is an ebb and a flow in any presidential contest.
Right now, with the election less than two weeks
away, the latest polls show Republican John McCain
ebbing and Democrat Barack Obama flowing.
before Obama starts writing his inaugural address,
he should contemplate the fate of the
now-forgotten Harvey Gantt, the onetime Charlotte
mayor and African-American North Carolina Democrat
who was leading in U.S. Senate polls in 1990 and
1996. Gantt lost both contests to white incumbent
Republican Jesse Helms. Succinctly put, the
"Harvey Gantt Factor" means that at
least 5 percent of white voters lie to pollsters
when queried about whether they will support a
nationally, that means Obama's pre-election
polling edge must be 5 percent or better or he
will lose that state. At present, Obama's lead is
5 percent or less in Ohio, Florida and Nevada and
just slightly better than 5 percent in Minnesota,
Virginia, New Hampshire, Colorado, Missouri and
North Carolina, with West Virginia now moving to
be sure, the fact that Obama is or was leading in
those 10 states, eight of which were won by George
Bush in 2004, is extraordinary. Beset with a
collapsing economy and an intractable war in Iraq,
voters are desperately seeking a "Way
Out" -- which means voting Democratic. If
Hillary Clinton were the Democratic candidate,
she'd be ahead by 10 points, but due to his race,
Obama has not yet closed the deal with voters.
Carolina is a microcosm of America, with liberal
urban areas such as Raleigh, Durham and Charlotte,
conservative suburbs and rural areas, and a black
population of 21 percent. Like Obama, Gantt was a
moderate Democrat who eschewed the
"victimization" attitude of blacks such
as Jesse Jackson.
Unlike McCain, Helms was a hard-right
conservative who vociferously opposed abortion,
gun control, gay rights, foreign aid and
affirmative action. He was detested by many but
loved by just a few more.
1990, after trailing Gantt narrowly in the polls,
Helms won by 106,758 votes, getting 53 percent of
the votes cast. Likewise, in 1996, after running
even with Gantt in the polls, Helms won by 171,958
votes, again getting 53 percent of the votes. The
politically correct explanation is that North
Carolina is filled with white racists who won't
vote for a black candidate and that Gantt was the
only Democrat who could have lost to Helms. Yet,
in 1984, Helms beat the popular white Democratic
governor, Jim Hunt, by 86,280 votes, with 52
percent of the vote.
Helms-Gantt contests prove only that some white
voters feel guilty about not voting for a black
candidate and that they will not be honest with
pollsters. As applied to 2008, when every poll has
a margin of error of 4 to 5 percent, an additional
"Harvey Gantt Factor" 5 percent must be
factored into the equation. That means McCain,
despite dismal poll numbers, could still triumph
in key states, but he will not win the election.
lost to Al Gore in 2000 by 539,940 votes, but he
carried 29 states with 271 electoral votes, one
more than a majority. Bush beat John Kerry in 2004
by 3,011,951 votes, and he carried 30 states with
286 electoral votes.
is ahead by 10 percent or more in 18 states and
the District of Columbia, with 238 electoral
votes. He is ahead by roughly 5 percent in six
more states (Washington, Colorado, New Mexico,
Minnesota, Florida and Virginia), with 75
electoral votes, within the margin of error, or
essentially tied, in five states (Nevada,
Missouri, Ohio, West Virginia and North Carolina),
with 56 electoral votes, and trailing slightly in
three states (Indiana, Georgia and North Dakota),
with 29 electoral votes.
win, Obama need only carry his solid blue states,
18 of which were won by Kerry in 2004, plus Iowa
(which is won by Bush), plus a few more states
with 32 electoral votes (such as Florida, with
27); he need not win any toss-up states.
in contrast, is assured of carrying 18 states,
with 140 electoral votes. Iowa, which Bush won in
2004, is gone. Not a single Kerry state will
switch to McCain, although New Hampshire,
Washington and Minnesota are relatively close. Ten
2004 Bush states are in play. Here's the outlook:
(seven electoral votes): Bush lost the state by
10,059 votes in 2000, but he won by 4,144 votes in
2004. The Democrats control the state government.
The latest Survey USA poll has Obama up by 54
percent to 41 percent, and a Research 2000 poll
had Obama winning by 55-39. My prediction: Safe
(nine electoral votes): Bush won the state by
145,521 votes in 2000 and by 99,523 votes in 2004,
but the Democrats are on a rampage, controlling
the governorship and the state legislature, and
they will hold both U.S. Senate seats after this
election. The most recent Rasmussen poll puts
Obama ahead by 52 percent to 45 percent, and a
CNN/Time poll put Obama ahead 51-47. My
prediction: A 51-49 Obama win.
Mexico (five electoral votes): Gore won the state
by 366 votes in 2000, and Bush won it by 5,988
votes in 2004. The Democrats dominate the state
government, and they will hold both U.S. Senate
seats after this election. The Rasmussen poll has
Obama up 55 percent to 42 percent, and a Survey
USA poll had Obama winning 52-45. My prediction: A
52-48 Obama win, due to heavy Hispanic support.
Hampshire (four electoral votes): Bush won the
state by 7,211 votes in 2000, but he lost it by
9,274 votes in 2004. The Democrats won the
governorship and two U.S. House seats in 2006. The
Rasmussen poll has Obama up by 53 percent to 43
percent, and a CNN/Time poll had Obama winning by
53-45. My prediction: A tight 51-49 Obama victory.
(27 electoral votes): Bush won the state by 537
votes in 2000, and he upped that to 380,978 votes
in 2004. Republicans control the state government.
The Rasmussen/Fox poll has Obama winning by 51
percent to 46 percent, and CNN/Time had Obama
ahead 51-46, but a Survey USA poll had McCain in
front 49-47. This is the ball game. Like Bush in
2000, McCain cannot win the presidency unless he
wins Florida. My prediction: McCain takes 52
percent of the vote.
(20 electoral votes): Bush won the state by
165,019 votes in 2000 and by 118,599 votes in
2004. The Democrats hold the governorship, and the
economy is the key issue. The Rasmussen poll has
the candidates tied at 49-49, while Survey USA has
Obama ahead by 50 percent to 45 percent and NBC
News/Mason-Dixon had McCain winning 47-41.
Clearly, the "Harvey Gantt Factor" is
operative. My prediction: McCain wins Ohio with 51
percent of the vote.
(11 electoral votes): Bush won the state by 78,786
votes in 2000 and by 196,542 votes in 2004. The
Republicans control the state government. The
Rasmussen poll has Obama ahead by 52 percent to 46
percent, but the CNN/Time poll has McCain up by
49-48. Give another one to Harvey. My prediction:
McCain with 52 percent of the vote.
Carolina (15 electoral votes): Bush won by 373,471
votes in 2000 and by 435,317 votes in 2004. It
will be much closer in 2008. In Gantt's home
state, a throw-the-bums-out mentality is afoot. A
Republican will win the governorship, but a
Democrat will oust U.S. Senator Elizabeth Dole.
The Rasmussen/Fox poll has the race for president
tied at 48-48, while the Research 2000 poll has
Obama up 46-44. My prediction: Tack on 5 percent
for McCain. He'll get 53 percent of the vote.
(13 electoral votes): Bush won Virginia by 220,200
votes in 2000 and by 262,217 votes in 2004, but
the state is undergoing a political metamorphosis
from Republican to Democratic, led by the liberal
northern Virginia suburbs. The Rasmussen/Fox poll
has Obama ahead 50 percent to 47 percent, CNN/Time
has Obama up 53-47, and Survey USA has Obama
winning 53-43. Forget the "Gantt
Factor." My prediction: Obama wins Virginia
with 51 percent of the vote.
(11 electoral votes): This was Bush country. He
won by 343,856 votes in 2000 and by 510,427 votes
in 2004. Obama will do better than Kerry. A recent
CNN/Time poll has McCain winning by 51 percent to
46 percent, and the Rasmussen poll has McCain up
by 50-43. My prediction: McCain win with a solid
55 percent of the vote.
(five electoral votes): Hispanic voters will tip
the state to Obama. Bush won by just 21,597 votes
in 2000 and by 21,500 votes in 2004. The Rasmussen
poll has Obama winning 50 percent to 45 percent,
and a Mason-Dixon poll has Obama up 47-45. My
prediction: Nevada goes for Obama.
Virginia (five electoral votes): Obama got
clobbered in the 2008 primary, and the "Gantt
Factor" is alive and well. Bush won by 40,978
votes in 2000 and by 97,237 votes in 2004. The
latest NBC News/Mason-Dixon poll has McCain
leading by 47 percent to 41 percent, and the
Rasmussen poll has McCain up by 50-42. My
prediction: McCain wins.
bottom line: It takes 270 Electoral College votes
to elect the president. Kerry had 252 electoral
votes in 2004, so Obama needs 18 more. He'll take
Iowa (seven), Nevada (five), Virginia (13), New
Mexico (five) and Colorado (nine), giving him 291
electoral votes. My prediction: Obama wins.