Ron Brownstein has an analysis this morning in the Los Angeles Times looking at those states that are must wins for the two campaigns. The link is here.
Here is a highlight:
Strikingly, the campaigns also believe that both Bush and Kerry begin their battle with about 200 electoral votes leaning their way, of the 270 needed for election. And strategists for the two candidates point to Ohio as the single state most likely to pick the victor if the race remains close.
A senior Republican strategist close to the Bush campaign said that if either campaign could choose one state “to know the result of on election day [in order] to know who is going to win, that state would be Ohio.”
Absent major changes in the economy or national security, neither campaign expects wholesale changes in the alignment of the states just four years after Bush squeezed out the second-narrowest electoral college majority since 1800.
“Overall, it’s a very similar equation” this year, said Matthew Dowd, the Bush campaign’s chief strategist.
But the increasing spotlight on Ohio — which Gore abandoned in the last weeks of the 2000 race to concentrate on Florida — shows how economic and demographic changes have shifted this year’s calculations.
Florida, the most closely contested major state in 2000, remains near the top of the “win” list for Bush and Kerry. But Republicans are confident that a good economy has tilted the state slightly in their direction, and some Democrats agree.
The Democrats’ focus appears to have moved from Southern states that Gore fought for but lost in 2000 toward other possible pickups: Southwestern states — especially Nevada and Arizona — and states that have lost jobs under Bush, such as Ohio, West Virginia and Missouri.
Bush advisors see states with large numbers of rural and culturally conservative voters — principally Minnesota, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Oregon — as their best opportunities to capture electoral votes Gore won in 2000.
Just remember, one of the rules was that the candidate with the most money wins the election. Tell that to Howard Dean. Another rule is that the Republicans need Ohio and the Dems need a southern state or two. Let’s watch those rules go out the windows too.
Oh, and remember that Florida was not the closest election in 2000. New Mexico was with only a 300 vote gap between Gore, the winner there, and Bush. Maybe Dems don’t need the south.