The Pretense

For your morning thought, consider that it’s pretty remarkable how firmly the media is clinging to the pretense that we’re watching a close, interesting election contest. In fact, Barack Obama has a lead in the polls that no challenger has ever overcome for as long as polling has existed. On top of that, his Electoral College numbers have consistently outperformed his popular vote numbers. And I’ve never heard a single person so much as try to argue that Obama doesn’t have a superior “ground game.” Obviously, McCain could win, but if he turns it around and does that’d be a really remarkable turn of events. Instead, I’m reading things like this in The Washington Post:

Robert Shobe, who spent almost three decades in the Navy before settling down in Virginia Beach, will not decide whom to vote for until the presidential candidates get more specific about their foreign policy. […] This year, members of both parties think that Virginia could be critical to either candidate’s capturing the 270 electoral votes needed to secure the White House. Virginians do not register by party, and many have been known to split their tickets.

Shobe is a fiftysomething (at the youngest) male military veteran who lives in what’s been a strongly Republican state ever since the Civil Rights Act. If he’s undecided, that’s a sign of an impending Obama victory not a close-fought contest. And how critical is Virginia, anyway?’s averages show larger Obama leads in every state Al Gore won, plus Ohio, Colorado, and Florida. Adding any one of those three states to the Gore states (all of which currently show large Obama leads) would suffice to get Obama over the 270 mark. For Virginia to become “critical” to the outcome, McCain would need to make up his current deficit in all three of those other states. Again, that could happen but it’d be quite the turnaround.

Meanwhile, on top of those states, Obama is currently also leading in pure gravy states like North Carolina and Nevada and looks to be within striking distance in Missouri. At this point, in other words, the Electoral College math has nothing to do with anything — McCain is around 7–8 points down nationwide which makes it impossible to win. And when you’re down 7–8 points nationwide you can’t make up the gap purely by persuading “undecided” voters. At the moment, most of the undecideds are going to be Robert Shobe types — voters who demographically ought to be McCain voters, most of whom will probably come home to McCain at the end of the day and somewhat narrow the gap. But that’s because at the moment so many people say they’re voting for Obama! McCain will somehow need to get a lot of them to change their minds.