Daily Kos
Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Monday | July 28, 2003

Early look at the Electoral Map

Larry Sabato, the most quotable of political scientists in the country, has put up hypothetical matchups between Bush and Edwards, Gephardt, Graham, Kerry, and Lieberman. Sabato has not included Dean, as he considers him to be too much of a longshot for the nomination.

The verdict? According to Sabato (who is CW incarnate), every one of those Dems except for Kerry would defeat Bush. (And given Sabato's thoughts on the electability of New England progressives, it's clear Sabato would also doom Dean to failure.)

Sabato's base map looks like this (click to enlarge):

He arrives at his conclusions, quite simply, by giving each candidate his home state. So Edwards wins by taking all the states in the map above, plus North Carolina (which he would win, regardless of what the polls may say today). Graham wins by winning Florida. Gephardt wins by winning Missouri. Lieberman, for a little variety, wins by winning Florida as well. Kerry (and presumably Dean) would lose because their home states don't bring anything to the electoral table.

I am conflicted by Sabato's analysis. For one, I find it overly simplistic (though that may be unavoidable at this early stage of the election), and ignores real demographic trends in the electorate. On the other hand, I am heartened that as prominant a political scientist (and one as right-leaning as Sabato) can already see this election will be extremely competitive. And since Sabato is the top source for political journalists, this meme will gradually seep into news coverage of the campaign.

But let's look at Sabato's map. Is Arizona really a solid GOP lock? Doubtful, considering recent Democratic successes in the state (we took the governorship during that 2002 "GOP-sweep", and Bush only got 51% of the vote in 2000). I would rate it a lean-red. Oregon depends a great deal on who the Greens run, but it should regardless stay solid-blue (Bush got only 46.5% of the vote in 2000). I would rate Colorado a "lean-red" (Bush got 50.75%), as well as Missouri (Bush got 50.4%). Louisiana is not a solid GOP lock (Bush got 52.5%), nor is Tennessee (Bush got 51%) or Ohio (Bush got 49.97%).

On the other side of things, I would rate MN as "lean-blue", rather than solid Dem (Gore won with 47.91% of the vote, while Nader got 5.2%).

The map does not look bad for Democrats, at all. Even with Sabato's charitable (to the GOP) map, the count is only 278 to 260 in Bush's favor.

As we get closer to the election, I'll start spending more time poring over the electoral map. But I'm starting to sense some potential surprises. Keep an eye on Montana and even perhaps Kansas or Oklahoma. Local political forces may yet conspire to make those competitive (sounds crazy, I know, but did anyone but biased progressives like me really think the Dems would capture the statehouses in Kansas, Oklahoma and Wyoming last year?)

This race is eminently winnable by any of the top-tier Democrats. That's why I find discussions about who is "electable" tiresome and irrelevant. Keep harping on the subject if you want, but at the end of the day, our nominee, whoever he may be, will be competitive.

And we will win.

Posted July 28, 2003 10:01 AM


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