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January 31, 2008

« Fun with Election Tickets | Main | Values vs. Wonkishness »

Rich has offered several posts regarding his concerns about the electoral map and the ability for the Democratic candidate to prevail in 2008.  I am strongly convinced that a Democratic candidate can win and he or she can do it without winning big states like Florida and Ohio.

Here's the math.  Assume that all Kerry states go blue again.  Let's also say that the Democrat picks up Iowa, New Mexico, and Nevada, all states where Bush won by less than 3%.  In this a very plausible scenario (remember that Gore won Iowa and New Mexico in 2000).  The Democratic candidate now needs just one more state to prevail-any state. Depending on the candidate, I think that's entirely possible.

If it's Obama, I'd suggest that Colorado might be in play.  Colorado is trending blue and Obama is ahead of Clinton there right now in most polls.  Obama also potentially puts some southern states with relatively large African-American populations into play. Crazy as it sounds, I think Virginia (especially with Mark Warner on the ticket as a Senate candidate), Georgia, South Carolina, and Arkansas are possibilities. 

If it's Hillary, "home state" Arkansas is a very good bet.

Now that McCain looks likely to be the Republican candidate, Bill Richardson's stock as a Dem VP has gone way up.  The Southwest is the key to a Democratic victory and Richardson potentially minimizes McCain's advantage in that part of the country.

Of course, a Hillary/McCain matchup might just make the race way too tempting for Michael Bloomberg.  If he gets in and gets any traction, I'd put my money on Hillary.  Bloomberg could make a serious play for the white male independents that will be critical for McCain. He'll have much less effect on Hillary's core constituencies.

I also think that there's not been much discussion yet about the branding distinctions between McCain and either Democratic candidate. From that angle, an Obama/McCain race is gold for the Democrats-new, fresh, young guy versus old crotchety curmudgeon.  The Kennedy mystique thing is in full play.  Even if it's Clinton/McCain-the contrast is still rather stark.  McCain's age and demeanor will become an issue in the national campaign and it favors the Democrats.

While I by no means think this is easy, there are plenty of ways to get a Democrat in the White House in 2008.

*Gary Gates is senior research fellow at UCLA's Williams Institute and author of the Gay and Lesbian Atlas.

posted by Kevin Stolarick


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Michael Wells

Hi Gary,

Your post made me wonder, do you think there's a Gay vote, and are there any states where it could be decisive? In Oregon for example, there's a higher percentage of Gays than African-Americans. I wonder about Colorado, Nevada or even Virginia (obviously different demographics).


Hi Gary,

The question that worries me is whether or not McCain could put "blue" states like Pennsylvania back in play. The Pennsylvanias, the Michigans, the Wisconsins, etc, all went for Gore and Kerry, but never by huge margins. I could envision one or more of those states turning for McCain, especially if Clinton gets the nomination. And then the math you outline above is a little more fuzzy. Maybe I'm wrong, but it's a worry I have.


In addition to all this, the non-incumbent party is likely to benefit in states whose economies have weakened substantially; this could easily push Florida, Nevada, and Ohio into the Democratic column -- possibly even Colorado, Indiana and Virginia (not so sure about Georgia). McCain could pull New Mexico, but that's about all I could see.

Michael Wells

My worry is what are being called the core constituencies of Obama and Clinton. The young, educated and committed for Obama. The working class, unions and older Democrats for Clinton. Obama has the same constituency as George McGovern, who never reached much beyond his core and lost the working class to Nixon. Clinton has the same constituency as Hubert Humphrey, who couldn't motivate the Bobby Kennedy and Gene McCarthy supporters to vote. Can either Barack or Hillary reach beyond their current supporters after the convention?

Interestingly, I worry about the same states as Brian, but with Obama as the nominee. They're working class, old economy, union states. But then I haven't really understood politics since the first McGovern administration.


Don't forget that McGovern fell into the nomination by default, with Kennedy & Muskie (stronger candidates) eliminated due to unique events. McGovern was running as a liberal against a popular, moderate Republican incumbent during a period of economic expansion. The 2008 election, in my humble opinion, couldn't be more different. [Well, yeah, aside from the parallel wars] Also, I think McCain, though the strongest Repub candidate, will crumble under pressure (explode might be a more apt verb, actually). With Volcker's endorsement, I now think Obama has a decent chance; but either he or Hillary should be able to defeat McCain. But we'll see.

hayden fisher

Obama's problem is that he will lose the creative class vote when he announces, as he has, that he will raise taxes. His plan drives a stake in the creative economy which depends so much on the creative professionals who make $100K - $300K spending lots of money on personal training, traveling, hospitality generally, house-keeping, nightlife, cafes and fundraisers, art openings, etc. These are the people supporting the super-creative core and the service class. It's not class warfare. When I'm at work late, I have meaningful conversations with the janitors who clean my building; we help house-cleaners learn English and navigate the legal system; we tip 25% or more; there's a very real symbiotic relationship between the creative class and the service class and super-creative core. It's much different than the yuppie-service class relationships of the 80's and 90's. There's a deep respect between these groups. But if Obama or Clinton raise taxes and take disposable income out of the creative class (as opposed to the targeted truly wealthy who will simply avoid the tax hikes through a number of means and methods), the creative economy will be THE BIGGEST LOSER!!

Michael Wells


What I mostly hear is the proposal to let the badly thought out Bush tax cuts expire, which would return us to the tax system under Clinton. The 90's were an incredible boom time, the Dow tripled in value, even working class people started catching up. Taxes weren't hampering anything.

You're right about the tax avoidance of the top dogs. David Cay Johnson, former financial writer for the NY Times and hardly a Reaganite, spells it out in Perfectly Legal. You're also right about where the dividing line is, the real avoiders aren't making $100 to $300,000. But there are ways to structure taxes so that they're more equitable and have more social value.

I don't think people mind paying reasonable taxes, if they have a sense that their money is being well spent. Certainly we can't keep borrowing against the future and letting our infrastructure and social structure deteriorate just in order to have low taxes, which is the current Republican thinking. I think the disconnect for most people, Creative Class or not, is that from the environment to education to the military and so on, the current administration is taking us backwards while building an enormous deficit.

hayden fisher

I certainly have little use for the fiscal management of the last 8 years; and both parties are to blame. It's a Washingtonian thing more than a Republican or Democrat thing. But nearly all of Wall Street agrees the Bush tax cuts stimulated the economy and annual deficits have been decreasing, I believe. Think of what our economy perservered: a recession that began in the Clinton era; the dot-com bubble bust; 9/11; the Enron and accounting scandals and collapses; very expensive and mis-managed wars; etc., etc. We need to realize that government is almost always the problem and rarely the answer.

I would not personally object to a tax increase if I knew that Washington would manage our money better. But they won't. They will siphon money out of the economy and waste it on pet projects and administrative implementation. Ronald Reagan said it best when he described the scariest phrase in the English language: "I'm from the government and I'm here to help".

Irrespective of intentions, a tax hike will do nothing more than de-incentivize production and freeze capital. The Clinton surplus showed-up when he agreed to cut the capital gains rate in 1998 and the wealthy responded by liquidating investments, realizing the cap gains hits and consuming/re-investing. We need to focus less on what's fair and more on how things work; we need to deal with realities, not fantasies.

I agree that the GOP wants to ignore critical issues like infrastructure and the others you cite. I am not a fan of the GOP nor its leaders. I'm just a realist. These Washingtonians will never get it right, if taxes need to be raised for specific projects, those should take place at the regional levels and be flat-tax based. In the interim, we should engage our accounting and consulting firms to audit and streamline every federal agency and project to protect the taxpayers against Washingtonian abuse.

Turning back to equitable consideration, the truly down and out are not that way because of economic unfairness. It's mental illness and addiction that plague them. Reagan did screw that one up when he cut mental health services funding in the 80's. The federal government should be funding more addiction and mental health services providers. Many of the afflicted are educated and intelligent and come from good families; but they're down and out and need help desperately. Tax hikes won't make the problem evaporate.

Gary Dare

With the US national debt rising to $9.25 Trillion in the next few days (see link in my byline) and the US gross country debt (including state, county, city) up to double that figure, a growing slice of taxes is going towards interest. When Canada's national debt peaked over a decade ago, up to 20% of federal taxes went to interest payments and the psychosocial effect was corrosive, as the public saw a smaller return for their money paid; interest payments now take up 15% of federal revenues. While nobody likes the idea of tax hikes, which would ratify business-as-usual, spending cuts or continued borrowing are the only other alternatives and the former has been a political death kiss lately.

Some sort of mild tax hike would still be necessary just to control the size of budget deficits (gross, not net after borrowing from the Social Security trust fund). State and local governments have started looking at non-income tax rises, like hiking gasoline taxes and property transfer fees, as is happening in Chicago and in road maintenance proposals in Portland, Oregon by Sam Adams (running for mayor). Federally, a new sales tax like Canada's GST in exchange for retaining the Bush tax cuts and replacing the Medicare payroll tax (maybe making all of FICA just for Social Security).

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