Granted, it seems like, one right after the other, story upon story is released that puts a major damper on the enthusiasm you might expect the Republicans to have regarding a breakthrough nominee.
While this is like a candy store full of goodies for Democrats, The Republicans do not appear to be too nonplussed by it all. Brave front? Perhaps.
I thought I'd sit down and do some political calculations in my head and see if, indeed, John McCain could still win the election. Now, I make no allowance here for extraordinary events, like an October surprise in either the Rezko trial or in the Alaskan investigation regarding whether Palin was illegally overzealous in pursuing the firing of her former brother-in-law, State Trooper Michael Wooten. This analysis is based on the status quo and is strictly an exercise in numbers, not strategy.
The electorate can be divided pretty neatly into three groups: 40% Republicans and conservatives, 40% liberals and Democrats, and 20% unsure/undecided/truly independent.
The middle sixty percent is where elections are battled, with each side almost conceding at least a third to the other (i.e. each side can count on 40% of the vote, plus).
Even in the worst defeat in electoral history, 1984's re-election of Ronald Reagan, Walter Mondale pulled in the bare minimum 40% of the popular vote. I don't think McCain is in any danger of underwhelming that many people.
So they each start with at least 40% in the bank, meaning the middle twenty is the battleground. Indeed, Obama actually started a bit behind after the primary season, given the split in the party, since healed, between Clinton voters and Obombers.
Current polling suggests that Barack Obama should end the week somewhere north of 50% of likely voters. He did get a bit of a bounce coming out of Denver, but the real bounce occured shortly after Palin's revelations (pun intended) became news.
It is not often that a candidate gets a bounce during the other guy's convention! This despite the fact that Obama has stayed rather conspicuously in the background, as candidates traditionally do, coming forward only to deny that his campaign was behind the leak of the Palin unauthorized biographical information and to urge supporters to stay out of the Palins' private lives.
Unlike McCain, who tried hard to make the news daily during the Denver convention. But I digress.
It seems unlikely that McCain can win the election, to be sure, but here's how it could break for him.
All he really needs to do is keep it close until October, I think. He'll get a bounce (I'm guessing about three points) by Friday, much of which is coming from the seven or eight percent still undecided, and a few people shifting from Obama.
Scaring people, which is tonight's theme, can create irrational decision making.
So let's say Obama leads on Friday, 49-46. McCain cannot afford to lose much more ground. Period.
In addition to this, he will have to consider the electoral vote calculation. Pennsylvania is in play, thanks to Obama's hurtful comments regarding guns and religion. Biden helps him a little there, but possibly not enough. Ohio, too, is in play but that was a given anyway.
Rasmussen Reports, hardly an unbiased source, although they at least make a stab at reality, indicates that the electoral college tally right now stands at McCain 183, Obama 193, with 162 up for grabs or at least leaning.
These further break down this way:
Safe Republican 62
Likely Republican 121
Leans Republican 64
Leans Democrat 71
Likely Democrat 50
Safe Democrat 143
Or 264 Obama, 247 McCain, with Obama needing just 5 more votes.
The states considered toss ups are Virginia (13 votes), Colorado (9), and Nevada (5), all carried by Bush in 2004. Hillary Clinton took Nevada surprisingly easily. Obama did extremely well against Clinton in Colorado and Virginia, both of which have skewed more Democratic over the past two election cycles.
That bodes well for Obama, but here's the mix: in the "Leans Democrat" are the following states: Iowa (7), Michigan (17), New Hampshire (4), New Mexico (5), Oregon (7), Pennsylvania (21), Wisconsin (10).
Of those seven states in 2004, Bush carried in Iowa (surprisingly, given that this state put Obama on the map) and New Mexico. Of the states that currently lean Republican-- Florida, Ohio, Missouri, Montana,
In other words, allowing for Iowa and New Mexico, the current calculus is more like Obama 252, McCain 259. This is, um, not good news. McCain has gained on Obama since the Democratic convention in Iowa, although the New Mexico lead for Obama remains solid. So let's back out New Mexico's five votes. Obama 257, McCain 254.
That's just too damned close to call this for Obama!
If McCain can hold onto the states currently at least leaning his way, and recapture Iowa, then the election will basically come down to Virginia. I suspect Nevada is less in play than pollsters think (again, that "guns" thing comes into play). Obama does well in the urban and college towns, but if you look at the primary map, the counties that Clinton took west of the Shenandoah are largely Republican.
This is not good news for Obama. Again, guns and religion. Working class folks. Obama will have to make the case over the next months that he's not the scary liberal black man that the Republicans will paint him as, that he's an average American, at least as average as Sarah Palin, with an interesting life story and a rugged upbringing. He has to show he learned something, some common sense.
If he can do that, he will win the election, but it will not be the landslide many are predicting.
UPDATE: I feel icky, violated: Hugh Hugetits linked to this post.