If the latest SUSA poll from North Carolina is to be believed, Clinton has an outside chance of winning there, leading McCain by six, while Obama trails by eight. Along with Missouri, in addition to the rest of the “Casey belt,” this would be yet another state where Clinton appears to be more competitive. Her North Carolina advantage seems to come almost primarily from white women Democratic voters. While Obama hemorrhages 28% of Democrats, she cuts down that crossover to just 17%, and she improves among women by 10 points over Obama; she also wins independents, while Obama loses them by 9. This suggests that North Carolina can be had, but not necessarily by Obama, which is a bit ironic considering that it has been the Obama campaign that has talked the most about being more competitive in the South.
This ties in to the Electoral College math discussion that has been going on. Rasmussen shows Obama running much better in Colorado, to be sure, but in the trade-off between the states he can win and those he is likely to lose he ends up with far fewer electoral votes. Interestingly, North Dakota and Nebraska seem to be more competitive than I had thought, but if the rationale for an Obama nomination becomes, “He might flip Virginia, North Dakota and Nebraska!” it doesn’t seem very compelling because it still seems so far-fetched.
What is really remarkable about all of this is how closely contested the presidential race seems to be despite the immense structural advantages that the Democrats undoubtedly have. Then again, the first post-Watergate presidential election was extremely close and the badly damaged incumbent party’s candidate made up an enormous deficit over the summer and fall and almost pulled off a comeback. Arguably, the GOP’s reputation was not as badly damaged in 1976 as it is today, and the close result in 1976 might owe a lot to having an incumbent President on the ticket, but ’76 is a good example of a Democratic victory that almost wasn’t. For the longest time I assumed that structural advantages, the war and anti-incumbency would doom the GOP nominee, and I pushed that view for months in 2007. It made sense, and it still makes a certain amount of sense, but the public is not cooperating with this scenario when it comes to the presidential race. Given how close the race is in this extraordinarily pro-Democratic year, you have to wonder how much worse Clinton and Obama would be polling in a more normal presidential election.