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« AL 05: Griffith (D_ +8 | Blog Home Page | FL 16: Mahoney Tanks »

Strategy Memo: A Shrinking Map

Good Friday morning. The Boston Red Sox came back from a 7-0 deficit to force a game six in the ALCS. If you come back from a deficit like that, it's hard not to get expectations up about a series win. Here's what Washington is watching:

-- John McCain and Barack Obama spent last night in penguin suits at the Al Smith Dinner in New York, and before we kick off today's look at the news of the political world, it's nice to watch the two men who could be the next president make fun of each other without anyone getting hurt. Ok, maybe comedy itself took a few shots, but it's worth watching a couple of funny speeches.

-- As the two candidates leave New York and fan out across the country for the final eighteen-day sprint, Barack Obama retains his significant lead, polls show (One significant result, the Gallup daily tracking poll, has Obama leading by just two points, but Obama's edge in the latest RCP Average stands at 6.8 points). Obama is urging his supporters not to get cocky, the Post's Balz and Murray write. But forget the national polls, Balz and Murray point to an increasingly difficult path McCain must traverse in order to reach the presidency.

-- Consider the state of the electoral map: Obama has solidified virtually every state John Kerry won in 2004, save Minnesota. But even in the North Star State, he's got a significant lead. Obama is expected to win both Iowa and New Mexico, two states that gave President Bush electoral votes in 2004. The battleground states are not only all on John McCain's turf, the Arizona senator has to run the table to reach the 270 electoral votes he needs to win. The trouble, though, is that Obama is posting leads in every toss-up state except for Indiana and West Virginia.

-- Few expected either state to be a real political battleground. Indiana hasn't gone Democratic since the Stone Ages, and West Virginia, once a reliably Democratic state, has been trending away from the party for the better part of a decade. The Hoosier State has long been on Obama's short list; he last spent a day there after the second presidential debate, when he addressed a huge crowd in Indianapolis. Now, his campaign is targeting West Virginia after internal and public polls show the state closing. Obama will blanket the state with advertisements which started running yesterday, the Wall Street Journal's Sara Murray writes today (Even if Obama doesn't win the state, plenty of voters in critical eastern Ohio and southwestern Pennsylvania will get to see the spots).

-- But Florida is increasingly looking like the state on which Obama is betting all his chips. Democratic registration, especially in Miami-Dade County, is through the roof, and Obama has sent five senior aides to the Sunshine State for the remainder of the election, the Los Angeles Times' Peter Wallsten writes. Obama has to make up the 380,000 votes by which Bush won the state in 2004, and with a coalition of younger voters who benefit Democrats, an increased African American turnout and Hispanic voters much less resistant to Obama than many thought, that's a more than plausible goal.

-- The polls and the new demographics have caused both candidates to alter their travel plans, the New York Times' Nagourney and Rutenberg write. Obama will spend several upcoming days in Missouri, North Carolina and Virginia, followed by a two-day stop in Florida, while McCain ends his week in Florida then spends the weekend in once-reliably Republican North Carolina and perpetual swing state Ohio. Even the GOP admits it now has little chance to pick up a state Democrats won four years ago, though McCain is still spending money in Minnesota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The Republican National Committee has already closed up shop in Wisconsin.

-- Irony Of The Day: While Obama is, well, palling around with voters in swing states, Joe Biden will make a quick trip to the West Coast to hold a rally and to rake in some cash for the Democratic ticket. The potential future vice president will head to Tacoma for a rally at the second-largest venue in the city, home of the minor league Tacoma Rainiers. The Rainiers, for those who love triple-A baseball, play in Cheney Stadium.

-- Today On The Trail: McCain rallies in Miami and Melbourne, Florida. Obama's only public event of the day is scheduled for Roanoke, Virginia. Palin has rallies in West Chester, Ohio and Noblesville, Indiana, while Biden spends his day in Mesilla, New Mexico and Henderson, Nevada.