the talk of a remade electoral map in 2008, it appears that Obama is probably best served to run on the Kerry+ strategy, holding Kerry states and trying to pick up states like Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, etc. Mccain, on the other hand has very few pick-up prospects, but a lot of turf to defend. If he wins, the map will look almost identical to 2004.

The debates are probably the next substantive event. There will be some jabbing for the next few weeks and we will get to see the convention effects settle out. I wouldn't be surprised if we wind up with dead even national polls and a modest electoral lead for Obama heading into the first debate in Mississippi, so they may well decide this thing. Will be interesting to see how the two candidates do, since neither seemed to do particularly well in primary debates. Probably the most interesting one for me personally will be Biden vs. Palin. My advice to Biden: don't underestimate Palin and be careful not to sound like you are talking down.

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