03 November 2008

Is there still hope?


Reason one: The guys at Politics1.com -- who are, notably, predicting the Dems to win a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate -- have predicted that 80% -- yes, eighty -- of undecided voters will break toward Sen. McCain. Although their methodology still puts Sen. Obama with 300 or more electoral votes, they instructed to watch the polls closely -- if the two candidates are even in a particular state, or if Obama is polling at 48% or less, expect that state to tip red.

Reason two: A national Zogby poll of 1,000 likely voters conducted Friday night actually showed McCain with a 48-47 lead.

Reason three: State polls tend to lag behind national polls.

Reason four: Missouri, the ultimate bellwether, is trending back toward McCain.

Reason five: People are racist.

So how can McCain possibly win tomorrow night? Here are two scenarios.

As has been noted, if both candidates start at the same place the 2004 election left off -- with Obama taking all the Kerry states and McCain all the Bush states -- the margin is 286-252. Iowa and New Mexico will almost assuredly tip blue, leaving McCain at 274. 

First, let's note the Senior Senator's must-wins -- if he loses any of these, he's cooked: Missouri, North Carolina, Indiana, Montana, Ohio and Florida. The three 2004 red states that will potentially cost him the election are Virginia (13 votes), Colorado (9) and Nevada (5). If McCain won all of these states, he'd win 274-264. Polls in both Virginia and Nevada show an Obama lead of 4 or 5 points. It's not implausible to think that McCain could win one of these, especially with so many undecideds (some national polls still put the number above 10%) this late in the game. 

(Let's also be clear that in all of the above "must win" states, the margin of victory for either candidate will be within five points. Even thought the polling data looks more favorable to McCain than it did two weeks ago, nothing is guaranteed.)

Scenario two: McCain wins all of his "must wins," takes Virginia, and somewhat miraculously swipes Pennsylvania from the blue column. Polls show great fluidity in the Keystone State, and its incredible diversity (white, do-gooder liberals outside of Philadelphia; blue-collar, Reagan/Hillary Democrats in and around Pittsburgh and rednecks in the western part of the state.) If there is a state in which race will be factor, Pennsylvania is it. The most recent Rasmussen poll put Obama up by just six, and political analysts across the spectrum agree that Pennsylvania is the most difficult state to get a handle on. If McCain snatched victory in the Commonwealth from the jaws of defeat, pulled out a Pennsylvania miracle and gave up Nevada and Colorado, he'd win 281-257. 

Scenario three: McCain wins all of his must-wins, keeps Virginia and picks up Pennsylvania. He could then lose Missouri, Colorado and Nevada and win 270-268. 

The reason many believe Virginia -- perhaps the most crucial state this election cycle -- is up for grabs is its large percentage of undecided voters. A Mason-Dixon poll late last week showed a 47-44 Obama lead, with 9 percent still undecided. To be fair, that's the only poll that's showed Obama under 50% in the last week or so. But if we use Politics1's methodology, if McCain won three-quarters of those undecided voters, he'd win the Commonwealth by a margin of approximately 50.5-48.5. Plausible? Yes. Likely? Meh ...

The Commish's final electoral predictions will be up later tonight. As an aside, I correctly predicted a 286-252 margin of victory for President Bush in 2004.

Needless to say, I don't expect to be forecasting the Hopemonger anywhere near the 350 mark that some are hoping for.  

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