The 9th Soul

How McCain can pull it off

Posted in politics by Fated Blue on November 4, 2008

President John McCain: it could happen.

True, the math looks pretty daunting for the Arizona senator as voters head to the polls tomorrow. On paper, it seems improbable, with Democrat Barack Obama leading in every major national poll, as well as in numerous battleground states expected to determine the winner.

But impossible? There have been greater comebacks. The Red Sox recovered from a three-game deficit in 2004 to win four games straight against the Yankees, as Sox star pitcher Curt Schilling, a McCain supporter, noted in Peterborough, New Hampshire, on Sunday as he stumped with the GOP nominee.

And while Obama has run a relatively error-free campaign, political experts notes, “almost perfect” doesn’t guarantee the big prize.

“The Patriots lost the Super Bowl,” noted Frank Donatelli, deputy director of the Republican National Committee, referring to the Pats’ loss in the Super Bowl last season after an otherwise perfect season. As for the polls, alternately revered and dreaded by the campaigns, Donatelli is skeptical.

“Everywhere I’ve gone, there is just tremendous enthusiasm” for McCain, Donatelli said today in between visits to Virginia, Pennsylvania, Missouri and Ohio. “These polls that show a huge disparity between Republican and Democratic [turnout] are just not going to pan out,” he said.

Political analysts have handicapped the race for Obama, predicting he will win all of the states Democrat John Kerry took in 2004, plus a combination of victories in Iowa, New Mexico, Colorado — and possibly Virginia and Nevada — that would put Obama over the 270 electoral majority mark. Obama is also competitive in in Florida, North Carolina and Ohio, and even once reliably-GOP states like Montana and Georgia are in play. The battle for Missouri is a dead heat.

Still, the races in the battleground states are still quite close, with Obama’s numerical edge well within the margin of error. Further, McCain has edged up in a couple of polls in North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania, giving Republicans hope for a major upset.

“Nothing’s over until it’s over. While polls in a lot of these key swing states show Obama with slim to modest leads, there is always the possibility of late movement in public opinion,” said Michael Dimmock, associate director of the Pew Research Center.

McCain would almost certainly have to win Pennsylvania and its 21 electoral votes to beat Obama, they said. “There’s a mathematical way to do it, but it’s an inside straight at best,” Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, said in assessing McCain’s challenge.

It’s possible to come up with arithmetic that would leave the electoral college vote tied at 269-269. In that case, the decision would go to Congress, with the House choosing the president (each state’s delegation would get one vote) and the Senate choosing the vice president.

The votes would be taken in the next Congress, and since Democrats are expected to expand their majorities in both chambers, Obama and Senator Joe Biden would likely be sent to the White House, said Judith Best, a political science professor at the State University of New York College at Cortland. But the likelihood of that happening is extremely small, she said.

Of course, the Buffalo Bills were losing by 32 points into the third quarter against the Houston Oilers in the 1993 AFC Wild Card playoff game, only to come back and beat the Oilers 41-38, eventually advancing to the Super Bowl.

Are all those sports comeback scenarios warming the hopes of McCain supporters? “We remember those games because quite likely, it will never happen again,” said Andrew Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center.

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