Friday, August 8, 2008

McCain's map: mission impossible?

"To defend everything is to defend nothing" - Frederick the Great

As our previous discussion of the Centre of Gravity shows, McCain faces staggering challenges to winning the election. These begin with the electoral maps which demonstrate the electoral college value of each state (or subset of states in the case of Maine and Nebraska). Courtesy of the ever-impressive 270towin, let's look at these to get the full visual impact of McCain's daunting task.

First, here's the 2004 result:
As you can see, starting from this all Obama needs to do is flip Ohio to win the election. But his actual paths to victory are far more varied than that.

Here's the 2008 starting position, based in large part off of 538's polling snapshots. States in grey (or purple to mark the one electoral vote in Nebraska that may go to Obama) are currently undecided - meaning neither candidate has a lead of 5% or more. (Also included are the states of Georgia and North Dakota where insufficient polling currently exists but commentators have agreed Obama is making a strong effort as well as one electoral vote in Nebraska, a state which now divides its electoral votes.)

Very simply, providing Obama holds Michigan, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire (each far more likely than the reverse) and takes New Mexico (where he is strongly favoured) he is then just six electoral votes away from the magic 270. As such, Democrats need just to win just one of the following: Nevada + Nebraska's 1 EV; Nevada + Montana; Nevada + North Dakota; Montana + North Dakota; Colorado; Missouri; Indiana; Ohio; Virginia; North Carolina; Georgia; Florida. Even given the Democratic Party's history of screwing things up, winning one out of twelve scenarios is do-able.

And, just for fun, this is what happens if McCain loses each and every defensive battle he is being forced to wage.

And that quite simply is the crux of McCain's dilemma: he can either defend everything and risk losing it all as well or he can pick where to make his stand and see himself outmaneuvered by the Obama campaign with their vastly superior resources.

So is there any way for John McCain? Yes there is, but it involves a radical change of strategy and that's what we'll be looking at next.

(PS: my thanks to Paul Crawford for his help in the Opening-the-Kitchen-Door Dept. that made this post possible.)

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