Monday, September 22, 2008

It'll be Colorado

Wherein I lay out my forecast for the denouement of this marathon process to replace President Bush. Many of us have put more work into influencing the presidential election than Bush has apparently put into being president.

I think Stuart Rothenberg is right...mainly because we agree. So I'm willing to put down my prediction right now. I think the fulcrum state of 2008 will be Colorado.

I can't imagine Obama losing the Kerry states. Even the ones on the edge -- Wisconsin and New Hampshire -- have shown small but consistent leads for Obama. Ditto Pennsylvania and Michigan.
Among Bush states, Obama's got so Iowa well wrapped up that it's not really a swing state anymore, and is narrowly ahead in Minnesota.
That makes it 259-252 Obama.

Leaving Virginia, Ohio, Colorado, New Mexico, and maaaaybe Nevada up for grabs. As in undecided territory.

As time goes on, I find myself more firmly believing that the final disposition of a swing state is strongly wrapped up in the instincts of its last-minute voters. And the more I contact these people, the more I read about them, the more convinced I am that undecided voters are basically morons. McCain and Obama have been running for president for 18 months, and they have very different visions of the future. Yet somehow these people haven't yet made a choice. This isn't a decision between Coke and Pepsi, it's a decision between Poland Springs and Wild Turkey.

If at this point a voter finds them of equal value, that's probably because they don't know much, or care much. The ones who don't care that much, don't vote -- so we're left with the ones who don't know that much. Christopher Hayes writes one of the best profiles of the undecided voter I've ever read...here's a snippet:

Perhaps the greatest myth about undecided voters is that they are undecided because of the "issues."...The majority of undecided voters I spoke to couldn't name a single issue that was important to them...the very concept of the issue seemed to be almost completely alien to most of the undecided voters I spoke to...As far as I could tell, the problem wasn't the word "issue"; it was a fundamental lack of understanding of what constituted the broad category of the "political."

The whole thing is worth the read, and it makes anyone who believes in a rationalist approach to politics and campaign agog. I submit that without any grounding in political reality, these last minute "decision makers" go back to instincts, gut level. I believe Bush got close enough to win thanks to undecideds in Florida and Ohio feeling that they knew someone like Bush and were comfortable with him. Whether they agreed on the issues wasn't as important -- better to avoid Kerry or Gore, who were nearly identical in broadcasting waves of privilege and remove from the working people of America.

In 2008, then, I feel compelled to look at "instinct" of undecided voters in the swing states. And the simple breakdown for me is this:
  • If any of those 5 states is unlikely to vote for an African-American for the color of his skin, it's Virginia. I think this reason alone makes the pursuit of Virginia a waste of time for Obama.
  • Ohio's an interesting case -- a hard-scrabble state built to compete in the 20th century. Which doesn't work out too well in the 21st century. Which candidate does that describe?
  • Nevada...I don't get Nevada. But I do understand we've been teased by Nevada repeatedly, and it's a very chaotic state. Their caucuses were a disaster, they have Harry Reid and nobody else as high-profile Democrats, and the mayor of their largest city seems insane. I wouldn't want to rely on the Silver State for anything.
  • My best hopes are New Mexico and Colorado. These are states where the future hasn't past them by, but is now arriving. These are states where the culture is one of excitement and crescendo. More people, different people, are moving into those states, with a good amount of money not far behind. The future looks better than the past, and any time spent in those places makes it easy to read the air of vibrancy. If there's one region of America for whom the future is most promising, it's the American Southwest. And at the end of the day, that's the attitude and the approach of Senator Obama.

While we have to run through the motions, I expect that by mid-October we'll be seeing lots of time spent in Colorado. Ohio will receive visits because it's so big and close, and the third state will be either New Mexico or Virginia -- whichever's closer. However, I still expect the first to go for Obama, the latter to finish for McCain.

I would also point out that moving to a Colorado and New Mexico approach and forgoing Ohio is a great way to focus money and manpower, more bang for the buck. Hopefully, Obama will stay in the game in Ohio and Florida, but but their best people out west. This lose-Ohio-win-Colorado scenario is also given heavy play on the fivethirtyeight.com which runs all manner of simulations -- it comes up about half the time.

Now the bad news. The bad news is named Mike Coffman. Coffman may well end up the third of an unholy trifecta that runs Harris...Blackwell...Coffman. Mr. Coffman is presently the Secretary of State for Colorado and is responsible for supervising its election, but is seeking a promotion -- he'd like to be a Congressman. The ad on his campaign website ominously declares him to be a "proven conservative leader". In other words, he's probably a Republican on the make who will be supervising the election in Colorado in a certain direction. Coffman shares the trademark Republican contempt for ethics, using state time on his Congressional campaign. He seems to play fast and loose with contracts for election machinery, though he has mandated the use of paper ballots in 2008. He's pretty dang favored to win the Congressional seat, but he may have much greater impact on the next four years in his "old" job. There's some minor hope that he'll follow the example of Washington's Secretary of State, Sam Reed, who supervised the fair resolution of 2004's razor-thin gubernatorial election despite the wishes of the state's Republican Party. Moral courage is in short supply in the GOP, however, so I remain skeptical.

As goes Colorado...

1 comment:

dlorang said...

I do believe you're right. Those of us in COHD6 who are campaigning for Hank Eng (D) see Mike Coffman (R) remaining in office as Sec. of State while he is running for Congress to be a huge conflict of interest. Someone with those ethics is bound to err on the side of the republicans during the presidentail electoral process. Once again, the eyes of the country will be on Colorado - this time we won't look so good...