In 2008, Barack Obama won Ohio and the presidency. Now, he's flirting with electoral college disaster.
Thanks to the still wobbly economy, his health care overhaul, the uncertainty of his troop increase in Afghanistan or the new federal regulations of the financial industry? Nope. Thanks to his tacit endorsement of LeBron James's move to his hometown Chicago Bulls.
"You know, like I said, I don't want to meddle," Obama told TNT's Marv Albert. Then he chose to meddle. "I will say this: Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah -- it's a pretty good core. You know, you could see LeBron fitting in pretty well there."
Did America's most famous sports fan really just endorse a hoops outsourcing plan? The Marshall Plan rebuilt Europe, Obama's LeBron Plan would destroy Cleveland sports on a scale rarely seen before in professional sports history.
And with just a few words Obama's presidential advisers slammed their heads into their West Wing desks over and over. The delicate electoral alchemy of winning the state of Ohio in 2012 just got a lot tougher.
George W. Bush won Ohio twice by narrow margins in 2000 and 2004. Change who Ohio supported for President in either of those elections and we end up with either President Al Gore or President John Kerry.
In 2008, Barack Obama, from neighboring Illinois, won Ohio with 51.5 percent of the vote to John McCain's 46.91percent.
Thanks to American electoral politics, this meant that Obama snagged all 20 electoral votes and slammed the door on any McCain hope of a victory.
To rack up this swing-state victory Obama poured $28 million into state advertising and visited Ohio 22 times.
Ultimately, Obama would win the state of Ohio by 262,224 votes, a small percentage of the overall number of votes cast in the state.
Where did the vast majority of that voting margin come from? Try Cuyahoga County which, you guessed it, just happens to be Cleveland. How much did Obama win Cleveland by? He racked up 458,204 votes to John McCain's 199,864, a victory margin of 258,340.
Does that number look pretty similar to how much Obama won the state of Ohio by? Yep.
In fact, eliminate Cleveland from the voting rosters and Obama wins the state of Ohio by less than 4,000 votes, an eyelash, a near replication of 2000's Florida tally. When all the votes from the 2008 election were tallied, Obama received more political support from the city of Cleveland than just about anywhere in the United States.
And now he's gone and repaid them by suggesting that the man who makes northern Ohio sports worth watching, the man who was going to end the championship drought in Cleveland sports history, move to Chicago?
Oh no, he didn't.
If you don't live in the Midwest, you don't know the hate and resentment that festers in every Midwesterner's soul when it comes to the city of Chicago. It's the unquestioned jewel of the Midwest, the city for your more successful friends and families who have left Cleveland, or Detroit, or Buffalo.
It's the city whose streets are paved in championship gold, the place where Michael Jordan's game-winning shot over Cleveland Cavs guard Craig Ehlo actually makes fans happy. It's the anti-Cleveland, the rich uncle with the smoking hot wife, the glittering city on the Midwestern hill that has managed to not just survive the rust belt's economic collapse, but thrive.
In short, Lake Michigan never caught on fire.
And now, think northern Ohio voters, this cosmopolitan elite, this man who claims he is one of us, that he can revive our broken cities, is encouraging the diamond we've created out of the rust belt friction to depart for Chicago?
So those rich, effete Chicago turncoats can Ehlo us all over again?
Yep, LeBron James is the rarest of rare in Presidential elections, a July surprise.
I think you can see how quickly the perception of Obama can be altered in the state. From working class community organizer to elitist meddler faster than a LeBron James crossover.
Now, before you start protesting that voters aren't going to decide whether to support President Barack Obama in 2012 based on what LeBron James chooses to do in free agency, let me say you're probably right. The vast majority of Ohio voters will not be impacted by whether LeBron James is in Cleveland.
But some will.
And, perhaps most importantly, many will be impacted and not realize that they have been. The perception of what Barack Obama represents can change in the eyes of enough voters that a winnable state becomes unwinnable. Maybe you don't pay attention to the intricacies of the new health bill, and maybe you don't know what the bailout did or didn't accomplish, but in your worst nightmares you know what LeBron James in a Chicago Bulls uniform looks like.
And just maybe LeBron in a Bulls jersey represents the thin line between an Obama victory in Ohio and an Obama loss in Ohio.
Yep, for want of a nail, the King James was lost.
If you're Obama, can you really risk it?
I guarantee you Obama's West Wing advisers are imploring the nation's sports fan-in-chief to keep quiet during the long summer of LeBron's free agency. "It's not worth it," they're saying, "for a Bulls fan to be seen lobbying for LeBron to come on board. Just keep quiet."
Meanwhile Obama, shooting on his presidential hoop, just can't contain himself. He doesn't want to meddle, but he's already meddled.
As always, uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. For Obama's sake, he better hope King James is wearing that crown in Cleveland.
Otherwise, come 2012, northern Ohio sports fans may enact their own revenge and Ehlo Obama.