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Painting America Purple

Can Rudy Giuliani, seen here campaigning in South Carolina, really change the electoral map or is America moving in the other direction. (AP).

After a decade of red and blue politics, the electoral map for 2008 may be turning purple.

The latest evidence comes from a Washington Post poll of Virginia, which shows Democrats in very strong shape heading into an election with an open Senate seat and one of the most important presidential campaigns in memory.

But that is simply one more data point in a growing body of evidence suggesting that, depending on the Republican and Democratic nominees, more states could be genuinely contested in 2008 than in any recent campaign.

They includes southern states like Virginia or Arkansas, mountain states like Colorado, Nevada and Arizona, all of which Republicans have dominated in recent presidential campaigns but which Democrats will target in 2008. It also could include states that have been solidly Democratic of late, like California or New Jersey, which could be up for grabs if Rudy Giuliani is the Republican nominee.

Since the end of Bill Clinton's presidency, Democrats have been blanked in the South. But the new Post poll underscores the degree to which Virginia at least is rapidly become a real presidential swing state.

The Post poll asked Virginians whether they prefer the next president to be a Republican or a Democrat. By 52 percent to 41 percent, they said they preferred a Democrat or were leaning to the Democrat.

That begs the question of how voters there will respond to the actual nominees, but the preliminary evidence suggests that the leading Democratic candidates are at least acceptable to the Virginia electorate today as are the leading Republicans -- perhaps more so. As many Virginians say they have ruled out voting for Giuliani as have ruled out Clinton.

The poll also highlighted the advantage Democrats now enjoy in the race for Republican Sen. John Warner's seat. At this point, former Democratic governor Mark Warner has a 30-point lead over both his prospective rivals, former Republican governor Jim Gilmore and Republican Rep. Tom Davis.

Democrats, of course, have not carried Virginia in a presidential race since the Johnson landslide of 1964. Bill Clinton came close in his 1996 reelection campaign, but neither Nobel-laureate-to-be Al Gore nor John Kerry came close. But since Gore's defeat, Democrats have twice won the governorship and picked off a Senate seat.

With President Bush's approval rating in the state now at 35 percent -- about where he is nationally -- there seems to be little cushion for the Republican nominee -- and with Warner on the ballot, a potential boost for whoever is the Democratic nominee.

Democrats see potential opportunities where they have struggled in recent elections. Colorado has been undergoing a shift toward the Democrats at the state level and looks potentially purple presidentially. Nevada and Arizona, with burgeoning Hispanic populations, have become Democratic targets.

New Mexico, which flipped from Democratic to Republican in 2004, will be a major battleground in 2008, with Democrats aiming at the Senate seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Pete Domenici and at reclaiming its five electoral votes.

The other shift toward the Democrats that has taken place since 2004 is in Ohio, where Republicans surrendered the governorship and a Senate seat in 2006. At this point, Ohio tilts slightly toward the Democrats and that alone makes the 2008 electoral math decidedly different.

Democratic optimism about the Mountain West is tempered by the nervousness among some Democrats in the region, who worry about whether Hillary Clinton as the party's nominee would appeal to western voters.

John Edwards has been explicit that he believes he has greater capacity to run and win in more parts of the country than Clinton -- and to help other politicians on the ballots in those states. Obama, too, has raised questions about whether she could appeal as broadly as he might.

Not all the potential movement in the electoral map is in the direction of Democrats. Giuliani's campaign has been making the case that he has more ability than any of the other Republican candidates to force Democrats to defend states they have been able to take largely for granted in the past. Thanks to Jonathan Martin of the Politico, the electoral map, as envisioned by Giuliani's advisers, is available for all to see.

What his advisers imagine is a sea of purple and red, with very little blue. Theirs is an overly optimistic assessment, but there's no doubt that the former mayor could put some traditionally Democrat states into play.

If he were the nominee, California could become at least moderately competitive and that alone would force a recalculation of the electoral math [and the allocation of millions of dollars in television advertising] for both sides. Giuliani would run in the mold of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger -- socially liberal and fiscally conservative. Whether he would be as environmentally friendly as Schwarzenegger is not clear -- but would be important to his prospects there.

Because of Giuliani's New York base, New Jersey also could be competitive. His prospects of winning New York against Hillary Clinton are more questionable, and the Democrats also dispute his advisers' assumption that he would have a lock against Clinton in Florida.

Once the major party nominees are known, it will be easier to assess the shape of the electoral map. But at this stage, the confluence of political changes in the states and the potential makeup of the Democratic and Republican tickets suggest a 2008 campaign that could be fought out on far wider terrain than the past two elections.

--Dan Balz

By Post Editor  |  October 12, 2007; 1:20 PM ET
Categories:  A_Blog , Dan Balz's Take  
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It seems to me that the Republican party with the exception of Ron Paul are all pretty much the same. Oh and Fred Thompson who's Stuttering and Stumbling all over the place, he needs a his screen script that he usually uses on Law & Order.

Putting aside your favorite candidate, whose Policies in the Republican Party stand the best chance against Hillary Clinton?


Posted by: PollM | October 15, 2007 11:50 AM | Report abuse

red and Blue came out of the polarization caused by the unwarranted attack on Clinton by the , now fully acknowledged, right-wing conspiracy. More than half of America undersood it to be a bogus power grab by the Right and showed it at the polls in 2000. Were it not for the intrusion of Daddy Bush's hand-picked Supreme court, America's recent Nobel peace prize winner would have been at the helm on 9/11 and we would have had OBL hanging from a tree by now with no troops in Iraq. We would have been leading the world in the fight against Global Warming instead of fantasy nukes in Iraq. If Hilary is Prez., the division continues, games are played and the serious work that needs to get done stalls while the culture wars continue. Let Hilary fight the Right in the Senate, we need a real uniter, not a divider.

Posted by: thebobbob | October 15, 2007 1:24 AM | Report abuse

"After so many years in the wilderness, why would democrats chance it with Hillary rather than vote for a sure bet with our other, more viable candidates."?

I don't especially like Hillary either, and your point is valid, but to answer your question, all I'll say is, consider the alternative.
If she's the nominee, she gets my vote. And I WILL VOTE.

Posted by: phineoust | October 12, 2007 11:42 PM | Report abuse

This was an enjoyable article to read. my only concern, like many democrat's, is that hillary will be a drag on our party and in gaining anything including the white house.
I hear so many democrats who simply cannot stand her and won't vote for her. With that and the fact that indies and republicans won't either, Clinton seems to be more of a liability than anything.
i do feel that Obama and Edwards would make the most gains and also have the coattails needed for down ticket.
people simply do not trust Hillary or believe her and feel she is anything other than the insider and corporate backer that she seems.
After so many years in the wilderness, why would democrats chance it with Hillary rather than vote for a sure bet with our other, more viable candidates.

Posted by: vwcat | October 12, 2007 11:17 PM | Report abuse

While you are Painting America Purple, Democrats are courting all moms with this video

Posted by: cooday | October 12, 2007 10:24 PM | Report abuse

While you are Painting America Purple, Democrats are courting all moms with this video

Posted by: cooday | October 12, 2007 10:22 PM | Report abuse

I agree that it looks very much like the Dems are going to rout the Repiglicans next year, but I'm not going to hold my breath.
I'll be very much surprised if Bin Laden isn't miraculously captured 2 weeks before the election, and Bush doesn't attack Iran the following week, claiming that he has "good intelligence" that they are about to attack us with their long range "nuculer" weapons. Don't get complacent people. These lying pigs in the administration will do and say anything to keep power, and we've been gullible enough to buy it the last two times around.

Posted by: phineoust | October 12, 2007 10:20 PM | Report abuse

The only way California might go to the Republican is if Ron Paul gets the nomination. In fact, I'll venture to say if does not win the nomination, it will be a Democratic landslide, even if the Democrat says we won't have all the troops out of Iraq by 2013. People are sick and disgusted with the Bush regime. They will not vote for a Bush III. The GOP power structure is delusional if they think otherwise.

Jive - Silicon Valley, CA

Posted by: jdadson | October 12, 2007 10:09 PM | Report abuse

Dan I think you wrote this piece without consulting ACTUAL EMPIRICAL DATA, i.e. polls. The latest poll from CA has shown Clinton with a commanding 20 point lead over Giuliani:

And New York is not "questionable," it is beyond question will polls showing carpetbagging Clinton better than 15 points ahead. This might have been remotely believable had you done some research. But then if you'd done some research your post would have said things much different. In truth, states in the southwest and mountain west (Colorado and Arizona) where libertarianism is strong, provide Giuliani with relatively impressive leads considering the national environment. But several southern states, particularly Arkansas, Virginia, and Florida, have shown Clinton defeating Giuliani. Check out Survey USA for some polls in those states. If the map is changing, it is changing BACK to what Clinton achieved in '92 and '96....that is, some strength in the south, a sweep in states north of the Potomac River, solid leads in the midwest and west coast, with perhaps Nevada showing well for (another) Clinton.

Posted by: gbcollins21 | October 12, 2007 9:54 PM | Report abuse

Thanks to Americans' ever-increasing use of the Internet, the nation will continue to move to the left.

The right wing has always conned the majority into voting against their own interests. They've depended upon carefully staged performances to win elections.

Organization, talking points, discipline, (obedience).

Their best weapon: reliable old mainstream media filters.

*Online* is the new mainstream media. We now enjoy all manner of "alternative" news sources. Instantly available, anytime, anywhere. And the majority appear to be pretty "left-wing" in nature, simply because they address the concerns of (and are created by) everyday people.

For the first time in history, everyday Americans have the power of information to combine with their votes.

Republicans absolutely hate that.

Posted by: Robinio | October 12, 2007 9:20 PM | Report abuse

I looked at this electoral map during the 2004 race:

It doesn't show anything for 2008 yet, but has interesting maps based on the house / senate and governor office holders.

Posted by: DesertLeap | October 12, 2007 8:19 PM | Report abuse

The movie Bulworth sheds some light on how California might become competitive, except it would have to involve a Republican not a Democrat (like in the movie).

Not likely to happen, but then again considering the fundraising gap, some of these candidates might take a hit out on themselves.

Posted by: lieb666 | October 12, 2007 7:50 PM | Report abuse

There are 7 house districts in Colorado and 4 of those are held by Democrats. On the Democratic side 2 of them are what you would call competitive--it's been quite awhile since Denver and Boulder had a Republican representing their districts. As for the Republican side 1-2 are competitive. The Colorado Springs region is a virtual lock. The same would have been said of the Northern/Eastern Plains. However, the incumbent came close being defeated in 2006.

Posted by: lieb666 | October 12, 2007 7:47 PM | Report abuse

This is why I believe Edwards should be the nominee for the democrats: he can win more across the Country, and help others win state elections.

Hillary is just not a very likable person, and turns people off.

Iowa better pick Edwards, as well as New Hampshire.

Posted by: river845 | October 12, 2007 7:02 PM | Report abuse

I am fed up with "red states", "blue states" and "purple states." We are the United States of America. Our colors are red, white and blue. The sooner we get rid of the Atwater/Rove/Carvill divisionists and start working on uniting our country again, the better.
PS - Sen. Clinton isn't the answer. Mayor Giuliani won't be if he's a neocon lapdog. Bring me a committed uniter, not another divider.

Posted by: tejo42 | October 12, 2007 6:03 PM | Report abuse

Change the purple to blue and that looks like the electoral college maps for Clinton on those same match-ups.

Posted by: ctown_woody | October 12, 2007 5:58 PM | Report abuse

As someone who currently lives in California (and as a Democrat who voted for Arnold), and as someone who lived in New York and New Jersey while Giuliani was Mayor, I have to completely disagree with Rudy's chances in either CA or NJ. Arnold is popular in CA because he's a RINO (Republican In Name Only), he works hard, and he's willing to admit it when he's wrong. The best thing about Rudy was that, despite all his flaws, he absolutely LOVED being Mayor of New York. But even in a city with a very high tolerance for aggressive behavior, he was a jerk.

Posted by: JohnTEQP | October 12, 2007 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Political pundits know what New York voters, home to Rudy and Hillary, know - all of Hillary's secrets and failings have long been out there for all to see, few of Rudy's are widely known. Thousands of published pages have been written in dissection of every utterance and movement of Hillary Clinton both by writers out to get her and writers held in high esteem. Rudy, as New Yorkers and you pundits know, has a great deal of unpleasantness in his background that is not widely known. I'm surprised much of this is still off bounds in the press, but if he is the candidate in the general election it will all come out, and neither Hillary or her team will have to bring it up. The fact that Hillary is leading without the matching "opposition research" on Rudy means she holds a much more substantial lead in this matchup than the numbers represent.

Posted by: JimSheridan | October 12, 2007 5:56 PM | Report abuse

Your suggestion that Rudy Guiliani could take California is laughable. Where in the world did you get that one? Just because California voted in a very liberal Republican for governor DOES NOT mean they are going to the red. My guess is that the election in 08 is going to be a rout in California with the Republicans not only losing the presidential contest, but also many congressional seats too.

Posted by: katie11 | October 12, 2007 5:52 PM | Report abuse

Rudy's list of swing states is a dream. Maryland, California, Washington, Oregon, and all of New England--keep dreaming. He really meant that nearly all these purple states are states Dems should win. Agree that Virginia is becoming purple, but Hillary will make it solidly red. Can Hillary win the southwest is interesting, as that will likely decide election this time around. I still go with Hillary wins electoral vote and loses popular vote. She wins narrowly in the west and midwest and loses huge in the south.

Posted by: merganser | October 12, 2007 5:27 PM | Report abuse

From California: Dan, Daffy Giuliani doesn't have a prayer here. He's a cartoon.
You know damn well the best candidate in this race to win southern states like Virginia, Arkansas, (win back) New Mexico, and mountain states like Colorado, Nevada and Arizona and the Hispanic vote is Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico.
They're going to be all blue, baby, with a Richardson/Dodd Ticket to Win in 2008.

Posted by: lockmallup | October 12, 2007 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Hope it's a really blue shade of purple. Sort of a blurple.

Posted by: Jenn2 | October 12, 2007 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Ha Ha HA HAA HAAAA!! Laughing hysterically... I also live in California, and I see no way any of the Republican candidates can compete with any of the Democratic candidates in this state. As an earlier poster said, Guiliani is no Schwartzenegger. And Ahnold almost got kicked out on his keister, until he got the message that his popularity hinged on getting things done in the state legislature (something none of our sorry delegates from either party are much good at).

Otherwise, quite an interesting post by Mr. Balz.

Posted by: TEL1 | October 12, 2007 4:26 PM | Report abuse

The electoral map was always purple. In 2000 and 2004, both candidates got approximately the same number of both electoral and popular votes. And many of the states which are always called "red" or "blue" were fairly balanced. Colorado was a swing state in 2000, where Bush won 52-47. Minnesota, considered a solid blue state, was 51-48 Kerry. Wisconsin was 50-49 Kerry, and it's also called blue.

This is only a surprise to political reporters because you've spent so much time talking about the red states and blue states. There are a few states which went significantly for Bush or Kerry, but in most states the difference was only a few percent. So, yes, a shift of 2-3% of voters nationwide would change the presidential election significantly. That's obvious to anyone who isn't obsessed with the false red-blue dichotomy.

Posted by: Blarg | October 12, 2007 3:21 PM | Report abuse

You have to admire the optimism of Giuliani's advisers. I live in California, and the only way the state will be purple in '08 is if the Republicans succeed in changing the "winner take all" rule. Giuliani is NO Schwarzenegger.

And Michigan purple? Give me a break. The state has the lowest unemployment rate, so while considerably more conservative than California, economic woes and fears will drive voter choice.

Posted by: femalenick | October 12, 2007 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Dan Balz writes another excellent political column. He's serious, fair and does insightful analysis.

Posted by: rdklingus | October 12, 2007 2:00 PM | Report abuse

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