Saturday, September 6, 2008

AP to Neutrality and Logic: Drop Dead

The Associated Press has been a disgrace to journalism lately under the direction of their DC bureau chief Ron Fournier, who just last year was in serious talks with John McCain’s campaign as a paid advisor; and they are at it again.

Yesterday, the AP released another on a long line of many hit pieces on Senator Obama. This one proclaims that despite for all of Obama’s talk about expanding the electoral map, he is quickly adopting the “Win Ohio” strategy that John Kerry’s ill-fated campaign adopted in 2004. Their “evidence” for this is that Obama in his post-convention tour visited such traditional battlegrounds such as Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Quite obviously, this is proof that he has given up on all other states his campaign has targeted.

Let’s look at (and refute) some of the more dubious claims on the piece:

"Despite early optimism, Obama's strategists are mapping out an electoral plan similar to Democrat John Kerry's from 2004…. But don't look for the Democratic presidential nominee in, say, undeniably GOP Idaho.”

This is probably true…I do not expect to see Obama make a play in Idaho, however no one serious ever claimed he would. This is a state that George Bush (only Wyoming and Utah were more favorable to the GOP in 2004) won by nearly forty points. In other news, John Sidney McCain III isn't making a play in Vermont. Gasp!

"Obama has long looked for a way to win the White House without the 20 electoral votes of Ohio, the prototypical swing state. His top aides, including his campaign manager, once said they could lose the state and still win the election by picking off states that typically support Republicans. No more."

Really now? While Obama is still, as he always has, focusing a great deal of attention on Ohio, it is hardly his “be all and end all” of his electoral strategy. Let’s just consider this for a moment:

Michigan and New Hampshire are the only two Kerry states that McCain is even in striking distance, and in both states Obama is polling narrowly, but consistently, ahead of McCain. The Kerry states puts him at 252 electoral votes, and he now has a double digit lead in Iowa and a high single digit lead in New Mexico which would bring him to 264 electoral votes. Now Obama is not guaranteed to win the aforementioned four states, but he is clearly favored. 538’s regression model (not to mention essentially every poll) has him winning Michigan and New Hampshire by 3-4%; as well as Iowa and New Mexico by 7-9%. If these numbers hold, Obama is already at 264 electoral votes.

So where does that leave John Sidney McCain III? He would have to win states where he has a slight, though unclear polling advantages such as Missouri, North Carolina, Indiana, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota; all of which except the last two possess enough electoral votes to put Obama over 270, should he win.

Of course, there are also states like Ohio, Virginia, and Colorado where the race is essentially a deadheat (though 538’s regression gives Obama a very slight advantage in all three); that Obama can rely on to win. Even Nevada which, again, is a basic dead heat (though 538’s regression gives a very slight advantage for McCain as of this writing) would bring it in a 269-269 tie (Even if Obama loses all of the other states that I mentioned), which would probably result in his victory. While this area is murky and without a lot of precedent, most analysis confirms that Obama would likely prevail in a 269-269 tie, due to the Democratic advantage in Congress (See all of 538's regressions based on historical data and polling models here).

Needless to say, Senator Obama has plenty of electoral scenarios that don’t go through the Buckeye State. Maybe they should write a story on how Michigan is essentially a must-win for McCain (unless he wants to roll the dice and hope he runs the table among the other swing states).

Maybe the AP will consider being thoughtful and fair for once. But I'm not holding my breath.

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