June 5th, 2008
04:02 PM ET

Distant Cannon Fire

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/06/05/art.ac_grab_foreman.jpg]
Tom Foreman
AC360° Correspondent

I’m back on a train again, burning back to DC from NY and pondering the rapidly unfolding battle map for this election. Yes, I love maps. Always have, always will, because if you read them properly they can tell you a lot about a lot of things. And trust me, the campaigns are scrutinizing maps right now like an army of thirty-something paintballers making a last stand in the woods for the regional trophy.

For example, if you look closely, you can see Barack Obama digging trenches in Virginia, and John McCain placing his guns there, too. You can see the mustering of troops by both sides down in alligator alley, Florida. Battle flags are being raised across the south. And in places like Ohio and Pennsylvannia, voters are already recoiling in horror over the carnage that is soon to come.

This is going to be a furious fight for the middle. Most elections are in some ways, but this one may be more so than usual. Obama knocked Hillary Clinton for a loop by running hard in places where Democrats don’t normally do well, racking up delegates one at a time while she was hoping for a big knockout punch in the traditional Democratic strongholds. What that means, is that he’s already done a lot of his planting in fields that McCain might now want to tend.

McCain, however, has been oiling his big guns, too, and burnishing his compass. In recent weeks, he too, has pushed deeply into enemy territory: touring traditionally Democratic areas to raise the Republican banner. His message, just like Obama’s is, “Maybe you haven’t seen us in a while, but have no doubt that our party wants you to join us in a great quest to remake America.”

There is some terrific work on online by researchers at the University of Michigan; a series of maps that show the Red State/Blue State split in detail. These are maps that point out how all of these states are, in fact, a complex mix of counties; some swinging red, some blue. They also show (and this is really the important part) how many of them are screamingly purple. These communities ended up on one side or the other when the voting was done in 2004, but by nature they were in the middle.

These are going to be the killing grounds in this election.

Those purple areas, especially when there are enough of them contiguous to each other to create a wave of support and possibly tip a state, is where these two candidates are going to go tooth and nail at each other.

Let them say what they want about a civil campaign, and good for them if they can pull it off. But have no doubt that down in the trenches, their non-staff supporters, and clandestine warriors, their ninjas…if we dare…are studying the maps, looking for purple, and preparing to strike.

If you live in Purple Land, hide the children, lock of the dogs, and lay on some supplies. That distant rumble you hear is an approaching General. General Election. And he’s taking prisoners.

Filed under: Barack Obama • John McCain • Raw Politics • Tom Foreman
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. Joyce-Houston

    A lot of people are hurting because we chose who we wanted to support and we take it very hard when the candidate we chose don't win.
    We must still remember we are Democrats first and we want what is best for our country.
    The healing process with Obama and Hillary and I believe it has started by the secret meeting they are having tonight as I write this comment.
    Once they come together then we all can come together as one and be a united party again.

    June 5, 2008 at 11:21 pm |
  2. Raymond Duke Texas

    I hope when you put that map together you don't build up the Obama supporters hope with the line that some are putting out. Like Utah might go blue, nevada,Idaho, wyomming , montanna , missouri, new mexico. It will be a cold day when that happens and i really like then line of B.S. that the Obama campagin put out that texas would go blue. I live here and I can guarrantee you that in no way is going to happen. Florida will definetly go republican after that fiasco and especially with the clinton campagin offering to pay for the revote. If every blue collar worker has not left mich. he will lose it also. Ohio ,Penn. their gone to McCain. You shouldn't count too much on them caucaus states, very unreliable. The only ones that can attend caucaus or college kids,some retired people and welfare reiepents don't work.

    June 5, 2008 at 10:33 pm |
  3. Nancy

    I would like to see Hilary as VP. to bring the party together.

    June 5, 2008 at 10:30 pm |
  4. Lynn Wagoner

    I am so sick that Obama is meeting at Hillary Clinton's home based on what he said earlier today. I am his supporter and it shows me that he is weak and mislead me. If a meeting is to take place, it should be on his turf. I will not stand by him if he bends to the entitlement she thinks she has. Obama looks weak and I will change my vote. He looks really unexperienced. He is in the drivers seat and he looks like yes mam, yes mam, thank you mam. She has shown him no respect and he is not in charge. It says to me he can not run the country if he goes to her house. Unite the party, I thought unite the Nation for change.

    June 5, 2008 at 10:23 pm |
  5. Alex

    What's in the Cool Aid you are drinking? I was just watching Election Central and heard you list possible VP candidates for John McCain. Most were alright but when you gave your "Wild Card" pick of Condoleza Rice, I almost puked! Ms Rice would solidfy the Democrats argument that McCain is running George Bush's third term. Hell I'm a Republican who twice voted for George Bush and he's turned out to be arguably the worst President in history. I absolutely would not vote for McCain if he chose Ms Rice as his VP. She's been part of problem that has created the messes our country now faces. She'd spell the end of any chance McCain has for the Presidency! If that was inended to be your debut as a stand-up comic, try another career...that wasn't even close to funny!

    June 5, 2008 at 9:00 pm |
  6. Annie Kate


    Sounds like you are describing the Civil War rather than a political election – so many similarities! I hope you show us those maps from the university – those would be interesting to see and then later on to compare with actual results to see how they turn out.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    June 5, 2008 at 8:39 pm |
  7. seah ohio

    Lets see Obama Back in Ohio, Pa, making his way through all the small towns.

    I doubt if he will. I think he will work the high populated areas heavy with minorities to keep his numbers up.

    June 5, 2008 at 8:20 pm |
  8. margaret

    While I greatly appreciate the contributions and dedication of the Kennedy family, it is hard for me to believe that Caroline Kennedy is an appropriate choice for VP of the United States.

    By what virtue, dear? It was not that long ago that Caroline was running around misbehaving with a poor attitude and nothing more on her mind than beer hounding. Recently, she has risen to the occasion to represent her family in more honorable pursuits but hardly to the level deserving of a VP.

    However, anything could happen. You know if you have got the money you can buy almost anything. Caroline has even got her own Obamakin.

    June 5, 2008 at 7:47 pm |
  9. Pamela burgess

    Y Grayson you are an idiot. Satan??? Unfortunately you are big part
    of American thinking, Very scary.... People like you scare me alot
    more than an unknown like Obama....

    June 5, 2008 at 7:46 pm |
  10. John

    McCain / Lieberman: The real "dream team"

    June 5, 2008 at 7:44 pm |
  11. Carol B., Virginia

    Yeah. Short of one of them reciting the poem, "When I am Old, I Shall Wear Purple..," to win them over, it sounds like it's going to be quite the battle. Every battle needs a cartographer, so there's your chance.

    June 5, 2008 at 7:40 pm |
  12. Ann

    Obama will NEVER beat McCain. McCain has Hillary's 18 million votes to go along with his own. I wouldn't vote for a man like that if he were the only one on the ballot...He's friends with too many radicals...and he's listened to Wright for 20 years. Don't think for a minute that he's not a racist too. He is doing and saying everything he's suppose to..to win the nomination. You people mean nothing else to him.

    June 5, 2008 at 7:37 pm |
  13. Ratna, New York, NY

    Dear Tom Foreman,

    I think Mc Cain is pretty much toast from now on!

    June 5, 2008 at 7:24 pm |
  14. Jacqueline

    "Whoa. Déjà vu."

    June 5, 2008 at 7:12 pm |
  15. Sherice

    I feel that Caroline Kennedy would be a good VP.

    June 5, 2008 at 6:59 pm |
  16. Larry

    Jesse Jackson & Al Sharpton make up Obama's mind for him.

    June 5, 2008 at 6:01 pm |
  17. Lorie Ann, Buellton, California

    Hi Tom,
    Something tells me, that not only the purpleland people need to battan down the hatches, but the red and blue too. We may need to all think PINK before this battle is over..Pepto Bismol.

    Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif.

    June 5, 2008 at 5:56 pm |
  18. Caroline

    There is more change coming in those purple areas than just a change in the Executive Branch. As an Ohioan, I know that we have been slowly changing color in the past 8 years as job loses increase along with the cost of the basics necessities of life. The election of Sherrod Brown and Ted Strickland in 2006 are examples of the populist revolution. People in Ohio and the other rust belt states are sick and tired of being represented in Congress by Republicans who send our jobs overseas, give tax cuts to people who don't need them, and waste our tax dollars. We will get over the primary divisions and work on changing Congress. Perhaps Hillary Clinton will lead as the Lioness of the Senate and our champion.

    June 5, 2008 at 5:49 pm |
  19. Beth

    Tom as I read you post I could almost hear the glee in your voice. The 'purple areas' are part of what made the primaries so unpredictable. We can no longer rely on polls as an indicator of which way the vote might turn. The shade of purple might be a much better indicator these days.

    June 5, 2008 at 5:48 pm |
  20. Esbee

    I think I heard Hillary Clinton say : "Clowns to the Left of me..jokers to the Right..here I am...stuck in the middle with you."

    Go Clinton

    June 5, 2008 at 5:41 pm |
  21. Kim

    I just read this statement by Howard Wolfson: "She is not seeking the vice presidency, and no one speaks for her but her. The choice here is Senator Obama's and his alone."

    Are we to take this seriously as in she doesn't not want to be vice president and will put no pressure, directly or indirectly, on the Obama campaign to secure the VP slot?

    Or is this just a matter of tactics and maneuvering to avoid damaging her standing in the Democratic Party?

    I was very surprised to read this and am not sure what to believe....

    June 5, 2008 at 5:11 pm |
  22. Y Grayson

    For months now, we've seen the Clintons giving their best efforts to discredit Barak Obama. Now it seems that we should all feel sorry for Senator Clinton and allow her to bow out of the race on her own terms. It is neither fair to Barak Obama, nor is it fair to other Democrats. I've listened to Bill and Hillary Clinton cry and cry about how they have been mistreated because she's a minority (woman). Last time I checked Obama was also. He has endured much more than any other candidate. McCain's girlfriend was in the news two days. Clinton's many comments including the whole "fairy tale" deal was in the news a couple of days, but for some reason we've heard about Obama's church for months now. Common sense: When a person selects a church it is not just for the Pastor. He CAN'T save anyone only JESUS can. I'm sure that Trinity has wonderful outreach programs that assist many folks who need it. Where does Hillary attend church?

    I'm just floored. Now they expect someone to put them on the ticket as VP. That is ridiculous! Senator Clinton is a playground bully. She's spoiled, and I'm just sick of what her campaign has become. When Bill was the President, I never saw this side of them. I now see that they are like Satan. They will try ever route to make the body (in this case the Democratic party) submit and fall into the Clinton trap once again!

    June 5, 2008 at 5:02 pm |
  23. mary

    I am happy to finnally see Hilary end her campaign. I do wonder what has been most difficult for her in this election. Is it that without a doubt, she thought the presidential nomination(democratic ) should be hers, or was it that she really thought Obama really was wasting his time, and that america wasn't ready for this kind of change. On a more personal note I do like Hilary, but I must say I was taken by surprise at some comments she made in her journey. These comments caused myself and many others to view her in a different way. We didn't know how she really felt or cared untill this election. I wish her well, and I do hope she is not attempting to bully Obama into making her VP. I really hopes she means it when she says he has her support.. As a fellow democrat an american citizen I say we must all pull together honestly, and sincerly. She has to fight with Obama just as hard as she fought against him. I will say like she said "We are in it to win".

    June 5, 2008 at 5:01 pm |
  24. Kim

    Tom, fascinating blog entry, could you give us a link to the maps the University of Michigan researchers compiled?

    June 5, 2008 at 4:43 pm |
  25. Sharon from Indy

    Oh, Larry,
    Jindal has not yet proved himself as governor of Louisiana. Maybe by the next election. Let's see what he does first with the state corruption, the inadequate New Orleans levies and Louisiana oil pollution.

    If McCain wants an anchor to sink his election, he will select Jindal.

    For Obama, it's Clinton or Richardson for the VP position.

    June 5, 2008 at 4:33 pm |
  26. Delphine, Netherlands.EU

    Who is gonna talk some sense in the heads of McCain and the people who vote for him? I don't know about you guys but normally there is a certain age where it's time to retire.How do you expect to take someone of that age serious annyway...that only happens in some tribes in Africa!

    June 5, 2008 at 4:32 pm |
  27. Praetorian, Fort Myers

    I don't think the deciding vote will be in the center this time.

    I believe there are millions of fiscal conservatives out there who have been ingnored by both the Republican and Democratic parties. They are not please with their tax burden now–and even less pleased with the prospects if McCain or Obam are elected.

    They would prefer government not tax them multiple times–first on their salaries...then again in their phone, internet, and fuel expenses.

    There is a growing need for an alternative to the Democrat and Republican Agendas–a sort of conservative middle ground. Many have found that in the Libertarian Party.
    Just in the past year–a life-long Democratic Senator and a lifelong Republican representative have decided to join the Libertarian Party.

    Vote Bob Barr–2008

    We need your support to create the environment for REAL CHANGE in Washington politics. Are you brave enough to swim against the current? Visit the Libertarian Party or Bob Barr for President web sites for more information. You may have been with us all along–but focused only on the traditiions rather that your beliefs–and reality of the times.

    Come join us at the Libertarian Party!!!

    June 5, 2008 at 4:29 pm |
  28. Sharon from Indy

    I really hope it is going to be a great fight!

    Why? Because when there is a great fight, Americans come out in droves to vote.

    When the election is, well, obvious on who will win, America sits back and lets the usual voters take it home. But with a great fight, not unlike a great boxing match, we start screaming, jumping up and down, and become very passionate.

    Mix that passionate with high gas prices, foreclosures and a relentless war, American are going to go to the polls at record amounts. It will not matter if it is red, blue or purple states; it is a matter of survival of the states.

    Also, I like the idea that a candidate has to fight and prove himself over and over again for the American people. Walk softly Obama and McCain; America is fed up with polticials.

    June 5, 2008 at 4:25 pm |
  29. Larry

    I'm hoping McCain gives serious consideration to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal a his vp. Yes he's young, Jindal that is, at 36 but yoonly have to be 35 to be president.

    Obama will probably be told to pick Jesse Jackson.

    June 5, 2008 at 4:23 pm |
  30. Donna Leary

    I do not want Hillary Clinton to be Vice Presidential Running Mate. Bill Clinton is too involved. Thanks, Donna

    June 5, 2008 at 4:10 pm |