Or, alternate title, McCain's Hail Mary Pass?
I'm not one of those that thinks it's in the bag for Obama. I remember all the folks that went to sleep in 2000 on election night thinking Gore had won only to awaken to W. for 8 years. I, of course, stayed up almost all night watching that train wreck and continued watching for weeks until it was "sorted" out. However, many, many pundits, Dems and Repubs, are all but calling the election for Obama barring some type of game changing event. Again, it's not just Obama supporters. McCain's campaign infighting coupled with all the Republican writers and politicians that have endorsed Obama seem to indicate that at least some Republicans think Obama is going to win or at the very least is the better candidate. (see here blog post 27-side note and blog posts 23 & 22 respectively). As if that's not enough, the National Republican Senatorial Commission has come out with another campaign commercial assuming a Democratic victory in the presidential election.
But I digress, even if just two of the east coast/Midwest swing states (Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio and Virgina - the "swing states" for the purposes of this post) go for Obama it could be a short lived contest on election night. Why? Because given the way the electoral college map stands today McCain would absolutely need to win all the remaining swing states except for either Indiana or Missouri if Obama wins Colorado and Nevada. Play with the electoral college map yourself if you don't believe me: http://www.270towin.com/
Even if McCain flips either or both Colorado and Nevada, he would still need all but one or two of the east coast/Midwest swing states.
Again, I certainly do not take a win in any state, much less a swing state, for granted because the (over?) confidence of some Obama supporters and the doubt of some McCain supporters could could seriously affect voter turnout.
That confidence/doubt could do three things, the last two being mutually exclusive. First (#1), over confidence could cause Obama supporters and Independents leaning Obama to stay home because they think their candidate is going to cruise to victory. Secondly (#2), that confidence could galvanize the Republican base and Republican leaning Independents, getting them to turn out in higher percentages. Or, thirdly (#3) and mutually exclusive with the previous (#2) possibility, the Republican doubt of a win could make some Republicans and Republican leaning Independents stay home.
What is more likely to happen and if it happened how would it determine the race? To find out what will happen we'll have to wait until election day and hope the poll numbers stay relatively consistent between now and then.
But, what would the impact be on the race if any of the above happened we can explore right now. If #1 alone or coupled with #2 happens then it could be an extremely close electoral college race. Especially key, it could turn the tide in Virgina and Pennsylvania where Obama's leads in the polls are statistically significant but not insurmountable. If #3 alone or #3 and #1 happen together then it could be a landslide for Obama.
A key factor to keep in mind: only about 27% of Americans consider themselves or identify with the Republican party versus about 36% that consider themselves or identify with the Democratic party, depending on which poll you trust.
So even if all the self described Republicans turn out, they still may need a sizable amount of Dems to stay home to hope to achieve a victory in the swing states. So, if Pennsylvania and any of the other east coast swing states go for Obama it will likely be a long night for McCain. If McCain can flip Pennsylvania and win all other the other swing states except for either Indiana or Missouri then, McCain will have achieved a remarkable comeback.
Lastly, here's another hail Mary scenario for a McCain win that I saw in a comment to an article that was way too confident of an Obama victory. And it doesn't involve looking too much at polls and the electoral college:
Essentially, the hail Mary would involve:
1) Sen. Stevens steps aside as a candidate and resigns immediately.
2) Gov. Palin appoints herself to the open Senate seat.
3) Now Sen. Palin simultaneously takes her name off the ballot for VP and accepts the Republican nomination for Senator from Alaska.
4) McCain puts Tom Ridge (former Gov. of Pennsylvania) on the ballot for VP.
Then, McCain could pull out a victory in Pennsylvania and maybe even Virgina and Florida making it a really interesting finale. It's a long shot but you never know, McCain is a maverick and apparently so is Palin.