The Democrats' Perfect Storm

Here is my U.S. News column this week, in which I take a look at the Democratic race after Hillary Clinton's victories in Rhode Island, Ohio, and Texas. Both she and Barack Obama have problems, in my view. Obama is getting his first critical scrutiny in the campaign, while Clinton remains well behind in delegates. The Democrats' decades-long search for the perfect nominating system has produced the perfect storm.

Throw Out the Electoral Maps

Last week in my Creators Syndicate column, I argued that we should throw out that old map with the red states and blue states, that the partisan alignments in 2008 may look very different from those in 2000 and 2004. Evidence in support of my argument comes from SurveyUSA's 50-state surveys of a McCain-Obama race and a McCain-Clinton race. SurveyUSA puts Obama ahead in the electoral vote 280 to 258 (with Obama carrying two electoral votes in Nebraska by winning the Omaha and Lincoln congressional districts but running too far behind in the wide-open-spaces Third District to carry the statewide vote) and Clinton ahead 276 to 262. As SurveyUSA points out, electoral votes are awarded even when the numbers for the two candidates are within the margin of error. What this says is that there would be two close races.

What interests me is that in both pairings, many states don't go to the party that carried them in 2004. In the McCain-Obama pairing, Obama carries eight Bush '04 states with 64 electoral votes (Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska [two electoral votes], Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Virginia), and McCain carries two Kerry '04 states with 36 electoral votes (New Jersey, Pennsylvania). In the McCain-Clinton pairing, Clinton carries five Bush '04 states with 63 electoral votes (Arkansas, Florida, New Mexico, Ohio, West Virginia), and McCain carries four Kerry '04 states with 39 electoral votes (Michigan, New Hampshire, Oregon, Washington). Altogether, in one pairing or the other, 17 states with 177 electoral votes go the opposite way from what they did in 2004: Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska [two electoral votes], Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia. Yes, the list includes the three states that switched parties from 2000 to 2004 (Iowa, New Hampshire, New Mexico). But it also includes 14 others.

In both the McCain-Obama and McCain-Clinton pairings, the candidates were within 5 points of each other in 14 states. But they aren't all the same states: There are 25 of them altogether (only Michigan, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania are on both lists). I'm not sure that the SurveyUSA numbers are all correct. But the survey results suggest that a lot more states are in play than were in 2000 or 2004.

By Michael Barone