Wednesday, October 1, 2008

McCain's 270?

The pro-Obama trend in recent polls, that I noted here, is continuing. There has been a definite, but not overwhelming, shift toward Obama, that is coincident with and, I think, caused by, the recent collapse of major financial institutions.

How difficult will it now be for McCain to overcome Obama's momentum, and win at least the 270 electoral votes that are necessary for a majority?

I list some by-state data below, and I want to make clear what I am, and am not, saying about these states. I am NOT predicting that McCain will win these states. What I'm saying is that, IF McCain is going to win, this is his most likely (least unlikely?) path toward 270 electoral votes.

This analysis is based on polls published, as of this morning, in Real Clear Politics.

Victory in the following states would give McCain an electoral college majority:

Alabama 9
Alaska 3
Arizona 10
Arkansas 6
Florida 27
Georgia 15
Idaho 4
Indiana 11
Kansas 6
Kentucky 8
Louisiana 9
Minnesota 10
Mississippi 6
Missouri 11
Montana 3
Nebraska 5
Nevada 5
New Hampshire 4
North Carolina 15
North Dakota 3
Ohio 20
Oklahoma 7
South Carolina 8
South Dakota 3
Tennessee 11
Texas 34
Utah 5
Virginia 13
West Virginia 5
Wyoming 3
Total 279

That scenario requires McCain to carry six states in which he currently trails in the polls: Florida, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia. However, he trails by only three percentage points or less in each of those states. So, while the polls currently show a definite advantage for Obama, it is by no means over.

On the other hand, if Obama wins in every state in which he currently leads in the polls, he will end up with 348 electoral votes. That is within spitting distance of Bill Clinton's totals of 370 and 379 in 1992 and 1996 respectively. And the electoral vote map would be similar to those of Clinton's 1992 and 1996 victories.

The wild card is McCain's recent tendency to try to pull rabbits out of his hat. When Obama has seemed to gain momentum, McCain has pulled surprises such as choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate, and then declaring a suspension of his campaign as the financial crisis intensified.

McCain does not seem content to go gentle into that good night as, I would argue, other trailing candidates such as Michael Dukakis and Bob Dole did in past elections. During the next five weeks, there might be more attempts on McCain's part to shake up Obama's seeming momentum toward victory.

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