Well, one can make the case that the Democrats don't have populist values on Guns, God, Gays, Abortion, and Affirmative Action. But enough about non-economic stuff. :)
One of McCain's other hobbyhorses, besides Big Tobacco, CFR, pork, and military procurement, is media consolidation. But it is not as though the Dems favor greater consolidation; in fact, this was a sticking point in the 1996 Telco act, with Clinton favoring goverment intervention to encourage competition, and Gingrich & co favoring greater consolidation.
On the Dem side, I believe there are a few House members from places who don't rely on Hollywood funding who oppose a lot of this stuff, more for the music industry than the movie industry.
I saw something on polstate showing that the fundraising battle between the establishment Dem candidate and the establishment GOP candidate is about even (both have cleared the field; there won't be much of a primary).
Warner succeeded very well as governor. He decreased the GOP advantage in the state leg midterms, and split the Main Street Republicans from the Club for Growth zero-taxes people. He bit the bullet and enacted sweeping tax reform that both raised revenue and was relatively progressive. Apparently if he wants a Senate seat in 2006, he'd beat George Allen in a walk.
The GOP gov candidate apparently might play well in the suburbs, so Warner's replacement will have to have lots of rural-tilted bribes. He's got a tough-on-crime campaign to combat rural meth use, and he'll have to push education in rural areas very well.
"Clinton hurt Dem standing there by taking on big tobacco..."
And this won't really happen again. Tobacco was a one-time issue, to reduce the strength of Big Tobacco, and to beat Dole over the head. It's a Clintonesque micro-initiative that just happened to be very big :). As the Research Triangle Park "ideopolis" grows and Gov. Edgar gets good marks on education (and Jim Hunt becomes SecEd and stumps well), North Carolina will slide back dem.
Now, if the Dems try to balance the budget with a four-dollar-a-pack cigarette tax increase, then we're back to square one.
What's strange about your analysis is that Tennessee and Arkansas are closer at the presidential level than other states.
High black populations have strange effects on the white populations. After all, Mississippi has a much higher population of African-Americans than Georgia, so if you can get all the African-Americans plus 33% of the Evangelicals you could win a Democratic state-wide race in Mississippi. Many of the Atlanta suburbs are growing more Republican over time as the city/suburb divide grows wider.
Why is Louisiana going to stay in play? I don't see that one. I think North Carolina is more likely to stay in play. Clinton hurt Dem standing there by taking on big tobacco.
Amy Sullivan is to an extent right; treating the "evangelical" vote as monolithic is probably too glib. There are Southern Baptists who think the SBC is a bunch of kooks. Sure, a patrician Boston Catholic is unlikely to win in places like Arkansas and North Carolina, but a Democrat from the lower midwest (PA, OH, MO) might fair well enough to win there.
Long term, the Dems will fair best along the Southern Atlantic Coast, I think.
There will probably be an exchange on experience. I'm not sure what Edwards' line has to be here.
On Foreign policy: I'm not sure what the right thing to do here is. I suspect there will be a follow up on the "global test". Edwards will need a good line on that. This exchange will almost certainly dominate post-debate coverage.
On Domestic policy:
I suspect Cheney will bring up "medical liability reform". I think Edwards needs a "Sistah Souljah moment" on trial lawyers. We don't need to cap damages, but we do need to address the problem.
I don't know what we'll get on the Patriot Act, NCLB, health care in general, free trade, energy, etc. Taxation policy is easy pickings; the "tax gap" charge is so easily rebutted it will make great hay. Edwards has a good line on the so-called Death Tax, which he will need: "we want to tax bill gates and donald trump, not the family farm".
On Social policy: the wedges, stem cell research, gun control, abortion, and gay marriage, might come out. I don't know how to play these.
Generally, Cheney will be very good at blaming Democrats. He will blame Democrats on judges, the energy bill, foreign policy, any number of things. Edwards must point out there are Republicans who oppose drilling in ANWR, that Bush has appointed more judges per anno than Clinton, that when your horse is drowning mid stream it's a great time to change horses, etc. :).
Alex mentioned "pick on Halliburton". Apparently this issue polls extremely well. I am not clear on how to attack it without making it look personal, though. And Cheney can always point out that he was not involved in deciding to whom to award contracts, which will have a kernel of the truth if not be entirely true.
Apparently VP debate viewers are disproportionately female. Therefore Johnny sunshine just needs to look better "with the sound off" and have some foreign policy cred.
Karl Rove is right, I think, when he says "there is no middle". The proper term is "unattached". These voters generally think both parties can come up with good ideas, and may agree with different parties on different issues. The trick is to pick the issues that will appeal to them and offer effective rhetoric to make things sound even more appealing. It's not only about firing up the base; it's about firing up the base in a way that also appeals to these "unattached" voters, which means damping down the rhetoric on issues that might offend them. Bush did this brilliantly in 2000, by hyping up education, scaring white people with quotas, and so forth.
But I think there is a point to be made about looking at the Party ID between different polls. As you point out, all polls show a slight increase in self-identifying Republicans over the past few years, with a spike around the RNC. But if one poll (Gallup in this case) has a much higher fraction of Republicans, we can reasonably suspect that poll to some extent.
Personally, I would like a coalition that represents a permanent Democratic majority. I don't want to keep having to string together 50-plus-1 elections. I want every election for the next 30 years to be 53-47; with Dems getting the current Gore map plus Colorado, Florida, New Hampshire, Arizona and Nevada year after year, occasionally picking off North Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia. But I don't see how this will happen. If the GOP fires up the gay-bashing or pot-smoking rhetoric, the young vote will go Dem. If the GOP moves towards being pro-choice; the evangelical vote will go a little Dem. Immigration is the best home for the GOP to gain a majority, but it's unclear how they'll get credit for it. So long term, the future is bright for a Blair/Brown-esque string of domination.
In the 2000 debates, Bush got the last word in almost every single time, in every single debate. Kerry must at least fight to a draw in terms of getting the last word in.
Losing for Bush means saying things that the public and press believe are no longer true: that the economy is getting better for everyday americans, that Iraq is getting safer, that we are welcomed, that we've found WMD, etc. It's important that there be some "kernel of falsity" to these statements in the public's mind.
In the three debates out of the combined 45 or so questions, Gore got the last word 6 times. There's ample evidence that when presented with two choices without enough knowledge to decide which is better, people will go with the one they hear second. And especially when Bush's answer sounded resolute and simple, they went with Bush's.
I compared the results of this poll to the 2000 exit polls. Bush has dropped dramatically among 18-29, as he has in the rest of the country. But he shows a massive increase in support of those age 30-44. That just strikes me as out of line. Yes, in 2000, this was Bush's best demographic, but the difference was 3% nationwide and 4% in Ohio? Clearly the war and gay-bashing afffect younger voters more, and the botched Medicare bill affects older voters more, but the difference here seems a bit much. I contend this poll has an oversample of white men, and the real number is probably something like 49-46 Bush. But it is hard to tell. Does anyone have a national poll with some age breakdowns?
If you take 20 polls with a 95% confidence, one of them will probably be Dead Wrong. There are lots of polls this year :).
If you are curious, the contact number for the Ohio Poll is 513-556-3304.
I've seen it in several sources, but I'm not sure what to make of it.
I think a portion of it is that several purple-blue states (particularly Washington, Oregon, and Michigan) have become more blue, while there are no purple-red states that have become more red -- perhaps Ohio or Missouri, depending on the polls, but that's it. This could give Kerry a lead in purple states without any shift in the electoral college.