Some Ocean Front Property in Arizona

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.

Obama Has No Chance in Arkansas

In the wake of Democratic Rep. Dan Boren‘s (D) refusal to endorse Barack Obama, Arkansas News columnist John Brummett suspects that the Oklahoma congressman’s uneasiness with Obama extends across the border:

“Obama can’t compete in Arkansas without Hillary as his running mate. Obama is going to get pummeled in Oklahoma either way because Oklahoma is Arkansas without those enlightened (or static, if you prefer) Democratic influences. The point is that, for all the talk of a new day and of a race that is the Democrats to lose, the Democrats find themselves in old and familiar territory. That is to say they have a nominee whose competitiveness seems foreclosed in large sections of the country, primarily ours.”

Could Obama Really Win a State in the South?

If Barack Obama wins any of the states in the former Confederacy, it’ll probably be Virginia or North Carolina. But a few analysts have suggested that he could boost African-African turnout across the rest of the south — the Deep South, mind you — to make some really red states competitive. Chuck Todd and Marc Ambinder, who were both my bosses at The Hotline and who are two brightest political minds I know, have hinted that Obama could make Georgia and Mississippi interesting.

Chuck wrote in March that “Mississippi is one of those rare Southern states that might be in play in the general election if Obama becomes the nominee. One Dem statistician tells First Read that there are three red states that could swing if African-American turnout was ever maximized (both in registration and in actual turnout): Georgia, Louisiana and, yes, Mississippi. So don’t assume this is just one of those untouchable red states.”

Marc took it a step further in May and broke down the actual numbers, asking, “Did you know that a half a million African Americans in Georgia are eligible to vote but haven’t registered? The Obama campaign knows this. And they plan to register these voters by November, campaign folks say.” The Southern Political Report noted on Tuesday that the DCCC and DSCC have already registered 70,000 new voters in some Louisiana parishes.

Stateline also took a look at it on Tuesday and noted that “Some Democrats hold out hope that Obama could actually win one of the six Southern states that he won so convincingly during the primary season — Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina — all of which have voted strongly Republican in recent presidential elections.” But the key phrase from that observation might have been that Dems are “holding out hope,” because after all, it’ll be a long shot.

Tom Schaller, another superb political handicapper, actually crunched the numbers (something that no one else has done), and found that Obama is facing steep odds. In a conversation about white voters posted on Salon, Schaller presented his data:

“I did a correlation between the black share of statewide population in the 11 Confederate states and the share of Bush‘s support among white voters, and it correlates at .76 with all 11 confederate states and if you take Texas out, which Bush obviously did well in, though it has a relatively low black population, with a data set of just 10 data points, it correlates at .9. Human height and weight doesn’t correlate at .9. With 10 data points, it’s ridiculous. I don’t even think this is an empirical matter of dispute.”

Schaller has a point and his numbers are tough to argue with.  But if Obama’s campaign is really about redrawing the electoral map and scrapping the old Clinton-Bush model, then he needs to leave no stone unturned and leave no county uncontested.

The Significance of Obama’s Raleigh Visit

The Obama camp has repeatedly boasted they can win North Carolina’s 15 electoral votes, so it’s no surprise that the campaign visited Raleigh to kick off its economic tour.  As I wrote last year my National Journal article “Is North Carolina the New Virginia?,” the Research Trinagle around Raleigh is changing in many of the same ways that Northern Virginia changed 15 years ago, and in turn, is increasingly influencing statewide elections the way NoVA does.

I emailed Ferrell Guillory, director of the Center for the Study of the American South at UNC-Chapel Hill, and asked what he thought about Obama’s chances in North Carolina in 2008. This is what he told me:

“The embedded GOP general election vote surely makes McCain the frontrunner in N.C. Still, like Virginia, NC going through a transition, economically and socially that will eventually have a ripple effect politically. I’d say Virginia is somewhat farther along that N.C. in that transition. If Obama has any chance here, he clearly — emphatically — must stimulate a strong turnout in Raleigh and Research Triangle environs, not only among black citizens but also among independent high-tech folks and young newly arrived voters. It makes sense for the Obama campaign to make an early stop here to assess the situation — and determine later whether it’s worth investing more time and resources to the state. To win N.C., he has to change the dynamic.”

Confederate Flag Adorns Florida’s “Most Important Swing Region”

The Sons of the Confederacy hoisted the world’s largest Rebel flag last week at a intersection of two major interstates in Tampa.  It’s a 30′ x 50′ Stars and Bars that will be lit at night and will stand on private land at the junction of Interstate 75 and Interstate 4.

Interstate 4, as all political demographers know, is the main artery in what one Florida reporter recently described as “the most important swing region in the nation’s biggest swing state.”  The I-4 Corridor, as it’s called, includes 14 counties between the Tampa metro area and Daytona Beach, and is considered a pivotal area in Florida elections.

“Since at least 1980, the combined votes in those 14 counties have almost perfectly reflected the votes of the state as a whole,” wrote Tampa Tribune reporter William Marsh in May on the eve of Barack Obama‘s visit to  Tampa.   It’s the swing region between reliably Republican north and southwestern Florida and staunchly Democratic southeastern Florida.

Marsh also cited USF professor Susan McManus who predicted that Obama might have a tough time winning the I-4 Corridor.  She noted Republicans’ edge in registration, the fact that many voters here are older and value “experience and stability,” and the presence of suburbanites who could be susceptible to allegations about Obama’s patriotism.

But judging by the 1500 square foot Rebel battle flag flying 139 feet over the I-4 Corridor’s largest media market, does Obama have another hurdle to worry about here?

McCain Maps Out His General Election Strategy

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

McCain Battleground State

McCain\'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

Ohio and Pennsylvania Appalachia

Obama’s Polling with the Base in Swing States

Obama and the Democratic Base

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

McCain\'s States of Interest

Earmarks by State: Arizona vs. Alaska

AP has a map of earmarks by state per capita.  Don Young‘s Alaska rakes in the most at $506.34 per capita and Jeff Flake‘s Arizona brings in the least at $19.70 per capita.

Earmarks Per Capita (AP)

Earmarks Per Capita