AEI fellow John Fortier has a fascinating article in the Politico today that takes a deeper look at the CW that Barack Obama would expand the electoral map. I’m part of that camp that believes Obama would put more of the map in play than either Hillary Clinton or John McCain, and I think that an Obama-McCain contest would have wide battlegrounds while a Clinton-McCain race would resemble the familiar trend-warfare kind of election.
Specifically, I believe that Obama would be well-suited to pick off independents in the Mountain West and the mid-Atlantic, and could pick off the red states of Colorado and Virginia. Fortier rebuts the idea that Obama could win in the West by noting that McCain runs strong with Hispanics. True, by how about independents? Fortier also dismisses the argument that Obama could win Mississippi, which has the nation’s highest percentage of black voters. I agree with this point.
Fortier’s most insightful point, however, might be that Obama will probably not be able to win Virginia. It’s become trendy to suggest that the Old Dominion would be a toss-up if Obama is the nominee, and Tim Russert even made that suggestion last week. “But Bush won Virginia by more than 8 percentage points and more than 260,000 votes in 2004,” writes Fortier. “If the black vote increased by 20 percent, or approximately 140,000 votes, and if Obama doubled Kerry’s margin of victory in Northern Virginia from about 80,000 to 160,000, he would still fall short.”
Doubling Kerry’s NoVA totals would be a tall feat, even if Obama seizes on the kind of post-partisan tone that made Tim Kaine so appealing to exurban voters in his 2005 run. But even if that occurs, Fortier doesn’t mention the other prevailing force in this election: The fact that McCain is very popular with moderate Republicans and military personnel, which are both prevalent demographic groups in Virginia.
Moderate Republicans in Fairfax County, Loudoun County and Richmond, and the military-minded voters connected to Hampton Roads or the Pentagon are just too large of a force for Obama to overcome. Even if every independent, exurban voter is on board.