November 3, 2008 [LINK / comment]

Deciphering the electoral map

Campaign 2008 is winding down as John McCain tries to hold on to key Republican leaning states such as Florida, Ohio, and Virginia, adopting a defensive posture, while Barack Obama aggressively tries to rack up a big Electoral College majority by going to those very same states that have -- until recently -- been "red-tinted."

The political experts at the Washington Post (David Broder, Dan Balz, and Chris Cilizza) say that the states in which Obama has a lead in the polls have a total of nearly 300 Electoral College votes. They say the biggest factors that may sway undecided voters at the last minute is whether America is ready for a black president, and whether Obama can muster enough new voters in the "battleground" states. They say that the Democrats can count on picking up Senate seats in Colorado, New Mexico, and Virginia, where incumbent Republicans are retiring. The Dems might win in five other states where incumbent Republicans are being challenged, and if they win in either Georgia, Kentucky, or Mississippi, they will may just reach the magic veto-proof 60-seat threshold. That would pave the way for a historic shift in American politics, a leap toward the left.

UVa's Larry Sabato projects that Obama will get 364 electoral votes, and McCain will get 174. He expects the Democrats to gain 7 or 8 seats in the U.S. Senate, coming just short of a 60-seat supermajority, and to gain between 26 and 35 seats in the House of Representatives. (By the way, I recently read Sabato's new book, A More Perfect Constitution, in which he proposes a radical overall of our political system, and will have some responses to it in the next few weeks.)

The map below is a synthesis of what various polls are indicating, erring on the side of neutrality. That is, some "undecided" states are leaning in one direction or another; e.g., Obama is apparently slightly ahead in Virginia, but I consider it "too close to call." It would appear that Obama can count on at least 229 Electoral College votes, which means that he would win the election (270 is the minimum to get a majority) if he were to rack up 41 more. He could do that simply by winning two of the three undecided "big" states: Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. If Obama wins any one of those three states, McCain would have to win an overwhelming share of the remaining undecided states in order to be elected. It's a very daunting and sobering prospect, but the ball game ain't over yet, folks...

2008 Presidential Campaign

Some people have noticed that President Bush has not been seen at any campaign event this fall, the first incumbent president to help his party's candidate by staying out of sight since Lyndon Johnson in 1968. President Bush has some admirable qualities, but he is also severely deficient in various ways, and if Obama wins tomorrow, much of the blame will be placed at Bush's feet. Sadly, John McCain has failed to sufficiently distance himself from the negative style of politicking that got Bush elected in 2000.

Added to Bush's unpopularity is, of course, the bleak economic situation. Both parties share a large portion of the blame for the mess we are in, and I still can't figure out why more people don't grasp how closely Obama is connected to the crisis in the mortgage banking sector. Likewise, it is a mystery exactly what people expect that Obama would do any differently if he is elected president. Most likely, he will push for greater regulations, higher taxes, and higher spending on social programs that will discourage people from working. Obama's economic agenda is precisely the opposite of what our economy needs to recover.

Obama's aunt Zeituni

It's probably too late in the campaign to make much difference, but it has been reported that Barack Obama's aunt, Zeituni Onyango, has been living in the United States illegally for the past four years, after a judge turned down her visa request. She currently lives in public housing in Boston; see BBC. As Obama makes his final campaign stop in Prince William County this evening, it will be interesting to see whether he says anything about the problem of illegal immigration, which is a very hot topic in the Manassas area. What's more, the fact that she is living at public expense is yet another example of why the United States should include a substantial portion of domestic welfare spending in its foreign aid totals. Making such a statistical adjustment would reflect much more accurately how much our government spends on international charity, for which we are often criticized as being "stingy."

Obama's vigilantes?

Senator Obama has made so many extravagant promises during his campaign, it is hard to know when he is just trying to inspire folks with utopian dreams and when he is being serious. Last July he raised eyebrows when he suggested a "national civilian security force" that would, he hopes, get as much funding as the Pentagon. Really? Such a nationwide neighborhood watch system would call into question American people's Second Amendment rights to defend themselves, and would risk becoming a politicized vigilante group like the "Committees for the Defense of the Revolution" in Cuba or Venezuela. Yikes... See Hat tip to Stephen Poppe.

Goodlatte's record of service

Due in large part to the current economic troubles, Congressman Bob Goodlatte is facing an unusually serious challenge in his reelection bid this year. Voters in the Sixth District should know that Goodlatte has worked hard over the years to protect the interests of farmers and small businesses in the Shenandoah Valley region. He knows that economic development in smaller cities depends on an adequate transportation infrastructure, and was present when the final segment of the Route 262 bypass around Staunton was opened in August 2006.

Goodlatte has also worked for many years to maintain a unified, balanced Republican Party even as pressure from factions with a narrow agenda continues to mount. In June 2007 he endorsed incumbent Emmett Hanger in the memorable, close-fought race for the 24th state senate district race.

Whereas some partisan Democrats have criticized Congressman Goodlatte for allegedly toeing the line on Bush administration policies, he has taken exception on more than one occasion. For example, during an interview with WHSV TV-3 in June 2007, he stated his opposition to several parts of President Bush's immigration proposal, especially the amnesty provisions.

Congressman Goodlatte has always been attentive to his constituents' concerns, making regular visits to towns throughout the Sixth District, and holding telephone mass forums. He is friendly and courteous, unlike some people who oppose him. For example, at a constituent meeting in Staunton in July 2007, he was the victim of a rude video "ambush" by anti-war activists. (So much for positive dialogue!) In spite of all this, Bob Goodlatte has maintained a friendly, open demeanor, and has run a very positive campaign highlighting his willingness to work with members of the other party. There is no question at all that Congressman Goodlatte deserves to be reelected.

In light of Goodlatte's solid record, I was surprised to read that the News Leader had endorsed his Democratic opponent, Salaam ("Sam") Rasoul. Their main reason seems to be that it's time for "change" in the Sixth District -- "change" in the Obamian sense of going back to a bigger government as in the New Deal or Great Society. The News Leader published a list of campaign contributors the other day, and for the first half of October, 27 of the 38 names listed were of Middle Eastern origin. Presumably they are all naturalized American citizens, or perhaps some of them are native-born citizens whose parents were immigrants. This doesn't mean that Rasoul is getting money from foreign sources, which would be illegal, but it does deserve further scrutiny by anyone who is concerned about foreign influence on our elections.

NOTE: The above section has been cross-posted at Bloggers for Bob Goodlatte.