October 22nd, 2008
09:29 PM ET

How Obama could still lose

Editor's note: Noam Scheiber wrote this column for The New Republic.  He references polls and projections from Real Clear Politics.  Be sure to check CNN's electoral map and polls.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/10/22/art.electoralmap.jpg caption="CNN's electoral map"]
Noam Scheiber
The New Republic

At our election discussion last week at the Sixth and I Synagogue, Frank asked if anyone thought Obama could lose barring some catastrophic external event. I happen to think Obama's chances of winning are upward of 80 percent, and so I didn't say anything. In fact, none of us chimed in. But, truth be told, I can imagine a losing scenario that doesn't involve outside events. It goes something like this: Obama wins all the Kerry states plus Iowa and New Mexico, giving him 264 electoral votes, then narrowly loses the rest of the red states where he's currently competitive.

According to the latest RCP averages, the next most competitive red states, in descending order of favorability to Obama, are: Virginia, Colorado, Ohio, Missouri, Nevada, Florida. Let's focus on Virginia, since it represents the knife-edge between winning and losing–the potentially decisive red state where Obama's currently got the biggest lead. According to RCP, Obama now leads there by 8 points–very close to his national lead of 7.2. (In fact, polling in Virginia has pretty much mirrorred national polling over the last few weeks.) That should speak well to Obama's chances: Since it's hard to imagine Obama losing the popular vote barring that catastrophic event, it should be hard to imagine Obama losing Virginia, too.

And yet here are the caveats that keep me up at night:

1.) We're at the point in the race when national trends may start diverging from trends in battleground states where McCain is still competing. After all, having an active campaign in a state makes a big difference. Just look at Michigan since McCain pulled out in early October. According to RCP, Obama is up 1.5 points nationally since October 2, but nearly 4.8 points in Michigan.

McCain is husbanding his resources for the absolute minimum number of electoral votes he needs to win, which means ignoring the national numbers and focusing on everything from Virginia on down the list of battlegrounds. There's no reason to think he couldn't lose the popular vote by 2-3 points but still win Virginia by 1.

Read more

Filed under: Barack Obama • John McCain • Raw Politics
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. David

    And then... after Palin went on SNL I tried to vote to support her over Obama (Matt Damon ) and every time I voted I got a error.. when I voted for Obama.. MIRACLE.. I got through and it was 98% for him,... the next evening I was not surprised to see the fraund play out on "the Insider" let's brainwash everyone... the other side is evil.... shame on you !

    October 22, 2008 at 11:39 pm |
  2. Mike Stroder

    Sometimes the bad guy wins just because he is getting all the attention. Media has a great affect on the public and it seems their stuck on McCain while I haven't seen anything on the Obama camp from the media except a dance or two. Its the coverage that matters.

    October 22, 2008 at 11:32 pm |
  3. andy

    hello Anderson,

    I have a simple question. I see presidential and VP candidates travel the entire US with their family. Kids of the presidential candidates and VP candiates are travelling with them for the last 4 months continuesly. Do they attend school? If so, how come the school permit thier kids to take such a long leave. Are they so brilliants that they need not go to the schoo? ! I am really curious.

    October 22, 2008 at 11:30 pm |
  4. Gerald Los Angeles

    Anderson I know this about how Obama can still lose, but I have to say something about these people still trying to defend this lady with no experience. Ms Tara Wall is completely in left field if she thinks this women Gov. Palin is qualified for the job. She needs to have her head examined. I know more about foreign policy than she does. I also know how much power that a Vice President is allowed. I kind of feel sorry for her because I think the Rebuplican Party used her ina bad way. The way Obama can still lose is that the rig the voting boxes somehow and white people who say they will vote for him do not!!!!!!!

    October 22, 2008 at 11:29 pm |
  5. patrick

    The only Democrat President to have done good by the nation was Bill Clinton, at least in the past forty years. Obama's politics will create a huge divide within the US. His plan works for many who don't earn much, but spells disaster to those who grow and exceed expectations.
    He will essentially create the largest welfare state on the planet. This man is a bandaid for the ailing US of A, while Mc Cain's health plan stinks. So what are Americans to do? For those who give a damn about the long term health of the nation, the choice is clearly Mc Cain, for those who prefer handouts, no future and rewards for thieves (wall street), Barrack "Barry" Obama is your man!

    October 22, 2008 at 11:29 pm |
  6. karl

    Its scary to imagine that there will be another Republican elected to the white house at this point in history.

    If the US is going to come out strong from this current financial meltdown, it will need a leader that can rebuild its reputation around the world. Through this meltdown the US has lost much of its financial clout. It was this clout that helped US corporations to compete on the world stage. Take away reputation and things look very bleak.

    I think it is quite clear to most thoughtful people that another republican will not be able to restore the reputation of the USA and once again allow it to win contracts around the world and create jobs for Americans. It is quite obvious that both world leaders and people around the world look forward to working with Obama.

    Its about fear or hope. If you want evidence that you will get the same from McCain that you got from Bush, look at the McCain campaign. It constantly tries to appeal to your emotion of fear. Is that not what the last 8 years as been all about.

    After 8 years of living in fear, is it not now time to start living in a nation where the leader gives you hope.

    Obama is the right president for this very difficult time. He most probably will be the greatest president of all time.

    Obama inspires. He is a new generation with fresh ideas that are essential in these times.

    It would be a tragedy for the great nation of the USA if he were to lose and McCain/Palin were directing the country, with their old republican ideas.

    October 22, 2008 at 11:27 pm |
  7. Ralph Illinois

    He could have the election stolen from him by you know who............

    Remember WATERGATE those Repubs are bad losers. But they are losers none the less.

    October 22, 2008 at 11:27 pm |
  8. DW

    Comment by DW
    Marxist Obama

    Starts out like "Robin Hood"
    ..same thing Castro did, then fifty years later WHAM! only his selected people have wealth & everybody else goes suicidal trying to escape the country.


    October 22, 2008 at 11:25 pm |
  9. Ambrea

    If people would quit listening to all of the lies that you guys put out there they could get the truth from real news channels. Why not report on Obama getting money from what he called today "Joe the CEO." Check the records from the campaign and you will see who gets money fromthe big CEO'S. Just try to report the truth for the next two weeks and you will feel better I promise and then you all might just want to keep it up for a change.As you would say Anderson "just keeping them honest" and I am doing that for you. What about asking Barack about his real numbers on taxes and make him answer for real. I can't stand for you guys to do an interview with the Obama campaign and just asked them lightweight questions as if you all are connected at the hip.On your 10 most wantd list don't forget Dodd, Frank, Raines, Obama, etc....

    October 22, 2008 at 11:24 pm |
  10. Steve in WV

    I wish just one person in Wasington would stand up and say"I'm guilty" Why don't Americans stand up and say the same? We are all guilty of letting Washington dictate their agenda's and we just set around and take it. People need to change America the only way they can and that is to stand up to those elected officals and say we are strong in numbers and we won't elect you if you don't start listening to us. Americans can't complain we have let this happen to us. Not all at once, it starts slowly and little by little we have no say in our future. athis nation has been in a decline, on all fronts since the 1960's. Those who have tried to change things ended up being cut down in the prime of their lives. JFK, RFK, MLK. But to say Mcain or Obama are in that category with those gentleman would be a lie. USA quit eating the stuff our government is shoveling.

    October 22, 2008 at 11:23 pm |
  11. Simon Ferguson from Belize

    which charity will get governor Palin's clothes? don't you think that is a waste. maybe u could sell it on e bay and give the money to charity

    October 22, 2008 at 11:21 pm |
  12. Mike from NC

    I find it hard to believe that a man who can't remember how many houses he owns can truly relate with your average citizen desperately trying to hang on to one house.

    October 22, 2008 at 11:20 pm |
  13. Lmitche

    I sure hope that Obama Would not lose the raceMcCain is senil and Palin doesnt even know the job of vice president. My God this country will go to the dogs. It is interesting that she can 150,000 on clothes and we are in a recession she is not qualified .

    October 22, 2008 at 11:15 pm |
  14. Mike from NC

    Let me see if I understand this, John McCain wants to take taxpayer money to buyout "bad" mortgages, and Barak Obama is the socialist. Did I get that right?

    October 22, 2008 at 11:15 pm |
  15. Donna Bader

    If I could ask McCain one question and he had to give me an honest answer iI would like to ask him if Palin was running for presedent would he vote for her?

    October 22, 2008 at 11:14 pm |
  16. Kerri Haworth

    I'm also fearful that Obama might lose due to dishonorable vote counts. And if Obama wins I'm concerned he will end up like Kennedy. America seems so polarized.

    October 22, 2008 at 11:14 pm |
  17. Mark Carney

    If Obama looses then it would be by some people waking up to the fact that if he wants to get back to the Clinton Gore prosperity then he will have to lose the tax and spend philosophy and make some politically hard choices. But first the electorate has to wake up from the stupor they are in about History, History can not run the future it only tells you where you have been. Kind of like driving in the rear view mirror.

    And another thing railing against McCain by calling him Busch will grow old when he refuses to state any facts about his political history and politicos know how Chicago and Illinois politics is played (dirty).

    His surrogates are the only ones I see throwing the race card in this election and if he wants to be the President of all the people he should run as far away from this as possible. It is what has held back half of his cultural roots because of the anger of being held down and out of higher offices.

    The only fear I have of him losing is that Detroit, Los Angeles, Philidelphia will see anger not seen since the 60's Watts led riots that destroyed a lot of communities across this country. I was a teenager and watched the TV coverage of those incidents. It was said but ironic that people would destroy there on infrastructure because they failed to be heard and it could happen again. Look at Rodney King O.J. Simpson and other incidents involving a racially charged content (police arrest an African American fleeing a crime scene etc) when it is clear that some of the officers are also African American.

    And Democrats are so ignorant but the media and the public probably are not interested but when Joe Biden criticise the Bush/Cheney Administration it is not hard to see that the Democrats must like what they see because they did the same thing as the Republicans did they nominated an inexperienced but smooth talking President candidate and had to find someone with experience in the foreign policy to help him and Joe Biden as much as admitted it in Seattle fund raiser!

    October 22, 2008 at 11:13 pm |
  18. andrew

    This race is still up for grabs, It all depends when the booth closes. The pundits could be screaming obama and just vote McCain

    October 22, 2008 at 11:12 pm |
  19. Ron , West Coast

    Mr. and Mrs. Larry Batek , You both are " NUTS "........

    October 22, 2008 at 11:09 pm |
  20. Mike from NC

    I just have know idea where McCain is coming from, his message changes with each new day.

    October 22, 2008 at 11:06 pm |
  21. R White

    There is another way for McCain to win which I haven't seen mentioned yet.

    It is if the silent majority is activated. If all conservatives, the whole of the religious right, all Christians, and the right leaning moderates get off their duffs, and actually get out and vote, they would turn the election for McCain. If near 100% of this block voted, they would outnumber the smaller percentage of liberals that will vote, thinking they've got it all sewed up.

    But people are lazy and are not motivated. They also believe too much of the propaganda that the left leaning press dish out every day. So conservatives will stay home, and that's exactly what the media leaders and the Obama crowd want.

    But it will only take one misstep. One certain thing said wrong and you'll see the right wake up, unite and Obama will lose. Don't count on it, but it could happen.

    October 22, 2008 at 11:05 pm |
  22. mikewelchsuperfanclub

    Lucy is right. Hold on to your voting machines. The republicans managed to pull voting machines from districts likely to vote for Kerry in Ohio last Pres. election. I'm sure they're up to something like that in Pennsylvania and maybe Virginia this time around.

    Hey Larry Batek, what do you have against persons with impaired sensory perception?

    October 22, 2008 at 11:03 pm |
  23. Mr. and Mrs. Larry Batek

    The foreign campaign dollars for Obama come from overseas donors
    interested in the overthrow of our Democracy. Barack Obama will lead this ballot bowl by outspending McCain $150M to $85M. Big oil is the
    Barack bundle. It's the new Messiah against modest McCain. Why is
    McCain's wealthy wife not spending her own money in Senator McCain's campaign to win this important vote for Commander and Chief? I am blind, deaf and really dumb to think that ours is really a Democracy. It is "Joe the plumber" against Goliath. Senator McCain has been asleep for the past two decades. "It's the economy stupid" coined by the great James Carville.
    Larry Batek

    October 22, 2008 at 10:24 pm |
  24. Lucy

    How Obama could still lose? Do your remember Florida in 2004. I think the consensus was by the media that Gore really did win Florida. The Republicans were charged with felony crimes with Watergate and Nixon. Gordon Liddy is a felon that had to do prison time and John McCain told him on his radio show that he was a hero of his. I see the same Republic same tricks being used that they use right at the end of the elections. They try to pull as many strings as they can and create chaos at the polling polls. Remember that many voting machines leave no paper trail. We didn't stop them in 2004, so we can only hope that they won't do it again.

    October 22, 2008 at 10:22 pm |
  25. Lisa

    Does McCain think he gets a "pass" on not being tried in the first 6 months in office? Sure he is a war vetran but even old war horses get tried one more time before put out to pasture.

    October 22, 2008 at 10:18 pm |
  26. Tom Downey

    The largest shift is tax burden in American History.

    Obama's tax on corporations will filter down to consumers, thus becoming a consumer tax that effects every one.

    Companies will maintain a profit margin or they go out of business and taking the jobs with them.

    Our American companies are not able to compete on the world market now, it will be impossible to compete with more taxes added.

    October 22, 2008 at 10:15 pm |
  27. pennyinmass


    October 22, 2008 at 9:58 pm |
  28. Annie Kate

    After all that has gone on in this election I can't conceive of it not being a close race at the end. Maybe Obama will win in a landslide but just maybe we will be waiting until every last vote is counted to see who wins. Lot can happen in 2 weeks – especially in this election. Election night should be very interesting – and probably very long.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    October 22, 2008 at 9:53 pm |
  29. Larry

    He better come out against the 'Fairness Doctrine'

    October 22, 2008 at 9:51 pm |
  30. Rob Virginia

    He could lose by a hate campaign. The reason I mention this, and I would hate to believe someone would stoop to it, but today I received in the mail "Obsession Radical Islam's War Against The West". Probably because I am a registered Independent. Sent to me by the Clarion Fund in the middle of a presidential race. This gift is so thinly veiled, that I now know who I am not voting for. I will not vote for McCain when using such low handed fear tactics. He probably wouldn’t understand anyways that if the economy of all countries, if fixed, would reduce terrorism anyways.

    October 22, 2008 at 9:43 pm |