Planning the Campaign
Friday April 13, 2012
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From Great Barrington, Massachusetts
Now that we're deep into the general election campaign - about 72 hours into it - let's review the rules.
No matter how many times you've hear it, it bears repeating that an election for President in the United States are not national event. It is a collection of 51 separate elections.
The number of electoral votes each state gets equals the number of Members of the U.S. House of Representatives plus its two Senators. Thus California gets 55 electoral votes (53 Congressional Districts plus two Senators) while Wyoming (a single Member state) gets three.
The District of Columbia, although it has one non-voting Delegate to the House and no Senators, by virtue of the 23rd Amendment gets three electoral votes which is why there are 535 voting Members of the House and Senate but 538 electoral votes.
One half of 538 is 269. Thus, the magic number to be able to take the Oath of Office on January 20, 2013 is 270 - half of the electoral votes plus one.
I took your valuable time to remind you of all that because as you listen to geniuses like me on TV and radio for the next seven months talk about how many women are voting for Obama; how many men are voting for Romney; how many religious conservatives and how many college students will actually turn out to vote you should keep all that in mind.
It is impossible to contemplate that Texas and Mississippi will go for Obama no matter how unenthusiastic conservatives might be for Romney. Just as it is impossible to believe that New York and California liberals will awaken next November and realize how disappointed they are in Obama and turn those states out for Romney.
Ain't gonna happen.
What is going to happen is both campaigns will pay lip service to the unmovable states, but they and their allies - unions and super PACs - will focus on the dozen-or-so swing states where relatively small changes in voting patterns might have a huge impact on the outcome.
According to USA Today, the swing states (as of now) are:
Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.
Another thing to remember as we slide into the general election campaign is the old warning of survey researchers that "polls are not predictive."
Polls reflect the feelings of those who participate on the day they participated. If we've learned anything during this raucous primary period it is this:
If a poll taken on Friday was not predictive of the results the next Tuesday, it is not likely that a poll taken in April will be predictive of the results in November.
The employment numbers last week and this have not been great. In fact they have been bad. But the Romney campaign cannot be seen as rooting for a bad economy. In fact, the Romney campaign has to be planning to be running in an improving economy.
The Obama campaign has to be writing plans to be running in a flat or slowing economy.
Why? Because if the economy does slip back into a recession (as is happening in Europe this very minute) the Obama campaign has got to have a strategy to handle that. If the economy takes off in the next five or six months they will be riding the front of the wave, and won't have to do much except double the confetti order.
Similarly, if the economy tanks then the Romney campaign can get completely off social issues and talk about the things Romney knows a lot about. If, however, the economy begins to build, then the Romney campaign has to have a strategy to deal with that.
And we haven't even begun to talk about foreign affairs: Iran, Egypt, China, Russia, Israel, North Korea and who knows what little country one in a thousand couldn't find on a map that might rise up and cause no end of problems sometime between now and November.
Over the next few weeks you will see both campaigns stocking up on the smartest people they can find to be able to deal with a very iffy world in real time.
Presidential elections are complex organisms. Not very many people have the organization, the money, and the strategy to win. So far, in the history of the U.S. only 44 people have met that test.
Anyone who tells you they know what will happen in this one is lying, delusional, or both.
On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the Wikipedia entry for the Electoral College and to USA Today's poll of swing states.
Also a pretty funny Mullfoto and an eerie Catchy Caption of the Day.
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