From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** Analyzing the turnout: After crunching numbers for the last several months during the Clinton-Obama contest, we've been experiencing mathematical withdrawals now that the Dem race is over. In a word, we have the shakes. So to calm our nerves, we got out our abacuses and did some initial fooling around with projected popular vote. Using the 2004 results as a baseline, we were curious as to which states would swing to Obama if he does raise overall turnout by 20% (approximately another 22 million voters) and wins those new voters by a 60%-40% split. Assuming an even distribution -- which we know is potentially a flaw in this estimate, so back off! -- a 20% turnout increase breaking 60%-40% for Obama would swing four states from red to blue (Iowa, New Mexico, Nevada, and Ohio). If Obama wins the new voters by a 65%-35% margin, two more states come over (Colorado and Florida), with another (Virginia) essentially too close too call. We're going to crunch these numbers a number of ways over the next few weeks, including using the 2000 election as our baseline (since many folks believe 2004 over-estimates the GOP electorate); seeing what would happen if Obama runs a 50-state campaign but McCain runs a 17-state one; and finding out what the realistic maximum population vote advantage Obama could have while losing the electoral college. In the meantime, have fun with this model.
*** Shameless promotion time: Beyond turnout, which presidential candidate -- McCain or Obama -- has the clear advantage right now heading into November? Be sure to tune into NBC Nightly News or click onto MSNBC.com at 6:30 pm ET for the answer from our newest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.
*** Breaking away: No matter whether Obama or Clinton ended up with the nomination, there would have been congressional Democrats like Dan Boren -- who yesterday told the AP that Obama was the "most liberal senator" and that he wouldn't endorse him -- going public with their unease running with the person at the top of the ticket. Only a John Edwards probably would have made a Boren (or a Lincoln Davis in Tennessee) feel comfortable with the national profile of the Democratic Party. But then again, the RNC might have turned even Edwards into an East/West Coast liberal. The question is: How many other Dan Borens are out there? So far, it doesn't seem as many Dems are fleeing Obama like they did Kerry in 2004. The one big difference between McCain and Obama is that there are more Democrats who will publicly come out and say they are uneasy with Obama than there are Republicans who will say the same about McCain. On the other hand, there are not many Dems who will complain that Obama is not liberal enough; there are plenty of Republicans who will say McCain isn't conservative enough. And McCain's campaign doesn't mind losing a DeLay to Bob Barr, as that plays well with moderate Republicans. But losing a Hagel or a Powell isn't helpful…
*** William Tecumseh Strickland: Within minutes of the Boren news, NPR released its transcript of Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland making a Shermanesque statement about the veep slot. The RNC could not have been happier with the timing: Strickland's comments gave the appearance that moderate/centrist Dems were fleeing Obama left and right. But that impression is wrong. As the Atlantic's Marc Ambinder points out, Strickland said the exact same thing after he endorsed Hillary in November 2007. Here's the Columbus Dispatch from last year: "Strickland repeatedly has said he is not interested, even invoking the famous quote from Civil War general William Tecumseh Sherman: 'If nominated, I will not accept; if drafted, I will not run; if elected, I will not serve.'" It seems that Strickland just doesn't want to be veep. After all, the vetting process can be ugly and a lot of candidates end up taking themselves out because they don't want the hassle. But the timing of Strickland's comments was not good for Obama. In fact, Strickland probably owes the Illinois senator. When Obama stumps in Ohio on Friday, will we see Strickland give Obama a fist pump?
*** Speaking of veepstakes: As we reported yesterday morning, congressional Dems are meeting with Obama veep vetters Jim Johnson and Eric Holder -- and not surprisingly, a lot is leaking out. The big leak was the floating of former NATO Supreme Allied Commander James Jones, an unknown in political circles, but a military guy whom everyone on both sides of the aisle seem to have a high opinion of. In addition, our reporting indicates that Strickland (who now wants off…) and Biden dominated the initial conversations. But realize, folks, that sometimes this stuff leaks on purpose. And the floating of Gen. Jones, for instance, could simply be an attempt to raise his name recognition, so that when he endorses Obama over McCain, the endorsement means something. And don't forget to vote in MSNBC.com's interactive Veepstakes tournament. Voting for the Dems began yesterday, while the GOP field has been cut to the Elite Eight. It's HOURS of fun, so start clicking!
*** The first attack ad of the general? Here's an excerpt of the radio spot that McCain is running in South Florida: "As someone who has survived the harsh conditions of the Vietnamese prisons, John McCain knows that freedom in Cuba won't be achieved with concessions to dictatorships." OK, so it's not a direct attack, but the implication is there and Cubans who listen to talk radio (a huge bloc of Cuban influentials in South Florida) will know exactly who is being talked about in this ad. Obama has a position on Cuba that potentially could split the Cuban community along generational lines, no wonder McCain wants to get going on this issue first and define the terms of the debate to cut Obama's potential to pick off younger Cubans.
*** Obama's bad answer on Jim Johnson: Obama's response on this issue yesterday was odd. "Well, look ... first of all, I am not vetting my vice presidential search committee for their mortgages," Obama answered. "I mean this is a game that can be played -- everybody you know who is anybody who is tangentially related to our campaign I think is going to have a whole host of relationships… These aren't folks who are working for me. They are not people, you know, who I have assigned to a job in the future administration." He basically said Johnson was a volunteer. While technically true, isn't he volunteering for arguably the most important job on the campaign right now: helping select Obama's vice president? Seriously, this may be the worst answer Obama has ever given in print. Overall, the campaign seemed surprisingly unprepared for the vetting of the vetter.
*** On the trail: McCain gives a speech in Philadelphia later this morning and then heads to Boston for a fundraiser. Obama, after cancelling his event in Cedar Rapids, IA due to the flooding there, has a town hall in Chicago, where he'll talk about credit cards and predatory lending with debt expert Elizabeth Warren.
Countdown to Dem convention: 75 days
Countdown to GOP convention: 82 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 146 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 223 days
Click here to sign up for First Read emails.
Text FIRST to 622639, to sign up for First Read alerts to your mobile phone.