The Two Ironies of Public Funding; How the Electoral Map Favors Obama

The big news over the last couple of days is Obama opting out of public funding for the Presidential Election. (Not Michelle Obama’s dress. I can’t believe this stuff gets on the air.) McCain has claimed this is evidence that Obama “is just another typical politician,” which is ironic because he’s the first to opt out of public funding since the system was established in 1972. By definition, that makes him atypical.

In fact, the biggest reason why Obama has opted out of the public funding is due to his unique ability to raise large sums of money from small donors. Truth is, there is absolutely nothing “typical” about this decision.

Of course, that is merely a point of irony, and not what McCain was referring to at all when he stated this is just an example of political expediency. Obama had famously stated that he would accept public funding if the Republican candidate and he could work out a reasonable system for doing so. But since he no longer needs to do so, McCain argues, he is going against his word and taking the path which will allow him the most money to spend come September and October.

Still, the decision to opt out of funding has few objective detractors in and of itself. And if the system is as broken as Obama believes it is, this decision may provide him with the perfect opportunity to scrap it and begin anew. Former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough presents the perfect illustration of the real issue the press has with Obama: opting out was the right decision, but he’s using the wrong explanation to justify it. Earlier this morning, he said the appropriate explanation would be to just say that due to the millions of small donors online, things have changed to a degree he just couldn’t have imagined a year ago. Dan Rather agreed, saying the reason why he did not do so is because politics at the top is like “dancing like you’re barefoot on August asphalt.”

You have to love Dan Rather.

Finally, Wednesday Quinnipiac University released an interesting poll which showed Obama ahead of McCain in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida. The margin was all below ten points so, while they were all above the margin of error, the data’s not entirely useful this far from the election. However, it has to be comforting for Obama.

But the interesting data was not the leads in these three states, but the impact that Clinton has, or more to the point has not had, on the general election. In these three points, Obama leads McCain among women . . . by ten to twenty-three points. What’s more, when asked if Obama should put Hillary Clinton on the ticket, Democrats in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania say yes by margins of 57-33, 58-31, and 60-31 percent, respectively. However, independents in these two states oppose the idea by wide margins: 46-37, 47-31, and 49-36 percent, respectively. And the biggest Republican support she gets for the Veep nod in any state is 20%, in Pennsylvania.

So it would be safe to say the fact that Obama is not Hillary Clinton is not going to cause McCain to carry those states. But perhaps more importantly, it would actually be a detriment to him to put Hillary on the ticket.

If Obama carries all three states, it’s going to be virtually impossible for McCain to win. Quinnipiac seems to be generous to Obama in Florida. has an average polling line of +5% for McCain. And I’ll be honest; I don’t see Obama winning Florida. I didn’t think Kerry could win it, and I don’t think Clinton could have won it. It would certainly make things easier if Obama can grab it somehow, but I’m more than willing to concede it to McCain. However, the average line for Obama in Ohio is +5.3%, while in Pennsylvania it’s 7.3%. Ohio has 20 electoral votes, and Bush won that in 2004. If Kerry had carried Ohio he would have won. So hanging on to these two states means he doesn’t have to win Florida.

But looking deeper into’s website reveals something even more interesting, and exciting for the Obama fan. It may not come down to Ohio after all. They list the battleground states for 2008 as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Virginia, Missouri, Florida, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada. Of these states, the only ones McCain currently have a polling lead in are Michigan and Florida. Obama and McCain are tied in New Mexico and Nevada, though several others are virtual ties (leads of less than 2%). This includes Michigan, New Hampshire, Virginia, Missouri, and Colorado.

So let’s say that the map stays the same from 2004 to 2008 with the exception of these states and Iowa, which very narrowly went to Bush but Obama is currently leading. And let’s give Florida, New Mexico, and Nevada to McCain, let him keep Michigan, and throw Colorado and Virginia to him for good measure. Under this scenario, Obama would win the election by accruing 273 electoral votes.

And if the leads all hold up and McCain takes New Mexico and Nevada? Then Obama

wins easily, 295 – 243. With ten electoral votes up for grabs in those two states, Obama could win over 300 electoral votes.

In fact, if he wins any two out of the seven “tied” states he would win the election. More interesting, though, is if he wins only Michigan he could lose all the others and still get to 270. Of course, this is all predicated upon him winning Ohio and Pennsylvania. So the big trifecta for Obama is Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. Win those three, and it’s in the bag. Win two of those, and it would be virtually impossible for McCain to win. McCain has to win two of those three in order to have a legitimate chance of winning the election (though at that point it’s unlikely he would lose).

With that in mind, I would not be willing to say at this time that any single state is going to determine the election. However, if it’s close, and certainly if McCain wins, I predict it will all come down to Michigan.

You heard it here first.



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6 responses to “The Two Ironies of Public Funding; How the Electoral Map Favors Obama

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  4. Ted

    It would seem that all McCain has to do, and probably will do, to alter the electoral map in his favor, and then win the election, is select Alaska Gov Sarah Palin as his Veep running mate.

    Can anyone really doubt this?

  5. There is very good reason to doubt this. She is a very popular governor in her state and is seen as a strong politician with a record of integrity. McCain could certainly do worse. But she is a text book Republican from a very Republican state. While I would not argue that she could be very valuable in helping to sew up conservative support for him, the general election is all about wooing independent voters. And by far the biggest characteristic she has to help gain this support is being a young woman. Obviously there are a lot of people who think that McCain choosing a woman would lock up the “Hillary” vote, but beyond this she really does not have much to offer.

    Personally, I don’t think that McCain picking a woman is going to be enough to get that vote. Some Clinton supporters will never get on Obama’s bandwagon, but I think that number will be insignificant by November, and will by neutralized by the far-right Christian Coalition types who will never get on McCain’s. And I think the average American woman is not going to vote for a candidate just because he is running with a woman. Besides, Vice Presidents can help a candidate win an election, but they are not going to win it by themselves. There is almost universal consent on this; Veeps can be deal breakers, but they are never game changers.

    Even if that is not the case, there are many problems with her residing on the ticket. First is the age issue. This is really a tough call for McCain, because on the one hand having a younger running mate could help negate the age gap between Obama and he, but on the other it could just make McCain seem that much older. Having a candidate younger than even Obama is really a risky gamble – certainly it could pay off, but it could also do more harm than good. As an Obama supporter, I would be the first to say age should not play a role in this election. But sadly it will, and it’s something he is going to have to take into consideration.

    And with her young age also comes a lack of experience. One of McCain’s biggest attacks against Obama will his lack of experience, but Obama has held a state elected position for longer than Palin has, while she has not held any federal offices at all. It would be very difficult for McCain to make the claim that Obama’s not experienced enough to be President when his V.P. is even less experienced.

    Third, she is strongly pro-life. This will significantly cut into her potential to sway Clinton supporters into the McCain camp.

    There are also problems with her environmental record. She favors drilling for oil in ANWR, which is very unpopular among the national audience. She has also filed suit on behalf of Alaska against the Department of Interior for placing polar bears on the “threatened species” list. While she does claim the polar bear population in Alaska has increased, her main motivation is obviously the threat this classification may have on her administration’s priority to build a natural gas pipeline through their habitat.

    Sacrificing Knut the bear cub for a gas pipeline isn’t exactly the ideal way to endear yourself to the mom crowd.

    Finally, let us not forget that Alaska isn’t exactly a state in heavy contention. Though Obama is running advertising in the state, it’s highly unlikely that he is going to win it in November, and it only has three electoral votes up for grabs anyway. So securing the vote in Alaska isn’t nearly as important to McCain as, let’s say, Obama picking Rendell to secure the Pennsylvania vote.

    She would be an intriguing selection for his running mate, but there’ s plenty of reason to doubt she would tilt the scales for McCain.

    Thank you very much for the comment. If you would like to elaborate on why you think I could be wrong, I would certainly welcome it.

  6. Pingback: Palin’s Fiscal Hypocrisy « The Great Geno’s Weblog

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