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Obama Poised to
Beat McCain, But by How Much?

Obama Poised to
Beat McCain, But by How Much?

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The last batch of polls are in and they indicate one thing: Democratic Sen. Barack Obama appears set to win the presidency today. Barring unforeseen events, the only questions now are about margins: By how much will the Illinois senator beat Republican nominee John McCain in the popular vote -- and, more importantly, in the Electoral College?

The last batch of polls are in and they indicate one thing: Democratic Sen. Barack Obama appears set to win the presidency today. Barring unforseeen events, like massive voting problems, complacency among Democrats, or a Bradley effect in which Obama's support is less than measured due to racial prejudice, the only questions now are about margins: By how much will the Illinois senator beat Republican nominee John McCain in the popular vote -- and, more importantly, in the Electoral College?

While the 14 national polls listed on polling clearinghouse RealClearPolitics.com average a margin of 7.3% for Obama, a comfortable but not dramatic lead, the dozens of state polls suggest that the Democratic nominee may win 350 or more electoral votes (270 are needed for victory), with McCain poised to collect less than 200. Compared to 2004, when President George W. Bush took 281 votes to John Kerry's 251, and the infamous 2000 election, when Bush squeaked by with 271 votes to Al Gore's 266, that margin would be a relative landslide. (By contrast, President Bill Clinton earned 379 votes in 1996 and 370 in '92, while President Ronald Reagan ended up with 525 in '84 and 489 in '80 in what were true landslides.)

The current electoral map on the New York Times website, for instance, shows Obama in control of 291 votes and McCain commanding 163, with only five states bona-fide toss-ups: perennial battlegrounds Ohio and Florida, plus the typically Republican states of Missouri, Indiana, and North Carolina. (It's a sign of the Democratic nominee's vaunted fundraising and organizational prowess that traditional red states like those are even in play, not to mention the ones that Obama has consistently shown leads in, such as Colorado and Virginia.) If the polls hold, McCain's Electoral College deficit means that even if he were to sweep those five states, he'd still lose the election.

Over at the blog FiveThirtyEight.com, revered by political insiders and the media for its rigorous polling analysis and Electoral College projections based on statistical algorithms, no toss-up states are factored into the electoral map, leaving Obama with 346.5 votes and McCain with 191.5. Nate Silver, who runs the site, gives Obama both Ohio and Florida, where polls have shown him with a slim but steady lead, and North Carolina, which seems to be slightly trending his way; McCain collects both Missouri and Indiana.

As of Monday night, Silver put McCain's chances of winning the presidency at 1.9% -- his lowest to date. (The Advocate)

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