Watching the day-to-day events in the presidential race it is sometimes hard to keep in mind that this is not a national referendum but a race to 270 electoral votes. Here is the latest pollster who observes that this year’s electoral map suggests relatively few states will be in play. Stuart Rothenberg writes:
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) smashing victories in Kentucky and West Virginia confirmed what has been a developing story since early in the primary season: Obama has limited appeal among downscale (those with lower income and less formal education), older white voters. For whatever reason — and a number of possible explanations come to mind — they don’t find him an appealing candidate. Many, of course, ultimately will end up voting for Obama anyway, but some are likely to prefer McCain in the general election, while others will stay home. Even minimal defections from this group should cause concern among Democratic strategists, since the party has been able to count on this constituency in the past.
Rothenberg allows that a total GOP meltdown is still possible, but if that doesn’t materialize then, he says, “Most of the states that went for George W. Bush in 2000 are likely to end up in the Republican column again this November, while almost every state that former Vice President Al Gore won eight years ago is likely to go for Obama this year.”
Other neutral pollsters reach the same conclusion. Despite the national trends, the incumbent president’s poll ratings, the economy and the war in Iraq it is still very likely to be a close race.
Why? The Democrats didn’t choose someone who can broaden the base any more effectively than John Kerry and Michael Dukakis could. (Indeed Obama arguably has greater challenges than they did with key demographic groups). Add to that the fact that Americans have efficiently segregated themselves by ideology into Red and Blue states. So it’s not surprising that if you pair up another liberal Democrat and a right-of-center Republican you’re not going to get an electoral map much different from those of 2000 or 2004.