Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Obama by the Numbers

How's Barack Obama doing? Let's do the math.
Apart from his winning streak, Obama is showing strength across almost all demographic categories. TPM
sums up the exit polls:

Obama made it very close among females, losing to Hillary by the slimmest of margins, 51%-49%.
He won by a sizable margin among middle-aged voters, 53%-46%.
He won by decent margins among voters with an income less than $50,000.
He won by big margins among self described moderates and conservatives.
He won overwhelmingly among people who decided in the last week or the last three days, though Hillary won narrowly among those who decided in the last day.
He won narrowly among members of union households.
His demographic strength is matched by the geographic scope of his wins, from coast to coast and in between. But the most exciting numbers for Obama are recent polling results for Virginia and Iowa.
TPM Election Central,
which compiles polling results, has the numbers:
Iowa
Obama (D) 51%, McCain (R) 41%
McCain (R) 52%, Clinton (D) 41%
Virginia
Obama (D) 51%, McCain (R) 45%
McCain (R) 48%, Clinton (D) 45%
If his winning streak and gains across all demographic categories don't make the sale for the nomination, these poll numbers will. We just might have a candidate who can carry the campaign to states previously thought of as out of reach for a Democratic nominee.
I went back to the Electoral College results from 2004. John Kerry won 252 of the 270 needed. Add Virginia (13) and Iowa (7), and the total climbs to 272; Obama would be elected without Ohio or Florida.
Here are some thoughts that may occur to Democratic leaders who look at these numbers.
First, it may take a while for the idea of a black man ahead of a war hero in Virginia to sink in. Take a moment.
Second, a Democratic candidate who starts the campaign ahead in Virginia is playing to win instead of not to lose. It's like starting with the ball on the 48 yard line in the other team's territory. Do that all day, and winning becomes easier.
Third, if Obama can win Virginia, maybe he can win in Colorado, Missouri, Nevada, and New Mexico. This would require McCain to play defense in previously solidly red states. It also means Democratic candidates in these states can dream of winning down the ticket.
The prospect of winning Virginia means the 50 state strategy is ready for the big show, and that talk of political transformation might not be a pipe dream after all.
Everywhere Obama goes, he draws enormous crowds, builds on his impressive organization, and improves his election results. Right now, I don't see how John McCain can match the crowds, the energy and the excitement that Obama creates on the campaign trail. With eight months to go, I expect Obama to continue to draw huge crowds to his rallies and new voters to the polls. Sure there will be bumps in the road, the media will find new, less flattering stories to write about Obama (and McCain for that matter), but the fundamental reasons for his appeal won't change drastically between now and November.
Maybe there is something to that hope stuff after all.

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