October 6, 2008


Things are looking really, really good for Camp Obama right now. Fivethirtyeight.com is projecting an Obama win in 87.4% of its randomized sample elections. That's seven out of eight. Intrade is a bit more moderate in its projection -- you can buy an "Obama to win" future worth $100 for $65.90. Seems like a safe bet to me. "McCain to win" futures are selling for $35.00 right now, so if you feel like lighting thirty-five bucks on fire... The AP has Obama ahead by 7 points. Marist College has Obama ahead by 5. CBS, by 9. Rasmussen by 8, Gallup by 7.

Now, sober analysts point out that elections always narrow as the actual election date approaches. But the outcome does not seem to be in any serious doubt at this point.

But the question I'm contemplating this morning is -- will Obama have substantial coattails? It seems inevitable that Democrats will make gains in Congress. Depending on how you count it, five to seven Republican Senate seats are questionable, if not leaning Democratic, as of this moment. No Democrat up for re-election is in any danger at all -- not a single one. Democrats are certain to hang on to the House and again, depending on who you talk to, stand to make relatively modest pickups. For instance, Congressional Quarterly suggests that twelve Republican seats, and one Democratic seat, are currently projected to switch control. That would be a net pickup of eleven seats for the Democrats in the House -- enough to be felt, but not enough to deny Republicans enough power to kill a moderately unpopular bill if they really, really wanted to.

This would be firmer control by the Democrats of Congress, but not so absolute as to render Republicans irrelevant. If the Republicans who survive in the minority maintain party discipline, there would still be enough Republicans in the Senate to mount a filibuster and there would still be enough Republicans in the House to put a stop on tax increases (but not enough to put a stop on social welfare spending increases). Coupled with the plans suggested by the Obama Administration and what seems to be a reasonable projection of significnatly diminished tax revenues as a result of the financial collapse underway as I write, the result of this state of affairs, inevitably, would be a significantly increased deficit.

Perhaps President Obama will alter his agenda from Candidate Obama's platform to mitigate this. I hope so. But I doubt it. Perhaps Candidate Obama will increase his legislative coattails. He could do that, if he focused his efforts there, and emerge a stronger President as a result. But I doubt he will do that, either. Instead, he will focus his efforts on increasing his margin of victory in the Electoral College -- he's making plays for Florida, Indiana, North Carolina, and Missouri right now; look in the near future to see him pushing McCain on defense in traditionally Republican states with large Democratic minorities, places like Georgia, Tennessee, Montana. Also look for him to make a pay for West Virginia (!) because the economy theme plays especially well there. But a mostly-blue electoral map will not help him govern come January 21, 2009.

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