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Road to 270: Rhode Island

Today we continue our Road to 270 series with the Ocean State, Rhode Island.

DEEP OCEAN BLUE, Rhode Island has the smallest percentage of Republicans of any state in America. Its “Republicans” are often independents, and this is perhaps why Nate lists Rhode Island as the highest percentage of undecideds expected to break for John McCain. Unfortunately for McCain, it won’t be enough in this blue New England enclave. Rhode Island had the second highest Kerry margin in 2004, and the Republican Party has damaged its brand so significantly in Rhode Island that even Lincoln Chafee – a moderate Republican who endorsed Barack Obama – was ousted during the 2006 purge. The state legislature is 5-1 Democratic and Dems hold every statewide seat except governor. Both Congressmen and Senators are Democratic.

Key Demographics

Note: Factors colored in red can generally be thought to help McCain. Factors in blue can generally be thought to help Obama. Factors in purple have ambiguous effects. Except where otherwise apparent, the numbers next to each variable represent the proportion out of each 100 residents in each state who fall into that category. Fundraising numbers reflect dollars raised in the 2008 campaign cycle per eligible voter in each state. Figures for seniors and youth voters are proportions of all residents aged 18, rather than all residents of any age. The figure for education reflects the average number of years of completed schooling for all adults aged 25. The figure for same-sex households reflects the number of same-sex partner households as a proportion of all households in the state. The liberal-conservative index is scaled from 0 (conservative) to 100 (liberal), based on a Likert score of voter self-identification in 2004 exit polls. The turnout rates reflect eligible voters only. Unemployment rates are current as of June 2008.

What McCain Has Going For Him

Rhode Island’s Democrats didn’t embrace Barack Obama in the primaries, handing him a big loss to Hillary Clinton on March 4. As mentioned at the outset, McCain will likely benefit from undecided voters – by percentage – as much as any other state. In addition, it’s a fairly old state and below average education state. That’s about it as far as the demographic data goes. This is a rough state for any Republican these days.

What Obama Has Going For Him

As much of a dearth of optimism as there is in the statistical data for John McCain, there’s almost no end to the ways Rhode Island favors Democrats. It’s the 3d most liberal state on the Likert scale, the lowest percentage of male voters, the lowest percentage of white evangelicals, the highest percentage of Catholics, the third lowest percentage of “American” ancestry, the 4th lowest percentage of gun ownership, most people live in urban areas, and it’s in the bottom ten of military veterans. The unemployment rate is very high here, an economic factor that works against the incumbent party. Obama will win Rhode Island by double digits.

What To Watch For

Rhode Island doesn’t even have a good sporting rivalry to mention. And please, Brownies, no email. You either, RISD. Our photographer came up with “Family Guy,” and of course both Dumb and Dumber and Something About Mary began their stories in Providence. But politically this year, there’s no drama except for the inside baseball-ish open question about whether Rhody will have the biggest undecided break for McCain. Oh, and Jack Reed, erstwhile VP speculation subject, is facing a Foxwoods casino pit boss named Robert Tingle in an ultrasafe Senate defense. So watch for “Tingle”-centric headline puns.