The first national electoral college polls are out from SurveyUSA, showing Obama v McCain and Clinton v McCain (via Slog). They show both Clinton and Obama beating McCain, though in different ways and by slightly different margins. Let's set all complaints about the fallibility of polls aside. Certainly several of these states are well within the margin of error. Nonetheless a poll like this represents a somewhat probable outcome, which is why people bother to do polls despite their drawbacks.
Here's the big story: Despite winning the "important" "battleground" states of Florida and Ohio, Clinton comes away with fewer Electoral College votes than Obama, quite contrary to what the battleground math (done for instance by The Stranger's Josh Feit) would have suggested (FL + OH > MN + WI + VA) and even though Obama also loses Pennsylvania.
How? Because Hillary manages to lose such states as WA, OR, NV and NH. States with idealistic Democrats in the cities and a whole lot of Republicans and shoot-from-the-hip Independents in the hinterlands. Not to mention Michigan and Iowa. States that don't immediately come to mind as battlegrounds because maybe in the past they haven't really been battlegrounds, but when a Republican with a maverick reputation is on the ticket the past no longer is an adequate guide to the future. Just because Florida was the deciding factor for the last couple of elections doesn't mean that it always will be; presidential elections come along far too seldom for us to know where the battles will be. Though in fact the Clinton campaign would have to rely on taking Florida and Ohio and Pennsylvania, thus ensuring that the old battlegrounds remain.
But the Obama map shows that there is a road to Democratic victory that doesn't require winning the rust-belt interests of Ohioans; the coal interests in Pennsylvania; or the Cuban and New York expat votes in Florida. These states have received disproportionate national attention to their local interests that are dysfunctional for the country as a whole. (The overemphasis on placating Floridians in particular has led to some of the stupidest politics in this country--including our inability to move forward with a new policy toward Cuba, and the Schiavo mess which was basically a local story played on the national stage due to the perception that Florida is a must-win state.)
The Clinton-McCain map also suggests a possible road to victory for McCain, especially if Clinton takes the nomination in a manner that alienates would-be Democratic voters. If McCain wins the Northwest and the other states suggested by this poll, he only needs another 8 votes to flip it for the win. (Considering how close New Mexico and Pennsylvania are, and considering that FL and Ohio aren't sure things, this is possible if not entirely likely.) That isn't to say that Obama would be a sure thing (look to the margins in North Dakota, VA, and NH). But it does look like McCain makes Clinton fight to keep some traditionally Democratic states, whereas Obama makes McCain fight to keep some states that Republicans have long taken for granted.
(Including, by the way, Texas--which the poll shows McCain winning by a single percentage point against Obama, versus 7 points against Clinton. And I gotta say, as a symbolic victory would there be any more potent condemnation of Bush than for the Dems to come to power riding on a victory in the former president's home state? Oh how I want it.
Um, also, re: Texas... isn't Hillary supposed to deliver the Hispanic voters to the Dems? Because if so why the heck is it Obama who puts Texas into play for us?)
Hell, if the Democratic primary gets messy enough, I may well vote for McCain over Clinton. I liked him fine as my senator while I was in AZ, and frankly while I don't like everything he says he plans to do I at least trust him that it's what he's really planning. The more I see of Hillary Clinton the less I like her and the less I trust her to do anything aside from that which accrues power to herself. And haven't we had enough presidents like that already? Some people may disbelieve that the Northwest could go red, but I don't doubt it for a moment.