The Plank

Irrational Exuberance In Arizona?

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In contrast to what most candidates do in the closing days of a race, Barack Obama is expanding his list of targets, making an ad buy in Arizona as well as Georgia and North Dakota:

YOUNGSTOWN,
Ohio In a bold move brimming with confidence, Democrat Barack Obama
broadened his advertising campaign on Friday into two once reliably
Republican states and further bedeviled rival John McCain by placing a
commercial in the Republican presidential nominee's home state of
Arizona.Obama's campaign, capitalizing on his vast financial
resources and a favorable political climate, announced that it was
going back up with advertising in Georgia and North Dakota, two GOP
states that it had teased with ads earlier in the general election
campaign but then abandoned.

I have to say that I'm not a
big fan of this from standpoint of marginal electoral strategy. A slew
of recent polls in Arizona show the state close, by margins ranging
from 1 to 8 points. However, this is the time of year when "close"
means something very different from "functionally tied". A 3-to-5 point
lead in a state, which is the Arizona polls average out, is fairly
significant at this stage of the contest. That lead still belongs to
John McCain.And needless to say, it is hard to elucidate a scenario in which Arizona serves as some sort of tipping point state.
Obama will not perform better in Arizona than in New Mexico, Nevada, or
Colorado, neighboring states that have been polling anywhere from 5-20
points more strongly for him. Suppose somehow that Obama were to insult
the Pittsburgh Steelers or something and lose Pennsylvania; could
Arizona matter then? Not really. The Kerry states less Pennsylvania,
but plus Iowa, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona total 267
electoral votes, three fewer than Obama needs for victory. Obama would
also have to win something like Montana for it to matter (while losing
Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Missouri, North Carolina etc.). Our model
thinks that the odds of this happening are something like 800,000-to-1
against.Of course, this is probably not an ad buy framed around
marginal electoral strategy; it is one framed around marginal media
strategy. As Chris Cillizza
notes, the tightish polls in Arizona, which the campaign can draw
attention to with this maneuver, provide Obama with a good piece of
evidence to argue that the national race is not particularly close. An
ad buy in Arizona -- and I'd expect this to be a very small, largely
symbolic ad buy -- is David Plouffe's version of a Drudge Siren.
 
--Nate Silver
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