Considerations on the electoral map, given Obama's consistent weakness in Ohio

The question of what to do with Florida and Ohio will be a very important strategic decision for Democrats if (and when) Obama becomes the nominee. It is true that Obama could change the electoral map by putting new states in play like Colorado and Virginia and securing Washington and Oregon more than Clinton could, but that is not a luxury as much as a necessity given Obama's relative weakness in the usual (big) battlegrounds of Ohio and Florida where the past two presidential elections played out.

Today, Rasmussen found mixed news for Obama in the state that sank Kerry four years ago. The Democrat progresses since last month but he gets 44% to McCain's 45%. Clinton, meanwhile, leads McCain 50% to 43%. Clinton has the highest "very favorable" rating. This actually confirms the past two major polls released from the Buckeye state:

  • The latest Quinnipiac poll shows Obama trailing McCain by 1% while Clinton leads by 10%.
  • The latest SUSA poll shows Obama trailing McCain by 2% while Clinton leads by 11%.
The same situation exSo should Democrats keep Ohio as a priority if Obama is the nominee? Or should they concentrate on another path to 270 electoral votes, a path that goes through Virginia, Colorado, New Mexico, Iowa and perhaps even other red states like Nebraska, Alaska and North Dakota? The two strategies are not mutually exclusive, of course, and neither would guarantee victory. But they also suggest two different approaches to the general election.

Proponents of concentrating on Ohio and Florida argue that it would be a huge gift to McCain to consider those states as lost; after all, they represent 47 electoral votes and would allow McCain to move the battlegrounds as well away from what Bush has had to defend in the past two elections and towards states that he interested in contesting like Wisconsin, New Hampshire and Oregon.

Proponents of a new electoral map respond that Democrats have created too narrow a field of possibilities for themselves, putting themselves in the difficult position where a tight loss in the one contested state amounts to losing the entire election -- just like it happened to Al Gore and John Kerry. Also, they consider that too much resources is spent on Ohio and Florida, hindering a broader strategy that would allow more Democrats to proper in down-the-ballot races as well.

Recent polls from Ohio and Florida suggest that Obama would be better served by not relying that much on Ohio and Florida. His relative weakness among blue collar voters, Hispanics and old voters (and some say Jewish voters though that remains to be demonstrated) make these two states less fruitful to him than to other Democrats.

But -- and this is the key promise of the Obama candidacy for Democrats -- the Illinois Senator will have a lot of funds. Even if he looks elsewhere than Ohio and Florida and spends less time in those states than Gore and Kerry did, he will be able to spread his forces and run ads in those states and be ready to pounce if McCain shows any sort of vulnerability.



  • Remember these polls are 5 months before the election. Obama has time to campaign and spend money in the existing key states like PA, OH and FL as well as try something new for the Dems such as CO and VA.

    By Anonymous Mike, At 19 May, 2008 20:35  

  • Obama has the money to fight in all possible battleground states. McCain and the GOP will have to pick and chose their fights. I think opening up the map is in Obama's best interest.

    By Anonymous C.S.Strowbridge, At 19 May, 2008 21:07  

  • It would be foolish for Obama to just let McCain win Florida and especially Ohio. He is only behind by a small amount and it largely has to do with him being weak among Democrats rather than independents. McCain's likely path to victory depends on Democrats being as divided as possible, and Obama's weakness among working class whites (espcially women), hispanics, and jews will be hurtful.

    Oh and I believe Obama will lose alot of Jews only in florida, where they are possibly more conservative on national security. Other states will jews make up a good part of the population (like New York and New Jersey) are more liberal than the ones in Florida and aren't likely to abandon Obama, especially since his stance on Israel isn't really different compared to McCain and Clinton. One of the things Arab countries will be really dissapointed in if Obama is elected.

    By Anonymous jaxx raxor, At 19 May, 2008 21:24  

  • this might make sense if obama was trailing by 15 weeks after hillary endorsed him. but he is TIED in this big winnable state before the democrats are even united, so the idea that he would cede these states is utterly ridiculous.

    the obama campaign will invest a lot in this state and they should - as well as colorado, new mexico, iowa, nevada and virginia. and if obama opens up a decent lead (certainly not impossible), it will be the GOP that has to struggle with how much they can put into ohio.

    By Blogger st paul sage, At 19 May, 2008 23:32  

  • Per the polls, Obama is much more competitive in Ohio than Florida. Plus, the Gov. of Ohio, Strickland, is a Democrat who can campaign for Obama whereas Crist in Florida is Republican. My sense is that Obama will remain competitive in Ohio and should contest it fiercely. Florida is likely a lost cause unless McCain tanks in some way. Besides the obvious demographic problems for Obama there, the fact his camp is perceived as blocking the Florida revote/delegate count will not be helpful in endearing him to Democrats there. Florida is a state Hillary could have put in play, but Obama will likely have to look elsewhere.

    By Blogger Terence, At 20 May, 2008 01:41  

  • Democrats need to stop throwing all of their eggs into the graveyard that is Florida. The state continues to trend Republican. Remember that Bill Clinton could not even carry the state in the very favorable environment of 1992.

    Ohio is another story. This is a state that is just hemmoraging electoral votes every decade.

    Democrats need to start focusing on states that are actually gaining electoral votes and are winnable for Obama like North Carolina, Virginia, Colorado, and Nevada where Clinton is pretty much a lost cause.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 20 May, 2008 03:00  

  • GE polls taken before the two conventions are over have some good uses. They can line a bird cage, wrap fish or provoke animated discussion on political blogs such as this one. Without any real votes to analyze they are the only solid evidence we have and polls can be spun to support whatever point of view the analyzers is promoting. As the primary season draws to an end and there are no more votes to analyze they will take on an even more important; and mostly meaning less; role.

    By Anonymous fritz, At 20 May, 2008 07:46  

  • If Obama isn't popular now just wait until the real campaigning starts. He's had a free ride so far and a terrible scenario for republicans. By the time November rolls around an Obama bid will be considered a joke. A lot of suckers are being taken on this one.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 20 May, 2008 07:54  

  • Obama is going to have to spend alot of time in PA and MI as well to keep those states in play. About Florida, yeah Obama will have a tough time in that state both because of demographics and because he is percieved as blocking Florida from revoting. However, he should't ignore the state completely and just let McCain take it as easily as a safe state, because that would help McCain alot with his low finances.

    Oh an anonymous 7:54, I agree the Obama has gotten good treatment in the press but he hasn't gotten a free ride: remember a few months ago when he was being attacked because of stuff like Wright, his wife's patrotism, and his bitter comments. I would also argue that McCain is also getting a free ride, especailly since the democrats were not attacking for months and that the media has been nice to him based on the harsh treatment he got in his 2000 run.

    By Anonymous jaxx raxor, At 20 May, 2008 08:26  

  • Jaxx, agreed--the "free ride" Obama's received is nothing compared to the free ride McCain has. McCain is ripe to be torn apart in the GE, given how much he's flip-flopped over the last few years, his numerous serious foreign policy gaffes, his admitted weakness on economic issues, etc. This is a guy who was against tax cuts before he was for them, who doesn't know Sunni from Shia, and who has adopted Bush's failed privatized social security scheme. He has been very lucky the Democratic nomination has lasted so long, because once attention turns to him he is going to have a lot of spinning to do.

    As for Florida and Ohio, Obama should put a token effort into Florida just to spread McCain's resources thinner, but he's completely capable of winning Ohio. The bright side, though, is that Obama has a clear path to the nomination even without Ohio--Ohio for Obama is a safety net, not a necessity like it was for Kerry.

    PA and MI, on the other hand, are necessities--fortunately he's favored to win both at this point.

    By Blogger Stephen, At 20 May, 2008 10:15  

  • "If Obama isn't popular now just wait until the real campaigning starts. He's had a free ride so far..."

    Are we talking about the same person? Are we even on the same planet?

    By Anonymous C.S.Strowbridge, At 20 May, 2008 12:36  

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