Before we begin, here'92s the set-up. I project Obama with 231 solid electoral votes: California (55), Washington (11), Oregon (7), Minnesota (10), Wisconsin (10), Michigan (17), Illinois (21), Maine (4), New Hampshire (4), Vermont (3), New York (31), Massachusetts (12), Rhode Island (4), Connecticut (7), New Jersey (15), Delaware (3), Maryland (10), Hawaii (4) and Washington, D.C. (3). That leaves nine battleground states, each in varying degree of lean or toss-up: Pennsylvania (21), Ohio (20), Virginia (13), Florida (27), North Carolina (15), New Mexico (5), Nevada (5), Colorado (9) and Iowa (7). Obama must secure 39 of those electoral votes to reach the 270 needed to win the presidency.
Each of these battleground states will be judged in the light of their 2004 turnout and results. You'92ll remember that George W. Bush defeated John Kerry, 286-251, in 2004, precisely because he won eight of these nine states.
Today'92s state: Pennsylvania, 21 electoral votes.
John Kerry won 51-48, a difference of 144,248 votes. Turnout was just over 60%.
What to watch for on election night:
Philly Metro: Obama will have to run up big margins in the Philadelphia area counties, the majority of which were won by Kerry in 2004. Kerry took 80 percent of Philadelphia County, 57 percent of Delaware County, 55 percent of Montgomery County and 51 percent of Bucks County. Bush did pick up Chester County with 52 percent of the vote. McCain figures to be strong in Bucks and Montgomery counties, where Obama'92s race could be a factor. If early returns from those areas show Obama with a strong advantage, then the state could be called quicker than anticipated. Without a doubt, Obama will pull more than 80 percent from Philadelphia County.
Lehigh Valley: Scranton, Wilkes Barre, Reading, Allentown, etc.: Joe Biden'92s hometown, in case your head'92s been buried in cement for the past four months, is the hardscrabble-workmen'92s-town of Scranton. It is part of a conglomerate of mid-sized manufacturing towns in northeast Pa. (Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, Reading, Allentown and Bethlehem and Easton) where race could play a factor in the final outcome. Kerry won four of the six counties in the area (Luzurne, Lackawanna, Lehigh and Northhampton), but all six counties were very, very close.
Scranton's famous for more than Joe Biden.
Pittsburgh Metro: Pittsburgh is slightly more conservative than Philadelphia, which explains why John Kerry essentially split the metro area with Bush in 2004. Allegheny County (Pittsburgh proper) voted 57 percent for Kerry, as did nearby Washington (50 percent) and Fayette (53 percent) counties. But Greene County, where Bush pulled 50 percent and Westmoreland County (Bush 56%), made Kerry sweat the night out. Pittsburgh won'92t outperform Philadelphia for Obama, but he needs to keep at least the same margins that Kerry wound up with in 2004 to hold onto the state.
Kerry wound up winning only 13 counties in the state, but he won where the people are, which is exactly the same formula Obama has to follow in order to pull off the victory. The demographics are not extraordinary for Obama (lots of older voters, social conservatives, and, allegedly, racists), but he should get a boost from the reliably liberal sect in Philly as well as the recent financial meltdown, which has been particularly damaging to the state'92s economy. McCain'92s campaign has admitted that the Keystone State might be their only chance to pull this thing out, so they'92re going all in on personal appearances and advertising. Obama will likely have to fight to hang on, but it might be a moot point even if he loses. If McCain sinks everything he'92s got in one state, then that might open up the more moderate states like Virginia and Florida for Obama.
UPDATE: Here's a handy tale-along JPEG (click for full size):