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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


As a staff post earlier today noted, we’re all a bit tired of staring at state-by-state presidential results from November 4. But there’s one simple piece of analysis posted yesterday by brownsox at DailyKos that demands some attention.
As brownsox notes, the national “swing” from 2004 to 2008 was roughly ten percentage points (from +3 Republican to +7 Democratic). Looking at the states, it’s very interesting to see which exceeded or fell short of that national swing.
You’d normally expect the battleground states to come pretty close to that national average swing, or perhaps fall a bit short of it, since that’s where the McCain-Palin campaign made virtually all its efforts down the stretch. And indeed, Iowa hit the mark perfectly; Pennsylvania and New Hampshire fell just 2 points short; Florida and Minnesota were 3 points short; and Ohio 4 points short. Meanwhile, Obama’s performance exceeded the national swing in Wisconsin by 2 points; in Colorado and North Carolina by 3 points; in Virginia by 4 points; in Nevada by 5 points; in New Mexico by 6 points; and in Indiana by an astonishing 12 points. Remember, however, that the “battleground” map was skewed towards Obama down the stretch; VA, and certainly NC and IN, weren’t in play in 2004, while 2004 war zone MI was conceded by McCain in September.
Non-battlegound 2004 “blue states” where Obama exceeded his national average swing included Hawaii (by 26 points); Michigan (8 points); Delaware (6 points); California and Maryland (5 points); Illinois (4 points); and Connecticut (3 points). Among non-battleground 2004 “red states,” the big “swingers” were North Dakota (9 points over the national “swing”); Montana and Utah (7 points); Nebraska (6 points); Idaho (4 points); Texas and South Dakota (3 points); and Georgia (2 points).
Meanwhile, there were three states where McCain actually improved on Bush’s 2004 percentage, despite the 10-point national swing: Arkansas (an 11-point pro-GOP swing); Louisiana (4 points); and Tennessee (1 point). In two other states, Oklahoma and West Virginia, McCain matched Bush’s percentage. It’s noteworthy that all of these states other than TN (which does still mine some coal) are major energy-producing states where the GOP’s pro-exploitation message undoubtedly resonated; three have significant mountain regions notoriously resistant to the Obama appeal; and LA, of course, was affected by post-Katrina demographic changes.
Brownsox’s take on these findings focuses on the West as a region trending heavily D, and on the really vast margins Obama ran up in “moderately-blue” states ranging from NJ and CT to CA, OR and WA that were battleground states not that long ago. I’d say overall the results were a vindication of, if not a 50-state strategy, then something very much like a 40-state strategy. There is no longer any major region of the country that’s a Republican “lock,” while the northeast, the upper midwest, and the Pacific Coast are increasingly deep blue. And if you consider the “energy-producing states” factor a bit of a temporary anomaly, the map looks really bad for the GOP going forward.

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