• The General Election Campaign Begins With A Close Race on the Horizon

Now that Senator Barack Obama has secured the Democratic nomination for president, Democrats can move forward as a party to face an even more daunting task: defeating John McCain. National polls consistently show Barack Obama ahead of McCain, but those polls are seldom an accurate reflection of how the Electoral College will play out. Every analysis of the electoral map suggests that 2008 will be just as close as the two preceding elections. Some new states have joined the elite “swing state” club, but the only important number stays the same, 270. National polls suggest that Democrats have a slight advantage, but in going state-to-state the situation is complicated. NCEC is not stopping to rest or reflect after the primary; we are moving ahead, because we know that every day counts.

Traditional Swing States Will Be As Close As Ever

A great deal of attention has been placed on the emergence of new targets for the Democrats in the 2008 election, but that doesn’t mean that the traditional battlegrounds are any less competitive. Traditionally close states such as Florida , Iowa , Michigan , Ohio , Pennsylvania , and Wisconsin are states that are fought over cycle after cycle and early polls suggest that they will once again be at the forefront on election night. An average of early polls shows that Democratic nominee Barack Obama fares well in these states. He leads in Iowa , Ohio , Pennsylvania , and Wisconsin , and is extremely close in Florida and Michigan . If these results were to remain through Election Day, the Democrats would come out ahead in electoral votes from these big states by a small margin: 58 for the Democrats to 44 for the Republicans. These states will be the site of aggressive campaigning for the next six months, but if the Obama campaign can shore up support in Michigan, a traditionally Democratic state, and maintain the lead in these other states, than a Democrat is headed for the White House. Michigan , which has not voted for a Republican in the presidential election since 1988, is the biggest source of worry at present. Michigan will be at the forefront of the economic debate this year, and thus fair John McCain has remained competitive in this state. The state will likely be determined by Black turnout and Democratic performance in Suburban areas, as population in the urban areas declines.

New Targets Could Be the Difference Between Victory and Defeat

The early polls in traditional swing states are cause for optimism, but it is a cautious optimism at best. The polls will most likely swing back and forth from now until November, and Democrats can’t afford to let a setback in one of these states spell disaster for the entire campaign. In 2000, and 2004, Democrats relied too heavily on winning all or one specific combination of these swing states, which left no margin for error and eventually led to defeat. The emergence of Barack Obama as the leader of the Democratic ticket is a stroke of good fortune in terms of taking advantage of new opportunities in the Electoral College. Obama’s victory in the Democratic primary firmly places Colorado , Missouri , Nevada , and Virginia in the battleground category for November. He consistently polled well ahead of his former rival Hillary Clinton in general election matchups against Republican candidate John McCain in these states. Other potential opportunities exist in Indiana , where the Democrats won 3 House seats in 2006, and North Carolina . In North Carolina , a strong Black turnout could make this a close race.

An average of multiple polls in these states shows that Obama wins in Colorado and New Mexico , which would bring a total of 14 electoral votes. These 14 electoral votes would help offset any potential loss in Michigan . He’s also running extremely close in Missouri and Virginia. The crown jewel of any of these states is Virginia ; a victory there would signal a shift in the GOP’s long domination of the South and bring a crucial 13 electoral votes to the Democratic column, which could deliver the final blow to the Republicans in this election. If the Democrats are able to win three of these five states, it could propel them to victory. The Republicans have carried Virginia by six percent in the last two presidential elections, but a growing population and better performances by Democrats in suburban areas have put this state in play. Since 2005, Democrats have captured the governorship and a senate seat in statewide elections. When averaging all the recent polls from Virginia , the Republicans hold a one-point advantage in the state. Similar developments have made Colorado a battleground, which now favors Democrats, a growing population and a strong performance in suburban counties in consecutive cycles has Democrats counting on this state, which they haven’t won since 1992.

When counting up the votes, the Electoral College looks as if it will be as close as ever. The graph shows NCEC projections suggesting that Democrats have a slight advantage. States that are safely Democratic or expected to go Democratic account for 232 electoral votes, leaving them 38 votes shy of the needed 270. The Republicans appear likely to capture 226 electoral votes, leaving them 44 votes shy. The outlook appeared better a few months ago before Michigan became a true battleground. However, Pennsylvania , which is traditionally a Democratic state, is currently listed as a battleground state; should polls continue to show Senator Obama ahead, which they have recently, then the outlook will look significantly better. The table below gives a full look at the Electoral College as it stands right now.

Explore posts in the same categories: Candidates, National, Politics


  1. Susan Says:

    The real issue is not how well Obama or McCain might do in the closely divided battleground states, but that we shouldn’t have battleground states and spectator states in the first place. Every vote in every state should be politically relevant in a presidential election. And, every vote should be equal. We should have a national popular vote for President in which the White House goes to the candidate who gets the most popular votes in all 50 states.

    The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC). 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 major shortcoming of the current system of electing the President is that presidential 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 which awards all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state. Because of this rule, candidates concentrate their attention on a handful of closely divided “battleground” states. Two-thirds of the visits and money are focused in just six states; 88% on 9 states, and 99% of the money goes to just 16 states. Two-thirds of the states and people are merely spectators to the presidential election.

    Another shortcoming of the current system is that a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide.

    The National Popular Vote bill has been approved by 18 legislative chambers (one house in Colorado, Arkansas, Maine, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Washington, and two houses in Maryland, Illinois, Hawaii, California, and Vermont). It has been enacted into law in Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and Maryland. These states have 50 (19%) of the 270 electoral votes needed to bring this legislation into effect.


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