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Dead heat

If the general election took place tomorrow, we’d have an unprecedented situation on our hands.
By STEVEN STARK  |  May 14, 2008

With a bit less than six months to go until Election Day, both parties now know their nominees with certainty. And, projecting ahead on the basis of both current polls and historical voting patterns, the “Tote Board” estimates that, as of today, both John McCain and Barack Obama look likely to win a combination of states that will give each 269 electoral votes.

That’s right: as unbelievable as it may sound, if the balloting were held this week, our call is that it would end up in a tie. And that means the election would have to be resolved in the House of Representatives, with each state getting one vote. (Since this would be a virtually unprecedented event, the manner in which each state’s delegation would choose whom to vote for is not yet certain.)

Mind you, this is not a prediction. There’s a long campaign ahead — including conventions, the selections of the vice-presidential candidates, and four debates. By the time that exhaustive process is finished, one candidate is almost certain to forge a lead, and perhaps a significant one.

But making a projection today allows us to see, regionally speaking, where each candidate is strong and weak, and which states each must defend or pick off. Strategically, it can also help us to see how the candidates might plot their vice-presidential choices or an unusual strategy in order to put together a successful electoral coalition.

So, to the states:

Obama will take 30 of New England’s electoral votes, McCain will take 4

If Obama loses anything more than New Hampshire in this region (though he very well could win that state), his campaign is in real trouble. McCain will concentrate on the Granite State, which he has carried twice in primaries, and will hope to pick off a few electoral votes in one of Maine’s congressional districts. (Maine is one of two states nationally that doesn’t award its electoral votes winner-take-all.) Could he pick off Connecticut with Joe Lieberman on the ticket? It’s doubtful.

Connecticut 7, to Obama
Maine 4, to Obama
Massachusetts 12, to Obama
New Hampshire 4, to McCain
Rhode Island 4, to Obama
Vermont 3, to Obama

Obama 83; McCain 5

Obama needs to virtually sweep this region, but to do so he’ll have to do better among white, working-class voters in Pennsylvania and New Jersey than he’s done in the primaries. Pennsylvania will be a prime McCain pick-off target, which is why there’s talk of Obama putting Keystone State governor Ed Rendell on the ticket.

Delaware 3, to Obama
District of Columbia 3, to Obama
Maryland 10, to Obama
New Jersey 15, to Obama
New York 31, to Obama
Pennsylvania 21, to Obama
West Virginia 5, to McCain

Obama none; McCain 161

The Obama campaign is bravely talking up its odds in several Southern states. But the feeling here is that even putting Robert E. Lee on the ticket wouldn’t help Obama in Dixie. He’s got an outside chance at Virginia and North Carolina, but he’ll have to do a lot better with white voters than he appears to be doing now. And Florida? Forget it, unless Obama puts a Floridian or a Latino on the ticket . . . and even then it’s a long shot.

Alabama 9, to McCain
Arkansas 6, to McCain
Florida 27, to McCain
Georgia 15, to McCain
Kentucky 8, to McCain
Louisiana 9, to McCain
Mississippi 6, to McCain
North Carolina 15, to McCain
South Carolina 8, to McCain
Tennessee 11, to McCain
Texas 34, to McCain
Virginia 13, to McCain

Obama 58; McCain 42

This is the nation’s most competitive region. We narrowly give Ohio and Missouri to McCain, but Obama could win them with the right kind of campaign and/or veep choice (say, Ted Strickland of Ohio). On the other hand, Wisconsin could be fertile ground for McCain, and racially polarized Michigan isn’t out of his reach, either. As the Midwest goes, likely so goes the nation.

Illinois 21, to Obama
Indiana 11, to McCain
Michigan 17, to Obama
Minnesota 10, to Obama
Missouri 11, to McCain
Ohio 20, to McCain
Wisconsin 10, to Obama

Obama 7; McCain 24

This part of the country is usually not Democrat-friendly, but Iowa — the state that launched Obama — still looks good for him, for now. He could even win an electoral vote or two in Nebraska, the other state that splits its electoral votes.

Iowa 7, to Obama
Kansas 6, to McCain
Nebraska 5, to McCain
North Dakota 3, to McCain
Oklahoma 7, to McCain
South Dakota 3, to McCain

Obama 91; McCain 33

Changing demography and the Latino vote will determine if Obama can pull off any surprises in the West, where, in recent times, the Dems have tended to do well on the coast and in Hawaii but nowhere else. Specifically, he has a decent shot at winning Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada (we give him all but the last), and even Montana could conceivably be in play. On the other hand, McCain has a regional affinity with these tough-to-call states and could win Colorado, New Mexico, and Montana. Should the race begin to get away from Obama nationally, McCain could also take California.

Alaska 3, to McCain
Arizona 10, to McCain
California 55, to Obama
Colorado 9, to Obama
Hawaii 4, to Obama
Idaho 4, to McCain
Montana 3, to McCain
Nevada 5, to McCain
New Mexico 5, to Obama
Oregon 7, to Obama
Utah 5, to McCain
Washington 11, to Obama
Wyoming 3, to McCain


Odds: even

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Dead heat
A political junkie's wet dream. Wouldn't that be a kick? Adding to the fun is that Obama could win the 1st or 2nd congressional district in Nebraska (he leads in SurveyUSA polling) and pick up one more electoral vote to win it.
By wtucker on 05/15/2008 at 1:50:31
Dead heat
Obama has had an easy ride, compared to other gifted people. You might say this has spoiled him and made him less equipped to challenge the more garden-variety candidates Clinton and McCain. Or you could do an about-face and champion this new twist of fate, where an intellectual actually gets a break and the pursuit of excellence is respected on its own merits. He has gotten where he is because enough people recognize that he is brilliant and unflappable. More to the point, his whole campaign has focused on bringing out the best of his supporters, bringing, in other words, their own excellence to the fore. Obama can run a country. Bush can't and couldn't. He may be able to shoot a tin can off the railing of his porch--like so many of the people who voted for him; and McCain probably could too. But this is not excellence, this is the common denominator of the docile and slavish. This is what has to be done away with, and this is what we have a chance to do away with, if we work with our candidate with the best means of persuasion and righteous indignation at our disposal. It is this that will determine the electoral map come November.
By gordon on 05/16/2008 at 9:28:40
Dead heat
Steven - This is a great column. You're way out ahead of the curve, as usual, in forecasting an Obama-McCain race state-by-state. Of course, lots will change between now and November 4th. My fondest hope is that McCain and Obama run an above-board, issues-oriented campaign. They present a stark (no pun intended) choice to the American people and, perhaps as never before, the American people need to begin to make some important decisions about the challenges facing us. It should be a fascinating Presidential race.
By Vic in Chicago on 05/16/2008 at 10:57:49
Dead heat
It may take the good cop/bad cop team of Barack and Hillary to shake McCain down ultimately. In fact, the very threat of the Clinton on the ticket may keep McCain playing a straight game of poker. In that case we may have an above-board campaign after all.
By gordon on 05/16/2008 at 1:06:10
Dead heat
Losing candidates giving endorsements and support to their party's presidential nominees may have little effect on the national level. They could, however, prove instrumental at the local level and among specific groups. Bill Richardson, a Mexican-American-born Southwesterner fully fluent in Spanish and French, could easily be featured on Spanish-language TV ads in an effort to persuade pro-Clinton Latino voters to back Barack. Not for nothing did Obama bring out John Edwards' endorsement after he got thumped in West Virginny. Edwards could be called on to rally union workers from mature industries as has been shown in the Steelworkers already switching their support from Edwards to Obama. Additionally, Edwards - - currently Director of the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the U. of North Carolina - - is already reviving his "two Americas" rhetoric in an attempt to get Obama more votes from white working class voters. On the GOP side, Mike Huckabee -- whose name still appears on many primary ballots despite their party's contest being over -- may prove a vital link for McCain amongst Christian conservatives. As the campaigns advance into autumn, we can probably expect more and more endorsements and appearances targeted, televised and e-mailed toward specific voting groups. While trash-and-bash divide-and-conquer tactics are regrettably sure to come, unite-and-conquer tactics may prove to be a winning counter-balance.
By L-J on 05/18/2008 at 9:51:23

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