Election 2008

Obama McCain battleground states
Gerald Herbert/AP

As Election Nears, McCain’s Electoral Map Shrinks

October 07, 2008 07:59 AM
by Josh Katz
With his decision to withdraw staffers and ads from Michigan, and recent polls favoring Obama, McCain needs a lot of things to go just right come Election Day.

McCain Running Out of Options

Recent polls give Ill. Sen. Barack Obama the lead in all the states that John Kerry held in 2004, as well as in New Mexico and Iowa, two states that President George W. Bush won in that year. Victories in those two states would give Obama 264 out of the necessary 270 electoral votes, according to Real Clear Politics. Nevada, Colorado, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida remain toss-ups according to the polls; they went to President Bush in 2000 and 2004.

In this scenario, if Obama were to win only Nevada among the eight toss-up states and Ariz. Sen. John McCain were to take the other seven, the vote would come to a 269/269 tie and the House of Representatives would have to decide the election. “If Obama wins any other state on the list, he wins the election,” according to Real Clear Politics. In other words, if Obama takes New Mexico and Iowa, in addition to Kerry’s states, McCain’s only chance of winning the election outright would be to take all eight toss-up states.

The outlook for McCain looks bleaker after The Washington Post revealed on Monday that voter registration in the battleground states appears to be shifting in Obama’s favor. “The newspaper says that 11 states targeted by the Obama camp—which were won by President Bush in 2004—have seen a big increase in new, primarily Democratic, registrations,” according to the Times of London.
McCain’s chances in Michigan have been fading for weeks now; in a state hit particularly hard by an economic crisis that many residents are quick to equate with the Republican McCain and the Bush administration. Discouraging polls and tight finances persuaded the McCain campaign to abandon Michigan altogether last Thursday and divert resources elsewhere. The now very real prospect of losing the state’s 17 electoral votes further constricts McCain’s breathing room. Kerry won Michigan in the last election by three percentage points.

The abandonment of Michigan reveals the McCain campaign’s new focus in the final weeks of the election, according to the BBC: “Broadly, the new geography of key swing states has made the South and the West more important, at the expense of the traditional battleground of the industrial mid-West.”

Background: Where the candidates stand in the battleground states

The McCain campaign has its work cut out for it in most of the toss-up states, Reuters reveals. 

Colorado offers nine electoral votes and a weekend poll places the candidates neck and neck with 44 percent of the vote, though other recent polls have given Obama as much as a 9 percentage point lead.

In Florida, a whopping 27 electoral votes are up for the taking. Obama holds a small lead in the sunshine state, according to four polls from last week.

Nevada has five electoral votes and is a state that traditionally goes to Republicans, Bush included. But the increasing Hispanic population could make a difference, with polls differing on which candidate has the lead, but agreeing that the race is very close.

Ohio has 20 electoral votes, and Bush won the state in 2004, but a recent poll gave Obama a seven-point lead. Other earlier polls were varied, some putting McCain on top.

In Pennsylvania, with 21 electoral votes, it appears that Obama now has a big lead over McCain. One poll put Obama on top by 15 points.

Republicans have won Virginia in every election after 1964. But according to three recent polls, Obama has a small lead, and a new Suffolk University poll places Obama ahead of McCain by double digits. But “the poll’s sample skews heavily toward the Democrats, which may be inflating Obama’s margin,” according to Tim Craig of The Washington Post. Another poll tilts slightly in McCain’s favor.

In Missouri, with 11 electoral votes, McCain appears to be leading 46.8 percent to 48.5, Real Clear Politics claims.

Real Clear Politics also gives McCain the slight lead in Indiana, by a margin of 47.5 to 45.3.

North Carolina seems to be slightly favoring Obama, 47.0 percent to 46.5.

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