Political junkies, unite: the National Journal has been offering press briefings and panel discussions over at the Tattered Cover every morning, bringing together analysts and experts to comment on the races this year. This morning, Charlie Cook (of The Cook Political Report and the National Journal) and Chris Matthews (of MSNBC’s Hardball) held court, along with J.B. Poersch (the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee), David Morris (of CongressDaily) and David Wasserman (also of The Cook Political Report and the National Journal). Though the discussion was supposed to be on the House and Senate races this fall, it inevitably devolved into the topic on everyone’s mind in Denver: the presidential race. Here are six factors that the panel seemed in agreement on:
1. New States, Old States Due to demographic changes around the country, the panel believed that traditionally Republican states like Colorado and New Mexico would probably go to Obama, and that McCain would pick up traditional Democratic states like New Hampshire and Michigan. 2. Swing State Redux The focus of the race is going to be on the same swing states as 2004: Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Matthews strongly believed that Ohio, though, would be the keystone: “If I was the Democrats, I’d get Ohio! They’re not going to win Florida, not with Barack.” 3. The Biden Factor Obama’s VP pick, “Average Joe” Biden will be essential to winning blue-collar states like Pennsylvania. “Barack can go there 1 million times and he’s going to have trouble in Scranton,” said Matthews. “Someone told me that these people made up their minds in 1957!” 4. New Voters Cook, a respected political analyst, was shocked at the success of voter turnout by the Obama campaign, particularly with the young and Hispanics, and said that both groups would be integral to the turnout of the election. 5. McCain vs. Bush Though the panel didn’t compare the policies of the Bush administration with McCain’s, they thought that McCain might struggle to turn out as many Republicans as Bush did in 2004, thanks to sophisticated voter targeting. “McCain could get all of the Bush ’04 vote,” said Cook, “But if Obama gets a Kerry ++ vote, he will win.” 6. Democratic Pickup The question wasn’t “Will the Democrats win seats in the House and Senate in 2008?” so much as “How many seats will they win?” Wasserman predicted that 12-17 seats in the House would go Democrat, while they’d pick up as many as 7 seats in the Senate–including Colorado, where Democratic Congressman Mark Udall is battling former Congressman Bob Schaffer, a Republican.