Polls & the politics betting markets suggest that Obama is the candidate most likely to be elected president. I think a McCain victory is more likely so, to get my 2 cents in before the post-McCain victory deluge, I’ll explain in advance why I think the Dems will lose, & what they can do about it.
First, where are we now? The polls I’ve seen indicate that Americans want the next president to be a Democrat rather than Republican by a margin of 16 to 18 percentage points. Asked to choose between Clinton & McCain, however, potential voters consistently choose McCain by a small margin. Obama beats McCain in hypothetical head-to-head contests, by somewhere between a (statistically insignificant) few points and about 10 points. So, right off the bat we can see that either the Dems have picked candidates that are liked less than their party, or the Repubs have picked a candidate who is more popular than his party — or both.
Election futures markets have the best prediction track records — better than pundits or polls. The Intrade market currently gives Clinton a 17% chance of winning the presidency, McCain a 34% chance, & Obama 49%. The odds of the Dems, as a party, winning are 66% to 34%. Strong stuff, but I believe that the Democratic candidates’ demographic profiles are likely to lead to a Republican upset.
What type of president does the country want? A Southern, male, Protestant, Democrat, of northern European descent, who was moderately opposed to the Iraq war.
The demographics are straightforward. Since the Democrats led in passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, ending their support from the South, there have been ten presidential elections, in which the Democrats have nominated 8 candidates. Five candidates were from somewhere other than Dixie, and all 5 lost. The 3 remaining candidates are white male Southern Protestants. Two of them won outright at least once, & the third (who was hurt by running with a Jewish Yankee and against a Southerner) won the popular vote.
It’s very unlikely that a candidate will lose the entire South this year yet still win the national election. Since neither of the Democratic candidates fits the demographic profile of a winner in the South, an obvious question is: have Southerners’ preferences changed? And the answer, judging by the past 2 elections, is: no. The Bush/Cheney ticket was more Southern than both the Gore/Lieberman and the Kerry/Edwards tickets, and every Southern state went to the former, while Bush lost both elections outside of Dixie. (Gore/Edwards would have won either election.)
It’s hard to put odds on this year’s election. McCain isn’t a Southerner; Clinton is sorta half-Southern; the mood in the country is pessimistic; the Repubs are discredited… In a normal year, & just going by demographics, & not knowing the VPs yet (Gore would be perfect), I’d say Obama would have a 1 in 5 chance of winning the election; Clinton would have maybe a 1 in 4 chance. This year? Obama or Clinton will have about a 1 in 3 chance of winning, I’d guess.
The Dems need a Southern strategy.