Deep Underground with Raul Groom

Friday, June 25, 2004

Time to begin the serious handicapping of the 2004 elections. A lot of people have questioned my prediction that Kerry will win easily, saying basically "You're a Bush-hating moron." So today I'm going to focus on rebutting that argument. We'll get to the interesting part - the US Senate - later, after we've disposed of these silly rumors that George W. Bush has any chance of being elected to a second term.

Of course, many people are going to question my analysis because it's based on polling. "Polls are useless this far in advance!" people will say. And they have a point, but it's not a decisive one. Polls are useful, but you have to look closely and realize how much potential there is for movement. So here's an analysis of the situation by region. The numbers are all cherry-picked from www.electoral-vote.com's excellent tracking spreadsheet.

The South

The South is Bush's strength, along with the West, the South being more important because there are actually people living there. Dust doesn't get congressional representation.

In Bush's column to stay are Alabama (19 points), Georgia (17 points), Kentucky (13 points), Mississippi (17 points), South Carolina (10 points), Tennessee (18 points), and Texas (20 points), a total of 91 electoral votes in the South. These states are not only over 10 points but all of them are outside the margin of remaining undecideds in the state, except South Carolina, and Kerry would need basically every single SC undecided (and most of the Nader voters as well) to break for him if he wanted to win it. So count 91 electoral votes for Bush that Kerry is going to make no effort to win.

The rest of the South looks like this:

Arkansas, with 6 electoral votes, is currently within the margin of error. Ditto Florida, with its huge 27 EV prize. And don't forget Virginia (yes, Virginia) which is within the margin of error as well, for reasons no one has been able to adequately explain but which may have something to do with the fact that the Republican party has been looting the state for the last decade in plain view of everybody. So in the South there are 46 electoral votes that are completely up for grabs.

In North Carolina (15 ev) and Louisiana(9 EV), Bush has small leads, though Louisiana is probably close to being out of play as there aren't very many undecided voters.

So in Bush's strongest area of the country, the South, he has 97 votes more or less locked up, 15 votes that he should win but will have to spend at least some time defending, and 46 votes that he's going to have to scratch and claw for. Anything Kerry gets in the South is a big bonus, with the exception of Florida, where he'll no doubt be spending a lot of time, along with Bush.

The Northeast

Here, in Kerry's stronghold, we find a different story. Connecticut (10 points, with a big, probably illusory Nader vote), Delaware (13 points), Maine (19 points), Massachusetts (24 points), Maryland (14 points), New York (19 points), Rhode Island (22 points), Vermont (15 points) and D.C. (80 points) are Kerry cinches, giving him 77 walkover electoral votes in the Northeast.

Pennsylvania (21 EV) and New Jersey (15 EV) are both still fairly close, but of those two, only New Jersey is a worry for Kerry, as Kerry is pulling almost 50 percent of the polls in Pennsylvania even as Nader shows good strength there. It's not likely Pennsylvania will be competitive, so we can add that to Kerry's cinch column.

The only true toss-up state in the Northeast is contrarian New Hampshire and its awesome four electoral votes.

So in Kerry's stronghold, the Northeast, Kerry has 98 votes locked up, 15 he has to defend in New Jersey, and 4 that he'll have to work hard to grab.

The Midwest

This is where most of the real action is going to be, as neither candidate has a lot of strength here. Behold:

Kerry can count 13 EV Illinois (13 points and several major GOP scandals) among his lock states, and Bush can bank 11 EV Indiana (21 points). Other than those two, everything in the Midwest is in play to some degree or another. But it's mostly uphill battles for Bush.

Minnesota and Wisconsin (10 EV each) are still close, but Kerry should pick these up if he doesn't completely fumble the ball. West Virginia (5 EV) is in the same category for Bush. But the big surprise is Ohio (20 EV), where Kerry will be protecting a lead rather than trying to come from behind. Iowa (7 EV), Missouri (11 EV), and Michigan (17 EV) are all toss-ups.

So in the Midwest, Kerry adds 13 to his cinch total, bringing him to 111, and Bush adds 11, giving him 108. Meanwhile Bush has the inside track on only 5 votes, with Kerry playing defense on 40, with 35 toss-ups.

The Midwest, then, is an easy call for the Kerry campaign - he wants to spend a ton of time there, talking shit about Bush's job record. For Bush's camp, it's strategically tricky - do they want to seriously contest Kerry in Ohio, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, or concentrate mainly on Michigan? Actually, it turns out when we get to the end that they have no choice - they HAVE to engage Kerry across the whole Midwest.

The West

Bush's other strength, of course, is the big, flat states out West. Kansas(18 points), Idaho (30 points), Montana (20 points), Nebraska (29 points), Oklahoma (19 points), North Dakota (28 points) South Dakota (16 points) and Utah (45 points) are all going to go Bush.

But Bush is probably going to have to actually spend some time campaigning in Colorado to grab its 9 EV, where he owes his slim lead mainly to Nader voters defecting from Kerry. New Mexico (5 EV) is actually Kerry country, and that race may be getting out of hand, as Kerry's 7-point lead is well above the percentage of undecideds. Arizona (10 EV) and Nevada (5 EV) are both toss-ups.

So the West is still Bush country, and he can expect to get 36 votes without really trying, and then to add an extra 9 without a ton of effort, but if Kerry hustles, he could conceivably get out of the West with anywhere between 10 and 20 votes.

The West Coast

California is Kerry's ace in the hole - he leads by 12 points in the state, even with 4 percent Nader voting. Those 55 votes are a bone in Bush's throat. In Oregon (7 EV) and Washington (11 EV), Kerry's leads aren't prohibitive, but they're outside the margin of undecideds. Kerry should sweep the West Coast without much effort, and grab all 73 of its electoral votes.

Alaska and Hawaii

Alaska (3 EV) Bush, Hawaii (4 EV) Kerry.

So, let's count the votes, shall we? (Don't tell SCOTUS.)

Bush, the incumbent, currently is looking at a lead-pipe cinch on 153 electoral votes, all of them except Indiana in his regional strongholds. He's playing defense for another 29 electoral votes, again in regions where he should have an advantage, except West Virginia.

Kerry, the challenger, has a lock on 201 electoral votes, including 5 in the West, a Bush stronghold, and 13 in the Midwest, the election's real battleground. He's got to defend shaky leads on 55 votes, all of them except New Jersey in the Midwest, the battleground region.

There are exactly 100 electoral votes completely up for grabs, 61 of them in Bush strongholds, 35 in the battleground region, and 4 in a Kerry stronghold.

So let's be extraordinarily generous to the Bush campaign, and assume a few things go their way. First, let's assume that Bush can win every single toss-up state in his strongholds, AND hold his leads in Colorado, North Carolina, and West Virginia. So Bush gets his 61 toss-up votes, and he hangs on the the 182 votes he's already favored to win. That leaves him with 243 votes, 27 short of the 270 needed to win.

That means that even in this very rosy Bush scenario, he would still need to win Missouri, Iowa, and Michigan in order to win reelection.

In other words, if John Kerry can find a way to win New Hampshire and one of Iowa, Missouri, the only way that Bush can catch him is to overcome Kerry's lead in one of the Midwestern states (Minnesota or Wisconsin) or in New Jersey, while also hanging on to all the states he ought to win. There's simply no other place for Bush to realistically make his money back.

That's all, by the way, assuming Bush wins Florida. If Kerry wins Florida, Bush would need to win every other toss-up state except New Hampshire AND take Ohio from Kerry. Not going to happen.

Add to this the fact that incumbents rarely, if ever, come from behind to win Presidential elections, and that the Iraq body count is going to hit four figures sometime in the next three months.

Yet nowhere do I see any handicappers showing Bush as anything worse than an even-money bet to win reelection. My advice? If somebody will give you even money against Bush, bet like a motherfuckin gorilla. John Kerry is your next President.

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