Friday, October 24, 2008

The Path to Victory

Either the fellas in the McCain campaign really think McCain still has a chance, or they're talking a good game. The truth is though, winning the election has never looked more improbable for McCain. Let's compare and contrast:

Mr. McCain’s advisers said the key to victory was reeling back those Republican states where Mr. Obama has them on the run: Florida, where Mr. McCain spent Thursday; Indiana; Missouri; North Carolina; Ohio; and Virginia. If he can hang on to all those states as well as others that are reliably red, he would put into his column 260 of the 270 electoral votes necessary to win. Mr. McCain’s advisers said they would look for the additional electoral votes they need either by taking Pennsylvania from the Democrats, or putting together some combination of Colorado, Nevada, New Hampshire and New Mexico.

Mr. McCain’s advisers are most concerned about Virginia, and understandably so. On the other side of the coin, Mr. McCain’s advisers believe that if he wins or comes close in Pennsylvania, he will probably win in Ohio and Florida. Aides to Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama agree that Mr. McCain remains very much in the game in Ohio and Florida. Not easy, but not impossible either.

Just to be clear, McCain needs to hold those states just to get to 260 electoral votes. The most favorable polls discussed in the 538 post that I like to above, do not make this seems likely. In fact, according to yesterday's polls, McCain is trailing in Indiana, North Carolina, and Florida (by a 4-7 point margin in the latter.) Polls from the day before show Obama ahead by 2-3 points in Virginia, an even race (roughly) in Ohio and McCain ahead in Indiana. As for the rest of the strategy, picking up Pennsylvania or some combination of other states? Well, it's safe to say that Pennsylvania is now Obama territory as he commands double digit leads in the state. All of the other states are now trending towards Obama. But it's worse than that; Obama not only holds lead in key battleground states, but he appears to be picking up steam in states that were considered safe for McCain, such as Montana, Indiana, North Dakota, and Nebraska. Obama is in a position not only to take the battleground states off the map, but take some of McCain's states away as well. That's why people are catching the scent of a blowout on Nov. 4th, beyond even just a close victory for Obama.

The McCain campaign is also hoping for uncertainty in the polls, but they're hedging their bets where there's nothing to hedge. Some polls are close no doubt, but even dismissing the polls that show the largest gap between the candidates fails to erase Obama's lead in key states. Polls can be unreliable no doubt, based on who's doing the polling and their methodology, but considered in aggregate the evidence that Obama is ahead in many key states is undeniable.

And besides, if any numbers are off, they're likely to be in Obama's favor. As we've discussed, the Democrat's voter registration efforts are paying off as voters are turning out in droves to early vote in places like Florida, Texas, Ohio and North Carolina. Those voters are voting Obama in overwhelming numbers, and this phenomenon may or may not be reflected in polls for Obama.

Now, that's not to say that something huge could happen yet that could throw this election McCain's way. But by all indicators, it would have to be a very large happening indeed. 

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