With recent reports that John McCain might be scaling back in states such as New Hampshire, Wisconsin, and Colorado the battle grounds have moved to some unexpected areas. The maps at sites which project the electoral vote, such as Electoral-vote.com and FiveThirtyEight.com, show that many states which were previously thought to be battlegrounds now appear to be safe for Obama. McCain is reportedly making Pennsylvania his last stand despite being far behind, being correct in his assessment that he must somehow pick off a large blue state in order have any shot at all.
The real battlegrounds where either candidate can still win include Ohio and Florida as well as states such as North Carolina, Virginia, Nevada, Missouri, and perhaps even South Dakota. These states have two things in common. They are all states which George Bush as won, and therefore which McCain cannot afford to lose, and Barack Obama has the lead in many polls in these states. Even Arizona and Alaska would be in play this year if not for McCain and Palin’s advantages in carrying their home states. (Ironically, while Palin has hurt McCain nationally, this does mean that Sarah Palin has turned out to at least be more valuable on the ticket this year than John Edwards was in 2004 as her presence does add one state which otherwise might have been lost.)
The battleground might be extended even further. A Public Policy Polling report from today has Obama leading in Indiana 48 percent to 46 percent, with other polls also suggesting Obama could win there (possibly giving him a sweep of all the Big Ten states which had previously been considered a battleground region). If he can win in Indiana and we are allowed to fantasize further about which formerly strong states could go blue, next on the list might be Georgia. McCain still has the edge there and I sure would not put money on Obama winning there, but it is possible with heavy enough black turn out. 411mania looks at the numbers and shows it is not impossible for Obama to win.
A consequence of the concentration of the population along the coasts and along the great lakes is that in recent elections when the country was split near 50:50 the map looked predominately red. (I’ve even had some Republican commenters cite the red/blue map as evidence that they represented an overwhelmingly majority viewpoint in this country.) Due to the number of sparsely populated states which continue to vote Republican for cultural reasons there will still be large red areas on the map, but after this election blue should be much more prominent. While a full fifty state strategy is not yet feasible for the Democrats, Obama has kept his promise of the primaries to extend the electoral map and greatly increase the chances of a Democratic victory.