Wargaming the Electoral College

Because It’s Never Too Early for Idle Speculation

If you handed me red and blue markers, and told me my life depended on being absolutely right about the November election, here’s how I’d color the map.


[As always, click the thumbnail for a larger view.]

These are the 41 states that, I think, are already locked down. Barring some unpredictable turn of events, there are only nine states up for grabs for a total of 82 electoral college votes.

A couple things to take note of.

Ohio typically is a swing state and, if you’ll recall, won the 2004 election for Bush in the wee hours after the polls closed. Yet already I’ve called it for the Democrats. Well, that’s just the way it’s going to be. The state Republican party is more or less destroyed — and economics and demographics have moved Ohio leftward these last four years. Please don’t shoot the messenger. And the only reason New Hampshire isn’t Mood Indigo (“bluer than blue can be”) is because McCain is the likely nominee. They love McCain in the Granite State, and no other Republican stands a chance there.

Also notice that the parties are in a virtual dead heat — the Democrats at 227 and the Republicans at 229. That’s a tight race.

So let’s pretend that Barack Obama is the nominee and everybody loves him and John McCain runs a competent-but-uninspiring campaign. How big does Obama win? Let’s take a peek.

The Democrats’ best-case scenario looks a lot like this.

[As always, click the thumbnail for a larger view.]

The EC math works out to 309 for Obama, 229 for McCain. Hardly a blowout, but a bigger win than Bush was able to eek out against a candidate as weak as John Kerry. If the Democrats can do better than this, it’ll take a real blowout where McCain loses Florida and maybe also Virginia. Possible, but so unlikely that I haven’t bothered to map it and probably won’t.


There’s an even chance that McCain could do a Dukakis number on Obama — paint him as an ultraliberal, weak-on-defense doofus. And how many EC votes does that get McCain? 311 to 227. Again, a solid win but hardly one for the record books.

[As always, click the thumbnail… you get it by now right?]

Oh, one last thing to remember. No Republican has ever won the White House without winning Ohio. Not once, not ever. So if you’re a tried-and-true Republican who wants McCain to win, you’d better be thankful that he’s a lot less Republican than you are. Because otherwise, he wouldn’t stand a Hooters Girl’s chance in a prison riot on a election day.

UPDATE: More here.

NOTE: Thanks to the folks at 270toWin.com for the EC map. I purchased some very pretty mapping software for the 2004 election, but can’t locate it. Can’t even remember what it was called. So until I can find it or a replacement, I’ll be leaning on the 270toWin folks.


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