One of Barack Obama’s real advantages over John McCain is his ability to pour his incredible amount of money into states that haven’t seen real Democratic Presidential campaigns in ages.
Battleground states with lots of electoral votes will continue to draw enormous attention and resources from both sides. This much won’t change. But Obama will have the money to compete in key “purple” states and traditionally “red” states Dems would otherwise be inclined to ignore.
McCain may be looking at the map and think a state like North Carolina is an easy win. And maybe it will be. But when the polls show the state competitive, and Obama starts pumping quite a bit of money into the state, will McCain keep up? Will he gamble? If he decides he can’t take the risk, which state will suddenly get less money?
John McCain is going to be forced to run his campaign on a relatively shoestring budget. He’ll have about $85 million for the general election, but Obama could easily raise triple that. Obviously, there’s a limit to the effectiveness of TV ads in a general election, but what if Obama decides to spend $30 million registering, identifying and turning out Democratic voters in a state like North Carolina, which is “red” in Presidential politics but where Democrats have faired well in state and local elections. Or what if he dumps that $30 million into Texas, registering Latino voters and reactivating the incredible machine he built for the Democratic Primary and Caucus in March? Or what if he uses the money to make sure that every voter in Florida knows that McCain opposes a national hurricane insurance fund and voted against cleaning up the Everglades? How can McCain respond to that?
The other factor that will allow Obama to significantly expand the map is the presence of Bob Barr in the race. Barr is already polling well in states like North and South Carolina where Obama could already have been marginally competitive. Add to that the fact that in Georgia, Barr’s home state and where he polls the best at the moment, the Obama campaign plans to register half a million new black voters who have never showed up before. In 2004 Kerry lost to Bush by only 550,000 or so votes in Georgia, with the Libertarian candidate only taking about 20,000 votes. If I were McCain I’d be very frightened by those numbers. Barr could also do well in states with preexisting libertarian leanings, like the Mountain West and Southwest, plus Alaska. If McCain has to compete there, how much can he throw into the big swing states like Florida, Ohio and Virginia?