Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Is Obama really in landslide territory?

There are plenty of predictions around about tonight's result. There seems to be a consensus among many, including Luke, that Obama should pick up Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Iowa, Ohio, Virginia, giving him around 311-227 electoral college votes over McCain, a healthy margin of victory. Others would add Florida to the Obama column, and there are rumblings about places like Georgia, South Carolina and Montana. Such a result would be a remarkable achievement for Obama, and not just because he would become America's first black president.

But none of these represents the sort of landslide that Reagan or Nixon enjoyed over liberal Democrat opponents in the past, or - unless all the toss-up states go Obama's way - even those Bill Clinton had in his two victories.

The RealClearPolitics polling maps are a great reminder of how things once were. In 1972, George McGovern won just 17 electoral college votes, taking Massachussets and Washington DC. In 1980, against Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter got just 49 votes, including his native Georgia. Four years later, Walter Mondale was reduced to 17 votes - his home state of Minnesota and DC. Mike Dukakis at least managed to add a few states - including the now blue state of West Virginia - to amass 111 votes. By 1992, the tables were turned as Bill Clinton defeated George Bush (the first) 370-168 picking up states now seen as solidly red for Presidential polls such as Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee (his and Gore's home states), Georgia and Kentucky, but not Virginia. Bob Dole lost 9 of Bush's electoral college votes in 1996 to get just 159 votes. Only the two more recent elections, with 271-267 and 286-252, have been relatively close.

So, will this really will be a landslide, or will the cautious projections be closer to the mark? Either way, it is likely to be a historic result.

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