One new map is a simulator that works on probabilities. It is pretty cool though not very accurate at the moment due to a lack of current polling data. The site says to start looking at it in earnest next week. Be sure to read the explanation of how it works carefully.
They have a static map that they update based on polls from SUSA, Rasmussen and Quinnipiac that tracks polling in the individual states. This is useful because they show levels of support and not just who has the most support, and so indicates where opinions are still fluid.
Ad then there is the interactive map on the home page where you can play "What if..." scenarios until the cows come home.
Looking at the static map, there are five states to watch carefully because they could swing abruptly. Most are mildly blue:
- Washington - 11
- Minnesota - 10
- Wisconsin - 10
- Michigan - 17
- Pennsylvania - 21
The site shows Florida and Missouri as undecideds, but I think they have to be counted for McCain. The high plains - Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota - are unlikely to go blue. Virginia and North Carolina are likewise highly unlikely to vote Democrat.That leaves Ohio, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Minnesota, Indiana and New Hampshire.
Now, there is a winning strategy for each of them that includes a loss of Ohio at this point. To lose Ohio and win the election, McCain must take all the states except Ohio. Obama could win with Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico and Minnesota, but lose Indiana, Ohio and New Hampshire. Let Nevada go red in that scenario, and you have a tied Electoral College at 269 each. I was amazed, but it could happen. (Actually, I have stumbled on three plausible tie scenarios.)
I still think Washington could very well go red because of the choice of Palin for the ticket combined with a very angry and aggressive Republican party that will be really turning up their GOTV effort to defeat Gov. Gregoire. If the Republicans can turn Washington and Minnesota, they can afford to lose Colorado and Ohio. Michigan and Wisconsin are also tepidly blue states that bear watching. The simulator has both Minnesota and Michigan turning red at various points.
All in all, a far closer race than anyone could have anticipated a year ago.