If I manage to insinuate myself into the event today at the nanotechnology center in Albany, and if I can get close enough, I’m going to ask President Obama what the devil he’s doing in New York. With six months to go till the election, why isn’t he focusing on states whose votes count?
Why isn’t he visiting a technology center in Colorado or Pennsylvania or Wisconsin? They must have something that would serve as a suitably high-tech backdrop for the television cameras.
Here in New York our votes don’t really matter. I mean, they matter in the aggregate, but since the aggregate is a foregone conclusion, they don’t matter in the particular. The state is 2 to 1 Democratic, and the last time we voted Republican in a presidential race was in 1984, for Ronald Reagan. Barack Obama can ignore us, and the outcome will be the same.
Nevertheless, I’m glad he’s coming. I haven’t seen him since January of last year, when he visited the GE main plant in Schenectady, and I miss him. Before that, when he visited Hudson Valley Community College, strictly speaking I didn’t see him, but I put myself sort of in the periphery of his aura by hanging out with the Tea Party demonstrators on Vandenburgh Avenue, which I figured would make for a better column than watching him read a speech from a teleprompter.
Last year I discovered that even watching him read from a teleprompter is enjoyable, such is his charm.
I admit I am disappointed that his visit has been changed from the Global Foundries plant in Saratoga County, where it was first scheduled, to the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering at Washington Avenue and Fuller Road.
I thought it would be very jolly to have the president celebrate economic development or job creation at a factory owned by the oil sheikdom of Abu Dhabi and subsidized by us beleaguered New York taxpayers to the tune of $1.4 billion.
I was looking forward to seeing him do it, and I was looking forward to writing about it. Now I will have to make do with a venue that is part of the state university system and therefore less rich in satirical possibilities.
The democracy thing, or non-democracy thing, does nag at me. On one level we carry on as if we elected our president directly, which is what we urge on other countries, and we pay close attention to which candidate is up or down a couple of points in national polls, but on another level we know we don’t elect our president directly, and the nationwide polls really don’t matter. In our antiquated system what matters is who wins what states. We were reminded of that in 2000 when the candidate who came in second won.
Neither Obama nor Romney needs to worry about New York, because New York is a lock for Obama. They only have to worry about states that are close, so-called swing states, which this year number nine: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.
Put them all together and they have 115 so-called electoral votes, or 21 percent of the number needed to elect a president.
The candidates can ignore the other 41 states and the District of Columbia, which is why I want to ask President Obama what he’s doing here. I probably won’t get close enough, but I’ll try.