Battleground States

Demographics and mood of voters may reshape the electoral map

not all, of New England and New York State. Pennsylvania isn’t in the bag, but in a normal year it’s a blue state. There’s also Michigan, Illinois and most of the western tier, if not all of it. I would be surprised if Democrats didn’t carry California, Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii.”

According to Fiorina, Democrats can expect a battle in many of those states. She says, “McCain will fight for California and fight hard in all kinds of places, including Washington, Oregon, and New Mexico. I don’t think it’s going to be the same as in ’04, where you can say here are the red, the blue, and a couple of toss-ups.”

Obama won Virginia handily in his primary contest against Clinton, and hopes to turn that state blue. David Bositis, senior research analyst at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, thinks it could happen. “Republicans have won Virginia in every election since 1964, but it has become increasingly Democrat and Obama has a good chance to pick it up. In one sense, it’s much more important for McCain than Obama.”

Bositis believes that given each party’s 50-state strategy, Obama may already have an advantage over the Republican nominee. As a result of the prolonged Democratic nominating process, the Illinois senator has built a large base of support across the country, opening up many targets of opportunity. On the other hand, he says, “The map is filled with must-win states for McCain. He has to win Ohio, for example, because if Sen. John Kerry had won it in 2004, he would have been president. Bush won last time with minimal support across the country.”

Right now, it’s close, Bositis says. “But remember, there’s this really unpopular Republican brand and McCain has had a free ride for the past three months,” he adds. “Everyone’s been throwing dirt at and dissing Obama, and he’s still slightly ahead in Ohio based on an average of all polls taken. He also has this super-colossal, magical ground operation that is going to turn everybody out like crazy.”

In Galston’s opinion, both candidates have some must-win states on the map. “I don’t see how a Democrat can lose either Michigan or Pennsylvania and have a realistic hope of winning the presidency,” he says. “Similarly, no Republican in modern political history has been elected without winning Ohio. If the Obama camp can find a way of denying Ohio to McCain, he’ll be the next president.”

Colorado, which was red in 2004, is another state Democrats hope to put in play, and experts also add Nevada and New Mexico to that list. Galston points to changing demographics as the reason why states such as Virginia and Colorado could be more competitive this year.

“I think there are demographic trends that are likely to make states such as [those] more competitive,” he says. “I would now put Virginia and Colorado in the purple category based on patterns of migration with new residents, who are white and well educated, coming into northern Virginia and

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