Forget about a governing majority in 2008

Obama's once-expanding map continues to contract as Election Day approaches.

Published September 22, 2008 3:12PM (EDT)

I hate to be the wet blanket, but the electoral map continues to consolidate and contract around the same eight to 12 states that decided the last two elections. After reducing its presence in the South a few weeks ago, now comes news that Team Obama is closing its offices in North Dakota and moving troops there to Minnesota and Wisconsin.

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Barack Obama talked wistfully -- hopefully, you might say -- during the primaries about building a “governing majority.” But, during the next six weeks, what the Obama campaign faces is a far more mundane task: building any Electoral College majority, however narrowly. I continue to believe November’s winner will not get above 330 electoral votes (and 300-310 seems more likely), and that six or fewer states will change partisan hands between 2004 and 2008. This is not going to be a map-expanding election.

As for all those "50-state strategy" advocates: They seem to be deafeningly silent now, don't they? It was stupid to believe in such fantasies in the first place.

I realize some polls show Virginia and even North Carolina within reach for Obama. But states like those, and the Dakotas or a Montana, at best make good targets for Democrats to flip in 2012 -- presuming Obama wins this year and governs effectively.

A "governing majority" for now remains, at best, a second-term goal.

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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