David Plouffe, Barack Obama's campaign manager, is arguing against the conventional wisdom about Electoral College victory that's been built up over the course of recent elections. The Associated Press reports that at a fundraiser on Friday, "Plouffe told a largely young crowd that the electoral map would be fundamentally different from the one in 2004. Wins in Ohio and Florida would guarantee Obama the presidency if he holds onto the states won by Democrat John Kerry, Plouffe said, but those two battlegrounds aren't required for victory."
Obviously, this doesn't mean that Plouffe is ruling out victories in Ohio and Florida -- the AP says Plouffe contends that Obama will work "extremely hard" in both -- but it does seem to indicate that he's not necessarily counting on them. That means Obama will have to take the fight to states that had gone Republican recently, like Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico and Virginia, which has been the focus of a lot of discussion lately.
Plouffe has also been talking up the possibility of working to win some Southern states beyond Virginia; Georgia is apparently first on his list, but he says the campaign will also keep an eye on Mississippi and Louisiana, hoping for a wave of new African-American voters in those states. This seems ambitious, it should be noted -- in Georgia, for example, George W. Bush beat Kerry by 17 points, even though fully 25 percent of the electorate in the state was African-American.
An Obama win in Virginia is also anything but ensured. Republicans have won the state's Electoral College votes in every presidential election since 1964, and as a colleague who's expert in voting patterns and demographics in Virginia noted to me recently, there's one particularly bad sign for Obama there: The state is home to 31 military bases. Also, in 2006, former Salon reporter Michael Scherer pointed out that Virginia's 2nd Congressional District "has the highest concentration of active-duty military in the country [and one] in five voting-age residents is a military veteran." The Iraq war may have helped Democrats break the Republican stranglehold on military voters, but the demographic still gives John McCain an advantage.
Thanks to the magic of the Internet, if you want to map out your own preferred strategy for Obama, it's now easy and fun to do so -- I like 270toWin.com.