McCain's exurban woes

Are those voters who squeezed Bush past the finish line in 2004 bailing on McSame? Peter Wallsten wonders.

Published August 12, 2008 3:18PM (EDT)

Great piece today from the Los Angeles Times' Peter Wallsten about the troubles that post-housing-crisis exurbanites are facing and why John McCain may have far less appeal there than Bush did four years ago. (In terms of full fallout, I realize we have not yet reached the "post" period yet, which is precisely Wallsten’s point.)

Writes Wallsten:

In interviews across Pasco County [Fla.], many voters said they liked McCain's support for expanded offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico -- a concrete sign that he has a plan to deal with their most pressing concerns. Public surveys and GOP polls show broad support for drilling, even in this coastal county. That helps explain why McCain made it a centerpiece of his campaign, and why Obama used a Florida appearance to drop his staunch opposition.

But many also worry that McCain, known for his war credentials, does not relate to the troubles facing communities so vulnerable to fluctuations in gas prices and housing values -- communities that happen to be in some of the election's most pivotal states.

The pain is especially acute in hotly contested Nevada and Florida, which are home to many such communities and are among the nation's hardest-hit real estate markets.

One quick observation: I am not sure Barack Obama will carry either Nevada or Florida, and can still win the election without either, especially if Colorado and New Mexico (more fertile Southwestern states) and Ohio (more fertile big swing state) come through for him instead. But the places where the housing crisis has had its most devastating effects -- that is, the new growth areas of America's Sunbelt -- tend to be Bush-won states that McCain will have to scramble to maintain whether Obama is investing there or not. It is a crude (note: hold fire, I just said crude) oversimplification of the issues-related dynamics of the 2008 electoral map, but in general the war is killing Republicans more in the Midwest and the economy is killing them more in places like the Southwest and Florida. Foreclosures, as mapped here, among other places, are hitting the Northeast corridor pretty hard too, but that is moot as far as the Electoral College battle is concerned.

By Thomas Schaller

Thomas F. Schaller is professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the author of "Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South." Follow him @schaller67.

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2008 Elections John Mccain R-ariz.