Doug Thompson

Political Arithmetic
Looking at numbers
By Doug Thompson
The Democratic National Convention started this week.
Big whoop. Lets look at some polls, even though it’s early. overlays state poll results on the Electoral College. You know, the college, the thing that really elects U.S. presidents.
It shows Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., with 260 electoral votes. Only 270 are needed to win. All Obama needs, according to this, is 10 of 111 undecided votes. Virginia alone would give him that with three votes to spare.
The results also show Arkansas as leaning Republican.
Excuse me?
Look, I know I’m up in the Republican corner of the state, but Arkansas isn’t just “leaning” toward Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. Obama hasn’t come here since 2006. He hasn’t even opened an office here as of Monday. There are good reasons.
We’re hardscrabble, old, and poor white state of Hillary Clinton backers. We have the worst demographics for a victory for Obama in the South even if we didn’t resent him beating our first lady and belittling her husband.
And we’re listed as “leaning?”
Obama has 214 electoral votes in solidly Democratic states according to and a lead over Republican candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. Let’s leave it at that.
Meanwhile, “Political Arithmetik” ( has come up with a very interesting track of poll differences, showing pro-Obama and pro-McCain “bias.” However PA correctly points out that the “bias” is not that pronounced and can be attributed to other factors. For instance, some polls push undecided respondents for an answer and some don’t. Therefore, some polls have fewer undecided responses but the “support” the candidate really has could be very weak.
Harris Interactive tends to favor Obama more compared to other polls, running about 4 percent ahead of the pack. Rasmussen favors McCain by about 3 percent. Among the big mainstream media polls, CNN and ABC/Washington Post are close to the middle.
I was delighted but not surprised to see the Cook/RT report almost at the bull’s eye on this measurement. As I’ve often said, Charlie Cook of Cook’s Political Report is just about the only national political pundit I read on a regular basis. The only one closer to the middle is one I’ve not heard of called Diageo/Hotline. It’s a joint project of a polling entity and a liquor company, proving once again that alcohol is truth serum.
Cook shows Obama with a lead of 240 electoral votes to McCain’s 174. However, Cook points out in his commentary that Obama’s having a very hard time breaking out from his base. He warns that undecided voters may go to McCain by default and declares the race a toss-up despite Obama’s sizable lead.
One of the things I really like about, PA and Cook is that they don’t look at their polls in a vacuum. They compare data from other polls. Too many other organizations look at their own polls to the exclusion of others, depriving them of a counterweight to their own biases.
In anybody’s poll, Obama still suffers from a lack of support among supporters of the presidential bid of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.
There’s a lot of speculation in the press about whether Clinton can deliver those supporters.
There’s not enough speculation in the press about why Obama can’t unify his party. The usual excuses given are that Hillary is jealous and her supporters are bigots. Either way, Obama and his fans have ready-made scapegoats if they lose what should be the easiest presidential election for the Democrats since 1976.
John Kerry didn’t run against Hillary. He was white too. The same goes for Al Gore, Tom Harkin, Dick Gephardt and Walter Mondale.
What all those people have in common with Obama is that they all won the Iowa presidential primary and went on to win the nomination in the Democrats’ caucus-happy presidential selection process. That process clearly favors nominees that white working class voters can’t stomach — whatever the nominee’s ethnic background.
If the Democrats can’t win the post-Iraq, post-Katrina election, they will either have to change their presidential nomination process into a primary-based system or fade on out into irrelevance. That’s what’s on the line here for Democrats: Who will control the party?

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