Guest Writings
23/10/04 My Electoral College Prediction: Kerry 310, Bush 228 by Al Giordano
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My Electoral College Prediction: Kerry 310, Bush 228

Yes, I've been on a winning streak (I only wish I had bet real money on previous elections this year: anybody with deep pockets wanna part with your cash this autumn?), having predicted Kerry in Iowa, Kerry in New Hampshire, and Chávez in Venezuela, before anyone else would stick their reputations on the line.

But in a dozen days the Big One comes: the U.S. presidential election. It's more difficult to predict because an oddsmaker has to set the bar in 50 states plus the District of Columbia.

That can make your head hurt.

There are two related factors that I feel most confident about in the predictions I offer today.

One, that there will be a record high voter turnout. The greater public interest in this campaign is measurable by many factors, including the 50-percent spike in viewership for the presidential debates.

And two, the high turnout means that whichever candidate wins the Electoral College tally will begin with a strong presidency, whether or not he also wins the popular vote (the 2000 precedent of winning the Electoral College while losing the popular vote, according to my theories of “cosmic justice,” may bite Bush in the ass this time).

The winner will be able to say, “hey, I won with the biggest voter participation ever.” End of story. He will enjoy the biggest mandate since Ronald Reagan had in 1980: perhaps even bigger.

Thus, the rest of the world will either be cheering a Kerry victory, viewing him as a kind of savior from that evil little man, or it will fall back in realpolitik line, kneeling before a now-elected Bush, a scenario I consider dangerous for the fate of the earth, but it is what it is, we gamblin' men and women have to acknowledge the inconvenient factors, too.

So, let's look at the Electoral College map, courtesy of CNN (scroll down the CNN page and click, on the right side of the screen, the words “CNN Electoral College Outlook”). CNN has been nice enough to color the states according to the most recent polling numbers. Bush states are red. Kerry states are blue.

And CNN, right now, adds it up as Bush 277 vs. Kerry 261.

Before I explain where CNN is wrong, and where Kerry is going to turn red water to blue wine, let me say where its prognosticators are right:

There are eleven “swing states” that are no longer in play. Bush has run away with five of them (Arkansas, Arizona, Louisiana, Tennessee and West Virginia, for a combined 41 electoral votes). And Kerry has run away with six of them (Delaware, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Oregon and Washington, for a combined 52 electoral votes). If you think I am wrong about any one of these states, then my analysis is fucked and my math will be off. See how hard it is to make predictions when the Electoral College is involved?

And then there were ten∑ I'll call them The Big Ten∑ the only real swing states left, where this election is going to be decided. In order of electoral clout they are: Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, Missouri, Wisconsin, Colorado, Iowa, New Mexico and Nevada.

The race is over in the other 40 states. It's down to the Big Ten.

CNN has seven in the Bush color and three in Kerry's. To win the election, Kerry has to hold his three (Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Jersey) and then steal just nine electoral votes from Bush in other red states.

I predict, today, that Kerry is going to steal not just one, but five states where polls show Bush slightly ahead today:

They are:

– Florida: 27 electoral votes – Wisconsin: 10 electoral votes – Iowa: 7 electoral votes – New Mexico: 5 electoral votes – Nevada: 5 electoral votes

Bush will probably hold onto Missouri (11 electoral votes) and Colorado (9 electoral votes; I won't factor in the complicated formulas by which those votes might be split 5 to 4 in favor of one or the other, but I will say that my old pal Michael Joseph Whouley, running Kerry's national ground campaign, has what cops call “a hard-on” to steal Colorado, the state where Kerry was born on a military base, and what Whouley wants, Whouley usually gets: he is to American elections what Lawrence Taylor was to pro football, the most dangerously good wild card player on the field). My faith in Whouley aside, though, I will put Colorado in Bush's camp for now.

The story in New Mexico and Nevada will be “Viva los changing demographics!” New residents in those states, largely of Mexican descent, will put Kerry over the top. And there is also the messy matter of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump in Nevada, opposed by many normally Republican voters, on which Bush broke his 2000 promise to oppose it. Bush may see his election hopes buried there instead of the plutonium his administration has been trying to dump there.

Iowa and Wisconsin are tougher for Kerry, but I think the Democrats' first-time ever parity in campaign money available (thank you, Blogosphere!), combined with the plethora of well-organized “independent” groups knocking on doors and pulling out all the stops to defeat Bush, plus the relative weakness of Ralph Nader compared to 2000, is going to make for big college town turnout among other factors that will push Kerry over the top.

Florida, of course, is everybody's headache. I believe Kerry will win Florida because I believe in cosmic justice, and I believe that voters turned away or discounted illegally in 2000 will come back with a vengeance this year, each bringing five additional voters with them, to vote against Bush and his snotty juvenile delinquent kid brother.

In Florida, especially among black voters, the “will to vote” is now a sacred crusade with stakes much greater than those of who wins the election. The act of voting itself becomes a deeply personal form of justice.

I also believe there will be an 11th hour breakaway of elderly women– sick of seeing the Iraq explosions on TV every day, wanting to change the channel – from Bush to Kerry.

But even if Jeb Bush steals the vote in Florida (we would be foolish to discount that possibility), according to my numbers, Kerry wins the Electoral College nationwide, 283 to 255.

However, there is a danger zone for John Forbes Kerry. I won't speak its name but its initials are the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; a state that has coattails reaching across the Delaware River into New Jersey, and the Ohio River reaching into, well∑ Ohio! It could all come unglued for Kerry there.

Yes, Gore won Pennsylvania in 2000. But the Christian Right was unexcited by the 2000 election. Much of it stayed home. And this year, the bible thumpers who fill that vast wasteland between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh will be swarming to the polls. After all, in addition to the crusade against stem cell research, Bush has offered them compliance with theories of the apocalypse. What true believer in looneytoon prophesies wouldn't be grateful enough to turn out and vote for a compliant antichrist?

The fact is that for the past four years the Democrats have rested on their laurels in Pennsylvania while the Republicans have out-organized them. And now, although the Kerry people won't admit it, they are pushing panic buttons in the Keystone State.

To win Pennsylvania, Kerry needs a record black turnout in Philly (I think that will happen), and, with more difficulty, he needs to swing moderate Republican white, married, women in the suburbs of Bucks, Montgomery and Chester counties. (And, frankly, if Teresa Heinz isn't doing retail campaigning from her home base of Pittsburgh, throwing a few million extra dollars in philanthropy money around, perhaps saving a factory or two, and reserving various new hundreds of acres of woods for the hunters, the missed opportunity may prove fatal in twelve days.)

Now, I do think the Kerry people will pull it off and win Pennsylvania. Again, the Whouley factor, in a state like Pennsylvania, is what wins the Super Bowl.

But it's not a sure thing. If Kerry does lose Pennsylvania, and New Jersey on its coattails (because the suburban feminine swing vote in each state is of similar demographics), he can kiss 36 electoral votes goodbye and then he has to win Florida and hang onto Ohio to squeak through. The math: If Bush wins Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Florida, my numbers now convert to a Bush victory: Kerry, 247 vs. Bush 291.

And Ohio? I predict that its 20 electoral votes go to Kerry. He's been there more, lots more, than Bush. He's worked the state harder. He's got a real ground game going there whereas Bush has to rely too much on the air strategy of TV ads, where Kerry is also matching or perhaps even outspending him. You just can't beat retail campaigning in a state as big and diverse as Ohio. Just as the Democrats fell asleep in Pennsylvania, the Republicans snoozed in Ohio.

Ohio is not the Florida of 2004. It's over there. Kerry wins.

The Floridas of 2004 are Pennsylvania∑ and Florida.

Kerry has to win one of 'em. I predict he will win both. And with those smaller states he steals from Bush (Iowa, New Mexico, Nevada and Wisconsin), that's where I get my math: Kerry 310, Bush 228.

It could, in fact, turn out to be a bigger blowout in favor of Kerry (that cosmic justice factor looms), but here in the prediction factory we don't count our surprises – Colorado? Missouri? North Carolina? Arkansas?– before they've hatched. If the “hidden voter” theory that pollsters aren't picking up new and young voters proves correct, and Kerry gets 55-percent nationwide, well, look for various red states to surprisingly break blue.

But nobody can be foolish enough to count on that. So there will be blood splattering everywhere over the next dozen days.

The suburban female swing voter is the key in the war zones of Florida, Pennsylvania, and the latter's border suburbs. What offers the Republicans a glimmer of hope is that this year, unlike previous presidential elections, the famous Gender Gap – by which white women skew Democrat and white men skew Republican – is greatly diminished.

The reason for the fading of the Gender Gap is that there are vast swathes of voters who normally vote on economic or social issues who, this year, have national security, war and peace, on their minds. They are worried. And Bush has been pushing the fear buttons.

That Kerry has closed the Gender Gap among men is a kind of Democratic miracle: No other Democrat candidate, perhaps save Wesley Clark, could have gone toe-to-toe, like Kerry has, on the foreign policy and military concerns. Howard Dean, John Edwards, Dick Gephardt, Dennis Kucinich∑ Al Gore or Hillary Clinton, as a matter of fact∑ would all be toast already. Bush would be 15 points up on them at this late date. It would already be over.

Kerry is in the game because he has been able to play on the field of foreign policy and national security. He has only twelve days left to close the sale.

But now Kerry has to walk the tightrope of bringing the female Gender Gap back without provoking its return among men. But it's not such a tightrope after all. We're talking about voters – female and male – for whom “national security” is a worry. Interestingly, Bush's scare tactics have backfired among male voters (when Eminem and Jesse Ventura both came out publicly against Bush this week, that's an indication of a certain demographic shift in the testosterone vote). But the scare tactics have worked on a certain class of suburban, married, white, women with kids who, in other years, have voted Democratic.

All year long the pundits have blathered about “Nascar Dads.” Surprise, surprise, a lot of 'em like John Kerry! But it's the “Tennis Moms” who hold the key to this historic election, and they hold it in specific geographic areas that I call the domestic war zones of 2004.

My advice to the Kerry campaign is to occupy those Pittsburgh and Philadelphia suburbs (including the ones that fall on the Jersey and Ohio sides of the rivers) as no national campaign has ever done in the final days, and bring those women swing voters home.

Everything else is already determined.

Stretch: To close this deal, you have to bring back the Gender Gap.

Of course, I've watched Kerry do it before, so I'm gambling that he does it again.

Now: Any bettors out there who want to part with their money by betting on Bush? The offshore bookie's cash register is open!

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