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Can McCain Carry Pennsylvania?

October 30th, 2008

I’ve been spending some time recently looking at the polls and the electoral college. I am interested in seeing what each candidate has to do to reach the needed 270 electoral votes. Looking at the map I see an awful lot of blue and gray. Its really easy for Obama. His path to victory mostly includes not doing anything really stupid in the next week.  He doesn’t even have to win any of the toss-up states. All he has to do is win the states that are leaning towards him. Of course this is assuming that the polls are accurate.  On the other hand we have McCain. His path to victory is much more difficult, again, assuming you trust the current polls.  First, he has to win all the toss-up states. As it currently stands, that would give him 227 to Obama’s 311.  Still not even close. So what does McCain have to do to make the election telecast matter past 7pm on election night?

To make this closer, McCain needs a few more things to happen.  He is gonna have to take away a few of the states that are leaning Obama, especially the states that Bush carried.  Ohio is the big prize here, and I think McCain will make this one very close. He has been spending a lot of time there, and as of the last polls I’ve seen, Obama is only up around 5%.  That is not very much considering a 3% margin of error, and about 8% undecided.  I don’t think there are actually 8% undecided, just too many people who don’t like talking to pollsters.  With an Ohio win, McCain edges up to 247 and brings Obama down to 291.

At this point, there are 4 states remaining leaning towards Obama and McCain needs 23 more electoral votes.  Virginia, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada are the states left, and Obama leads by about 7% in each state. To win, McCain would have to win Virginia, and 2 out of the remaining 3.  Any combination of that gets him the required 270 votes. Now the question is, why aren’t McCain and Palin spending every waking second in these states?

I think it is for two reasons.  First, I don’t think they have the resources to win all of the toss-ups, Ohio, Virginia, and 2 out of the 3 remaining states leaning towards Obama.  At this point, Obama has more money than he can spend and McCain has a few million dollars left. It is probably not feasible for McCain to win 13 out of the 14 states that are within 8%.  Unless the polling is significantly off and we see a huge “Bradley Effect”, this doesn’t represent a good path to victory. Second, McCain sees another path to victory.

This other path to victory explains McCain’s strategy at this point.  He and Palin have spent a considerable amount of time in Pennsylvania recently.  This may be wasted effort, as the latest RCP average has them 11 points behind.  However, PA could offer him the best chance of winning. The latest Rasmussen poll has the gap at only 7%.  The real key though, is the fact that flipping Pennsylvania means McCain would only need 1 out of those 4 states to get to 270.  The last Republican team to carry PA was Bush/Quayle in 1988.  It’s been 20 years, but it certainly isn’t outside the realm of possibilities.  This is why McCain is spending much of his time in Pennsylvania.  I think it is his best, albeit slim, chance at winning this election. Maybe all those bitter people will cling to their bibles and guns as they pull the lever for McCain. If not, hats off to President Obama for an incredibly well run campaign.

Let me hear your predictions on the spread.  With PA, McCain wins 273 - 265.  Without it, I think Obama will break 300.