Safe Democratic: 183 electoral votes
Strong Democratic Advantage: 7 electoral votes
Moderate Democratic Advantage: 48 electoral votes
Slight Democratic Advantage: 26 electoral votes
Tossup: 47 electoral votes
Slight Republican Advantage: 56 electoral votes
Moderate Republican Advantage: 14 electoral votes
Strong Republican Advantage: 29 electoral votes
Safe Republican: 128 electoral votes
Total Democratic: 264 electoral votes
Tossup: 47 electoral votes
Total Republican: 227 electoral votes
In the inaugural MyDD/Huffington Post presidential race rankings, the state of the contest between Barack Obama and John McCain looks fairly open, with both candidates possessing realistic shots at earning 270 electoral votes and as many as 21 states, plus a single electoral vote in Nebraska, potentially being in play.
Despite the national polling, which with the exception of the last week or so has shown the race to be remarkably close, Obama has some fundamental advantages in the electoral college with a larger base of safe states and more Republican states than Democratic states either already in play or potentially in play. For instance, all four states currently rated as "tossups" were carried by George W. Bush in 2004. But McCain is not without his own advantages in the electoral college, most notably the fact that if he is able to merely hold the states that Bush won in 2004 -- and even if he loses one or two of the small or even medium-sized states -- he could still become President.
The following are the current state-by-state race rankings, which are intended to be straight forward. Those states in which one party or the other has a "strong advantage" are potentially, but not yet, in play, while those where one party or the other has just a "moderate" or "slight" edge are already in play. "Tossups" are just that -- they could just as easily go one way as they could go the other. And safe states should remain in their candidate's camp barring some major unforeseen occurrence.
California (55), Connecticut (7), Delaware (3), District of Columbia (3), Hawaii (4), Illinois (21), Maine (4), Maryland (10), Massachusetts (12), New Jersey (15), New York (31), Rhode Island (4), Vermont (3), Washington (11)
Oregon (7): The fact that incumbent Republican Senator Gordon Smith, an early supporter of John McCain's presidential campaign, is running advertisements for his reelection effort tying himself not only to Barack Obama but also to John Kerry speaks wonders about the state of this race. Throw on top of it the surging Democratic registration numbers in the state, the 75,000 supporters Obama drew in Portland in May, and the Democrats' streak of carrying the Beaver state in each of the last five presidential elections, and you can see why Obama has a strong advantage.
Iowa (7): In 2004, Iowa was one of only two states carried by Al Gore four years earlier that switched its allegiance to George W. Bush. In the time since, however, Iowa has shifted noticeably towards the Democrats, with the state electing a Democratic Governor and legislature for the first time since 1964, electing more Democrats than Republicans to Congress, and turning out about twice as many caucus-goers for the Democrats than the Republicans back in January. The most recent polling on the race shows Barack Obama leading big, as does the composite of recent polls, giving the Democrats at least a moderate advantage to carry the state.
Minnesota (10): The polling out of the North Star state has been all over the place to an extent, though the latest numbers seem to underscore the trend of a noticeable Obama edge. What's more, Minnesota has a longer streak of voting for the Democratic presidential nominee than any other state in the nation, a factoid that cannot be overlooked in a survey of the state of the race. More likely than not Barack Obama will carry Minnesota in the general.
Pennsylvania (21): Over the course of the summer, the McCain campaign greatly outspent the Obama campaign on paid media in the Keystone state. But what has it gotten them? Little to no movement in the key bluish-purple state of Pennsylvania, with Obama continuing to maintain a moderate lead. With numbers like these, it's little wonder that there are indications that the McCain campaign is scaling back its efforts in Pennsylvania -- which might actually be the prudent move at this juncture.
Wisconsin (10): Judging by John McCain's travel habits over the summer, the Badger state has been one of his campaign's top targets to pick off electoral votes carried by both Al Gore and John Kerry. But if the polling is any indication -- McCain hasn't topped 44 percent in the state in the last four months, and he has trailed in each of the last eleven polls -- the Republicans still have a lot of work to do in Wisconsin before they're able to carry the state's electoral college for the first time since 1984.
Michigan (17): Count Michigan as another state John McCain has been visiting of late, but also a state McCain hasn't been able to crack 45 percent in since all the way back in January. Barack Obama's numbers in the state aren't overwhelming at present either even as he has consistently led since the late spring, and he has only hit 50 percent in a single poll this year (Kerry pulled in 51 percent in the state back in 2004). That said, Michigan hasn't gone for the Republicans since the 1988 presidential election, and the Obama campaign is on track to have about twice the number of organizers in the state as Kerry did four years ago. All in all, Obama has a narrow advantage in the state.
New Hampshire (4): The Granite state is a lot like its fellow early nominating state, Iowa, in its trend towards the Democrats in recent years. Like Iowa, New Hampshire elected its first pairing of a Democratic Governor and Democratic legislature in years -- since 1874, in fact -- and elected an all-Democratic House delegation for the first time since 1912. During the state's presidential primary back in January, more voters participated in the Democratic contest than the Republican one, the first time this had occurred when both parties had contested primaries. John McCain is still well liked in the state, and the head-to-head numbers seem to be tightening. But overall, Barack Obama is still the favorite to carry New Hampshire come November.
New Mexico (5): In 2000, the Land of Enchantment was as tight as tight can be, with Al Gore besting George W. Bush by just 366 votes, but in 2004 Bush was able to carry the state by just under 6,000 votes. At present, New Mexico appears ready to flip its allegiance once more, with the composite of polling showing Barack Obama leading outside the margin of error (John McCain has led in a single poll from the state since May), and the latest poll giving Obama a 13-point edge. The state is far from in the bag for Obama, but McCain still has work to do to repeat Bush's success from 2004.
Colorado (9): Over the last month, Barack Obama visited Colorado as frequently as he had visited any other state, and the decision long ago to hold the Democratic National Convention in the state heralded a new focus on both the state by the Democrats, who have in recent years picked up the Governorship, the legislature, a Senate seat, and two House seats in the state. Registration shifts in the state also seem to be a good omen for the Democrats. Nevertheless, the polling from the Centennial state has been fairly tight, with John McCain holding leads of 3 points or less and Obama holding leads of 6 points or less in every survey since mid-April (the most recent polling showing McCain up by a single point). This is, and likely will continue to be, a very tight race.
Nevada (5): If you judge by the polling, the contest for Nevada's five electoral votes is a very close one, just as it was in 2004 when George W. Bush carried the state by a 51 percent to 48 percent margin (exactly the same as his nationwide margin of victory). Barack Obama has been trying to hit John McCain on local issues in the state, which may have helped the Democrat inch out to a 49 percent to 44 percent lead in the latest polling (though McCain has a 0.7 percentage point overall lead in the state according to Pollster.com). Expect this one to be close from now until election day.
Ohio (20): The Buckeye state was the big swing state back in 2004, and it very well could play the same role in 2008. John McCain has visited the state four times in the last month, and nine times over the last three months, making it his most visited swing state (along with Pennsylvania), while Barack Obama has also hit up the the state fairly frequently as well. The polls, of course, have the race in the state very tight, and Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com views the state as the most likely to be the tipping point this fall. While the map may still be more open than it was four years ago, don't be surprised if we're poring over the precinct maps from Cuyahoga county on the night of November 4.
Virginia (13): One of the more interesting additions to the list of swing states is Virginia, a state that the Democrats have not carried in a Presidential election in more than 40 years. While George W. Bush won the state by a 7-point margin in 2000 and an 8-point margin in 2004, polling this year has shown the race between Barack Obama and John McCain to be tight. The Democrats are certainly resurgent in the state -- they picked up the state senate last fall, and have won the last two Governor elections and picked up a Senate seat in recent years (and are on track to pick up the other Senate seat, as well, and very possibly a House seat, too) -- and Obama clearly mounted a strong effort in the state back in February during the primaries, but whether it will be enough to overcome history remains to be seen.
Florida (27): As of the middle of August, the Obama campaign had spent $6.5 million on advertisements in the Sunshine state while the McCain campaign had not invested a nickel. All the while, Barack Obama has seemingly inched up in the polling, but still has not been able to overtake John McCain in the state. The fact that Democrats are registering at a far greater clip than Republicans is certainly a good sign for Obama's hopes, as is polling showing him overperforming within the state's Hispanic population, and the recent survey from the state's 21st congressional district, which George W. Bush carried with about 57 percent of the vote in 2004, showing Obama tied with McCain at 48 percent apiece must raise hopes in the Democrat's camp. Nevertheless, McCain still has a narrow edge.
Missouri (11): The Show Me state tends to vote with the nation as a whole, and also has a habit of being a swing state, and this year the state appears obliged to continue its trend. The polling gives John McCain a bit of an edge in the state, though the race remains close. It was no coincidence that Barack Obama made his first appearance at the Democratic National Convention from Missouri, or that he has visited the state more frequently in recent months than he has any other state. McCain is a favorite, but not an overwhemling one, here.
Montana (3): Just as it was no coincidence that Barack Obama appeared via satellite at the Democratic National Convention from Missouri, it was no coincidence that he campaigned in Montana during the convention, too. The Democrats may have earned Montana's electoral votes only once in the last forty years -- and then only with the help of Ross Perot's third party presidential bid -- and John Kerry might have lost the state by 20 points in 2004, but if you look at the numbers this year, you'd see that Obama has a viable shot at winning the state this fall. Given Montana's history and its general lean, John McCain still has a noticeable edge, but this one could go either way.
North Carolina (15): The Tarheel state looks like it's about one cycle behind Virginia in shifting towards the Democrats as demographics within the state shift, so John McCain is still a favorite to carry the state this November, but the polling clearly shows that Barack Obama does have a shot at picking off the state -- particularly with the help of Libertarian Party nominee Bob Barr. At the least, the race this year will almost undoubtedly be closer than the 12-point spread between George W. Bush and John Kerry in the state four years ago.
Indiana (11): The Hoosier state has been a difficult nut for the Democrats to crack on the presidential level, with the state giving its electoral votes to the Republicans in each of the last 10 elections, and all but four elections during the 20th century. Most recently in 2004, George W. Bush carried the state by more than a 20-point margin. However, the Democrats had a better year in the 2006 midterms in Indiana than they had previously had in some time, picking up three House seats en route to gaining a majority of the state's congressional delegation, and in the wake of this year's heavily contested Democratic presidential primary, the state has looked significantly more competitive than it has in years past. The fact that as of this summer Barack Obama held a six to nothing advantage in campaign offices in the state had a large role in this as well. John McCain still leads in the polls -- although at present his lead is only about a fifth the size of Bush's from 2004 -- so on the basis of these numbers, as well as the general trend of the state to support the GOP, he still has an advantage.
North Dakota (3): The Democrats have carried North Dakota's electoral votes just five times in the state's history, with the party's best showing in the last 30 years coming with Michael Dukakis' 43 percent of the vote in 1988 and its worst showing during this period coming with Jimmy Carter's abysmal 26 percent showing in 1980. Just four years ago, George W. Bush beat John Kerry by a 27-point margin in the state, 63 percent to 36 percent. And yet until just recently the Obama campaign was advertising in North Dakota -- and apparently to good effect. The most recent survey out of the state has Obama up 3 points, 43 percent to 40 percent, and no survey this year has shown John McCain pulling in more than 45 percent of the vote in the state. The historic Republican advantage in the state corresponds with a McCain advantage this year, but it is not an overwhelming one.
Arizona (10): John McCain is not particularly popular in his home state of Arizona. Five out of the last seven polls from the state have shown McCain earning under 50 percent of the vote against Barack Obama, with a recent poll giving him just a 47 percent to 41 percent lead. Even the local television channels are picking up on the potential competitiveness of the state. Arizona is still a Republican state, and there isn't evidence yet that the Obama campaign is thinking of seriously targeting McCain's homestate, meaning that the GOP has a strong edge here, but it could be worth keeping an eye on.
Georgia (15): With Libertarian Party nominee Bob Barr of Georgia in the mix, some -- including the Obama campaign, which just last month ran Georgia-specific ads -- believed that almost anything was possible in the Peach state. In fact, the trend of polling does put John McCain just under 50 percent in the state against Barack Obama. Amid reports, which the Obama campaign has denied, that Obama is pulling up the stakes in Georgia, there has been speculation that the state has not panned out like the campaign had hoped it will. Indeed, at this point it looks like McCain's advantage is fairly steep here.
Nebraska-2 (1): Nebraska is one of two states -- Maine being the other -- in which state law specifically permits a splitting of the state's electoral votes by congressional district. While this has not yet occurred in either state, there is a possibility that it will for the first time this year. According to at least a couple of polls, Barack Obama is significantly over-performing in Nebraska's second congressional district, which is based around Omaha. With presidential campaigns advertising in the city's media market in order to reach into western Iowa, it's a safe bet that voters in the district will be getting the message from both campaigns. John McCain still is a favorite to carry this electoral vote, and certainly the rest of the electoral votes from the state, but it remains very possible that Obama could steal a single electoral vote here.
South Dakota (3): When John McCain stumped in South Dakota last month, it had some wondering whether his campaign was concerned about the state. Indeed three of the four polls out of the state this year have shown McCain under 50 percent against Barack Obama, with the latest survey showing McCain up just 4 points. Before jumping to too hard of conclusions about the competitiveness of the state, which the Democrats haven't carried in 44 years, it would be worth seeing more polling -- particularly because there is little indication that the Obama campaign is preparing to spend real money in the state. But it is another contest worth watching.
Alabama (9), Alaska (3), Arkansas (6), Idaho (4), Kansas (6), Kentucky (8), Louisiana (9), Mississippi (6), Nebraska 4, Oklahoma (7), South Carolina (8), Tennessee (11), Texas (34), Utah 5, West Virginia (5), Wyoming (3)