Thursday, October 9, 2008

Open Thread: An Obama Landslide: How Far Could It Go?

Another slow polling day has reader, SarahLawrenceScott, asking:
"Supposing we do get a true Obama landslide, which state or states listed as McCain solid or lean are most likely to go for Obama?"
Indeed. What do you think? With momentum now squarely behind Obama, the discussion has shifted to how high Obama's ceiling is in this election. We already have an idea of where the McCain campaign is aiming here. After the Michigan pullout last week, the Arizona senator's campaign indicated that they were targetting Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. But can Obama break into any of those lean or strong states of McCain's?

Let me weigh in here so that I'm not the first to comment on my own post.

It may be best to remove the ones that won't go for Obama first. I would eliminate the far right column on the Electoral College Spectrum. In the next column over, I'd take out Arizona, South Dakota, Arkansas, Alaska and Texas.

That leaves us with Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, North Dakota, and the two lean states, Montana and West Virginia.

You have three "groups" there: the southern states, the plains states and West Virginia. The Mountain state has been in the mid- to upper single digits for McCain since the conventions, but I just don't see that one going to Obama. If neither Kerry nor Gore could win there, I'm hard-pressed to see Obama succeeding.

But the other five states offer some interesting possibilities. With the exception of Mississippi, all of the states spent at least some time in the toss up category on FHQ's map. Obama had some sizable level of support in those states at certain points. I think Montana and North Dakota stand out there. The three southern states would have to see very heavy African American turnout to make it interesting.

But, and here's the thing, if this race looks in 26 days time like it does now, does that affect turnout? Would likely and potential McCain supporters stay home knowing he would not win anyway? This is where the potential for inreased African American participation in those three southern states is consequential. The trigger mechanism -- voting for the first African American presidential nominee -- is still there for those voters even if the race seems like a done deal. Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina are the most likely to go for Obama in the South and you could perhaps throw in Louisiana as well.

Increased African American participation or not, depressed conservative turnout could certainly tilt a few more states outside the South to Obama, and I think Montana and North Dakota are the most likely.

Your thoughts? The comments section awaits.

Recent Posts:
The Electoral College Map (10/9/08)

Update: The Electoral College from a Different Angle

Talk About Bad Timing


Jack said...

I think we're at the point where all the lean states are very unlikely states for Obama.

Perhaps the most likely are Montana/North Dakota, which did give Obama some good early polling numbers, but have shifted far away from Obama since. Montana is more likely to swing than SC.

Next are the southern states of Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina. I just don't see there being enough swing voters for these to go blue, but maybe I'm wrong.

Unlike you, I wouldn't rule out WV. The economy has gotten to the point where even racists are considering voting for Obama. And WV has gone Democratic in the 1990s. It's been within single digits in sporadic polling.

Next is South Dakota and Arkansas, places that Democrats can win under the right circumstances. Louisiana will be tough - I know a lot of blacks have left but that doesn't seem to be hurting Mary Landrieu.

After that is Arizona, and by now we're getting pretty far away from reality. Perhaps Obama, given his strength in the Mountain West, would have a good shot at that reddish state if McCain were not his opponent.

Maybe we can play devil's advocate and discuss what would happen in a McCain landslide. Republican landslides in this political map are probably uglier than Democratic ones. In an extreme case, Obama might wind up with the 57 EVs of HI & IL (his home states), MD (largest black population of any blue state, I'm pretty sure), DC, MA, RI and VT, though it could possibly get even worse, if, say, I'm completely wrong and Obama is a terrorist sympathizer and appears at a fundraiser with Osama. In that case, he'd probably still win DC but that's about it.

Josh Putnam said...

I may change my mind about West Virginia in light of new information there.

Here's the breakdown of the percentage of African Americans by state. As of 2000, Mississippi held that distinction overall. But Maryland is the highest blue state.

Jack said...

You have got to be f****** kidding me.

I think ARG's April Fools Day poll got delayed by eight months.

I know that Nate ranks ARG pretty low, and that this is probably an outlier, but still.

This poll just made my day. It's shocking.

Incidentally, I was initially listing WV as the most likely state to flip, but then I changed my mind. Perhaps I should have stuck to my guns. And religion.

Jack said...

Also, thanks for that link to AA populations.. I've been looking for something like that sporadically for a while.

Jack said...

One more thing, and I'm sorry about the triple post, but doesn't ARG have a disproportionate number of Democrats there? I believe WV has a high number of registered Dems, but 55%?

Josh Putnam said...

Yeah, that 55/35 split in party ID is definitely something to look at here. The state does have a lot of Democrats, but 55% seems a bit steep.

Jack said...

Actually, not really.

Voter registration as of 2006 general election

Voter registration as of the 2008 primary elections

So the proportions in the ARG poll were pretty favorable to Republicans.

Josh Putnam said...

Excellent work, Jack. I'll put those links in with my discussion of the poll in tonight's/tomorrow's map post.

Do they have the 2002 and 2004 numbers up as well? I'd like to see those for comparison's sake.

And let me add, I stand corrected.

Jack said...

West Virginia's Board of Elections has a very nice website with these statistics going back to 1976 for general elections and 1996 for primaries. I wish my state's site was this good! On another part of the site, they have turnout from 1966, and election results back to 1998. Those are all easy to find; I'll just send the link to the voter registration statistics below.

WV voter registration statistics since 1976

Anonymous said...

On your current map, all I would change is Virginia from Obama to McCain and Florida from McCain to Obama.
It looks bad for McCain.
Virginia may go to Obama on election day, but the other states that are close right now such as North Carolina and Missouri will not go for Obama.

SarahLawrenceScott said...

If it's a landslide, I'd put West Virginia first on the list. It's surrounded by states Obama's making a big push for; and that's got to help. If he sends one of the Clinton's there for a day, he could have a real shot in a moderate landslide.

My dark horse state: Texas. It keeps flirting with being kind of close in the polls. It's big enough and complicated enough that turnout can do funny things. Heck, you can even get one of those situations where the weather is nasty on Nov. 4 in Republican strongholds and pushes down turnout.

Montana? Maybe, but I think Palin's done a whole lot for the McCain ticket there. Ditto the Dakotas, but more so.

Arkansas is also possible, but I'm skeptical.

Louisiana, Georgia, or Mississippi? In a blowout one of those might flip, but I'm not sure which one. South Carolina seems less likely.

Arizona also seems to have rallied behind McCain.

So I'd go with WV > TX > LA = GA = MS > MT > AR.

Quirky, but we're talking about what would happen here in an extreme case.

And Jack, in a McCain blowout, I'd still give Obama New York and Delaware, but I'd take away Massachussets.

Jack said...

Scott, if Biden were not on the ticket, would you give Obama Delaware ahead of Massachusetts? It's generally less Democratic than MA - as a state it has a PVI of D+7 as opposed to MA's +15.

He could also lose D+8 Vermont.

SarahLawrenceScott said...

Jack--no, the Delaware ultra-safe status is based on Biden. Without him it could go to McCain in the hypothetical McCain landslide.

The Vermont-Massachussets thing is certainly not based on overall Democratic lean. But Massachussets has polled closer than Vermont, Obama dominated Vermont in the primaries, and it just "feels" like his kind of state.

Anthony said...

openleft had a discussion on this:

At openleft, there was a suggestion that the limit could around 8.5%.

Josh Putnam said...

Here's that link from Anthony.

Jack said...

Not to revive a topic that's already been discussed quite a bit, but would a generic (i.e., white) Democrat have a shot at a few more states in a landslide? I'm thinking Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky and Tennessee here.

Josh Putnam said...

This is contrary to the notion of generic you proposed, Jack, but where would this generic, white Democrat be from? If he/she is from the South, then yeah, I think those are reasonable target states. I just think there may be some regional considerations there.

Jack said...

Good point, because while there is no guarantee a candidate will win his home state, in a landslide it probably is, and we've seen Southern Democrats do well in the south (Carter, Clinton).

This might not have mattered in a Hillary landslide, though; she probably forfeited the whole southern Democrat thing to a degree by representing New York in the senate.

Josh Putnam said...

Arkansas would have been closer with Clinton as the nominee and perhaps Tennessee. But that would really have been the extent of her stretch into ruby red states in a landslide. I think she potentially could have made Kentucky and West Virginia interesting too. President Clinton won those four but that's no guarantee Hillary would have.

Anonymous said...

In view of the utter meltdown of the McCain/Palin candidacy only a couple weeks before the election:

I think that Colorado and Virginia are in the out-of-reach category for McCain. Nevada is close to that spot. Then Florida, Ohio, Missouri, Indiana, and North Carolina in no particular order.

Obama could flip Georgia, and perhaps Montana and North Dakota. There might be some tiny surprises in Nebraska (two Congressional districts). But the time is running out to do anything more. Arkansas, West Virginia, and Texas will take just too much time now running out.

It's just as well that time is running out. Most Americans are sick of George Worthless Bush, and most would be satisfied with Obama winning with 272 or so votes. I'd like to see Obama victories in the South so that the "Red/Blue" divide weakens, but what the heck? If Obama should govern well, then he stands to win a lot of people over in some "Red" states like Texas, Arizona, Tennessee, etc.