Saturday, July 23, 2016

It's Virginia, Stupid!

Is Hillary Clinton conceding Ohio and Pennsylvania? I've been looking closely at the electoral map and guess what? Clinton can win without either state. Hell, she can even win without Florida, though for now we won't go there. Let's just concentrate on Ohio and Pennsylvania.

True, losing both significantly narrows her pathway to victory and, in what promises to be a very divisive and highly contested election, every state is precious; indeed every vote. So why would she toss out two key swing states? Well, she's really not, but there's no getting around the facts. Both states are going to be tough pickups for her in November. Her support for NAFTA is long chronicled and the voters in those states have long memories.

Never mind that NAFTA was not responsible for the job losses in the Rust Belt states; never mind that, on the whole, the treaty was a net positive for job growth, workers there are convinced that their predicament was a direct result of the policies of Bill Clinton and, by extension, his wife. At this point, Elizabeth Warren doing a rendition of Hamilton wouldn't be enough to dissuade most of them.

So with that in mind, time for plan B. Enter Tim Kaine, the moderate's moderate. Kaine is not Elizabeth Warren nor is he Bernie Sanders. He will not fire up the base the way both can and have. But what he can do is allow Clinton to redraw the electoral map a bit.

The conventional wisdom is that Republicans need Ohio to win the presidency. In fact, no Republican has ever won the White House without securing the Buckeye state. The reason George Bush got reelected in '04 was because of Ohio. But from a Democratic point of view, Ohio isn't quite the Holy Grail of prizes. That's because going into the general, they already hold an electoral vote advantage, which means they can afford to lose a state or two without jeopardizing their chances.

The way I see it, as things stand now, Clinton has 227 electoral votes to Trump's 180. To be fair, that's with Michigan, Wisconsin and New Mexico in her win column. I seriously don't expect her to lose any of those states in November. That leaves Florida (29), Pennsylvania (20), Ohio (18), North Carolina (15), Virginia (13), Arizona - yes Arizona is a toss-up (11), Colorado (9), Nevada (6), Iowa (6) and New Hampshire (4).

Okay let's give Ohio and Pennsylvania to il Duce. That brings his total to 218. Then let's give Virginia, North Carolina and Colorado to Clinton. That brings her total to 264, just 6 votes shy of the finish line. Now let's give Iowa to Trump. His total goes to 224. And while we're at it, we'll give New Hampshire to Clinton. She now has 268 votes. With a large turnout among Hispanics, Clinton wins both Nevada and Arizona to put her over the top. And that's without Florida even playing a factor. In fact, just for shits and giggles, let's give the Sunshine state to Trump. Final score: Clinton 285, Trump 253. Imagine that: for the first time in more than a generation, both Florida and Ohio could go red and a Democrat would still win the White House.

The whole strategy comes down to two parts: One, consolidating support among women, Hispanics and African Americans; and two, appealing to more moderate voters across the political spectrum. Far from trying to run the table and make this election a rout, what Clinton is actually doing is defining what her firewall is going to be. Take the southwest and mid-atlantic parts of the country, as well as the more liberal midwest states like Wisconsin and Michigan, while conceding the two biggest Rust Belt states in the country and the deep South.

Yes, it's a little too close for my comfort. I'd feel a lot better with Florida in the bag and, with the large Hispanic population in both Dade and Broward counties, that is still a very real likelihood. But the bottom line here is that it wouldn't necessarily be the end of the world if Trump wins Ohio and Pennsylvania. In fact, when you think about it, that's his only play. Once you take away the white male resentment card - which the Kaine pick does to a certain extent - the only thing Trump has left in his bag of tricks is the blue-collar vote, which means less and less the further you get from the Midwest.

It's a calculated risk, I know. This strategy, if that's what it is, depends on her being able to hold serve everywhere else on the map. And that's a tall order in any election year, much less one as topsy turvy as this one is turning out to be.

Let's face it: no matter who wins this election, half the country is going to reject the outcome and go berserk. Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine have a little over three months to do their damnedest to ensure that the other side is the one doing the rejecting.

See you next week in Philly.

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