Sunday, October 05, 2008

Scenes from the Gopher State

By Michael J.W. Stickings

With McCain trailing badly in the polls, in terms of both the national popular vote and the electoral college vote, and giving up on Michigan, his campaign is focusing on three key battleground states: Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

The polls show Obama well ahead in Pennsylvania. The RCP Average is Obama +9.6, and the trend is clear: He's been expanding his lead steadily over the past couple of weeks. Two recent polls give him a double-digit lead.

The race is closer in Wisconsin, there the RCP Average is Obama +5.0. His lead is smaller than it was back in June and July, when it was in double digits, but, as in Pennsylvania, he's expanded his lead somewhat over the past couple of weeks.

But what about Minnesota?

Obama has been ahead pretty much the entire race, and the RCP Average is currently Obama +7.6. He lead was in double digits back in June and July, when he was ahead by as many as 17 points. The race narrowed in early September, with Obama ahead by just two points in several polls and the race even in a Star Tribune poll from September 10-12.

Right now, the polls seem to be all over the place. A SurveyUSA poll actually has McCain up by one point, but, as Nate Silver pointed out on Friday, it looks like an "outlier." As Kos notes, "Minnesota is the one battleground state in which McCain continues to outspend Obama, and it's shown in the polling." Alongside the Star Tribune poll, a Quinnipiac poll from September 14-21 had Obama up by just two points.

But McCain's outspending may not be making much of a difference. Or, rather, it may not be enough to help him at this point in the race, given the current dynamics.

A new Star Tribune poll, reported today, gives Obama a massive 18-point lead, 55 to 37. This poll may also be an outlier, but this is the same organization that had the race tied less than a month ago. Here's why:

The new poll shows that Obama's surge in the state can be attributed to voters' belief in his ability to deal with the nation's worsening economy, his performance in the first presidential debate and an increase in the number of Minnesotans who call themselves Democrats.

Obama appears comfortably ahead among men, women, and voters of all ages and educational attainment.

Which is good news indeed with just over four weeks to go. McCain may very well continue to campaign heavily in these battleground states, but he has significant and apparently increasing gaps to make up in all three.

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  • The major shortcoming of the current system of electing the President is that presidential candidates concentrate their attention on a handful of closely divided "battleground" states. In 2004 two-thirds of the visits and money were focused in just six states; 88% on 9 states, and 99% of the money went to just 16 states. Two-thirds of the states and people were merely spectators to the presidential election. 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 under which all of a state's electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state.

    Another shortcoming of the current system is that a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide. This has occurred in one of every 14 presidential elections.

    In the past six decades, there have been six presidential elections in which a shift of a relatively small number of votes in one or two states would have elected (and, of course, in 2000, did elect) a presidential candidate who lost the popular vote nationwide.

    The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    Every vote would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections.

    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 National Popular Vote bill has passed 21 state legislative chambers, including one house in Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, North Carolina, and Washington, and both houses in California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and Maryland. These four states possess 50 electoral votes — 19% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.



    By Blogger mvymvy, at 11:41 AM  

  • By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:55 AM  

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