Yesterday’s report on CNN’s Political Ticker points toward the McCain campaign’s narrowing electoral strategy, with one anonymous source writing off Iowa, New Mexico and Colorado: “‘Gone,’ was the word one top McCain insider used to describe those three states.” Given the state-by-state electoral vote map two weeks before the election, this is a pragmatic approach. But it’s potentially troublesome, too.
Iowa has looked lost to McCain for weeks and New Mexico, with a significant Latino vote polling almost 3 to 1 for Obama, looks tough for him, too. McCain’s internal polling apparently indicates more Obama strength in Colorado than the +4.4% public poll average indicates as of today (Oct 21). Once again, the Latino vote in CO favors Obama by more than 3 to 1.
McCain’s funding may be dwindling, so he has to pick his spots. His cheap use of robocalls (1/4 of $.01 per call) indicates a shortage of money, human volunteers or, most likely: both. Given the state and national polls with just 2 weeks to go, McCain’s electoral vote strategy must be narrowly targeted, leaving little room for error. As the CNN report states: “The McCain strategy depends on holding a handful of Bush ’04 states that are now rated tossups by CNN: Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Missouri and Nevada. It also depends on keeping Virginia…in the GOP column.”
If one believes the Virginia polls that have favored Obama throughout October, settling in to an average of +8% as of today, McCain has quite a bit of ground to make up, especially in Northern Virgina’s “communist country,” where military personnel may be influenced by Colin Powell’s endorsement. But 2 weeks is a long time and I’ve never trusted that this historically Republican, southern state has evolved sufficiently to vote for any Democratic president. I could be wrong. I hope I am.
At an average 11% lead for Obama, Pennsylvania looks like an even tougher job for McCain. That’s as large of a lead as Obama has in Iowa, larger than the current New Mexico spread and TWICE his lead over McCain in Colorado. So, what’s up? Well, with Pennsylvania, McCain can take 21 electoral votes in one fell swoop – matching the total of Iowa, New Mexico and Colorado combined. McCain only has a few paths to EV victory, so, gambler that he is, he is apparently doubling down on Pennsylvania.
Then again, betting heavily on Pennsylvania and Virginia rather than other, tighter battleground states may not be as much of a gamble as it seems. Both Pennsylvania and Virginia use Direct-Recording Electronic voting machines WITHOUT Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail Printers. “Over 85 percent of PA voters will vote on paperless touchscreen machines that are hackable, failure-prone, and fundamentally unauditable.” A bill to add a paper trail and audit procedures to Pennsylvania’s electronic voting was “blocked by House Republicans on a near-party-line vote when it reached the floor.” In Virginia, the majority counties use touchscreen direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machines that do not generate voter-verified paper ballots. Instead of creating anything truly useful for officials to recount, the machines simply reproduce data that is already in memory, in effect reprinting the results rather than recounting ballots in any meaningful sense.” Some of these same machines have already been reported to flip votes from Obama to McCain in early West Virginia voting. In WV, the machines produce a voter-verified paper copy of votes. But, like Pennsylvania, the DREs in Virginia have no such paper, rendering any recount impossible.
Watch out for Pennsylvania and Virginia on election day. Both states have easily hackable Direct-recording Electronic voting machines WITHOUT Voter-Verified Paper Records AND neither state requires Mandatory Audits. That is a toxic mix. Check the poll averages in these 2 states the day before the election,. If McCain closes more than a 5 point gap on election day, be very suspicious. And if there’s a large gap between once-reliable exit polls and the actual vote tallies in Virginia and Pennsylvania, be vigilant. If McCain somehow pulls off an historic upset and the results are even slightly dubious, patriotic Americans must be ready to defend our democracy with all we’ve got. Three dubious presidential elections in a row? That’s beyond coincidence, my friends. Don’t let it happen. We may have to tear the White House from Republicans’ cold dead fingers.
Figuratively speaking, of course.