Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Election Strategy

I. McCain's Strategy:

After some erratic reports, it looks like McCain is, in fact, moving resources out of several states – Colorado, Wisconsin, Maine, New Hampshire and Maine – and putting the money into Pennsylvania. Given that Colorado was going to be the swing state this election, at least before Obama's big surge, I couldn't figure out what the hell he was thinking for a while. Particularly since Obama is up by 11.4 points in the Real Clear Politics composite and by 15.3% at Pollster, which are leads so large that overcoming them would indicate a McCain landslide.

But the fact is, he has no choice. Chris Bowers and OpenLeft commenters have laid out the strategic situation in a brilliant diary. It breaks down like this:

First of all, it isn't quite as extreme as totally pulling out of Colorado or the other states, though Obama's money advantage means that any slackening is a small white flag there. Second, McCain's got to target a large state to cut into Obama's 7-state advantage. Third, the plan rests on the assumption that any lead that will let him win Pennsylvania will give him Florida, West Virginia, Indiana, North Carolina and Ohio too. While probably true, given how much it'd take to win Pennsylvania, this is a pretty big assumption – I have a lot of faith about North Carolina, in particular (see part II of this post).

But really, fourth: Pennsylvania doesn't have early voting, while Virginia does. Virginia is really the more logical state go to for, given that its natural Republican lean in recent years adds a fragility to any Democratic lead, and Obama only leads by about 8 points rather than more than 10. But Virginia was the very first state to start voting this year, more than a month ago now, and as much as 30% of the state may have already cast their votes. If that's the case, then Obama's practically already won it, short of a massive McCain windfall – and at any rate, coming back from an 8-point deficit with only 70% of the electorate to work with is way harder than coming back from a 12-point deficit with 3% in (just absentees). So, PA it is.

This is McCain's victory map under this strategy:

It'd give him the narrowest victory, something like 273-265, and means that he's also got to win a number of states in which Obama leads right now: Florida, North Carolina and Ohio, and either Virginia or Missouri. Nevada's a bit of a wildcard: depending on how the rest of the country goes, it could decide the election or be entirely irrelevant.

In short, McCain is betting everything on coming back from a 10 point lead in a state that went for both Gore and Kerry, and it doesn't even cut into Obama's "many roads to victory" approach all that much. Certainly conceivable, but this is an awesome place for the race to be with less than two weeks before the election.

By the way, this map helps to give an idea of just how Pennsylvania works.

II. Some Early Voting Stats:

It's all over the place:

First, the states that would capture the presidency for Obama pretty much no matter where the rest of the country stands:

-North Carolina is holding steady and is overwhelmingly Democrat: 56%D 27%R 16%I. Furthermore, both the margin and the number of votes vastly exceeded expectations.
-Ohio is also fantastic news: 46%D 24%R 30%I.

-Florida is less fun, as the breakdown is 47%R 39%D 11%I, with 785,000 ballots cast. Also, Republicans have requested around 100,000 more absentee ballots than Democrats. Not as nice, but, again, just one of many paths.

-Whoops! According to Nate Silver at 538 (who I trust more than any person alive to get this right) the NYTimes was wrong, and included the aforementioned absentee ballots. OpenLeft user fwiffo has tabulated the results posted on the Florida Secretary of State website and found 54.7%D 30.7%R 14.7%I. In other words, that's more fuckin' like it, my friends.

Among the states that matter less:

-Colorado is about even, 38%D 40%R. EDIT: With Florida switched over to our side, CO is the only state to post any positive margin for McCain.
-And, predictably, Obama is dominating New Mexico (55%D 35%R 11%I) and Iowa (52%D 20%R, with 200,000 votes in).

III. Terr'rism:

In other news, Al Queda has endorsed McCain. No, no joke, though it doesn't come from bin Laden himself and might not have been meant for public ears. They also say that a terrorist attack would likely increase his chances of winning, which is something I've worried about both in terms of, you know, there being a terrorist attack, and in terms of the election. This is probably the time of greatest risk in the near future, and while I'm not about to cancel my trip to NYC this weekend over it, if there's ever cause for concern then it'd probably be now. But as far as the election goes, I've started to think that Obama's dominating calm and McCain's erratic instincts could actually push people towards Obama in the event of the worst.

Still, it's odd that Al Qaeda would, in practice, chose to endorse the more diplomatic candidate. Unless it just wasn't something they meant to do publicly, it makes me wonder whether they know something about Obama that we don't. Their endorsement of Kerry could well have given Bush the election in 2004, after all, and was predicated on precisely this notion of "exhausting America" with unwinnable conflicts.

On the plus side, with the way the map is looking, we'll probably find out precisely how Obama's plans for the country (and world) will pan out.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome analysis. By the way, how cool are those dkos maps?