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: Ohio, 20 electoral votes.
George W. Bush won 51-49, a difference of 118,601 votes. Turnout was near 65%.
*NOTE: This state has correctly picked the president in each election since 1964.
What to watch for on election night:
Hamilton County: More than 43 percent of this county is black, with most living within the Cincinnati city limits. However, Bush won Hamilton rather easily, garnering 53 percent of the vote. If black turnout is as heavy as predicted, look for Obama to be in position to take Hamilton and the state.
Franklin County: The home of THE Ohio State University and the City of Columbus (the largest city in the state), John Kerry only managed 54 percent of the vote in this important county. If the youth vote comes through for Obama, he could run up significant margins, perhaps as much as 60-65 percent, and hedge his bets against an underperformance in the south and eastern counties of the state.
Cleveland Metro: Cuyahoga (67 percent for Kerry), Lorain (56 percent for Kerry) and Erie (53 percent for Kerry) counties make up the bulk of the Cleveland metro area. This area of the state was the only thing keeping Kerry in the game. Obama will need similar '96 probably bigger '96 margins to stand a chance.
Northeast Rust Belt. This area of the state will end up being THE bellweather for how well Obama is handling the race issue. Mahoning County (including Youngstown) went big for Kerry (63 percent of the vote), but is more than 81 percent white. Stark County (including the city of Canton and the Pro Football Hall of Fame) is 90 percent white. Kerry won 51 percent of the vote there. Can Obama do the same? He'92ll have to. Again, the recent bad economic news benefits the Democrat here.
The Southeast: Can Obama beat the race factor in counties like Lawrence, Gallia, Meigs, Washington, Monroe, Belmont and Columbiana? Hillary Clinton amassed more than 70 percent of the vote in those counties during the primary and exit poll data more than hinted that race was a deciding factor in the margin. John Kerry won several of the states that border West Virginia'85Obama must also win them '96 or at least be more competitive '96 to stand a chance in the Buckeye State.
Demographically, Ohio presents Obama with his slimmest chance for victory among the battleground states. He has to really get out the vote in the big cities of Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus. He also has to rely on the economic crisis to overcome the race factor, which could stymie him in the south and eastern sections of the state. Know this: Cleveland, Youngstown and Canton have the highest rates of foreclosure in a state that has seen more than its share of homeownership problems. Stark County (Canton) reported 2,208 foreclosures in 2008, an increase of 624 from the first six months of the year according to the local paper, The Independent.
UPDATE: Now we've condensed all that info into a handy take-along JPEG (click for full-size):