I was watching CNN for part of the night. Me being where I am – and with an early meeting on Wednesday morning – I had to go to bed when it was only a bit after 8pm in New York, with Bill Bennett repeating again that “the body is not cold yet”, but with more than an inkling that Obama would win handily.
I was very much impressed by the technology used in CNN studio, from hologram-enabled conversations with reporters to the CGI projections of the Capitol image overlaid with electoral numbers. And the interactive Electoral Map was eerily Minority Report-like. Only, Tom Cruise had a gadget on his hand to manipulate the pictures in front of him, while John King was simply pinching his fingers to make the images smaller or waving them off the screen without any visible implement to wear. How cool!
On a different note, in 2000, I thought that that election, which might have been lost in Florida not only via the “hanging chads” fiasco but also via large swaths of Democratic-leaning constituency not being able – or active enough – to vote, would energize Democrats to get the vote out the next time around. Must have been the uninspiring candidate that they fielded in 2004, but it did not happen. The country needed another four years, worsening of the economy and of our worldwide standing, and a candidacy of historic proportions to get the Democratic Party to make that extra effort.
I did some quick math, out of curiosity, and ended up with a feeling that if they tried, they could do it every time. Consider that through the last five elections – that’s four different Democratic candidates: Clinton, Gore, Kerry and Obama, – three regions in the country have been a given for the Democrats: the Northeast (all the way south to DC, with only New Hampshire bucking the trend one single time with its 4 votes), the Pacific Coast (California, Oregon, Washington) and the “Great Lakes” quadrant of Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Let’s throw in Hawaii, for a round number of 20 states (DC being counted as a 51st state, since it has its own electoral college allocation) firmly in the Democratic pocket for the last 16 years. That’s 250 electoral votes, give or take a small state. Add just one more state to this – say, Florida or Ohio – and you likely have the the required majority. Add both, and you’ve surely won. And those two states, Ohio and Florida, incidentally, are the ones where the “get out the vote” push may have had the biggest impact this time around, on account of large segments of populace inherently inclined to vote Democratic who may not have been voting in previous elections.
[Added later, when I had more time to look it up] Conversely, during that same period of time, 13 states never voted “blue” in a presidential election: Alaska, the western cluster of Idaho, Wyoming and Utah, the “mid-country belt” connecting Mexico to Canada (Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and the Dakotas) and only 3 southern states, Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina. Postulating that they are always a lost cause for a Democratic contender, they give a Republican candidate 96 votes.
States like North Carolina, Virginia and Indiana went to the “blue” column for the first time in this 5-election period yesterday, but this little exercise is forward-looking, and they clearly can no longer be counted as an easy “red”.[/added]
I find it highly amusing that the Republican candidates have been spotting their Democratic opponents 250 to 100 margin from the start, making it all the more amazing that Gore and Kerry managed to squander such an advantage. I also doubt that the Republicans have large as-yet-unmobilized reserves of voters anywhere in the historically “blue” states. So, unless Obama does spectacularly badly or the Congress’ behavior turns independent American voters overwhelmingly “red”, it appears that the elections in the foreseeable future will hinge on whether the running Democrat can win just one – at most, two, – “battleground” states. (See the electoral maps of previous elections, pointed out in the past by Brian.)
Somewhat surprisingly to me, as of the moment of writing this, with 96% precincts nationally reporting, there have been a couple of millions less votes cast in this presidential election compared to the last one. Maybe the Republicans could do more to get out their own vote in Florida and Ohio. And North Carolina. And Colorado. And Virginia. The difference, of course, is they have to capture every single one of these – and the remaining 26 or so states – to prevail.
Finally, with no connection to the above other than being about the election, as I was walking through the train station on my way to work this morning, a young black woman, no older than twenty, picked up a newspaper, looked at the front page and loudly squealed with traces of an American accent, “Oh my god! I have a black President! I have a black President! I never thought that could happen in my life! I have a black President!” Her very-British-sounding friend replied, with an amused expression, “But you don’t even live in America”. To which the girl responded, “But I’ll go and visit for Christmas! Oh my god! This will be so cool!”
Make what you want of that.