Today's polling has a big status change. My average of the last five polls in Ohio goes from Obama ahead by 1% to McCain ahead by 1%. Either way it is in the swing state category of "could easily go either way" but, for the moment, McCain has the edge and this flips Ohio into his category in the "everybody gets their lean states" totals.
McCain Best Case - McCain 298, Obama 240
Obama Best Case - Obama 384, McCain 154
If everybody gets their leans (and Obama gets DC) - Obama 273, McCain 265
It takes 270 to win the electoral college. 269 to tie and send it to the House of Representatives. The total above is about as close as you can get without it actually being a tie. (If right now McCain managed to flip New Hampshire and there were no other changes, it WOULD be an electoral tie...)
Now, we shouldn't read too much to Ohio being on one side or the other of the line. The reality is that is in the swing state category. It could go either way. And it has been in that state for a long time. The difference between where it was before this new polling and where it is now is slight.
However, I wouldn't want to minimize this. This is yet more McCain momentum. He's been on a roll for a month now. In mid-July Obama had McCain on the ropes. We were almost at the point where Obama could win without ANY swing states. McCain was in a position where he would have to essentially completely sweep all the swing states to win.
No longer. Obama still has a better best case scenario than McCain's best case scenario. But the situation is MUCH more even. Yes, Obama needs far fewer of the swing states to come to his side. But McCain is ahead in almost enough of those states.
There are 141 electoral votes currently in swing states. Assuming Obama gets DC, in order to win Obama needs 27 of those electoral votes. Right now he is ahead in 3 swing states netting 30 electoral votes. By contrast McCain needs to bring 116 electoral votes from the swing states to win. Right now he is ahead in 10 of the swing states giving 111 electoral votes.
As mentioned before, from where we are now, if McCain flips New Hampshire, then we go to the House and Obama probably wins. (Although there may be interesting dynamics there that would not guarantee it.) But McCain just needs to flip Michigan or Colorado to take the lead outright.
Meanwhile, Obama needs to start fighting hard in Ohio, Florida, North Carolina and Virginia to flip them. If he can bring those back to his side, he could start looking comfortable again.
He also needs to start playing some defense to try to move Michigan, Colorado and New Hampshire out of swing state status and into the slightly safer weak category.
He can not keep letting Solid states move to Weak states and Weak states move to Lean states, and Lean states to McCain Lean states... which is what he has been doing for the last month.
That does sound a little passive though. This isn't just happening to Obama in isolation, McCain is doing it to him. McCain was a little late getting spun up and started in this campaign, but for the last month he has been firing on all cylinders, while Obama has been sputtering.
And now we spin into Veeps and Conventions. And then full speed to November.
Get ready for a fun ride.
And an election that could still very easily go either way.