Post 1: The Ground Game
Two weeks. We're now at T-minus 14 days and counting. I've got a couple things to post about tonight. First off, where the race is at and where it's likely to go.
As always, I hope you'll take a look at electoral-vote.com if you haven't already. Most of you will probably be viewing the October 20th results, but on Tuesday, October 19th, they had the race at Kerry: 284, Bush: 247. That feels pretty good, frankly, heading into the homestretch against an incumbent who's running as a "war president."
But in the late afternoon, Zogby (who came closest to calling the final results in 2000) released a set of polls taken in key swing states. These polls weren't reflected in today's electoral-vote.com map, but I expect they will be tomorrow. If the election were held right now, these polls would mean bad news for our side. Because Kerry would only win 264 electoral votes.
But the election isn't today. Yes, time is short, but a lot can happen in two weeks -- just look at any online graph tracking the polls over the course of this year's campaign. And Kerry has two very strong things going for him, neither of which were predicted by political analysts around the time of the two conventions. One is the genuine anxiety about the potential for a reinstatement of the draft next year. To be fair, that may be out of both candidates' hands if they hope to restore some degree of sanity to Iraq. But the second should have been foreseen and prevented by the Bush administration, and that's the shortage of flu vaccines. It may seem like a trivial issue after 9/11 and with a war raging. But people don't like getting sick, especially when it could have been avoided. I've had several colds this year already, and the last one really knocked me on my ass. If that strain really starts making the rounds, you're going to have even more pissed off voters than there already are...
Anyhoo...let's do some math. Here are the states I see Kerry winning, without a doubt. Why? Because according to the latest polls he's up by 5 or more percentage points in all of them:
WASHINGTON D.C. (3)
NEW JERSEY (15)
NEW YORK (31)
RHODE ISLAND (4)
NEW HAMPSHIRE (4)
That adds up to 238 electoral votes, 32 shy of victory.
Now let's look at the list of states that most analysts say are still in play:
NEW MEXICO (10)
NORTH CAROLINA (15)
WEST VIRGINIA (5)
Those states have a combined total of 157 electoral votes -- a pretty decent playing field for Kerry, you must admit. And he's already ahead in four of them, according to Zogby:
NEW MEXICO (5)
Unfortunately, those four states are only good for 26 electoral votes -- 6 shy of the 270 he needs. But he does have momentum in other states, and he's within the margin of error in several, including ARKANSAS and EV-rich FLORIDA.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on how Kerry ought to play this final round, so feel free to add to the Comments section. Here's my take on the race:
Forget FLORIDA. Jeb Bush proved in 2000 that he wouldn't let "his" state go to anyone but his brother, no matter what. I know it's tempting because the race is so deadlocked there, but it would do my heart good to see Kerry write it off and focus his energies on less corrupt electoral opportunities.
So shore up those leads in NEW MEXICO, IOWA, WISCONSIN, and MAINE to ensure at least 264 EVs fall into Kerry's column. All of them are states that went for Gore in 2000 (though NM and IA were by razor thin margins) so we should be able to hold them.
Then pour everything else you've got -- and bear in mind: the Kerry campaign has done a remarkable job keeping pace with Republican fundraising -- into three states: OHIO, NEVADA, and...ARKANSAS.
NEVADA alone would only bring us to 269, which would mean an electoral tie with Bush. The House is likely to stay in Republican hands, so they'd surely give Bush his second term -- clouded in doubt just as his first was. But the proposed nuclear waste dump in NV is a very contentious issue, with a lot of Nevadans pissed at Bush for reneging on his promise to sign off on it only if the science assured its safety. The science was inconclusive at best, but Bush has decided to push ahead anyway. This is a state that's swung from blue to red and back again by small margins throughout the year. Kerry has a real chance there if he can connect with voters on this issue in particular.
But he'd still need another state. Many have opined that OHIO is likely to be this year's FLORIDA, with the race being decided by the way this Rust Belt state, that's lost hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs, will turn. It's still in Bush's column but the momentum seems to be on our side, so it's entirely plausible that Kerry will eke out a win there once those all-important "undecideds" finally make up their mind.
ARKANSAS, however, might just provide another prime opportunity -- especially if the Big Dog -- Bill Clinton -- is well enough to campaign there in the final week of the race. It's never quite tipped into Kerry's column, but it's teetered as a toss-up for months now. The Kerry campaign hasn't expended too many resources there, as far as I know, but a little bit of attention and a lot of love from the state's favorite son could make a real difference there. Clinton won his home state handily in '92 and '96, and if he can convince his fellow Arkansans of the benefits of a Kerry presidency, we might just prevail there.
And given the likelihood of behind-the-scenes trickery in OHIO, we need to have one backup state to nudge us over the 270-line... The R's might not see ARKANSAS coming, and at this late date might be hard-pressed to counter a Kerry effort there. Plus...with IOWA nudging MISSOURI from the north and a blue ARKANSAS to the south, we might just stand a chance of keeping MO competitive too.
However you look at it, the race is going to be a nail-biter. So whatever you're able to do -- contribute, volunteer, etc. -- do it. Let's not wake up on November 3rd wondering what more we could have done to prevent 4 more years of Bush...