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Featured on Fox 5 Atlanta: 34 Days and 34,000 Polls to Go

Thirty-four days out and many are already writing the obituary of the GOP in this election, and not all of them are members of the leftist media. I hear it from GOP activists and right winged bloggers. Some like Kathleen Parker have even suggested that Sarah Palin drop off the ticket to give McCain any chance of winning. The big “O” seems to have the big “Mo” as we head into the final lap of October.

But I would never count McCain out, especially not this far out. There are also plenty of reasons that the GOP should be hopeful and the Democrats be deathly afraid. Given the long laundry list of things going against the GOP this cycle, Obama should be blowing out McCain.

Problem for the Dems is he’s not.

The Real Clear Politics website currently lists fourteen states as solid for Obama (171 electoral votes), seven states as leaning Obama (88 electoral votes), twenty states solid for McCain (158 electoral votes), one state leaning McCain (5 electoral votes) and nine states (116 electoral votes) as toss ups.

Of those seven states leaning Obama, only one, Colorado, has been a traditionally GOP state. But Colorado, which Bush carried by 8.4% in 2000 and 4.7% in 2004, has been trending Democrat. Despite that trend, still, Obama is only leading within the margin of error in most of the polls.

Other states that have been reliably Democrat for the last several presidential elections like New Jersey (last GOP 1988), Pennsylvania (last GOP 1988), Washington (last GOP 1984), Michigan (last GOP 1988), and Wisconsin (last GOP 1984) are all in the “leaning Obama” column. These are states that Obama should be running away with.

Despite Democrats crowing about Jonathan Martin’s report in The Politico that McCain is pulling his resources out of Michigan, these days, meaning for the past 20 years, a win in Michigan would only be considered icing on the cake, but not necessary for the GOP to win.

What should frighten Democrats are Minnesota’s 10 electoral votes. The Grand Old Party has not carried Minnesota in a presidential election since Nixon’s 1972 landslide. In 1984, it was the only state Reagan lost as the Gipper took other Democrat strongholds like Massachusetts, New York, Hawaii, Vermont, etc, well, everything but Minnesota and Washington, D.C.

If the GOP has to make up for losing Colorado’s 9 votes, it can do so with Minnesota’s 10.

In fact, of the toss up states, McCain does have to go 7 and 2 to win, depending on the make-up of those victories. If McCain loses Nevada and New Hampshire, but wins the rest, he wins the election by one electoral vote. If he loses Minnesota and wins those other two, they tie and the Democrat United States House of Representative (in theory) elects Obama President while the Republican Senate (assuming Lieberman votes with the GOP creating a 50-50 tie with Dick Cheney being the tie breaker) elects either McCain or Palin Vice-President.

Add to that, polls tend to naturally skew themselves towards the Democrats.

This is how polling works. Polling organizations call from registered voter lists. Some of them will try to determine how likely an individual is to vote and report only those who say they are more likely to vote (RV versus LV).

One thing polls have a difficult time doing is judging voter intensity. The fact is, the average registered Democrat is less likely to make it to the polls on Election Day than the average Republican.

Case in point:

In the last polls before Election Day in 2004, John Kerry was leading Bush in Florida by as much as 5 points. Bush won 52 – 47%.

In Ohio, Bush was reliably ahead in the final days, but he had been trailing Kerry in the polls most of October after leading most of September by large margins. Bush ended up winning 51 – 49%.

Hawaii was a different situation. Kerry had been up by as much as 10% when all of a sudden, a couple of polls put Bush with a slight lead. In the end, Kerry won the reliably Democrat state by 9 points.

Other states where Kerry had maintained large leads ended with a much tighter victory for the Democrat nominee. For example, Kerry led in Pennsylvania by as much as 8% in October, but won the state 51 – 49%, and Kerry never called Pennsylvanians bitter people who cling to their guns and religion.

And sometimes a state’s history is the best predictor of how things will end. Wisconsin was back and forth throughout October with Bush up by 8 at one point late in the month and then Kerry up by 6 in the next poll. As I said above, Reagan was the last Republican to win the Dairy State. Kerry took it 50 – 49% with only about 11,000 votes separating the two.

Minnesota – Kerry up by 8 points the weekend before and finishes winning by only 2%.

Iowa – polls split in the weekend going into the election with Zogby giving it to Kerry by 5% and Fox News giving it to Bush by 4%. Voters gave it to Bush by 1% in another traditionally Democrat state.

Republican over Democrat voter turnout is usually good for about 2-6% on Election Day. Obama’s leads are not what they should be given Bush’s approval numbers.

Like any other race, it will come down to turnout. McCain’s problem is what it always has been, getting the base to come out for him. But McCain was considered dead in the water this time a year ago. Last fall, McCain had no money and was lagging in the polls behind most of the crowd. Only in the national polls where McCain had high name ID was he even considered a contender. McCain’s who political career, heck, his whole life, has been about surviving situations where most couldn’t.

Originally published at MyFoxAtlanta and featured as part of the political reports on the 2008 election.