By Lucas Roebuck
Assuming Sen. Hillary Clinton doesn’t pull off one of the most astounding political feats of all-time, the most likely November scenario is for Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain to both win the 2008 presidential election.
More specifically, Obama could win the popular vote by overwhelming McCain in the urban metropolitan areas of this great country. But McCain will win the right combination of suburban and rural states to win the war for the Electoral College.
Obama will no doubt bring progressive metro voters out in droves. His 80, 000-strong rally in Portland, Ore., made great headlines, but they will do no good in helping him win any new delegates. The urban areas in states like Oregon, New York, California, Washington and Massachusetts will only help Obama run up the popular vote score.
In 2004, President George W. Bush won 286 electoral votes compared to Sen. John Kerry’s 251. Let’s use this as a baseline and consider what states will be the new battlegrounds in 2008. Which states will Obama be likely to flip from red to blue ? Which blue states that Democrats normally took for granted will the moderate McCain force the Democrats to spend resources on ?
For starters, Colorado will flip to blue. Of the red western states that Obama could pick off, I would think that Colorado is most likely to switch to blue, although it trended slightly toward the GOP from 2000, when Bush won 50. 8 percent, to 2004, when Bush won with a more comfortable 52. 5 percent. Denver is leaning more to the left every day, however, and should help Obama swing the few percentage points he needs to flip the state. Colorado has nine electors, which would mean an 18-point swing for the Dems, bringing the count to 277 to 260.
Secondly, Pennsylvania will turn red. Three indicators point to McCain winning the Keystone state. First is the fact the state has only barely been held by Democrats, with both Vice President Al Gore and John Kerry winning the state by. 6 and. 8 percent respectively, meaning a moderate Republican could easily peel centrist voters from the liberal Obama. Another indicator is that the largest urban area, Philadelphia, has seen a large population decline. The city, which would be an Obama haven, may have lost as much as 5 percent of its population since 2004. The third indicator that shows Obama weakness in Pennsylvania was his poor performance in the Democratic primary there, where Clinton trounced him by 10 points. With its 21 electoral votes, the loss would be the most devastating for Democrats, even if they pick up Colorado, making the hypothetical count GOP 298 to Dems 239.
Blue states the Democrats will have to spend resources on but which shouldn’t flip red include Minnesota, Wisconsin and New Hampshire. The red states Republicans will have to fight to keep from flipping blue include Iowa, Ohio, New Mexico and Nevada. Florida, a state made for John McCain with its high senior and military population, will not be a battleground state during this election cycle.
Even if Pennsylvania doesn’t flip red, Obama will still have to close the 35 point electoral gap, meaning he’ll have to find states valued at around 18 electors to flip. The Democrats would like to pick off Ohio, but if the Democrats want Ohio, they are going to have to give the vice presidential nomination to Clinton, who trounced Obama by a 10-point spread there as well.
I doubt that Obama is going to nickel and dime that gap with states like New Mexico (five electors ) and Nevada (five electors ).
The unknown factor is how much McCain will appeal to moderates and independents in a general election. We know McCain is popular among these groups when pitted against other GOP candidates, but against a Democrat ? If Clinton were the nominee, McCain would be a hard sell, but against Barack Obama (a most liberal senator ) McCain could make inroads, costing Obama the popular vote and any moral victory.