Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

2008 May Come Down to Ohio — Again

by Louis Jacobson, columnist

Sure, the Democratic presidential candidates are doing well in the polls.

Consider a recent Newsweek survey. It showed U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) seven points ahead of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R), five points ahead of U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), 15 points ahead of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) and 11 points ahead of former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.). Her chief rivals for the Democratic nomination – U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and former U.S. Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) – also bested these four leading Republicans.

But presidents aren’t elected by nationwide vote. They’re elected state by state, by piecing together a winning coalition with at least 270 electoral votes. And looking at the race this way, Election 2008 appears to be just as close as the 2000 and 2004 elections were.

“Out There” draws that conclusion based on initial soundings from more than three dozen political sources in the 19 “purple states” in the 2008 presidential race – states neither Republican “red” nor Democratic “blue” but generally considered up for grabs. This ranking is based on the working assumption that solidly Republican and solidly Democratic states stay that way.

Of the purple states, 11 voted for President George W. Bush in 2004: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia. Eight voted for U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D): Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin.

Of course, the eventual nominee of each party – and the quality of their campaign – will be enormously important in determining the outcome in each of these states. But this analysis focuses on generic political leanings at this point.

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