So, I'm not a political pundit, I just play one in the private little melodrammer of my mind, a place where the corpus callosum doesn't necessarily connect the "right" and "left" brain, issue-wise, but hopefully engages the creative faculties as well as those of logic.
Here, on the 11th anniversary of the 11th, the number that interests me is 270 (the number of votes in the Electoral College required to elect a President outright). The analysis is pretty straight-forward: there are certain states that would vote for a given party's candidate, even if that party's candidate would force an 11-year-old girl to deliver the spawn of her rapist uncle (which, incidentally, is found in a certain party's platform).
But I digress. Again, some states are going to go "all in" with that candidate, even if they are "all in" with a completely repulsive personal history. That's true for both parties. The Democrats will probably take New York with more than 60 percent of vote if they ran a provocateur like Al Sharpton, and the Republicans would get nearly two-thirds of the South Carolina vote had Herman Cain been the nominee. That's not to say that either party is "color-blind", you understand (one definitely isn't), but it says that, for both parties, there are places where the only colors that matter are red or blue.
So, the Prez has got many states "in the bag": California, New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, in fact most of New England---all told, 142 electoral votes.
And Gov. Romney has parts of the "Solid South" (Alabama, Mississippi) as well as some Western states (Idaho, Utah) sewn up, to the tune of 76 electoral votes.
As "Obviousman" might say, there's a problem right there for Gov. Romney: in the comparison with the President, he trails in the number of electoral votes that can be absolutely said to be in his column, and with no chance to end up in Mr. Obama's tally. Yet, there are a whole host of states that can be said to be, if not in his hip pocket, "leaning his way". Here, he has an edge, with 115 electoral votes from such states as Montana and Texas, while Mr. Obama can only must 79 such states. That narrows the overall race considerably, from 221 for the President, to 155 for the Governor While these can not be held to be as secure as their core, there can be doubt that they are very likely to go in the direction that they are leaning now, with only two months to go.
Neither side has the requisite 270 in this scenario, however, so both will need to pick up some of the so-called "swing states", ten battlegrounds that, political calculus demands, could go either way:
All told, these states contain 126 votes, and they are all over the place: three in the South, two in the West, one in New England and the rest in the Midwest. The President needs to get 49 of these 126 votes to clinch, and there are several combinations of just three states that could get him there, most of them revolving around....(gulp if you knew this was coming)...Florida, which was so critical in 2000. The one three-state combo that gets him there involves Ohio, which was so critical in 2004. Neither state is a done deal for the President, but as we speak both are definitely inching toward his reelection. The bottom line is that the map really favors the President here, with many ways to get the requisite 49 votes without having to take the majority of the states, or even winning the majority of the popular vote in these ten states.
For Governor Romney, things aren't looking so good, except in the money department. The former head of Bain Capital, the wealthiest nominee of a major party in the history of our republic, he's pulling down the coin, and it's not his money: he's pulled in more than $100 million each of the last four months from corporations and private donors, money which if applied directly to the IRS would probably lower all of our taxes a tenth of a percent. It's not chump change.
An interesting irony: the failure of politicians to put party aside and work for the common good can have a stimulating effect on some industries---such as media. All told, this election will actually help put over a billion dollars into the economy, which is good news for those selling the scorched earth that dominates the present political landscape. And, to give the Governor his due, no one is doing a better job overall in raising money to burn than Willard Romney. That money, and the onslaught of corporate monies that are now a part of political campaign, is without a doubt what the GOP has to put its hopes in. They have to hope that the money advantage plays out their way in the swing states, because the map is not in their favor.
How can Romney get the 79 "swing state" electoral votes he needs to get to the "coronation" number of 270? Well, where the President has several combinations of three states that will get him there, the Romney camp needs to take at least six of the ten "toss-ups" to reach the Promised Land, and probably eight if they don't get Florida, with its 29 electoral votes. There just aren't as many easy paths to victory, and a lot of hard-fought but ultimately futile paths that net then 60-70 votes, but not enough to overcome the Chicago machine. To make things worse for the Governor, he only has really good polling numbers in a handful of states (among them, to make things interesting, Florida). He's trailing in Ohio, significantly. In the South, which should be a Romney stronghold, he has chinks in his armor: both Virginia and North Carolina are still neck-and-neck, absolutely in play with two months to go.
And here's the capper: most of the polling numbers on individual states are old numbers, from late August, before the Democratic National Convention. The national polls, the TV ratings and the disparity in social media coverage between the DNC and the Republican affair in Tampa are marked: it is very clear that, despite a downsized agenda and cautious optimism, that the Obama-Biden reelection ticket has received the expected post-convention bounce---and the Romney-Ryan ticket has not. The top of the ticket's overall numbers and favorables haven't moved a bit since early August, but the Democratic brand and its standard-bearer have seen obvious gains in national polls. State polls past Labor Day will become available next week, and it seems likely that, if anything, the President and his organization will pick up steam in the swing states they are targeting.
Does this mean that the election is "in the bag?" Only a person with no experience of the Electoral College would say that. The ability of independents to swing the election can not be underestimated, and it will not really be known until right around Halloween how many are going to give the Prez "four more years" and how many will demand, sans hope, a little more change? The convention season has played in the Democrat's flavor as much as the money markets have favored the Romney ticket, but it will ultimately be debate performance and economic indicators that will sway swing-state independents the most.
Having said that, let's consider the most likely scenario, which is that the economy doesn't dramatically change one way or another in the next two months. In that most likely of worlds, Obama and Biden will likely score some points with voters in the debates, which will tend to reinforce the image that the incumbents are more likeable and more battle-tested than the GOP rivals. These will be modest gains, but they will be offset quite a bit by the PAC monies that will be thrown against the President. In this most likely of worlds, New Hampshire will finally lean with the rest of New England, and (with Ohio) will end up in the President's column. Meanwhile, the Romney camp will win the close ones in the West and the South, but not rally to pull any Obama-leaning states into the GOP's column.
Thus, here's my prediction. It's just a prediction. It doesn't mean much more than a hill of Henry Morganesque euphemisms in mid-September. It's just what I think is the most likely outcome:
Come back in late October and see if the map changes!
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