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The McCain Blowout Fallacy

By Bob Beckel

Last weekend David Paul Kuhn on Politico wrote about the possibility that John McCain could beat Barack Obama by as many as 50 electoral votes this November. Kuhn cited several GOP strategists, Democrats and an anonymous RNC source who agreed with the "blowout" scenario, which is what a 50+ electoral victory would be.

To the contrary, I'm willing to go on the record saying that, barring an unforeseen scandal, a far more likely scenario is that John McCain will lose by at least 50 electoral votes in November - and possibly as many as 150.

The foundation of the McCain "blowout" scenario rests on the 286 electoral votes George Bush received in 2004. It assumes McCain would win New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Minnesota - all states won by John Kerry in 2004. I'll concede the possibility of New Hampshire going red this year. John McCain has a unique relationship with the Granite State which has given him two sizable primary victories in 2000 and 2008. But, at best, McCain's chances there are 51-49.

Let's take the rest state-by-state:

Pennsylvania: If anything, the Keystone State has become much more Democratic since 2004 when Kerry won there. In 2008, 170,000+ Republicans switched their registration to Democrat; Bucks and Montgomery Counties in suburban Philadelphia (once the most reliable of Republican counties) for the first time have more registered Democrats than Republicans.

Pennsylvania has 200,000 unregistered black voters and we should count on a minimum of 100,000 to register and vote. By November, 250,000 new voters will turn 18, a group that has voted 60% + nationally for Obama. The fastest growing Pennsylvania demographic group is college-educated, white-collar suburbanites. We know who this group supports. Don't count on a massive disaffected rural blue-collar vote against Obama. They are the smallest and lowest turnout demographic in the state.

Bottom line? McCain is going to be a heavy underdog in Pennsylvania this year.

Michigan: The most devastated economic state in the Bush years is a McCain target? Let me get off the floor and stop laughing. Michigan has 1.4 million blacks with 300,000 yet to be (but will be) registered. It has one of the largest populations of college students in the country, and 150,000 new voters will turn 18 by Election Day. Any bets how they will vote?

Michigan is highly unionized in a year where unions will spend more and be more active for Democrats than at any time since the halcyon days of the 1950s. "Uncommitted" in the Democratic primary almost beat McCain's total vote - and that's when no Democrat campaigned in the state.

The truth is that McCain has very little chance of winning Michigan.

Minnesota: Let's be clear, in 1984 Minnesota voted for my boss Walter Mondale. Suffice it to say, it was unique in that regard. More importantly, the state's growth is virtually all in the Minneapolis/St. Paul region, which is full of young, upscale voters who aren't known for their GOP sympathies.

The GOP could have a convention there every two weeks and still would have trouble winning Minnesota.

Now for a real view of the landscape. Start by giving Obama all the states Kerry won in 2004 (except maybe New Hampshire) and look at a few states Bush won that year:

Iowa: This state is Obama's spiritual home. It is prosperous and has the largest number of colleges by population than any state in the union.

Iowa is a lock for Obama in November.

Colorado: Once reliably GOP, the state is increasingly Democratic. It has a retiring GOP senator whose seat looks good for a Democratic pickup. It will also be home of the DNC convention and has a Hispanic population that has come to despise Republicans' immigration views. McCain showed guts bucking his party on comprehensive immigration reform but then ran from it like a scalded dog when conservatives cornered him on it last year.

Bottom line: Obama has a good shot at turning Colorado blue for only the second time since 1968.

New Mexico: Like Colorado, there is a vacant Senate seat with a favored Democrat. But more importantly, there's Bill Richardson, who will turn every screw he has (and there are many) for Obama and will be the attack dog against McCain among Hispanics. New Mexico also has a population that is becoming heavily Democratic with tens of thousands of Hispanics yet to be registered.

New Mexico is as good a bet for Obama as Big Brown was in the Derby.

Ohio: In 2006, amid rampant Republican state corruption, Ohio elected a Democratic governor and a Democratic senator. Home foreclosures are equally as rampant and Ohio is bleeding good paying jobs daily. Ohio had a massive Democratic primary turnout, which is the strongest predictor of general election results. It has a large college population and 1.38 million blacks of which 300,000 are unregistered. Expect 225,000 new black voters in November. Over 600,000 Ohio residents have turned 18 since 2004. They are registering in record numbers and are overwhelmingly for Obama.

For a state Kerry lost by only 117,000 votes, I'd say Ohio leans strongly Obama in 2008. The RCP Average currently has Obama leading McCain in Ohio by 1.8%.

Virginia: The Commonwealth has been moving inexorably Democratic for the last decade. It has a Democratic governor and one Democratic senator, soon to be two. Twenty percent of the population is black, of which 200,000 are unregistered. If black turnout increases by 20% and Obama gets 90+% of their vote, as expected, it will constitute more votes than Kerry lost to Bush in 2004, and Kerry never contested the state. One third of the state vote is now from Democratic Northern Virginia where a huge increase in turnout is expected in 2008. Already 131,000 new voters have registered, half under the age of 25. Over 400,000 Virginians have turned 18 since 2004; expect Obama to win them in a walk.

Although McCain currently leads Obama in Virginia by 1.3% in the RCP Average, expect that to reverse when Obama becomes the nominee.

Other Bush states in play that McCain must protect include Florida, North Carolina, Montana, and even Georgia.

Ponder this: In 2004 the economy was strong, the Iraq war still marginally popular, Bush's favorability was near 50%, and voters were generally content. In 2008 the economy is in shambles, the war despised by most Americans, Bush has the highest negatives of any president since polling began, and the public, by an 80-20 margin, believes the country is on the wrong track.

Yes, there will be a blowout in November. But it won't be McCain's.

Bob Beckel managed Walter Mondale’s 1984 presidential campaign. He is a senior political analyst for the Fox News Channel and a columnist for USA Today. Beckel is the co-author with Cal Thomas of the book "Common Ground."

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