It has become evident that John McCain is pulling out of Michigan, conceding it (and 17 Electoral votes) to Obama so that he can allocate resources and staff to other battleground states. I have had a few people ask me what this means, so here is a quick breakdown (please forgive any Politics 101 information):
In Presidential elections, each party has states that they can count .. the race even begins. Generally the Democrats get the coastal states and large urban centers (aka: cities) and Republicans can claim what are deemed ‘fly-over’ states (Mid-west) and the South. There are more ‘fly-over’ states then there are coastal states, however far less population and therefore far less Electoral votes per state available. Which brings us to Battleground / Swing states. We have all heard of Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan et al…states that are more equally split among Dems and Reps, where each candidate needs to get the final Electoral votes to push them over the 270 needed to win the election. Generally the winner of the popular vote in each state is able to claim the Electoral College votes from that state as well. The Electoral College is used as a ‘check’ over popular vote, but that is a topic for another bulletin as to whether it is a system that works (pls see: 2000 election).
Generally, most campaigns revolve around the Swing states and do not involve a 50 state strategy. For instance, California is considered solid for the Dems, therefore not a lot of resources (aka: money) are needed to keep that state ‘Blue’…and consequently, Reps won’t spend a lot of money there either, assuming it will be in the ‘Blue’ column. However, this year we see new Battleground states emerging, such as Virginia, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Indiana, New Hampshire, North Carolina etc.
What does this mean? McCain opted for public financing due to his inability to raise the money that Obama can raise. This means that McCain has roughly $84 million to spend (not counting Republican Party money) from the moment the RNC concluded, through to November…which also translates to having to make that money last. Obama has been able to make traditionally ‘Red’ states competitive, forcing McCain to spend resources in states that they assumed were ‘safe’ for him, versus allowing him to make bigger buys in the traditional swing states. By making him spend money in states that he assumed he had in his column, just to retain a small lead, makes it harder for him to have the money on-hand to spend in bigger swing states like Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania etc. Basically, Obama is bankrupting the McCain campaign by making them have to spread out their money more than they initially planned.
This brings us to Michigan. Obama has sustained a large enough lead, that McCain has had to give up on the state, in order to save money for other states where the polls are closer. This puts Obama on the offensive and McCain on the defensive financially. For instance, a state like Virginia…the last time a Democrat won here was in 1964 when Lyndon Johnson defeated U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater. McCain counted on VA in his initial plan, using the same old model that has worked in previous elections. He assumed that with the large military population and Naval bases (McCain being a Navy man) that the state would be safe for him. Obama is currently leading McCain in Virginia state polls…thereby forcing McCain to spend money in order to be competitive in a state he thought he would have locked up.
What this means is that the Electoral map has changed. Obama could lose Florida, Ohio, Indiana and maybe even Pennsylvania (unlikely, he has a huge lead in PA and is even, if not ahead, in the other states), because he would make up the Electoral loses from those states in Nevada, Virginia, Colorado, New Hampshire, Missouri etc. Basically, the election no longer boils down to the same states election after election. Conversely, if McCain loses Florida or Ohio (either) the election is over, he can’t get to 270 if he loses either of those states and also loses traditionally ‘Red’ states in the process.
So McCain pulling resources (i.e. money and field operatives) out of Michigan is a tacit admittal to his inability to overcome Obama’s advantage in the state and therefore he has to stretch his limited resources out in other states where the polls are closer. This is the brilliance of the Obama campaign, using his significant financial advantage to make McCain play defense in states he hoped to count on without much campaigning. My comparison would be Reagan bankrupting the former Soviet Union by increasing military spending, forcing the U.S.S.R to compete and thereby bankrupting their economy which was not on par with the size of our economy. The consequence of which was the collapse of the Soviet Union as a socioeconmoic system of Government that does not work (communism).
Another point that I would like to add, is that the prolonged Democratic primary process works to Obama’s advantage. The reason for this is that while McCain stopped campigning once he locked up his party’s nomination, Obama continued to campaign in states that traditionally don’t have a say in the process, but did this year thanks to the longer-than-usual primary process for the Democratic Party. Why is this an advantage? Because having to campaign in more states than usual in order to win his party’s nomination, also translates to having a ground operation (i.e. field offices, volunteers etc) and organizational advantages in states that he needed for the General Election. So due to the long Democratic primary process, Obama was able to have an organizational advantage in states that McCain never had to campaign in, in order to win the GOP nomination. Basically, Obama hit the ground running, while McCain played catch up.
This will be the first of a few states that I feel McCain will have to concede, making his Electoral path to the Presidency more narrow and constricting, to the point that losing ONE of those battleground states means inevitable loss…whereas Obama can lose a few states, but make up the votes in other states that are normally not competitive, but are this year.
Let me know if you have any other questions, I can talk about this stuff all day…and frankly do! Thanks God I do a radio show to exorcise these demons!