Monday, August 8, 2011

Obama Transforms from "Different Kind of Democrat" to "Generic Democrat", Still Vaguely Ahead in the General Election

One novel aspect of the 2008 campaign was that Barack Obama was able to open up territory where Democrats were previously considered uncompetitive. This was party driven by economic and conditions that favored Democrats, but it was also partly due to Obama's persona as something of a "different kind of Democrat" who was more acceptable than usual to voters living in the Upper Midwest and Northern Plains states. Obama won Indiana, the elector for the Omaha district, ran TV ads in Alaska (until Palin became the VP nominee) and North Dakota, and did significantly better than previous Democrats in Montana and South Dakota.

According to the new state-by-state numbers from Gallup, most of that good will is now gone. Views of Barack Obama are now uniformly unfavorable between the Mississippi River and the Pacific Ocean. He does retain relatively good ratings in Indiana, compared to the drubbings that Democrats received in that state prior to his nomination. And the slight shift of the Atlantic Southeast is an impressive accomplishment if it endures for the next decade. But the dreams of a permanent rupture of the Presidential map seem to be over.

If we go strictly by the poll numbers and award Obama all states where his net approval rating is above +3, and the GOP challenger all states where the President is at -3 or worse, then Obama is ahead, 257-192. His path to victory would involve winning either Virginia, Ohio, Florida, or North Carolina. If we believe that the numbers in Oregon, Mississippi, South Dakota, and Georgia are suspect, then he is ahead 248-194 or 248-210, depending on how you count Georgia. At that point, he must win either Florida, or any two out of Virginia/Ohio/North Carolina/Georgia. We are still too far from election day to make any definitive assessments, but at the time being, Republicans are still behind the 8-ball.
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