How the 2008 electoral map has changed
Virginia could be a bellwether in a year that is likely to see a few more battleground states.
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Florida, the final battleground of 2000, is another question mark in 2008. Susan MacManus, a political scientist at the University of South Florida in Tampa, views her state as still very much in play. Democrats have the edge in voter registration, but she discounts self-identified Democrats in the Panhandle, since many vote Republican for president. So essentially, voter registration is even there.Skip to next paragraph
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McCain’s military profile makes him strong in Florida, which has a large active and retired military presence. But South Florida remains a Democratic stronghold, with a large Hispanic population and many transplants from the Northeast.
Still, Mr. Tracey, the media analyst, notes that Obama has spent millions of dollars in Florida – $9 million from mid-June to right before the conventions – “without moving the needle.” It’s possible that, without such spending, Obama would have fallen behind in Florida, but as Election Day gets closer, he will have to decide where he gets the best value for his money.
“Obama is up in the Tampa and Orlando markets,” says Tracey. “Those are the biggest undecided markets in the state. But obviously, if you’re trying to win a state, you need more than those markets.”
The most intriguing battleground, in some ways, is Virginia, which has gone from solid R in the presidential race four years ago to a toss-up on many pundit lists – the result of a population explosion in the moderate northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.
Four years ago, the state had two Republican senators. Now, it has one Democratic senator, Jim Webb, and looks likely to elect its second, former Gov. Mark Warner. Those two men, plus popular Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine, give the state’s Democrats a sense of momentum.
Independent pollster John Zogby is looking to Virginia as a possible bellwether in November. Right now, the average of major polls, as calculated by RealClearPolitics.com, shows an absolute tie in Virginia between Obama and McCain.
“If either candidate starts to pull away in Virginia, and we get clarity in Virginia, we’ll get clarity in a lot of those other states,” says Mr. Zogby.
Another big factor heading into the fall is money. Obama is not taking federal financing, and his funding juggernaut has shown no signs of slowing. When McCain announced Palin as his veep pick – a move to court conservatives that alarmed the Democratic base – millions of dollars flowed into Obama’s coffers overnight.
McCain is sticking with the federal presidential funding program, which limits the amount of money at his disposal. If the Republican Party and sympathetic independent groups can make up the slack, McCain may be able to match Obama’s ads in key states. But if not, Obama could outgun McCain in the battlegrounds, and push him back in some of the outlying states he is still hoping for, such as Georgia and North Carolina.
By the end of this week, says Tracey, as the race settles down from the conventions, the battlegrounds should be clear. But for now, with the overall horse race showing Obama up by an average of fewer than 2 points, this one is too close to call.