Washington Post’s “Lowest Common Denominator” Map

WaPo’s Dan Balz has an A1 story today explaining the 2008 electoral map to what one might call casual observers of the race. So the article covers most of the CW — Obama will target new battlegrounds like Virginia and Colorado, McCain has his sights on Michigan, the Midwest is pivotal, and so on… — but Balz also drops a couple of interesting stats that I didn’t know:

“States the Democrats have won in four of the past five elections add up to 255 electoral votes; states Republicans have won in five of the past seven elections (including two Ronald Reagan electoral landslides) account for 269 electoral votes. New Hampshire, New Mexico and West Virginia, representing 14 electoral votes, fall into neither category.”

It’s striking that the GOP has such a high electoral floor.

It’s also interesting that New Hampshire and West Virginia seem be going through these fundamental political transformations. West Virginia was once a lynchpin in the New Deal Democratic coalition, voting for the Democratic presidential candidate in elections from 1920 to 2000 with the exceptions of the GOP landslides of 1954, ’72 and ’84. And the Granite State’s DNA is so Republican that the Legislature was in GOP hands from 1911 to 2004, when the Dems took it over.

Balz also notes that “In 2004, 13 states were decided by seven or fewer percentage points: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.”

One state in that list stuck out for me: New Jersey. Bush lost here by only seven points, which was a smaller margin that he won the supposedly battleground state of Virginia. So the question is: is New Jersey really a swing state (Bush Sr. won here in 1988), or was it a 9/11 anomaly? And more importantly, how much time and money does McCain want to spend here in 2008?

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4 responses to “Washington Post’s “Lowest Common Denominator” Map

  1. “It’s striking that the GOP has such a high electoral floor.”

    The Balz analysis was good overall, except for this claim of GOP “floor” .. looking at the last 7 elections (back to 1980 !) is ridiculous. This country is very, very different from what it was 28 years ago ! might as well say the Dems. have a high electoral floor b/c they have won a majority of the last 19 elections (10 of the last 19 — going back to 1932) and West Virginia leans Dem. b/c Dems. have carried it 5 out of the last 8 elections.

  2. No, New Jersey is not going Republican. Republicans should have learned their lessons lately, and that is that we are not going to carry NJ in a national election or Senate race.

    If by some chance Republicans do win New Jersey, then the election is a rout. Not a place to spend money in.

  3. The real issue is not how well Obama or McCain might do in the closely divided battleground states, but that we shouldn’t have battleground states and spectator states in the first place. Every vote in every state should be politically relevant in a presidential election. And, every vote should be equal. We should have a national popular vote for President in which the White House goes to the candidate who gets the most popular votes in all 50 states.

    The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC). The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes—that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    The major shortcoming of the current system of electing the President is that presidential candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or worry about the voter concerns in states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. The reason for this is the winner-take-all rule which awards all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state. Because of this rule, candidates concentrate their attention on a handful of closely divided “battleground” states. Two-thirds of the visits and money are focused in just six states; 88% on 9 states, and 99% of the money goes to just 16 states. Two-thirds of the states and people are merely spectators to the presidential election.

    Another shortcoming of the current system is that a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide.

    The National Popular Vote bill has been approved by 18 legislative chambers (one house in Colorado, Arkansas, Maine, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Washington, and two houses in Maryland, Illinois, Hawaii, California, and Vermont). It has been enacted into law in Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and Maryland. These states have 50 (19%) of the 270 electoral votes needed to bring this legislation into effect.

    See http://www.NationalPopularVote.com

  4. Having grown up in NJ, I can say that it is not a swing state.

    HOWEVER, at a gubernatorial level, NJ voters have shown fondness for moderate Republicans. Republicans held the governors office for 15 of the past 25 years (Tom Kean, ’82-’90; Christie Whitman, ’94-’01), both of them two-termers. A Democrat hasn’t held the office for two terms since the Carter administration. So a perceived “maverick” McCain may play well.

    On the other hand, one could answer that local & state elections are a poor indicator of preferences in federal elections. (see MA Romney, MT Schweizer, etc)

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