Obama Not Headed for Mt. Rushmore after all

September 22, 2008

Or is that South Dakota? In any case, Ben Smith reports that the Obama campaign is pulling out of North Dakota:

This is the third state that appears to have come off the table since Obama’s campaign laid out an ambitious 18-state battlefield. His campaign also pulled out of Georgia, and Sarah Palin’s nomination appears to have put Alaska out of reach.

At a briefing for reporters in June, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe recognized that the battlefield wouldn’t remain that wide to the end.

“We have a lot of differing combinations to get to 270, and our strategic imperative is going to be … to keep as many of those scenarios as possible alive” deep into October, he said.

Over the next 40 days, other states will likely come out of play; the question is how long some of those, from huge ones like Florida to marginal Montana, remain on the table, as well as how competitive McCain can keep his own forays into the Kerry states, in Wisconsin, Michigan, and New Hampshire.

In the first installment of my own forray into the projection game, I didn’t include North Dakota, Georgia, Alaska, Wisconsin, or Montana in my list of states in play. I agree that Florida is going to be tough for Obama, but I think it merits inclusion. The most hotly contested state I didn’t list is North Carolina. With a new poll out showing the race tied there, I would include it if I were writing that post today, but, as Nate Silver points out, North Carolina is still unlikely to be a decisive state, since it is extremely unlikely that Obama could win there without also winning Virginia, in which case Obama would only need one of New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado, Ohio, Michigan, or Florida. Silver adds the proviso that it could become relevant if Obama were to lose Pennsylvania, but I still don’t consider PA a true swing-state.

More speculation will follow soon.

UPDATE 9/23 12:24 PM: Based on today’s polls, I’m going to give up and concede that PA is in play, although it’s been a long time since McCain lead there in a single poll not conducted by Zogby, which is not exactly a credible source. As discussed above, this makes North Carolina somewhat more relevant – another poll shows the race tied there. Finally, though it’s still more interesting than most states, New Mexico is pretty safe Obama country now, and shouldn’t be on the short list of swing states.


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