Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Can John McCain Still Win?

We are coming up on the last debate with the polls slipping away from John McCain and Barack Obama gaining ground in the battleground states every day.

Question: Can John McCain still win?

Answer: Probably not.

Let’s look back. Over the Columbus Day weekend, Obama lead McCain 50% to 43% in the Gallup daily tracking poll. At this same point in 2004, John Kerry led George Bush 48% to 47%. In 2000, George Bush and Al Gore were tied 45% to 45%.

Let’s look at where the electoral votes are today. One electoral vote projection shows Obama winning 357 electoral votes to 181. Another shows Obama winning 369 to 169.

Of course, “probably not” also means “maybe.”

Question: What kind of last minute surge would McCain need to win?

Answer: McCain has his work cut out for him in the battleground states:

McCain can forget about Maine, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and New Mexico. I see no way for him to win in those states.

McCain has to turn things around in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and Ohio. Bush won these states in 2000 and 2004 but McCain is now losing. However, winning all of them would only bring his total to 246 electoral votes, still 24 electoral votes short of the 270 he would need to win. If on election night you see Barack Obama winning in Florida, Virginia and North Carolina, or Ohio, you can go to bed without waiting for the midwestern and western states to finish voting.

McCain has to pick up the western states of Colorado, North Dakota, Montana, and Nevada. Obama’s western states strategy is to deny McCain some or all of these electoral votes. Even if McCain wins them all, that would still leave him 7 electoral votes short. McCain can lose the election out west, but he can’t win it there.

So even if McCain does all of the above, he must also win at least one of the following states: Minnesota (10 electoral votes), Iowa (7 electoral votes), or Missouri (11 electoral votes). These 3 states are the first states west of the Mississippi River and north of the old South. Their combined population of 14,000,000 is roughly 4.5% of the U.S. population. This is where the industrial midwest ends and the red state Republican west begins. No candidate for President since 1852 has gotten elected without winning at least one of these three states.

I see no way Barack Obama can lose if he beats beat John McCain in Minnesota, Iowa, and Missouri. There simply aren’t enough electoral votes for McCain without winning at least one of these 3 states.

Missouri is McCain’s best chance. But high turnout in the Democratic strongholds of Kansas City and St. Louis would seal the deal for Obama. Watch Missouri, it has been the bellwether for over 100 years.

Minnesota is McCain’s next best chance. However, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (what the Democrats call themselves in Minnesota) has 3 conservative promilitary, progun, prolife incumbent Congressmen running for reelection in the 3 big rural districts. They may provide rural voters the comfort level that their values will continue to be represented to deny McCain the big margins he would need in those rural districts to win Minnesota.

Iowa is McCain’s last chance. Obama is leading in the eastern part of Iowa that is closest to his home state of Illinois. The key to the Iowa Republican vote is the 5th Congressional District, which comprises 32 counties in the western third of the state. In 2000, Bush carried those 32 counties by 42,275 votes but lost the state to Gore by 4,130 votes. In 2004, Bush carried those 32 counties by 56,773 votes and won the state from Kerry by 10,059 votes. The extra 14,000 votes in western Iowa made the difference.

Western Iowa has started voting. Voters can get an absentee ballot at their county courthouse and cast their vote before leaving. I hear that lines at the courthouses this past Saturday were long. I guess these voters are not waiting for the last debate.

Question: Who will be watching those ballot boxes over the next 3 weeks between now and Election Day?

Answer: In Iowa that job falls on the County Auditor. These local elected officials are typically middle-aged Republican women with a few kids, a husband who likes to hunt and fish, and a sister who has been through a messy divorce.

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