Monday, September 15, 2008

Tipping Point States Keep Swinging

One of the most interesting things about the McCain/Palin bounce and subsequent fade is how it's jostling up which states are the swing states. It's not just that the battleground has changed, it's that it keeps changing.

Clearly, there's agreement that states that were once part of Obama's 50-state strategy - states like North Carolina and Georgia - are laughably Republican now, with double-digit McCain leads. Other states that might have once seemed reasonably in reach for Obama as key battlegrounds, like Florida and Missouri, are arguably gone from his grasp, with McCain now leading by more than six points. These are states where Palin and the red-meat strategy has played well, energizing Evangelicals and turning out the base.

On the flip side of this, some historically Republican states that looked to be potential battlegrounds have decidedly come home to Obama: Iowa, the state that launched his bid, has pretty much hitched its wagon with a ten point lead. New Hampshire, the one Republican-leaning Northeast state, has decided that they want nothing to do with McCain's version of the Republican party, has moved six points in Obama's favor since the conventions.

But other states seem to be moving in and out of swing territory. Pennsylvania and Washington, two traditionally solid blue states, have become iffy, as voters wonder whether they really like Obama, or really like Palin. Minnesotta and Wisconsin (even - God forbid - New York) have also been reported entering the danger zone with shrinking leads for Obama. Meanwhile Ohio, thought to be moving along with states like Florida and Missouri, has started getting closer to a tie, as has the usually red state of Indiana, as these core midwestern states contemplate the state of the economy.

Even Virginia, which seemed to be going the way of Florida, has moved back to a statistical tie for Obama. Meanwhile, New Mexico flirts with McCain, then with Obama again, while Colorado and Nevada stay tantalizingly close, perhaps flumoxing pollsters with their polarized pashions and shifting demographics.

All this means it's getting harder and harder, I think, to see where the tipping point in this election might fall. Could Obama actually stand to lose a state like Pennsylvania or Minnesotta if he somehow wins Ohio, Colorado, or Virginia? Could Obama actually win the election by taking Virginia rather than a traditional battleground like Florida or Ohio? Could Obama win three traditionally red Western states like Nevada, Colorado, and New Mexico, but lose the election by losing Minnesota, while the very same state of Minnesota elects ulta-liberal comedian Al Franken to the Senate? Would Obama achive what no Democrat has achieved in ages: winning states like Virginia and Colorado, but lose it all by losing the traditionally hard-core blue state of Pennsylvania and its all-important 21 electoral votes?

It seems that all of these scenarios are possibilities right now. Check out the state polling for yourself.

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