Forget Delegate Math! Learn Electoral Math!*

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Democratic pollster Paul Maslin has reduced the coming Obama-McCain contest to 17 key states, and then gamed out routes for Obama victory. For those who like to play the numbers game early, this article in Salon is essential reading. Here is his conclusion:

States that strongly favor Obama (“strongly” in the context of close states, that is): Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington. That’s 43 electoral votes. Add that to the safe blue 157 votes in 11 states and D.C. and Obama is at 200.

States that slightly favor Obama: Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin. Another 55 votes. He’s now at 255

States that strongly favor McCain: Florida, North Carolina. Their 42 electoral votes are probably going to the Republicans.

States that slightly favor McCain: Colorado, 9 votes; Missouri, 11 votes; and Virginia, 13 votes. Obama’s chances are better here.

Pure toss-ups: Nevada, 5 votes; New Hampshire, 4 votes; New Mexico, 5 votes; and Ohio, 20 votes.

Clearly, and I’m being cautious, I think it’s going to be a close race. If Obama wins the 255 votes in the states where he’s favored, then to get to 270 he needs to choose from the following menu: 1) Win Ohio, which takes him to 275; 2) win in the West — Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado, for 274; 3) win the three N’s (Nevada, New Mexico, New Hampshire) for 269, plus one other state; or 4) win two of the three N’s and either Colorado or Virginia.

*The title of this post may be read aloud in the voice of Frank Booth discussing the relative merits of Heineken and Pabst Blue Ribbon.