With Obama inching ever closer to clinching the Democratic nomination, some of his opponents have resorted to a campaign aimed at convincing superdelegates that, no matter how much they like him, "Obama just can't win."
In fact, the odds are good that Obama will win the Presidency. And if Democrats execute with precision during the campaign, the odds are good that he will win with a healthy margin. Here's why:
If the election were held today - before the campaign begins - polling shows that he would have very high odds of winning states with 273 electoral votes, more than the 270 needed to win election. More importantly, he would win this victory without needing the states of Ohio, New Hampshire, Nevada, Virginia or Florida.
The people at the website www.fivethirtyeight.com have created a statistical model to predict the odds that a candidate will win each state in the general election. The model is based on a regression analysis of recent polling and sixteen additional political and demographic factors. It assigns a likely vote spread and the numerical odds that a particular candidate will win the state. The model updates its findings regularly based on recent polling data from the state.
As the campaign begins, the model predicts that 22 states, with a total of 273 electoral votes, will go for Obama. These include the obvious states of California, New York, Illinois, Washington, Oregon and most of New England. They also include swing states like New Mexico, Colorado, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan and Pennsylvania. As it happens, the model predicts that Obama's odds of victory are no lower than 63% in any of these states.
But the model also shows that a number of additional states are right at the tipping point for Obama. Obama's odds of winning Ohio's additional 20 electoral votes are about even, at 49.8%. His odds in Nevada are 46%. His odds in New Hampshire are 45%. If he adds these three states, his total increases to 302 electoral votes.
These are the numbers before the general election campaign begins. They are based on what voters say they will do today, and on voter turnout assumptions that generally reflect past elections. They are, in other words, based on past behavior. While it is true that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, it is the job of a political campaign to change that behavior. After all, if a campaign were not about changing the behavior of the voters, we should all just go to the beach for the next five months instead of knocking on doors, raising money, making speeches and all the rest.
And the odds are that this campaign, as it unfolds, will result in an even wider Obama victory.
The more people get to know Obama, the more likely it is that he will get their support. But the more they know about McCain, the less likely they are to vote his way.
Polling shows that McCain substantially outperforms a generic Republican candidate in the presidential contest. Though the Bush legacy has greatly tarnished the Republican brand, many people start out thinking that McCain is not a standard-issue Republican. Instead they view him as a "maverick," an "independent."
The problem is that the more they get to know him, the more they learn that on most of questions that really matter, especially trickle-down economics and neo-con foreign policy, McCain and Bush are twins. After all, as a Senator, McCain has voted with Bush 95% of the time.
In our polling, as people learn about McCain's record of supporting Bush's policies, they begin to drop him quicker than you can say McBush.
Every time Bush attacks Obama the way he did last week before the Israeli Knesset, he does Obama a huge favor. Anything that ties Bush to McCain - including his current fundraising tour for McCain - is a blessing. One of the campaign's biggest jobs will be to keep Bush in the message frame.
People behave just the opposite as they learn more about Obama. Obama's initial problem with some swing voters is that while they know he is charismatic, they are worried whether he is safe enough - whether he is really like them - whether he's really on their side. Barack Obama is a likable, engaging person. The more that voters know of him, the more that they see his family, the more that he becomes part of their everyday experience - the more comfortable they become with him.
In Illinois, where the voters know him best, the same demographic groups that are skeptical elsewhere give him their support.
Obama's campaign will change the electorate. It will massively increase turnout among minorities and young people.
Based on past history, Ohio has even odds of going for Obama. What happens if there is a huge spike in turnout among African Americans and young people? Obama takes Ohio by a respectable margin. The fact is that there is no plausible scenario where McCain wins in November that does not involve Ohio.
In the fall, Hispanics will not break as heavily for Obama as African Americans, but they are likely to give him a two-to-one margin. Increased Hispanic voter turnout in Nevada will tip that state for Obama and guarantee big margins in Colorado and New Mexico.
I believe that big increases in the African American and youth vote will also place a large number of other states into play including Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, Mississippi, Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana. By placing these traditionally Republican states into play this fall, the Obama campaign will force the Republicans to play defense on their home turf and spread their resources. When you're on the defense, you're losing. No traditionally Democratic state will really be in play.
Obama's massive small-donor fundraising base will give his campaign a huge advantage on this new, wider playing field.
In this political environment, Obama's persona and message will resonate with swing voters. Eighty percent of the voters think that America is on the wrong track. Obama is change. McCain is the past.
From the beginning of his primary campaign, Obama has had one consistent message: change you can believe in. He appeals for unity not division, for hope instead of fear, and to the fundamental premise that we're all in this together, not all in this alone. This resonates with voters tired of the division, fear and selfishness of the Bush years.
Finally, Obama's ability to inspire is a massive general election asset. Not only will it motivate his base, it will also attract independents and Republicans in record numbers. The reason is simple: when someone is inspired they feel empowered. People of all sorts want to be empowered; they want to have meaning in their lives. They want to be part of something big and important and historic.
The one thing we have learned again this year is that anything can happen in politics and those who predict with certainty will almost certainly be wrong. But if we set aside our cynicism - if we commit ourselves to victory this fall - I believe that we will all be part of something historic.
I believe that Barack Obama can win by more than 300 electoral votes and 54% or more of the popular vote. I believe that Democrats can take another 25 seats in the House and five to seven seats in the Senate. I believe that this could be a transformational election of the sort that happened last in 1932 when Franklin Roosevelt launched the New Deal that made America the most prosperous society in human history, and committed our country to all of his famous "Four Freedoms:" freedom of speech and expression, freedom of religion, freedom from want and freedom from fear.
And what's most exciting is that more than any election in modern political history, this election will be decided less by the strategies of a few political consultants than by what millions of everyday political activists do to make their mark on history over the next 161 days.
Robert Creamer is a long time political organizer and strategist and author of the recent book, Stand Up Straight. How Progressives Can Win, available on amazon.com