Obama-Biden 375, McCain-Palin 163
Mercifully, time is running out on John McCain. Having mortgaged his name and reputation to an enterprise that has perpetrated one of the vilest and most vacuous Presidential campaigns in a long and storied history of such, the man once revered for his willingness to talk straight has allowed himself to be reduced to reliance on empty rhetoric and base invective. Worse, he has stood by as others associated with his campaign - up to and including his running mate - have engaged in or encouraged naked appeals to those old right-wing standbys, paranoia and prejudice.
But that will end on Nov. 4, at least insofar as the McCain campaign is concerned (I add this because during the last week or so leading up to Election Day, the house organs of Republican dogma - Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, various and sundry newspaper columnists, television commentators, national bloggers, televangelists and other party intelligentsia and operatives - clearly have given up on McCain and shifted the thrust of their efforts to prematurely undermining an Obama administration). Sometime during that evening - between 9:30 and 10:30 p.m. is a good guess - Barack Hussein Obama will, barring an unparalleled political miracle, surpass the 270 electoral votes needed to become the 44th President of the United States.
Thinking about the disappointing way McCain has squandered the opportunity to live up to his once-undisputed image as a different kind of Republican puts me in mind of the single funniest line I have heard during this campaign. Discussing some of the more scurrilous aspects of the Internet "whisper" assault that has been waged against Obama, my friend Greg Womble wryly summed up the growing disaffection with the Republican candidate among independent voters (as well, I would bet, a good number of moderate members of his own party).
"Even if Obama is the Antichrist," Greg said, "he's still better than McCain."
More later about this week's projected total of 375 electoral votes for Obama - as derived from rolling poll averages tracked on a state-by-state basis - but in my mind, that number probably is somewhat high. On the other hand, cumulative numbers (i.e., established trends) rarely lie, and the math in nearly every state that remains conceivably in play continues to favor the Democrat. Among the most notable points of this week's analysis:
- Ohio (20 electoral votes), which we have categorized as a tossup from the start of the campaign, now is leaning Obama as the campaign enters its final weekend. The Democrat now also leads in Indiana (11 votes), which has been a tossup for all but the two weeks of McCain's early September surge in the polls, and where he previously trailed only for a single week in mid-August.
Our final numbers also move Maine (4 votes), Michigan (17) and New Jersey (15) from probable to strong Obama. In addition, Obama has added significantly to his leads in the tossup state of North Carolina (15), as well as in two longtime tossups that moved into the leaning Obama column last week, Colorado (9) and Virginia (13).
- Other movement in favor of Obama this week includes the continuing drift of Montana (3 votes) toward the Democratic column; Lyndon Johnson is the only Democrat to win a majority of Presidential votes there since 1952 (Bill Clinton carried the state in 1992 with Ross Perot draining votes from George H.W. Bush). Categorized as strong McCain three weeks ago, probable McCain two weeks ago and leaning McCain last week, Montana now slides all the way the tossup status, with the Republican's lead at less than three points.
In a similar vein, Obama remains competitive in a slew of other traditional Republican strongholds. Georgia (15 votes), strong McCain a month ago and probable for the past three weeks, drops to leaning McCain in our final tally. North Dakota (3) remains a tossup for the second straight week, while neighboring South Dakota (3) drops this week from strong to probable McCain. In one of the most telling signs of the campaign's probable outcome, Obama has drawn to within eight points in McCain's home state of Arizona (10) - enough to change its status from strong to probable McCain.
- As noted, the electoral map seems to hold few bright spots for McCain - but there are a few. The Republican has shored up his support in West Virginia (5 votes), which moves from tossup to leaning McCain. All of the time McCain and Sarah Palin have been spending in Pennsylvania (21) and Iowa (7) over the past couple of weeks is paying off to some extent, as they have closed enough ground in each to move both states from strong to probable Obama. The bad news is, the late surge almost certainly will not be sufficient to overcome Obama's leads, as the Democrat still is polling at well over 50 percent in both states, with margins of roughly 11 points in each.
McCain also has inched closer to Obama in the tossup states of Florida (27 votes), Missouri (11) and Nevada (5), though it certainly remains to be seen whether he can win any or all of them. Indeed, the problem is, if McCain can't pull off huge upsets in Pennsylvania and Iowa, he not only must win all seven tossup states - he currently leads only two - but also steal three states where his poll numbers continue to slip - Colorado, Ohio and Virginia - from the Obama column.
- In analyzing the Presidential contest in this space over the past four months, I have used two key measures of the relative strength of the two campaigns: electoral vote totals from states categorized as "strong" or "probable," and total votes without those from "tossup" states included. In the former this week, Obama leads 264-137, meaning that if current projections hold true, he needs only one of either Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio or Virginia to move over 270.
As for vote totals minus tossups, Obama's lead is 306-157. That's up from 286-155 last week, and underscores the point that if Obama simply holds his leads this Tuesday in states where he currently is ahead, he will carry the Electoral College by a substantial margin, and perhaps by a landslide.
- If the election can be singled down to one key state, I submit that Virginia is the one. Obama holds nearly a seven-point lead in another state where another Arizona senator, LBJ landslide victim Barry Goldwater, is the only Republican presidential candidate to lose in the past 60 years. Beyond the outcome itself, the timing of the outcome in Virginia will be a reliable barometer for the general drift of things on election night: If the state goes for Obama early (by 8:00 or 8:30, say), a Democratic landslide probably is in the offing; conversely, the longer Virginia stays too close to call - and certainly if McCain carries the state - the better McCain is likely to be performing nationally.
- So what will be the final count in the Electoral College? By my analysis, Obama could wind up with as many as 414 electoral votes if the bottom drops out completely for McCain over the final week. By contrast, while I see McCain maxing out at 265 - I don't think he can catch up in Virginia, let along Pennsylvania or Iowa - I'll give him the benefit of the doubt on the first and say that he could win with 278.
In this week's simulated election - totals based on poll averages, voting history, and any key statewide races in each state - Obama wins 337-201. As for my own prediction, I concur exactly with that total, as I'm guessing that McCain will end up carrying Florida and Indiana, accounting for the 38 fewer votes for Obama than in this week's projection based on poll averages alone.
Mark Kelly is a contributing editor to the Birmingham Weekly. Write to email@example.com.