2008 Election ‘Regular Season’ Kickoff

Although some of us have been obsessing about Campaign 2008 since, oh, November 2004, what’s happened thus far is the political equivalent of the NFL’s offseason.  Both parties have completed their drafts and we’ve had some exhibition games but most people are waiting for the regular season to start before paying attention.

That happens next week, with the start of the Democratic National Convention, followed the next week by the Republican National Convention.

The focus now is on the backup quarterbacks, with numerous reports saying Barack Obama has picked his running mate and could announce his choice as early as tomorrow, with Joe Biden the apparent fan favorite, and that John McCain will make his VP announcement the morning after the Democrats finish and on what happens to be his 72nd birthday.  Much speculation has ensued.

Unlike football, political campaigns don’t start at 0-0.   Obama has a slight but steady lead.  The current RealClearPolitics average has him up 3.4 points, about where he’s been for months, with a decreased Electoral College lead.  Electoral-vote.com has the identical leaners-included numbers, a 275-250 squeaker for Obama with Virginia’s 13 votes too close to guess.

Obama 275    McCain 250    Ties 13

This has Obama picking up three states — Indiana, Iowa, and New Mexico — that Bush carried in 2004 and Virginia, which Bush won easily, in play.  McCain has no pickups of Blue states.

This map from four years ago, though, is a useful wakeup call:

Electoral Vote Predictor 2004:   Kerry 301   Bush 213

The tally this day in 2004:   Kerry 301, Bush 213.  As most fans know, Bush mounted a comeback, retaining his championship crown.

Obama’s a better candidate than Kerry and McCain is probably not as good a candidate as Bush, as demonstrated by the latter’s rout of the former in the 2000 primaries.  And the public mood is more desperate for “change” than it was four years ago.  But one simply never knows.  The conventions and the serious campaign ahead — not to mention outside events — can and usually do shake up the dynamic.

That’s why, after all, they play the game.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Boyd says:

    Refresh my memory, James. How many votes does India have in the electoral college?

  2. James Joyner says:

    How many votes does India have in the electoral college?

    Heh. Fixed.

  3. PD Shaw says:

    Hmmm Indiana uniquely going for Obama shows the problems with the methodology being used . . .

    What’s really interesting though is how many ways you can plausibly shift the states and come away with a tie. Short of a brokered convention, a pundit’s dream: OVERTIME!

  4. just me says:

    I still see this one as Obama’s race to lose. McCain isn’t a terrible a campaigner as I thought he would be, but I still think Obama has the edge.

    I think the race will still be a close one, and this will be another election where winners aren’t going to be even close to known until the next morning.

  5. jagorev says:

    Nate Silver actually runs fivethirtyeight.com, which is a tremendous site.

    You’re right. I got them confused. Fixed. – jhj

  6. anjin-san says:

    From Cook Political Report:

    Obama currently has a 240 to 174 Electoral vote edge, with 124 Electoral votes in the Toss Up column. 270 are needed to win.

    McCain’s appeal to stupidity(Obama/Paris Hilton linkage) has gained some traction. How far will these tactics play?

    And what do they say about McCain?

  7. PD Shaw says:

    McCain’s appeal to stupidity(Obama/Paris Hilton linkage) has gained some traction.

    If you really think that’s true, then what does that say about what Obama needs to do to win back his supporters?

  8. anjin-san says:

    If you really think that’s true, then what does that say about what Obama needs to do to win back his supporters?

    Obama’s supporters are not in play, they have not gone anywhere. Check his fund raising totals for last month. Swing voters are, as is usually the case.

  9. The fact that McCain has kept this as a reasonably close race at this point is amazing. Obama has home team advantage with the press, the political winds have been strongly against McCain.

    With the left repeatedly bringing up McCain’s POW history and floating conspiracy theories that the reason McCain looked so much better than Obama in the Saddleback forum was that McCain and his staff were able to hear Obama’s questions (a fact not proven), but also brief McCain on Obama’s answers, develop taking points and have McCain memorize them so he could appear to be speaking off the cuff while Obama continued to answer questions. Or to put it another way, Obama showed he wasn’t ready for prime time and either McCain was directly or he and his staff are super humanly efficient that they show McCain is ready to exercise the duties associated with the presidential ‘pay grade’.

    I suspect that Obama is much more vulnerable to an October surprise (e.g. Ayers) than McCain. So McCain keeping the contest in play here shows he has a good shot for November.

    p.s. Is it to early to start talking about 2012 where McCain’s VP takes on Hillary?

  10. anjin-san says:

    p.s. Is it to early to start talking about 2012 where McCain’s VP takes on Hillary?

    Is it too early to start talking about The Patriots perfect season and how Brady is better then Montana?

    Oops…

  11. Wayne says:

    Susan
    There is many problems with your” popular vote” should win the election system. One of which is, it goes against the original desire of our founders.

  12. Anderson says:

    One of which is, it goes against the original desire of our founders.

    Strangely, the Founders thought so little of their own desires that they provided a mechanism to amend the very Constitution they wrote.

    Which of course leads us to the real problem with Susan’s mainly admirable proposal:

    The small states get hugely overrepresented in the EC for their populations, and the Senate would have to approve abolition of the EC.

    N.b. that the only provision of the Constitution which cannot be amended, is the equal representation of all states in the Senate. (Paging Douglas Hofstadter ….)

  13. sam says:

    Nate Silver actually runs fivethirtyeight.com, which is a tremendous site.

    Agree. Nate’s site links to this site, USA Election Polls, which is the most comprehensive polling site I’ve seen. In addition to the presidential race, it tracks the polling on all the Senate races; the polls in the battleground states; and the polling in the Obama states and the McCain states. Pretty rich environment for polling junkies.

  14. just me says:

    Well I am not in favor at all of a popular vote election. I very much like the electoral college system.

  15. Anderson,

    I agree that the founder’s desires are only of interest for as long as it takes to amend the constitution. The problem for Susan and the popular vote advocates is that they don’t have a good enough argument to put this forward by constitutional amendment (or at least their trying to do the extra-constitutional pact among states indicates that they don’t think they have good arguments on their side).

    The EC has it’s place, even if it gives smaller states an incrementally larger voice. The founders put that in (along with the senate equality between states) precisely to balance the states so that the large states don’t dominate the small.

    In reality, the popular vote is trying to set up an urban vs rural dichotomy.

  16. Grewgills says:

    In reality, the popular vote is trying to set up an urban vs rural dichotomy.

    Or reverse the current urban vs rural dichotomy where voters in more rural states get a larger voice in our government than do voters in the states with the large urban centers.

  17. Grewgillis,

    Check the link. Even bluer than blue states like NY have a majority of their counties voting for Bush in 2000 and 2004, but the state went solidly for the democrat. The one exception is in New England.

    In 2000, Bush won 30 states to 20 with 271 vs 266 EV. But the county count was 2439 counties for Bush vs 674 counties or 80% of the counties. Why was the popular vote so close when one side wins 80% of the counties, because of the urban vs rural split.

  18. Grewgills says:

    YAJ,
    That does not change the fact that voters in predominantly rural states get a larger voice in our government than do voters in the states with the large urban centers.
    While rural counties in NY, CA, etc do not have as large a voice in state politics or presidential voting each voter in those counties has the same weight to their vote as their urban counterparts.
    The current method of selecting our president is far less democratic than a nationwide popular vote. Assigning presidential votes on acreage or number of counties won would be even less democratic. It is after all people not land that define a democracy.
    I do understand your concern that rural issues would be given shorter shrift if a national popular vote were in place, but they are given greater prominence than they merit in our current system. I say this knowing that my chosen home (HI) would lose even more of its already tiny voice in national politics.

  19. Grewgillis,

    The urban masses get their full voice in the house. The EC system is set up so that the candidates don’t saturate the top ten cities and forget the rest of the country.

    p.s. RCP now has McCain taking the EV lead (at least as of 10:30pm on Tuesday).

  20. Grewgills says:

    I don’t see how saturating the top ten cities is worse than our current situation where they instead saturate 6 or so ‘battleground states.’

  21. The battleground states are more diverse than the cities. Look at the top ten cities. Three in Texas, three in California, NY, Chicago, Phoenix and Philly. Only Philly is in a state that is a ‘second tier’ battleground state (aka one that isn’t likely to change from 2000/2004 but has a small enough margin you can’t rule it out).

    Maybe the 3D map will help you see what I am talking about. Outside of a few blue towers, Gore did poorly across the country. The democrats have such a monoculture in this respect that they have trouble relating to the rest of the country (e.g. Obama’s bitter clinging comments).