Lots of polls and lots of talk about a "close race that's a real nail-biter". So how bitten should our nails be?
While the national polls show a virtual tie in the popular vote, what matters is Ohio and Colorado. Not the third debate last night, not whether Obama is pulling out of North Carolina (more on that in a moment).
It's all just Ohio and Colorado. One is the key to an "easy" win in the Electoral College; the other is fundamental to a "backup plan".
If Obama wins Ohio, all he needs in addition is New Mexico, which he appears to be winning, plus only 2 more electoral votes. (He has a "base" of 245 electoral votes in the states Kerry won in '04, adjusted for census changes.) The 2 additional electoral votes could come from Nevada (5 electoral votes) where he's ahead by 3 to 5 points. OR Iowa with its 6 electoral votes and Obama's slightly smaller lead than in Nevada. OR Colorado with its 9 votes, where the race is much tighter.
Plan B is based on Obama NOT winning Ohio. (After all it is a traditionally Republican state.) To make up for Ohio's 18 electoral votes, Obama would have to win Kerry's 245, plus Nevada, Iowa, New Mexico, and Colorado. This would snag him 271. With Colorado getting squishier lately, this is not as rosy-looking a path as it once was. Nevertheless, it could work.
Note that both of these paths do not include Florida, Virginia, or North Carolina. Obama could let the South be the South and give up on these and still make it.
What he must not lose is Wisconsin or Pennsylvania, both of which Kerry won. These are looking pretty good with the former at about a 3-5 point lead and the latter at about a 5 to 8 point lead.
But New Hampshire is a possible stinker for Plan B. It's wobbling around the "too close to call" mark in the polls. Kerry won it in '04, but New H is notoriously inconsistent in voting. Of course, if Obama gets Ohio, New H becomes irrelevant.
So there you are.
Now a note about North Carolina. Way back last year, I mentioned that the Obama campaign ran a test of its ground game by working the off-year local elections in North Carolina and swept almost every dog-catcher seat, etc., for the Democrats. (I don't know if N. C. has prothonotaries as we do in Pennsylvania - whatever ever they are - but we would have won them too.) And now comes confirmation that Obama's ground game in N. Carolina is doing a great job in this campaign. Early voting in N.C. is running 120,000 ahead of '08! That is super! But remember that Obama in '08 won North Carolina by only 4000 votes. Could this huge increase in early voting hold or increase that razor edge of '08 and thereby beat the current polling that shows Romney taking N.C.? Tune in November 6 for all the answers!
Meantime, put your hands in your pockets so you won't bite your nails. Keep your eyes on Ohio and Colorado. And when you take your hands our of your pockets, bring out some more money to keep Obama's ground game going. From this point on, IT'S ALL THE GROUND GAME.
Hey, Romney! Take those tax returns out of your pockets, and keep your hands out of ours! No more tax reductions for you and your cronies at our expense!