Monday, April 14, 2008

Electoral College Math

Back in 2000, George W. Bush ridiculed Al Gore's budgetary calculations as "fuzzy math."

His listeners always roared their approval and frequently began to chant "fuzzy math, fuzzy math," especially when there were network news cameras nearby.

In Bush's mind, I assume that any math that is more involved than 1 + 1 is "fuzzy."

And it might be tempting -- for Democrats and anyone who is leaning Democratic this year -- to dismiss any scenario dreamed up by the Republicans in which John McCain wins this year's election in the Electoral College as "fuzzy math."

But Richard Baehr, political director of American Thinker, insists that "McCain is in very good shape for the general election run."

You may ask, how so?

"The Republicans have landed on the one candidate in their party ideally suited for the race this year," writes Baehr, "with broad appeal among Democrats and independents, a veteran and war hero during a time of war, a candidate with a reputation for being a straight talker (and not talking down to voters, or outright lying to them), and with real strength in larger swing states. McCain is also benefiting from the fact that the Democrats continue to snipe at each other rather than at him, and each candidate has exposed weaknesses in the other, which become ammunition for McCain in the fall campaign."

Baehr points out that the most reliable daily tracking polls are currently showing McCain with an 8-point lead over Hillary Clinton and an 8-point lead over Barack Obama.

"I do not expect McCain to win by an 8-point margin in November," Baehr concedes. "Nor do I expect a blowout win of that size for the Democratic nominee.

"The last time the Republicans achieved an 8-point national popular vote margin, George Herbert Walker Bush won 40 states and 426 Electoral College votes against Michael Dukakis in 1988. The last time a Democratic candidate had a margin that large was Bill Clinton with his 8-point win in 1996, and he won 31 states and 379 Electoral College votes. Lyndon Johnson in 1964 is the only other Democrat who won by more than 8% since FDR."

Keep in mind that the only number that matters in the election is 270. It's not rocket science. A candidate needs 270 to receive a majority of the votes in the Electoral College.

Bush just barely got enough electoral votes to win the last two elections -- and he needed the help of the Supreme Court to pull it off eight years ago.

The only math that counts is the Electoral College math. And, right now, those numbers favor McCain.

If you have further doubts, Baehr goes on to break down the Electoral College math -- and there's nothing fuzzy about his conclusions.

"The Electoral math looks this way: if Florida and Ohio are safe for McCain, and Virginia and Missouri are too, as they now all appear to be, then McCain has a base of 260 Electoral College votes of the 270 he needs to win," asserts Baehr.

"He would need to only win 10 from among the states Bush won last time that are in play this year: Colorado (currently tied), New Mexico (3-point Obama lead), Iowa (4-point Obama lead) and Nevada (4-point Obama lead), and several tempting blue states in which McCain is currently competitive."

Baehr acknowledges, "It is a long way ‘til November, and the Arizona senator could be hurt if the economic downturn is deeper and longer than most economists expect it to be, or if the Iraq situation starts to unravel again.

"The Democrats are likely to have a large money advantage in the fall campaign. But they may also have a candidate tied to Reverend Jeremiah Wright, and his anti-American rants, and a candidate and his wife who can't seem to escape appearing to be condescending to those not of their social/economic/educational class."

Baehr continues, "None of this will matter to those on the left, or to young people who are buying Obama's content-free but well-delivered messages on hope and change.

"But to many Americans in the 'flyover zone' who do not live for politics but still vote every four years, John McCain may appear to be more tested, and a safer choice in troubled times than his young and untested opponent.

"At least that is what the polls now show."

And, at the moment, polls are all we have. They're like snapshots of the electorate. They may not tell you what you want to hear -- like a snapshot that makes you look heavier than you want to be or was taken right after you got a bad haircut.

But the polls tell us where we stand in April. There's still time to lose a few pounds or get a haircut that is more becoming.

The election is still more than six months away. That's the math Democrats need to be concerned about right now.

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