The Final Lap
I try not to look at polls anymore. Honestly. I know at this point it's not the stats that matter, but the ground game. And we seem to be running strong there; much stronger than in 2000 when we lost by a sliver (and a bit of Supreme intervention...)
But try as I might, I'm still hopelessly addicted to the numbers game. Much of the "blame" lies at the virtual feet of electoral-vote.com, a remarkable site that has made the twists and turns and ins and outs of our bizarre and anachronistic electoral college accessible to everyone -- and given political junkies an unprecedented (perhaps unhealthy) "daily fix."
[By the way, the "Votemaster" finally revealed his true identity today, on Election Eve. Go have a look.]
Well, with the election now looming like the blimp in Black Sunday and my political obsession reaching a fever pitch, today I took a closer look than usual at the state-by-state numbers and noticed something REALLY interesting.
First off, the obvious: today's map has reverted back to where it was this summer, with an electoral breakdown that seems to make sense intuitively and historically. Bush has a solid lock on the south and most of the midwest, while Kerry sweeps the west coast, New England, and the Great Lakes states. Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan have all swung back to blue -- as they had been through most of the summer -- while states like Nevada, Arizona, and Missouri are all now comfortably in Bush's column.
Those with a decent memory will no doubt recognize that this is a virtual flashback to the final red/blue map from 2000 -- right down to the race in Florida separated by a single, statistically insignificant percentage point.
But run the cursor across the blue and swing states, and you'll notice another interesting parallel between the 2000 election and the way this one is shaping up: the final election tallies for Bush/Gore are almost identical -- to a point in many cases -- with the latest (last?) polls in this year's race.
People love to say, "9/11 changed everything," but the truth of the matter is that -- if the polls are to be believed -- it had virtually no effect on the electoral math of this nation. Check out these states as examples of, respectively, a "weak Gore," a swing state, and a "strong Gore":
MICHIGAN 2000: Gore 51.3, Bush 46.1
MICHIGAN 2004: Kerry 52, Bush 46 (Zogby)
PENNSYLVANIA 2000: Gore 50.6, Bush 46.4
PENNSYLVANIA 2004: Kerry 50, Bush 46
ILLINOIS 2000: Gore 54.6, Bush 42.6
ILLINOIS 2004: Kerry 54, Bush 42 (Survey USA)
But where the numbers do diverge, they swing in Kerry's favor almost without exception. In other words, and especially in the swing states, Bush is pulling the same percentages he was in 2000, while Kerry tends to do as good OR BETTER than Gore.
WASHINGTON 2000: Gore 50.2, Bush 44.6
WASHINGTON 2004: Kerry 53, Bush 44 (Rasmussen)
MINNESOTA 2000: Gore 47.9, Bush 45.5
MINNESOTA 2004: Kerry 50, Bush 45 (Zogby)
MAINE 2000: Gore 49.1, Bush 44
MAINE 2004: Kerry 52, Bush 44
Again, see how Bush's numbers haven't moved while Kerry has picked up support (typically between 2-3%) from Gore's run in 2000? Much of this can be attributed to Nader voters from 2000 throwing their votes to Kerry this time out. So can we finally bury the notion that Nader didn't cost Gore the election in 2000? He did, it's a fact, folks...deal with it.
So I think our confidence is rooted in reality: that Kerry will hang on to every Gore state, with the possible exception of New Mexico. But Gore won that state by only 366 votes, so it is in the truest sense a toss-up. It could come down to voter registration, or simply an anomaly in the way the votes get counted. (Or...I hate to say it...Republican vote suppression, given the high percentage of minority voters in the state.) But despite the dead heat shown by electoral-vote.com I think Kerry will carry New Hampshire this time -- worth 4 electoral votes versus New Mexico's 5...
But on The Randi Rhodes Show the other day, Governor Bill Richardson gave a bluntly honest assessment of Kerry's chances in New Mexico. No rose-tinted glasses here; he thinks we can win the state but it's going to take a lot of hard, hard work, and unprecedented GOTV efforts. I'm going to think positive, that we're up to the task this year, so let's believe that Kerry is going to build -- "Big Time" -- on Gore's win four years ago.
So we're talking about a solid foundation of 260 electoral votes (from "Gore" states) plus an extra four from New Hampshire, which is coming to its senses this year.
Things are looking good in Ohio (20) and Florida (27). In the latter state -- with more than 30% of all projected votes cast -- we have a 51/43% lead already.
Colorado (9) is still a statistical dead heat. Arkansas (6) could well be in play. And though the last few polls have been discouraging, Kerry was running strong in Nevada (5) this summer, and I'd like to think it's still on the table...
That's it. That's where we're at. If it's EV-rich Ohio or Florida, we'll be sitting pretty. If it's Colorado or Arkansas, we squeak by. If it's Nevada, we're at a 269-269 stand-off, and I don't like to think about that because the House of Representatives selects the winner, and I see no chance of us taking back the House this year.
But if we sweep all of these states...
Wow. 331 Electoral Votes.
It's not impossible. In fact, it's quite possible.
SUMMARY: We merely hold our own: we're toast again. We hold our own and win ONE: we prevail. We hold our own and win 'em all: we've got a freakin' mandate.