Now that Obama has almost certainly tied up the Democratic nomination, analysts and number-crunchers have already begun taking a look at what the map would look like if the election were held today. Two prominent sources for political data and analysis - RealClearPolitics and the Evans-Novak Political Report - have maps indicating what the landscape looks like. While the RCP model is mathematical and computer-generated (it takes the statewide head-to-head polls, plugs them into a map and paints by numbers), the Evans-Novak map analyzes trends and demographics in states to make predictions.
RCP's current electoral map, as of this afternoon, has Barack Obama with 228 electoral votes, John McCain with 190, and another 120 listed as "toss-up". What should give McCain supporters something happy to read from this is the "solid" versus "leaning" breakdown. Of Obama's 228 electors, RCP only lists 60 as "solid" with 168 as "leaning". McCain, however, has 96 "solid" to 94 "leaning".
However, many of these state predictions are made with a major absence of data. For instance, the most recent ballot match-up between McCain and Obama in South Carolina or Idaho (to give two examples) is from an early February 2008 poll conducted by SurveyUSA. It's tough to make a map based purely on the polls at this stage of the game when the data is so hard to find for so many states.
Robert Novak and Tim Carney use research, precedent, and demographic data to give a different take at the Evans-Novak Political Report.
The election will hinge on two regions: Lake Erie and the Mountain West. An Obama win in New Mexico or Nevada would be enough to tip the scales, but a McCain win in Pennsylvania could put the race out of reach. In the end, as always, it comes down to Ohio, where Obama’s weakness among rural whites could send McCain to the White House. McCain 270, Obama 268.