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If Florida proves to be out of reach for the Democrat, Ohio’s 20 electoral votes will become almost essential, as they were in 2004. Most polls in recent months have shown McCain leading in Ohio, although he’s far from a cinch.
Ohio, like neighboring Pennsylvania, was carried by Hillary in the Democratic primaries, with exit polls showing weak support for Obama among working-class voters. Pennsylvania’s 21 electoral votes haven’t gone to a Republican since 1988, and the Real Clear Politics average has Obama comfortably ahead there, in a state ranked “leans Democrat” by Rasmussen.
As recently as April, however, some polls showed McCain leading Obama in Pennsylvania, and it would seem far more likely a Republican could win the Keystone State than for the Democrat to win in some of the states named as possibilities last week by Obama’s campaign manager.
Plouffe was certainly correct in identifying Virginia as a battleground for 2008. After decades as a GOP bastion, Virginia has recently trended toward Democrats, and one recent poll showed Obama leading 49-42 percent in the Old Dominion.
Yet Bush beat Kerry 54-45 in Virginia four years ago, and the McCain campaign is prepared to fight to keep the commonwealth in the Republican column.
BEYOND VIRGINIA, HOWEVER, Team Obama’s ambitions for a “fundamentally different” electoral map seem grandiose.
According to the Associated Press, Plouffe thinks Obama could be competitive in Georgia, and said that the campaign would “keep an eye on” Mississippi and Louisiana.
Bill Clinton twice won Louisiana, but no Democrat has Mississippi since Jimmy Carter, and Clinton only carried it once, in the fluke 1992 election. Real Clear Politics poll averages show McCain with double-digit leads and above the 50-percent mark in all three of those states.
While Obama certainly can expect to benefit from a larger-than-normal turnout by black voters in the Deep South, Democratic victories in such Republican strongholds are possible only in the case of an unimaginable McCain meltdown this fall.
Unimaginable meltdowns can happen, but it’s far easier to imagine a meltdown for the novice Obama and his relatively inexperienced campaign team, which recently talked up plans to send their candidate on a summer world tour, rather than campaigning in the battleground states.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton’s supporters have coalesced into a PUMA (“Party Unity, My Ass”) coalition, which on Monday sent an angry letter to DNC Chairman Howard Dean, complaining that “the party’s nominee was selected…by means of a series of inappropriate actions and inactions.”
Amid such troubling omens, enthusiastic talk of remaking the Electoral College map — coming from Obama’s strategists in their first try at running a national campaign — should scare the Democrats witless.
Team Obama’s new map could very well lead Democrats down the familiar well-trodden path — to defeat.