In today’s WaPo, Harold Meyerson is again running different electoral strategies. As he sees it, the Democrats need to hold all the states won by Gore and win Ohio. Meyerson also points out, correctly that Democratic lead among Ohio’s registered voters has increased by 1 point since 9/11. That’s correct as far as it goes, but Meyerson doesn’t really discuss just how difficult it will be for Democrats to hold the states won by Gore. The Pew survey cited by Meyerson shows that in 6 states won by Gore, the Republicans have surged into lead among registered voters. These states (Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Vermont) constitute 79 Electoral College votes. In contrast, only Mississippi and Maine with 10 Electoral College votes have seen the Democrats take the lead in party registration from Republicans. Of course, having a lead in registered voters doesn’t translate into winning the state, but it does show how much the Democrats have slipped since 9/11.
Furthermore, all of this talk of ground game, GOTV efforts, and targeting crucial states is for naught if the Democrats can’t at least get to within spitting distance of 50 percent of the vote. And the Pew survey, along with most others, suggests that such a prospect is looking unlikely. Bush’s approval ratings have fallen substantially from their post-9/11 highs, but he’s still in the mid to high 50s. That’s a pretty good position to be in. This means that for the Democrats things have to get worse for them to have a chance at knocking off Bush. That’s looking less and less likely with the economy. On social issues, if anything, the recent ruling on gay marriage will further add to the Republican advantage here. That leaves Iraq, and here the Democrats not only have to hope for decreased support for Bush, but (and most crucially) the majority of voters has to see the Democratic nominee as a credible alternative to Bush on this issue. And there’s no evidence of that happening yet.