This interactive tool from the LA Times reveals the daunting challenge Barack Obama faces in this election. It lets you paint the electoral map based on which candidate you expect to win each state. Remember, the popular vote doesn’t matter: in the end, 270 electoral votes are the only thing that can make someone president.
This tool defaults to Republican, Democrat, or toss-up, based upon the 2004 election results. Any state with a margin of victory of 8 points or less in that year is considered a toss-up. This is somewhat disingenuous, as it doesn’t take into account current trends and polls (for what they’re worth). But it’s as good a place to start as any and it seems to line up pretty well with what we’re seeing in the polls (for what they’re worth) this year.
I took the challenge, and went with my best guesses for those toss-up states: I painted Washington, Oregon, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Delaware “Democrat Blue” and Nevada, Missouri and Florida “Republican Red.” That left three states in play: Colorado, New Mexico, and Ohio. Ohio is a 20-vote powder keg in this election. If McCain wins Ohio (along with the other three states that I think are fairly safe for him), and Obama prevails in the entire, aggressive slate of ten states I assigned to him, Obama still must win Colorado and New Mexico to (just barely) win the election. Ouch.