April 02, 2008

Where Are the Battleground States? Does This Information Point to Clinton or Obama?

After the American Century

Rasmussen Reports has made a study of the alignment of the states, looking at them in terms of the electoral college. It turns out that according to their polling, the Democrats have 190 electoral votes they can count on, including New York and California. The Republicans have 189 in their column, including Texas. So, where are the battleground states? Here is the list of 13 where the fall election will be lost or won. They have a total of 159 electoral votes: Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Virginia, Missouri, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico, and New Hampshire.

Note that both Michigan and Florida are on the list, providing another reason to consider finding a way to hold proper primaries in each state. But what is most striking, otherwise, is that the Deep South is not going to be in play. Rather, the election will be won or lost in the middle of the country, with 85 votes in the contiguous states that stretch from Pennsylvania to Iowa and Minnesota, plus 19 electoral votes in the mountain, desert west (Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico), and 55 in four quite different outlier states, Virgina, Missouri, Florida, and New Hampshire.

Looking at that list, it seems clear that Hillary's endlessly repeated claim that only she can win the big states only has some force, because some of these big states are safely in one column or other other. But nevertheless, it is true that some big states are up for grabs, notably the 58 electors from Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Another way to look at the list is to ask how Obama and Clinton did in these states, and this reveals a close contest, with Obama a bit ahead.

Clinton (54): Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, New Mexico
Obama (60): Virginia, Missouri, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Colorado
No Valid Primary (44): Michigan, Florida

One could say that Clinton's whole argument comes down to Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Looking toward November, this list of swing states strongly suggests that the ideal Democratic vice-presidential candidate is not someone from the South, where the Republicans are strong, but a popular governor in one of the Midwestern swing states - someone from Ohio, perhaps. Ted Strickland seems ideal for the job, from a polling point of view. He would also appeal to centrist voters, with his storng Methodist background, teaching experience, and work as a psychologist. Personally, I would be more excited to see Bill Richardson on the ticket, but there are not enough votes at stake in New Mexico, Nevada, and Colorado, and the Hispanic voters in Texas and California seem safely in the Democratic column in any case.

Overall, the Rasmussen polls show another important trend. In the last month the movement has been away from the Democrats, who are far less likely to win the election now than they were in early March. McCain is the only winner in the Clinton-Obama contest so far.