One of my favorite things about the weekly financial Barron’s (sister publication to the WSJ) is their unpredictibility. On more times than I can count, a Barron’s article has made me stop, reconsider the so-called conventional wisdom, and rethink my own views and prejudices.
Incidentally, Barron’s on-line, the net companion to the print edition, is one of Dow Jones best — if least known — properties.
So I am not really surprised by a rather intriguing analysis in Barron’s online recently, titled, Why the President May Be Running Scared. With Kerry locking up the Democratic nomination, political strategist’s on both sides have started adding up the electoral college votes. What they find may surprise them:
“There’s been an unusual defensiveness at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue these days. First came the report by chief weapons inspector David Kay that Saddam Hussein probably didn’t have weapons of mass destruction before the Iraq war. Under pressure, President George W. Bush appointed a commission to probe the apparent intelligence failures that preceded the war. Then came the astonishing release of controversial records about the president’s service in the Alabama National Guard during the Vietnam War. The usually quiescent White House press corps was suddenly barking like a pack of attack dogs, demanding answers.
Meanwhile, Democratic primary voters, abandoning their usual self-destructive fractiousness, united early and have virtually anointed Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts as their nominee.
Kerry and his straw man adversary, Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, have had a clear field attacking President Bush’s performance on Iraq and the economy. So, it’s no surprise that for the last three weeks, the president’s approval rating has hovered below the key 50% level in a Newsweek poll.
But I’ll bet none of this is what really keeps Karl Rove and the president’s other top political advisers awake at night.
As we all learned in 2000, the only thing that really counts is the Electoral College. Anachronistic as it might be, it’s still the constitutionally mandated way of electing a president of the United States. And talk of repealing it after the 2000 fiasco went nowhere. So, how does the electoral vote look as of today?”
Here’s the electoral college table, as compiled by Zogby International:
Projected Electoral College Vote, 2004 (as of February 26, 2004)
|Blue States||Electoral||Red States||Electoral||States in||Electoral|
|Distict of Columbia||3||Georgia||15||Minnesota*||10|
|New Jersey||15||North Carolina||15|
|New Mexico||5||North Dakota||3|
|Rhode Island||4||South Dakota||3|
*Was Blue state in 2000
**Was Red state in 2000
Table: Zogby International
The operative issue is electoral votes: if Zogby’s estimates are accurate, Kerry needs only to take Ohio and Florida to get the 270+ electoral college votes necessary to win the presidency.
Howard R. Gold explains why the incumbent, President Bush, faces a surprising uphill battle for reelection:
“Only four of the states that we list as “in play” (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Oregon and Washington) were Blue states in 2000, when they delivered a majority for Vice-President Al Gore. The other eight states that are “in play” now (including Florida, Ohio, Arizona and Missouri), with a treasure trove of 98 electoral votes, were part of Bush Country in 2000. That suggests the Democratic presidential candidate is holding his base of support better than the president is, allowing Senator Kerry to peel off a couple of the paler Red states from the president’s column.
“National poll numbers are irrelevant,” Zogby says. “What is relevant is how the president plays in the Red states, and how the Democrats play in the Blue states.”
A surprising revelation, courtesy of the provocative contrarians at Barron’s. Of course, November is 8 months away, and anything — anything — can and will happen between now and then . . .
Why the President May Be Running Scared
By HOWARD R. GOLD
Barron’s, Thursday, February 26, 2004
Projected Electoral College Vote, 2004
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2004 8:09 p.m. EST