McCain's path to victory?

So, 48 hours from now, we should have a good idea of whether John McCain pulled off the impossible.

So how does he do that?

Let’s take a look at the “dire” RCP state averages.

If we assume McCain wins the states he is leading in, that is 185 electoral votes. This means he captures “battlegrounds” AZ, MT, GA, IN, and MO.

Further, let’s look at the close battlegrounds in which Obama is winning. I will note that, if you look at the RCP averages from 2004, Obama is underperforming in many of the battlegrounds compared to Bush. If Obama is truly ahead by 6 points nationally, should he not be overperforming Bush, a 2.5 point winner nationally, at the end of the election?

NC: O 47.8, M 47.5

How will NC turn out? Is the black vote underestimated? Can Obama really win this state without reaching 50% in polls before? I don’t think so. McCain’s support is also higher here than it is in other battlegrounds.

OH: O 48.8, M 44.6

This is a close state, but Obama still fails to get over the 50% mark. With Mason-Dixon showing McCain ahead now, I think we can say Ohio will go McCain.

NV: O 49.3, M 43.5

McCain’s support here is low, but Obama still fails to top 50%. But this one seems to be a bit out of reach for McCain.

VA: O 49.8, M 46.0

McCain’s support here, like NC, is higher than his national average and his averages in other battlegrounds. Moreover, just 10 days ago, Obama’s average in the RCP was 53, while McCain’s was 43. There’s a clear trend in McCain’s favor. I think undecideds put him over here.

FL: O 50.0, M 45.8

McCain’s not doing terribly here, but Obama is just at 50. If he underpolls as we many of us think he will, this could be pulled off. 4.2 gap is not that bad.

NM: O 50.3, M 43.0

This is much like Nevada, most likely out of reach.

CO: O 50.5, M 45.0

Of the three southwest states, McCain is in the best position here but…still probably out of reach.

Finally, the two “dream” states-

PA: O 51.3, M 44.0

Just a week ago, Obama led by 11 points here, 51.7 to 40.5. McCain’s gained about 4, but there are still quite a good number of undecideds left. I don’t think McCain can win here given this gap, but the trend is in his favor at this point which is encouraging.

NH: O 52.7, M 42.0

You tell me why McCain was in NH tonight. He’s down by over 10 points here. But hey, wasn’t Hillary?

**Bottom line: in order to win, McCain must

1) Win the states where he is leading, for a total of 185 electoral votes.2) Win the states where he is trailing, but Obama is at or below 50% (except Nevada), for a total of 75 electoral votes. This brings him to 260.3) Win some combination of: CO, NM, NV, PA, NH, states where he trails by 6-7 or more points but are close to the 50% mark.**

What does this mean? Well, if the 2004 election averages are indicative, this is doable.

FL: Bush was at 48.2. Obama is at 50.0. Bush won the state by five points.OH: Bush was at 48.8. Obama is at 48.8. Bush won the state by two points.MO: Bush was at 49.5. McCain is at 48.0. Bush won the state by nine points.NV: Bush was at 51.0. Obama is at 49.3. Bush won the state by two points.CO: Bush was at 50.0. Obama is at 50.5. Bush won the state by six points.

Do you see a pattern here? I do. It’s that Obama isn’t doing significantly better than Bush was doing in the battlegrounds four years ago.

I’m not sure what this means other than it’s a close election and the Democrats are doing better than in 2004. But if Obama is so far ahead nationally, why isn’t he so far ahead in these battlegrounds? Why isn’t he above 50% in many of them?

This is an uphill battle, no doubt. But the polls only bear out one truth: Obama has about 50% polling average nationally and in the battleground states. That’s enough to win…if the polls are correct and undecideds do not break decisively for McCain