Why Chuck Todd is Right, and Why McCain Can Win ...

Posted: Jun 30, 2008 5:24 PM

Yesterday on "Meet The Press," Tom Brokaw sought to "school" Chuck Todd concerning political predictions.  Here's how "Viva Chuck Todd" scores the exchange:

The Chuck did what he's paid to do: prognosticate based on careful examination of current trends and data. Specifically, Obama not winning Montana and North Dakota. This set Tom off to quickly chide The Chuck in one might say, a condescending way: "Now be careful what you say at this stage about what he's going to win and what he's not going to win." The Chuck politely deferred to grandpa Tom's scolding and got back in the flow.

But, of course, Chuck Todd is correct.  That's because he rocks, and Brokaw doesn't (there is no website called "Viva Brokaw!"). 

In all seriousness, Todd's point underscores the primary reason John McCain still has a chance to win the election;  National popularity matters much, much less in a "winner-take-all" electoral system than it would in a national election.

Consider this:  In 2004, Bush got 64 percent of the vote in North Dakota.  Clearly, John McCain won't do that well -- but he will most assuredly win the state (as Chuck Todd correctly predicts). 

Here's why Todd can essentially guarantee it:  Let's suppose that Obama's popularity is so impressive and overwhelming that it garners him 10 more points in North Dakota than John Kerry got just four years ago.  That would be impressive, but he would still lose the state by a landslide.  And McCain would still get all three electoral votes.  You see, it really doesn't matter if Obama gets 49 percent of the North Dakota vote, or 35 percent of the North Dakota vote -- he still loses the state.  That extra 14 points of popularity means nothing.

This isn't the only example of how Obama's chances are being over-sold.  Today, cable TV news was "abuzz" about Obama's chances to win in the South (this is supposed to send shivers down my spine and show that Obama is building this amazing juggernaut).  The truth is that Obama has no chance in the real south.  The only real chance Obama has to pick-up a "southern" state is in Virginia -- and that has more to do with the changing demographics in the state than it does with Obama's popularity.   Virginia is a purple state, and has been for a while, now. 

Obama does have a chance in VA, but McCain can make up for it by picking off a Kerry state.  This, of course, is not impossible.  He has a chance to win New Hampshire (where McCain rules), Minnesota (home of Pawlenty and the GOP Convention), Pennsylvania (home of "bitter gun-clingers") and Michigan (Romney country), just to name a few ...