The Electoral Strategy
Los Angeles, March 08, 2012
Our democratic system focuses on the voice of the people, but our presidential elections center around the states. In 2008, there were 9 battle-ground states which accounted for 125 electoral votes (EVs). Democrats came out in droves for then Senator Obama, which allowed him to take 6 of the 9 regions. Moreover, his landslide victory was primarily due to these narrow wins; he received 365 EVs in total, while Senator McCain acquired 173.
Based on the recent Census Bureau’s population statistics, the political map has changed in the Republican’s favor. Red states such as Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, Utah and Texas have gained a total of 8 EVs. Subsequently, former red states but now neutral territories, Nevada and Florida have gained a total of 3. On the other hand, blue states such as Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Massachusetts, Iowa and Illinois have lost a total of 8. Although these increases for Republicans may not seem substantial, every vote can affect the statewide outcome. So, if Republicans were to merely replicate the 2008 map to keep the states they won, plus add FL & NV, they will be on higher grounds.
Demographics show that on average, there are 10% more registered Democrats than Republicans. However, since Republicans vote more often, elections tend to be closer and come down to the Independents. In 2008, 19 million Independents went for Obama, which propelled his popular vote to 69 million vs. 59 million for McCain.
Currently, the electoral map show 10 tossup states, which account for 130 EVs. They are located in “red zones”; places historically held by Republicans. Their strategy going forward is to target Independents here in: IN, NC, VA, OH, and FL which were regions all once vividly red. They must also energize their base to offset a potentially high Democratic turnout. As seen in 2000 and 2004, their margin of victory was as high as 20% in parts, while as Obama’s was only at 13% and as low as 0.32%.
Swing states exist because of the Independent/undecided voter; thus, their decision can affect the entire state. They account for 11% of the population in select regions. Florida for instance, which has decided 2 of the last 3 elections have 19% of their constituents registered as Independent. If the political outcomes of 2000/2004 are any indication, every district counts. With our sluggish economy, the GOP has the upper hand, especially in these areas. While it’s no walk in the park, if they can transform themselves to sway at least 4% of moderates, they will win the majority of electoral votes.
The obvious question is how does the GOP make these strides? The answer lies in the Republican nominee’s rhetoric and his Vice Presidential pick. He must change the conversation on immigration reform to make grounds in the Latino community. Besides race, the gender gap issue is also prevalent. For this reason, the nominee must move away from contraception-like social issues and refocus the attention on economics. This message will especially resonate in NC, FL & NV which have the country’s highest unemployment rate (around 11%).
For the Vice Presidential choice, the nominee must firstly consider a fresh face or someone controversial to divert attention from Obama (as Sarah Palin did). This in turn will create excitement within the party and encourage turnout. Secondly, a social moderate, yet fiscal conservative must be thought of (Tim Pawlenty, Rudy Giuliani, etc.). By doing so, Independents will break away from Obama which will help the GOP in too-close-to-call districts. Thirdly, the nominee must think of an official from a battle-ground state that borders other battle-ground states; thus, hit 2 birds with one stone (PA-Rick Santorum, OH-John Kasich). Finally, as the Hispanic population has seen considerable growth in FL, NC, CO and NV, a Latino choice might also be wise (Marco Rubio, Susana Martinez). With all these factors in mind, they can then pick up enough electoral votes to reach the 270 mark.
On the Democratic side, Obama’s prospects mainly depend on the economy; but being president has its perks. On the campaign trail, he must utilize the free air-time to enhance his favorable ratings, which too sway Independents. As Latinos and African Americans gave him a razor-thin victory in swing states, nationally, they broke 67% & 96% for him. Now, if Obama can reproduce a similar scenario for 2012, all of the “red zones” will turn blue. To earn a 2nd term, he simply needs to pick up 2 big states like VA and OH (31 EV), or 3 smaller states like NV, IA and CO (21 EV)
As it stands now, President Obama has the national lead but popular votes don’t win elections; therefore, Republicans have a clear shot. With so much at stake, a narrow win in any of these regions could ensure the presidency. Although this race is far from over, the winning combination lies in the electoral strategy.