WESTERN DISCOVERIES

Because both John McCain and Barack Obama have been touring the Interior West, I’m getting a lot of calls this week about regional strategies for the Electoral College and reaching the magical 270 threshold. I’m relieved analysts are finally discovering that, among other things, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico combined have almost the same number of electors (19) as Ohio (20) and that adding those to John Kerry’s 252 total from 2004 would put Obama over the top, however narrowly.

Allow me three quick observations. First, the two most competitive regions during the past two elections are the (Upper) Midwest and the Southwest and we have a contest appropriately fought between a man hailing from the Midwest’s largest city and the Southwest’s largest city for the hearts and minds of voters from those two regions. Second, because the demography of these regions entails a battle for Independents and Hispanics (among others) in the Southwest, and white Catholics and suburban women (among others) in the Midwest, I continue to find all this fuss about working-class white males from rural Appalachia to be overwrought.

Finally, it was made clear to me by western state Democrats I interviewed in 2005 for my book, Whistling Past Dixie, that both Al Gore and Kerry fought hard in the Midwest (Kerry much harder than Gore in Ohio, however) but largely ignored the Southwest. So far, at least, Obama shows no signs of making this mistake again. He needs to do some work to reach out to Hispanic voters, and I’ve heard from some Hispanic leaders that they feel neglected by him and his campaign. (N.B.: Patty Solis Doyle, disposed and scapegoated campaign manager for Hillary Clinton, may end up helping Obama, and he’d be smart to give her whatever resources and authority she needs.) But, overall, his team is showing every sign of understanding where -- and among whom -- he needs to win if he wants to get to 270.

--Tom Schaller

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