Electoral map based on today's polls showing a near Electoral College tie from Fivethirtyeight. Poblano updates these maps daily.
A friend sends a question. She says I write here as if I
Okay, here goes:
I don't think McCain will be easy to beat. For one thing, the press likes him. He pals around with them and they are suckers for that kind of informal access to perceived power.
McCain has something of a reputation as a man of integrity -- currently completely unjustified. Democrats need to get across that this guy was tortured himself, claimed to be carrying legislation to prohibit torture, and then voted against a ban on waterboarding. He has demonstrated that he wants the Presidency more than he wants his honor. Democrats need to communicate that -- and they also need to communicate that their candidate stands for a different sort of United States.
Torture is not the only subject on which McCain has been pandering of late to the extreme rightwingers in the Republican Party. He's back peddled on just about everything that made him different from any other Republican thug. He's even been bending the rules to evade the limits created by one of his big "accomplishments": the McCain-Feingold campaign finance regulations.
Just yesterday, retiring Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, long a McCain friend, allowed as how McCain's shifting positions puzzled him.
At this point, McCain comes across as either unconscious or downright sleazy. Having seen the primary, I think that Obama can effectively present himself as at least as attractive a moral figure as McCain, neutralizing the advantage of McCain's past heroism in a war that most citizens don't want to be reminded of.
The real hurdle seems to be what you raised about the Electoral College. To win the Presidency, a candidate needs to win, not the popular vote (as Al Gore did in 2000), but a majority (270 plus) of electors of which each state has as many as it has Representatives and Senators. That's why we get the red and blue state maps like the one above.
For the last several elections, those maps have looked very similar. Democrats win the big coastal, and the northern industrial states. Republicans win the historic South and much of the interior west. They compete over a tiny number of states whose population has characteristics of both blocs, mostly Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. If you didn't live in one of these "battleground" states, you didn't see much of the campaign.
What's interesting about this year's race is that Senator Obama is trying to put together a different Democratic coalition to change the outcome. Part of what that means is that he'll be competing in more states -- but also it means that he thinks he can win the election based on the votes of slightly different people than those who have been the Democratic target voters since 1992. He believes he can expand the electorate, bring in more young people, construct a majority that is more largely made up of people of color and less dependent on older whites. I've been saying for a long time that California's experience points toward such a winning coalition. Professional analysts of the primaries find themselves asking the same question about the Electoral College that my friend has asked me -- and trying to understand new configurations. For example,
This is where the country's profound distress about the endless lost war, the crashing economy, and the clueless George W. Bush comes in. If ever there were a year to try to push into a future in which a new coalition offers the Democrats a majority with different constituent parts, this is it. If Obama can create a winning map in his new way -- and he has shown amazing capacity in the primaries to mobilize unexpected strength -- he'll be advancing a demographic change that might otherwise take another 15 years or so to show its power. We're witnessing a fascinating moment.
Of course, if Obama is elected, he'll still be a politician and a Democrat -- that is, as good a President, and only as good, as an aroused people make him. Lots of work to do.