First rule of a presidential election: It’s not the popular votes, it’s the electoral votes that get you elected. They are based on winning states’ electoral votes rather than the total votes cast. In a recent example, Al Gore had more votes than George W. Bush in the 2000 election, but Bush became president.
So where on the map should we be looking to see a change since President Obama’s announcement? Mostly in those famous swing states. Let’s look at just a few of them to see what’s happening out of the Washington, D.C., New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco bubble. Here are the vote margins for Obama in each of the swing states in 2008, followed by the total votes cast in that state, then the state outcome of the 2004 election between Democrat John Kerry and Republican George W. Bush.
Colorado: 196,658 (2.3 million total votes). In 2004, Bush beat Kerry by nearly 100,000.
Florida: 204,577 (8.1 million total votes). In 2004, Bush beat Kerry by approximately 380,900 votes.
North Carolina: 13,692 (4.3 million total votes). In 2004, Bush beat Kerry by over 400,000 votes.
New Mexico: 120,638 (816,000 total votes). In 2004, Bush beat Kerry by almost 6,000 votes.
Ohio: 206,830 (5.3 million total votes). In 2004, Bush beat Kerry by over 118,000.
Pennsylvania: 605,820 (5.8 million total votes). In 2004, Kerry beat Bush by 144,000 votes.
Virginia: 232,317 (3.7 million total votes). In 2004, Bush beat Kerry by over 262,000 votes.
Wisconsin: 412,293 (3 million total votes). In 2004, Kerry beat Bush by 11,000.
Note how slim the margin of votes was in one of the Democrats’ best years ever. The election of 2008 was handpicked for almost any Democratic nominee, with President Bush bringing the country to its knees in wars and the economy and then the Republican nominee John McCain picking a lightweight like Sarah Palin as his vice-president candidate. The Democrats picked a man who could appeal to the mass public with hope, and could inspire with his speeches. But the Republican P.R. machine started working against Obama on day one of his administration — and the misinformation has taken its toll.
North Carolina is a prime example. Obama’s strongest base there is the black community. Will he lose some votes among blacks in the state because of his pro-marriage equality stance? The answer is yes. It will be small, but how small? Will it be 13,692, his margin of victory in that state? Will enough of the youth vote come out to make up any of those losses? With the youth vote energized in 2008 stronger than ever with hope and now disillusioned by the reality of politics, the answer most likely is no. There is still a debate on the Latino vote and, other than those three, the other sections of the Obama coalition support the president’s equality stand and will stay strong. He will pick up some LGBT votes who stayed home or voted for McCain in 2008, but that is a small number. Each state has its own scenario. Chances are he loses North Carolina due in part to evangelicals energized over this issue.
But there is other good news. Let’s look at the trifecta of elections in Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio. Ohio is one of the states for which Obama has an incredible story to tell: jobs, jobs, jobs. They have them thanks to the president’s auto bailout that Romney opposed. Bush only won the state by 118,000 votes during a decline in the economy and Obama won it by 200,000. Ohio looks good, and no Republican has won the White House without Ohio. Same with Pennsylvania, where he’s leading in the polls by 8 percent. Obama can lose 400,000 votes and still win. But Florida is a toss up. And a recent poll shows him 4 percent behind Romney. It has a history of going Republican, but last time around Obama eked out a victory.
This is all stated without one known factor: The super PACs. My concern is that in the closing days of the campaign, they’ll do mass mailings to Republicans and evangelicals, and the 17 percent of Americans who say they oppose equality and would vote against it (source: NBC poll). So there is work to be done. The day for equality and Obama has not been won yet.
Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.