Less than 30 days remain until the election. Having talked about the Senate races in detail, where do we stand in The Big Race? Well, this much is all but carved in stone:
Obama 260, McCain 174 (sorry for the poor image quality – I remain tech-tarded and would love for someone to explain how to get a decent jpg out of Flash)
Very few states remain in play, although it is not beyond McCain to put a state like Wisconsin or Pennsylvania back in play. If the election took place tomorrow, though, we would expect Obama to come out on top in these states. Note that I am being conservative giving Obama 260 EV; based on aggregated state polling, Pollster puts him at 320 right now. Let's stick with the safer estimate, which I believe is a reasonable one based on the data and trends, and consider what each candidate needs to do in order to win.
McCain needs to win every undecided state. Obama needs to win one. That's a slight oversimplification, but that's essentially the score.
McCain will need to rally in Florida, Colorado, and Ohio, where he currently trails, in addition to fending off Obama in surprisingly-competitive Virginia and North Carolina. I'm being very generous and handing him Indiana, which is reasonable, and assuming that he can win Missouri (where he leads but is struggling).
Remember, Obama wins the tiebreaker in the House so he only needs 9 EV. New Hampshire and Nevada together would give him 9, as would any other state currently undecided (IN, VA, NC, FL, OH, MO, or CO) on its own.
I believe that any election decided after Election Day (in the House or in court) is harmful to the winner. So Obama is unlikely to ease off the accelerator in any state he reasonably thinks is competitive in order to score a decisive win. If McCain sweeps the undecided states and wins, he will be winning by a nose (something like 270-275 EV). A decisive win isn't really an option for him this year. Obama, as indicated by the generous estimate on Pollster, can win with a big margin. Whether he will remains to be seen.
The short answer is that McCain is in trouble. Both he and his campaign appear moribund in recent days. Democrats should refrain from breaking out the America-Hating Champagne, though. Four weeks is plenty of time for things to change. Here's what's likely to happen.
McCain will rally with about 10 days left (last week of October). More accurately, he'll "rally." His campaign will saturate anyone who will listen with messages about how he's "coming on strong" or mounting a huge last-minute comeback. The media will carry the water because, frankly, a close election is in their (ratings) interest too. The 2006 Election provides a good template – remember those last 48 hours before the polls closed when the media was abuzz with the GOP's great big rally that didn't exist? Expect that again, only louder and more insistent.
Whether he actually rallies or Karl Rove simply attempts to create a new reality with a few planted stories will be revealed shortly. Having lapsed into desperation and full-on smear mode, a real rally is unlikely. As the body digests its own muscles in a starving person, McCain is burning his credibility as fuel to stay alive right now. This makes no difference, of course, because the talking point will be the same – boy, what a "surge" McCain is making! He's closing fast!
If you support Obama, I encourage you not to be worried about this predictable tactic. The media will pound you with "comeback" stories right before the election but they're likely to be bullplop. They certainly didn't mean anything in 2004 or 2006. McCain needs to establish real momentum in Ohio and Florida, not the "let's just say we have momentum and hope people buy it" kind. The same old shit – smear Obama, rely on ultra-conservative Evangelicals to sweep the GOP to victory – isn't cutting it. McCain needs to give those voters a reason to vote for him, not against Obama.