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UPDATE: Zogby has a helpful interactive electoral map that is now showing here on Election Morning that Obama has a solid 10 percentage point lead in PA, rendering it reasonably safe for Obama, leaving (from what I can see), no discernible path to victory for McCain. If there is still a “state to watch”, keep your eyes on Missouri (dead even at 48.8% each) and North Carolina (where Obama trails by only 0.4%).

During what is sure to be the most internationally watched Presidential Election Night in U.S. history, there are just a handful of states where the outcome can decide the election long before all the states have been counted.

With only seven (now five. See below) “swing”/”toss-up”/”battleground” states remaining in contention for the election, the Electoral Map has not been kind to Senator McCain. I’ll use the most “Conservative” map available… those of Karl Rove on Fox News Sunday:

July 27th. Obama already within seven electoral votes of winning the Presidency without a single swing state:

Obama at 263 - July 27, 2008

By October 19th, Colorado, New Hampshire and Florida move into the Obama column and his Electoral votes surpass 300:

Obama passes 300

One week later, Florida is moved back into the “undecided” column, but Ohio goes for Obama. Rove calls Montana, a solidly Red state, now too close to call:

Obama at 317

Last map before the election. Rove says Obama picks up Nevada, but Indiana becomes a toss-up again:

Obama at 311

Please note in the above 4 maps, one state remains firmly in the Obama column throughout: Pennsylvania. Not a “toss-up”. Not “too-close-to-call”, but unwaveringly “blue”.

So why is Senator McCain campaigning so heavily in “The Keystone State”? Because, true to its nickname, McCain just can’t win the election without it, as Chuck Todd so clearly demonstrated on Meet the Press Sunday:

In order for McCain to reach the 270 Electoral Votes needed to win, not only must he steal away PA’s 21 electoral votes from Obama, but even THAT alone isn’t enough to win. He would STILL need to flip either Nevada or New Hampshire… two former Bush states… in order to surpass 270.

On Fox “news” Sunday, William “the bloody” Kristol mapped out just how difficult a McCain win would be:

You might want to listen to that again. Here is how the stars would have to align for McCain to win: he’d have to sweep every single swing state (“which takes him to 200 electoral votes”), he then wins BOTH Ohio AND Florida (“that gets him to 247 electoral votes”). He “snatches” away Pennsylvania, which is close, but a state Obama has never trailed in (“which would get him to 268”)… and we’re STILL not to 270 yet. He must then pick up one of the former swing states that have moved into the Obama column… Nevada, Colorado, or Virginia. All that, and McCain becomes the next President of the United States.

Now I’m sorry, but if the “stars aligned” to THAT degree for ANY candidate, allowing them to steal away a victory… “steal” being the operative word here… then, in my mind, there is NO question that election was stolen.

But don’t go slitting your wrists just yet should McCain steal away PA, because, while McCain can’t win without it, Obama has enough paths to victory that he can still win the election even if he loses both Pennsylvania AND Ohio. Assuming Rove’s last EV map (above) is correct, if you shift PA’s 21 votes and Ohio’s 20 votes from blue to red, and give all five remaining swing states to McCain, but McCain fails to peel off a single solidly blue state, Obama wins with exactly 270 electoral votes. If you go by Chuck Todd and NBC’s map, which includes Montana, Nevada and Ohio as swing states, if you move both PA and OH into the McCain column, Obama needs only to hold onto just one of the remaining swing states (or both Montana and North Dakota – 3 votes each) to win 270 and the Presidency.

Every election (lately), there has been a “state to watch” where evidence later shows was stolen. In 2000, it was Florida. In 2004, it was Ohio. And in 2008, the state to watch is Pennsylvania.

That covers PA. Another state to watch on Election Night is Virginia… the Canary-in-the-coalmine.

As the maps above show, Virginia went from being a swing state to a solid Obama lead over the Summer. It’s a “Southern”, traditionally Republican state that went for Bush in both 2000 and 2004. Virginia has 13 electoral votes (two of which can split off and vote separately), and, as I’ve pointed out, was a state Gore and Kerry both lost that Obama now leads in. Being on the far East coast, it will be one of the first states whose results will come in on Election Night, so if any “hanky-panky” is going to take place, be on the lookout for a “surprise win for McCain in Virginia” as an early sign that something isn’t right.

Of course, as Kristol pointed out in the above video, McCain would have to “sweep every single swing state“… North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana, Kentucky and Florida… to win. Every swing state that goes for Obama means another solidly blue state McCain must steal away to make up for it. So be watching those five states closely as well.

Should Obama hold onto PA but lose both Ohio and Florida (hey, what are the chances THAT happening, right?), he only needs to hold on to ANY TWO of the remaining toss-up states to win. So on election night, keep your eye on Indiana, Montana, Missouri, North Dakota, Nevada and North Carolina… especially North Carolina, because if Obama wins that, he doesn’t need a second swing state. Of course, South Carolina senator and McCain BFF Lindsey Graham said on Sunday, he’d “beat Michael Phelps in a swim race before North Carolina goes for Obama.” That may be true, but it’s a position someone forgot to share with 51% of North Carolinian’s:

McCain NC lead within error.

So, here are your states to watch:

  • Pennsylvania: McCain can’t win without it.
  • Virgina: A former toss-up now blue. If it goes red, suspect foul play.
  • North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana, Kentucky or Florida: For every one Obama wins, it’s another blue-state McCain must steal away.
  • North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana, Montana or Nevada: Obama only needs two.
  • North Carolina: Enough electoral votes for Obama to lose both OH & FL and still win.

BTW: If you are reading this and are thinking you don’t need to get out and vote because the election is in the bag. A few thoughts: One, these guys will stop at NOTHING… and I mean NOTHING, to steal the election and keep their rich overlords in power. And two, this election needs to be a blow-out. Not just to avert any question as to the outcome, but to give Obama and the Democrats a MANDATE (remember that word? Bush claimed to have it with just a 4-point win) so as to set this country back on the right track with little question that that is what the majority of Americans want.

And lastly, you need to vote “down ticket”. The Presidency is not the only race. The only way to overcome Republican obstructionism and gridlock in Washington is to elect a 60 vote majority in the Senate. If your state has a Senator on the ballot this year (and 1/3rd of you do), you MUST get out there and vote. See you after the election!