Sunday, August 24, 2008

Pre-Convention Update (E-72)

Instead of waiting for the sixty-day mark, I decided to pull numbers right before and right after both parties' conventions. Without further ado, the numbers:

Strong D: 214 (-17)
Lead D: 46 (-7)
Toss-up: 102 (+5)
Lean R: 64 (+19)
Strong R: 112 (-10)

Total D: 260
Total R: 176

The major change from last time: McCain came out swinging. It was risky, inherently risky, but so far it looks like it's paying dividends. He's put Ohio back in the toss-up column, which makes it a real race again, at least potentially. He retains the problem that he absolutely has to run the table on the toss-ups to win, but it's mathematically possible now. It wasn't, before.

Now, the weekend's big news is that Barack Obama has picked Joe Biden as his running mate. The announcement has pretty much sucked all the oxygen out of the room, and no one on the news channels can talk about anything else. He's not my favorite guy in all the world, but was there another choice? Biden brings experience, and a bit of gravitas. He's got as much foreign policy experience as anyone in his party at this point. He's got some experience with economic issues as well. Mostly, this kicks off their convention spiel two days early. That puts some pressure on McCain's campaign to drop a bombshell late Friday or early Saturday.

Now, we're going to look at each of the toss-ups, and see who'd win if the election were today. Caveat Emptor: I'm awarding the votes to whoever has a plurality. Almost by definition, nobody has cleared 50% support in a toss-up state.

Alaska: D +3
Nevada: D +5
Montana: D +3
Colorado: D +9
Ohio: D +20
Virginia: D +13
New Hampshire: D +4

Total D: +57

North Dakota: R +3
North Carolina: R +15
Florida: R +27

Total R: +45

Projected D: 317
Projected R: 221

This projection is worth exactly as much as you have paid for it. But the polling data, in aggregate, tells a sad story for Republicans.

What John McCain must do: McCain is going to have to endure a week-long media blackout, unless something really interesting happens at the Democratic convention, and all Hell breaks loose. He's going to have to ruthlessly exploit any mistakes the Democrats make during their own convention, while simultaneously batting it out of the park during his own. He's had a good run these last few weeks, pulling 24 EVs from the Democrats while adding 9 net EVs to his own tally. He's got to keep that train rolling. He has to win all but eight of the EVs on the toss-up list. Which is to say, he can live without Nevada and Montana, but has to have all of the rest.

What Barack Obama must do: Obama has lost the initiative. This isn't an existential crisis for his campaign, not yet, given the size of his EV lead. He only needs to pull ten EVs from the toss-up list to win. That's Ohio or Virginia. But it's still troubling. He can't continue to sail above the fray. He's got to engage McCain's campaign head-to-head. He knows how -- anyone who matriculated through the Chicago school of politics knows every dirty trick ever invented, and then some -- but has chosen not to respond in kind so far. He, or someone from his campaign, has got to get in the pit and start swinging. Otherwise, they may yet snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

The Way to Bet: Obama still owns a substantial lead, but has lost the initiative. I'm hesitant to call it, but I still think Obama wins. It's not a landslide, but not a squeaker, either. And if McCain continues to chip away at the middle, it'll get tighter yet.

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