A lot of Republicans are excited about a new set of Fox News/Rasmussen polls that came out today for six battleground states. In each case, they showed John McCain gaining ground: ahead by one point in Florida; ahead by one in North Carolina; even in Ohio; even in Missouri; down by four in Virginia; and down by four in Colorado.
The is the strongest evidence we have of a late McCain surge, although lots of other polls aren’t picking it up. Here’s the real problem: even if these numbers are right, it’s hard to see how McCain can get to the 270 electoral votes he needs to win. Assume that he wins all the states where he is now leading. Assume further that he wins all six of the above states, although the Fox/Rasmussen surveys show him trailing by significant margins in two. Assume that in addition he pulls upsets in Nevada, New Mexico and Pennsylvania, where the latest Rasmussen poll has him down by six.
Even on all of those rosy assumptions, he’s still not to 270. He needs two more states. The most likely combination, I think, would be Minnesota and New Hampshire. Coincidentally, a Survey USA poll that came out yesterday has McCain down by only three in Minnesota. I don’t believe it, but hope springs eternal. That leaves New Hampshire, where McCain is down by an average of ten points in the polls. But New Hampshire has brought McCain back from the dead before. Who knows? Maybe it can happen again.
So that’s the story the numbers tell: McCain not only has to run the table, he has to make some very difficult bank shots along the way.
UPDATE: Dafydd ab Hugh points out that my math can’t be right, and I admit that it seemed too bad to be true. I was working off an RCP list that, for some reason I still haven’t figured out, didn’t have all the states on it. Sorry: back to the drawing board.
FURTHER UPDATE: OK, here we are. If McCain carries the states where he is now leading, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Alaska, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia and South Dakota, that’s 126 electoral college votes.
If in addition he carries Georgia, Arizona, Montana, North Dakota and Indiana, which he should, that’s an additional 42 votes for a total of 168.
If he carries Ohio and Florida, he’s up to 215. So he needs 55 more. If he carries North Carolina and Missouri, he’s up to 241. 29 to go.
If he carries Pennsylvania (21 votes), then he needs Virginia (13) or Colorado (9), or both New Mexico and Nevada, or Minnesota (10).
So at the end of the day, McCain has to carry all of the states where he is now (or might be) ahead or even, plus Pennsylvania and at least one, or maybe two, states where he is now significantly behind. A daunting task, but not as bad as I first calculated. Sorry for the confusion. That’s what comes of waiting until the last possible moment to run the numbers!
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