Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Standing on the Right Side of History, New Battlegrounds Emerge on Our Electoral Map

How Do You Want to Be Remembered?
It is common belief today, in all but the most backward corners of bigotry, that interracial marriage is not only a thing that should be legal, but a perfectly normal, socially acceptable and equal form of marriage.  If you ask the average 25-year-old, they can't imagine an American society where interracial marriage would somehow be viewed as wrong or inferior.

But the issue was hardly settled in the 1950s.  As of 1948, only 11 states explicitly allowed interracial marriage.  As of June 1967, interracial marriage was illegal in the entire south and Delaware, 16 states in all.  In that month, the Supreme Court struck down the laws in those states, providing marriage equality across racial lines across the nation.  The decision, along with many other civil rights decisions in that era were widely unpopular in the south and across the country actual instances of interracial marriage were slow to happen, with interracial couples representing only 0.7% of marriages by 1970.

You might find a few people these days who would argue against interracial marriage, but only a very few.  And you don't find a lot of people these days who lived back then who would own up to being on the wrong side of history.

I imagine 40 years from now, few people will admit to having been staunchly against gay marriage.  The push for marriage equality for gay Americans is an inevitable force of social progress.  In 40 years, marriage for gays will be legally equal in all 50 states.  It won't be an issue at all.  It won't even be thought about except for the few stragglers who cling to an outdated and backward view of the world (as is the case with interracial marriage today.)

President Obama has placed himself on the right side of history by supporting gay marriage.  Certainly he is far too late to the game, having not shown courage of his convictions in 2008, since he actually flip-flopped in the wrong direction when he ran for the Senate and for national office.  He was behind Dick Cheney, Alan Simpson and many others to the right of him politically have take courageous stands first.  Courageous Republican State Senators in New York took real political risk long before the President.

But, he is at least on the right side of history now.  And that's more than I can say about Mitt Romney.  In 40 years, in their old age, Barack Obama will be proud of the stand he took in May 2012.  I imagine Mitt Romney will be ashamed of the stand he didn't take.

A Shifting Map
This map will move a lot over the course of the next five and a half months.  But the swings and the entry of new states into competition and the removal of other states from contention is all part of the fun of the Presidential election season.

The latest numbers reveal the following shifts:
Florida - flips back from Lean Obama to Lean Romney - this state seems destined to be very close, so don't be surprised if it flips a bunch more times before November.
New Hampshire - moves from Lean Obama to Likely Obama - Obama's lead is strengthening in Mitt Romney's next door state, which has become increasingly less of a swing state the last 2 election cycles.
Wisconsin - moves from Likely Obama to Lean Obama - the badger state looks to be in play for the first time in several cycles.
Massachusetts and Illinois - move from Strong Obama to Safe Obama
Georgia and Tennessee - move from Strong Romney to Likely Romney - these two states in the solid south appear to be marginally in play this year...but I could really only see them going for Obama in a blow out.
Kentucky and Louisiana - move from Strong Romney to Safe Romney

All of which leaves us with the following.  Note that my maps are now constructed using instead of since the realclearpolitics construction tool allows for various shades of support.  On the map, "Strong" and "Safe" states are lumped together in the darkest color, "Likely" states in the next lighter color and "Lean" states in the lightest color.

So we see President Obama holding a lead of 303-235, even with the flip of Florida, coinciding with an average national polling lead of 3.3%.  The intriguing thing about Wisconsin entering the competitive space is that it gives Romney more options.  He needs to pick up 35 electoral votes to swing to victory, and of the 4 lean states, he has 2 combinations that get him there:
(1) Virginia, Ohio and Iowa (37 electoral votes)
(2) Virginia, Ohio and Wisconsin (41 electoral votes)

Note that without Virginia the max Romney could get is the 34 electoral votes from the other 3 states, leaving him 1 vote short.  Also note that without Ohio, Romney's max is reduced to 29 electoral votes.

So, Ohio and Virginia are must haves for Romney still, along with Florida.

His electoral strategy is starting to look like North Carolina (home of the Democratic convention), Florida (home of the Republican convention), Ohio, Virginia plus "one", the one being either Wisconsin, Iowa or even Colorado (New Hampshire, by itself, would not get him to his total.)

On Obama's side, the strategy is still to hold serve on some of his 2008 states to prevent this strategy, plus open a couple of new fronts Romney will have to defend.  The best candidates for Obama to pick-up versus 2008 are Missouri (which he lost very closely) and Arizona (which does not have a native son running this time.)  Also, keep your eye on South Carolina - there is no recent polling available, but I have some inside insight that that state may be a lot closer than we are all thinking. 

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