Democrats can be forgiven for panicking at reports that Team Obama is trying to figure out how to win in November without winning Florida. Or Ohio. Or even Pennsylvania.
Admittedly, it was an “alternative” scenario that Illinois Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign manager David Plouffe discussed with activists Friday at the Capitol City brew pub in Washington.
“You have a lot of ways to get to 270,” Plouffe said, according to the Associated Press. “Our goal is not to be reliant on one state on November 4th.”
Plouffe’s remark may have been nothing more than an expression of his candidate’s “organize everywhere” philosophy.
Yet if it was more than that — if his comments signaled a willingness of the Obama campaign to cede major battleground states to Arizona Sen. John McCain — Democrats could be in for their third consecutive presidential disappointment this fall.
As a matter of mathematical calculation, winning the White House without the major “swing” states is possible. As a matter of practical politics, however, it’s not bloody likely.
A QUICK LOOK at the latest Rasmussen Electoral College poll shows why. As of Monday, 22 states with a combined 174 electoral votes were rated “safe” or “likely” for the Republicans, while 14 states and the District of Columbia with a combined 185 electoral votes were rated “safe” or “likely” for the Democrats.
With 270 Electoral College votes needed for victory in November, this means that — barring a surprising loss of either candidate in one of his party’s “safe” or “likely” states — Obama must pick up some combination of the remaining 14 “swing”states with at least 85 votes to win the White House.
McCain, starting from a lower base of “safe” and “likely” electoral votes, would seem to have the tougher row to hoe in order to reach the magic 270. However, Florida is the biggest prize of the battleground states, and it’s ranked by Rasmussen as “leans Republican.”
Polls show McCain well ahead in Florida, a state won by Sen. Hillary Clinton in a primary that was disallowed by the Democratic National Committee, which has stripped the state’s delegation of 50 percent of its vote at the party’s August convention in Denver. Given how Democrats screamed about “disenfranchisement” during the long 2000 Florida recount, Obama could have a tough time competing in the Sunshine State this fall.
If Florida could be counted securely within McCain’s column, that would put the Republican at 201 “safe” or “likely” Electoral College votes, and put his Democratic opponent at a serious disadvantage.
Then there’s Michigan, also stripped of half its Democratic convention votes by the DNC. Though Michigan is rated by Rasmussen as “leans Democrat,” some polls in May showed McCain with a slight lead there.
If Obama has to fight McCain for the 17 electoral votes of a traditional Democratic bastion like Michigan, that’s a significant advantage for the Republican.
Mounting a serious campaign in those states would be a logistical problem for Obama, drawing the candidate away from the key battlegrounds of Ohio and Pennsylvania.
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H/T to National Review Online