Ok...as we approach the final week of the 2008 presidential campaign all eyes will be on the polls. The important ones to watch, of course, will be the state-by-state polls, as that is where the election will be won or lost. Barack Obama has enjoyed a comfortable lead in most national polling over the last couple of weeks, which seems to be translating into a solidified Electoral College advantage at the state-by-state level.
Personally, I think things will tighten between now and November 4th. This is a conservative country at heart, and while it looks like we're on track to elect Barack Obama president, I also think that the history of presidential elections from 1968 to 2004 will be provide the Democratic ticket with some push back. In those ten elections, no Democrat won 50% of the vote except Jimmy Carter in 1976. (Bill Clinton won both of his elections with 43% and 49% respectively, due in large part to Ross Perot's presence on the ballot in 1992 and 1996.)
That said, I still believe we're on track to a realigning election. Obama looks highly likely to win this thing with a comfortable popular vote margin and a strong showing in the Electoral College.
And so I will post two maps over the next couple of days. A best-case scenario and a worst-case scenario. I don't expect either map to be in place on November 5th. Instead, they'll serve as a political geek's look at the ceiling and floor of Obama's support.
Below is the best case scenario, as I see it. If this election turns into a Reagan-style rout of the ruling party, if enough disenchanted Republicans have the courage to vote against their party as punishment for incompetent leadership, the map could be sky blue on Election Day...
(270 needed to win)
If there is a huge Democratic tidal wave on Election Day, we could very well see some longtime Republican states move to Obama's column unexpectedly: Georgia and North Carolina (where African-American turnout could be key); Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota (where Obama is spending butt loads of money because TV ad buys are cheap in those states); and Florida (if Obama over performs with senior citizen and Jewish voters). I think the chances of such a landslide are about 5%. The Democrats may well win one (maybe two) of these states next week, but to win all of them...well...I just don't see it.
Tomorrow: The worst case scenario.