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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Wednesday, December 31, 2003


electoral calculus

posted by Aziz P. at Wednesday, December 31, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
Frankly, I'm leery of the electoral-predictions game. On one hand, Steven Den Beste argues that Bush's win is inevitable because "white males are Jacksonian" and "prefer cowboys to metrosexuals." On the other, E.J. Dionne rebuts by pointing out how Dean has energized the base (echoed by TNR in more detail). And Kos illustrates the point that Dean can win without the South with some numbers:

Sure, many Red States (mainly in the South) are getting redder, but many Blue States are as well. With Nader mostly out of the picture, we're talking a lot bluer.

That means the battle for the presidency will not be fought in Alabama or California, Georgia or New Jersey, or Kentucky or New York. It will be fought in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, West Virginia, and a couple more states. We may very well see $500 million or more spent by both sides on just a dozen states.

Let's look at it another way: I count 72 electoral votes in what I would consider the "solid Red" south -- KY, TN, NC, SC, MS, AL, and GA. For argument's sake, I'll throw in AR, LA and VA (all three winnable for the Dems), for a total of 100 electoral votes.

Now take the equally solid blue states CA, NY, and NJ, and we get 101 electoral votes. Gore didn't spend much on those three very expensive states, and neither will Dean (or Clark).

So while it's true that Bush may be freed from competing in those Southern states, the Dems are just as freed from spending money on their base states.

I can't help but notice two things: that the active predictions of 2004's outcome are always made by Bush supporters, whereas the Anybody But Bush analysts are always careful to stress the race will be a tough hard-fought slog. And, that such excercises in electoral calculus are still based on the Red vs Blue paradigm, despite the fact that the 10-Region Theory received such wide play a few weeks ago.

I frankly don't understand the value in any kind of regional analysis. It seems that the election will be based on larger themes - and just like the Red-Blue map is really an excercise in shades of purple, the 10 Regions too will have their own gradients.

We need to stop thinking about 2004 in these terms, and focus on message - not a politically tuned one but rather a principled one. Dean has partly been sidetracked by the perceived need to assuage the concerns of religious people, people in pickup trucks, etc. We need to get back to talking about the issues in substantive terms and letting the electoral chips fall where they may.


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.