I suspect that McCain has peaked in the national polls; certainly he has been bleeding momentum over the past week. Palin’s novelty has worn off, and her disastrous interviews have shattered her mystique, though she’ll continue to excite much of the GOP base. (And it’s not as if Biden excites anyone.) Nationwide, then, the contest looks to be close, but trending in Obama’s direction.
The electoral map, however, suggests that Obama still has an uphill climb ahead of him. Most of the toss-up states are historically Republican. Combine that with the tendency throughout the primary season for polls to overstate support for Obama, and McCain may have the edge–if he can prevent his campaign from deteriorating further.
Wisconsin and Pennsylvania are the two big toss-up states that I’m confident will wind up in the blue column. The Pennsylvania primary was brutal for Obama. But the state has been Democratic for the past several cycles, and if it went for Kerry over Bush in 2004, with a sitting Republican president running in a favorable climate for the GOP, the Keystone state should remain Democratic this year.
Obama may also have better-than-even odds for winning Nevada and New Hampshire. But that, plus PA and WI, would still leave him 2 EV’s short of victory. Of the remaining toss-ups, Minnesota seems to be the one where he has a shot. Florida has been trending Republican; Ohio, Indiana, North Carolina, and Virginia are historically Republican and will most likely revert to type on election day. Missouri is a genuine toss-up most years, and the Democrats are poised to pick up the governor’s mansion this year. But Obama has trailed McCain persistently in the Show-Me State. The outcome there will depend on how much vote fraud and voter intimidation takes place in Kansas City and St. Louis. Both parties will do their worst.
If I were Obama, I’d concentrate my resources on PA, WI, MN, NV, and NH, with a side bet on Virginia, which has been trending Democratic lately in everything but the presidential contests. (When Virginia results came in early in 2004 and it wasn’t even close, I knew that Kerry was sunk.)