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.
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