Cross-posted at The Next Right.
Politico‘s Charlie Mahtesian and Amie Parnes wrote an article yesterday about the “Five Places Obama Should Go,” and four out of the five areas they identified were places where he struggled against Clinton: Broward County, FL (Jews), Youngstown, OH (blue-collar, gun-owning Catholics), San Antonio (Latinos) and Mingo Couny, WV (“the heart of the anti-Obama belt”). The fifth suggestion — Maricopa County, AZ — was clearly aimed at McCain.
If four out of the five places Obama has to go are aimed at shoring up his base, it means he still has plenty of loose ends to tie up from the primary before he starts trying to win over independents and Republicans.
With that in mind, where are the five places that McCain should go?
This is a tough one, since most of his weaknesses seem to be more personal (age, speaking skills, Bush) rather than geographic. Still, I think visiting areas where Obama is vulnerable and putting him on the defensive would be a smart move — So, how about:
- Ohio River Valley Tour — From Pittsburgh to St. Louis — When it comes to the Ohio River Valley, the bad news for the GOP is that the party’s brand is in poor shape in this border region and has been resulting in substantial loses on the congressional level (think PA-04, OH-18, KY-03, IN-08 and IN-09, and the near-miss in OH-02). The good news for the GOP is that Obama is very unpopular here and was pummeled by Hillary in the primaries. In one trip, McCain could hit competitive areas in the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Missouri, while also challenging the myth that Kentucky could become competitve and even making a symbolic swing through the Land of Lincoln.
- Fairfield County, Conn. — A campaign stop with New York-area Jews and Joe Lieberman would inevitably shine a light on Obama’s comments about Iran and would fan media speculation that the state could become competitive. And Henry Kissinger lives in Kent, an hour up the beautiful Housatonic Valley from Fairfield County — perhaps he could lend an opinion on Obama’s foreign policy?
- Northern Suburbs of Milwaukee, Wis. — The suburbs will be key nationwide and Wisconsin is a vital target state for the GOP. The north and west ‘burbs of Milwaukee also “remain overwhelmingly Republican,” notes Democratic pollster Paul Maslin. But “If Obama can crack them to any degree he probably wins the state by several points.” Besides shoring up support with voters, a McCain appearance in the “Beer Capital of the World” would also remind the media that he’s the beer track candidate and Obama is the wine track one. It would also be smart to campaign with fellow Teddy Roosevelt Republican Tommy Thompson.
- Grand Rapids — Michigan might be Obama’s most blue vulnerable state and Gerald Ford’s hometown is at the ideological intersection of what Patrick Ruffini once called “the real dividing lines of” the GOP primary — wealthy suburbanites, religious conservatives and Ford-like mainline moderates. A smart sidekick would be Mitt Romney, who beat McCain in Grand Rapids by a 38-31% margin.
- Iowa, Early and Often — Iowa might be McCain’s most vulnerable state; he clearly has never built much of an operation here. He needs to visit Iowa… repeatedly.
Posted in Arizona, Barack Obama, Connecticut, Florida, John McCain, Michigan, Ohio, Texas, West Virginia, Wisconsin
Tagged Arizona, Barack Obama, Connecticut, Electoral Map, Florida, John McCain, Michigan, Ohio, Politics, Texas, West Virginia, Wisconsin
A Rasmussen poll out today has McCain at 45% and Obama 43%, within the ±4% margin of error. According to TPM Election Central, “the poll also found that 54% of respondents said it’s more important to bring the troops home form Iraq than it is to win the war, versus only 40% who think victory is more important than leaving — a very bad finding for McCain in this traditionally red state.”
Map compliments of Cartophilia.
If you buy the McCain camp’s suggestion that his home state is going to be a battelground this Fall, then to use the words of George Straight, “I’ve got some ocean front property in Arizona / From my front porch you can see the sea / I’ve got some ocean front property in Arizona / And if you’ll buy that I’ll throw the Golden Gate in free.”
It’s a whopper of a suggestion if I’ve every heard one.
The McCain camp sent out a “Strategy Briefing” last week with a list of battleground states that included some pretty strange choices, most notably his home state of Arizona. Maybe it was an attempt to bait the Obama campaign, or more likely the media, but its seems like a couple of lefty blogs have been the only ones to bite.
FiveThirtyEight.com notes that Washington Independent observed that “In a clear signal that Arizona’s 10 electoral votes are up for grabs, the McCain campaign has added Arizona to its list of 24 ‘battleground states’ with their 242 electoral votes.” The Huffington Post subsequently followed suit and picked up the article.
Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight.com posted his own reaction to the McCain’s briefing today, smartly observing that “Even without that home state effect, Arizona would lag a few points behind pickup opportunities like Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada, largely because of its large retiree population. Is it possible that Obama could win Arizona? Sure (although our model assigns him only a 4 percent chance). Is Arizona likely to make the difference between winning and losing the election? Probably not.”
I agree. Arizona is a changing at the state level with Dems gaining more offices despite districts that heavily favor the GOP. But it’s going to be a while before Dems can win the Land of Barry Goldwater in a presidential election.
The McCain camp has a 15 minute “Strategy Briefing” video up its Web site outlining where and how it’ll fight. Many of the battleground states it identifies are familiar, but a few are questionable. For example, the campaign names Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky and Tennessee battlegrounds, but not Virginia or North Carolina.
McCain Camp’s Battleground States
The McCain team is also all over Obama‘s weakness in Appalachian counties in Ohio and Pennsylvania (including Ted Strickland‘s former district and John Murtha‘s district) and a supposed lingering rift among Democrats in swing states.
Appalachia in Ohio and Pennsylvania
Obama’s Polling with the Base in Swing States
Lastly, the briefing names states of interest that the McCain camp says it’ll be keeping its eye on, including Schwarzenegger’s California and Lieberman‘s Connecticut.
McCain’s States of Interest
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?
Joe Lieberman (?-CT) has been spending plenty of time with John McCain lately, and now we get word from Ben Smith that’s he hosting conference calls with reporters bashing Barack Obama on Iran. “Senator Obama argued today that American foreign policy in recent years has essentially sort of strengthened Iran… and I disagree with that,” said Lieberman.
So assuming that he continues to play a prominent role in the McCain campaign, and possibly is even tapped as a running mate, could Lieberman put Connecticut in play?
I doubt it, but consider some numbers: Chris Healy at The Everyday Republican is trumpeting a Rasmussen Reports poll released on Tuesday that finds Obama taking 47% in the Nutmeg State to McCain’s 44%. “We have always felt that Sen. McCain’s positions and personal story and long record of being a maverick would play well in our state,” writes Healy. “The numbers indicate that, and they are even more amazing considering how the Democrats have dominated the news for the last two months.”
Politico‘s Jonathan Martin also noted in his March article “Maverick wants to paint blue states red” that McCain has his eyes on the state that has elected two third-party candidate to statewide office in recent years (Lieberman and Lowell Weicker).
The chances are slim for McCain in Connecticut. But considering all the time he’ll be spending in New Hampshire, isn’t it worth the occasional day trip down the Connecticut River, if only to make things interesting?
Over at The Next Right, my NMS colleague Jon Henke has a post tackling the daunting topic of “The Future of the Right” and identifies three different types of Republicans: Progressive Republicans, Goldwater Republicans and Bush Republicans.
Progressive Republicans (aka: Teddy Roosevelt Republicans) are “generally reliable on limited government, but willing to go off on Big Government crusades.” Goldwater Republicans “vote for limited government, individual liberty and strong defense; they may have various opinions on social issues, but they subsume those views to the goal at hand: limiting government.” Bush Republicans are “willing to accept Big Government, so long as the government does socially conservative things. (See: Mike Huckabee).”
If you look at the map, Huckabee won SEC County, or the region that Joel Kotkin has said produced “George Bush’s Sun Belt mafia”; John McCain won states with old-school progressive heritages like Wisconsin and Teddy Roosevelt’s New York and Mitt Romney took the states where Goldwater’s ethos of libertarianism are strongest like the West, Maine and Ted Kaczynski’s old haunting ground of Michigan.
Does this mean that Huckabee, McCain and Romney carry the banner for Bush Republicans, Progressive Republicans and Goldwater Republicans, respectively?
2008 Republican Primaries Electoral Map