TAKE THE UNDER (AT 325 ELECTORS).

With all due respect to Time's Ana Marie Cox and AP’s Nedra Pickler -- or for that matter, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe's strategic plan, as reported by Pickler and blogged by Cox -- I must rudely note that there are a few of us, particularly many western Democrats, who have been saying for years now that there are ways to get to 270 by starting more or less with the John Kerry-won states and building out from there, and yes, even without either Florida or Ohio.

In the afterword to the paperback edition of Whistling Past Dixie, written almost a year ago and published in January before we knew the nominee, I identified five paths to get to 270. Single-shot wins in either Ohio or Florida are just two, but three others without OH or FL include the “southwest passage” of 19 electors from the three, non-Arizona Southwest states, and two variations on what I call the “36th parallel” strategy involving Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri and West Virginia. (Arguably, Hillary Clinton would have had a better shot at KY and WV, Obama could still win either or both of MO and VA.)

So, like, duh. My point is that nobody, including me, is breaking any new ground here, at least by June 2008. Why? As I mention in every presentation I give at home or abroad about the election, the key thing to remember is that the number of states won by 10 percent or more (and the subset of those won by 20 percent or more) doubled between the close 1960 election and the two close elections this decade. That is, the blue states are bluer and the red states are redder and thus the map, though loosening a bit, is still pretty damn tight.

We’re all focusing on the same handful states for a reason -- recent demography makes the map far more rigid, and predictable. I’d be shocked if the 44th president enters office with more than 325 electoral votes. Does anyone want to bet the "over" on that?

--Tom Schaller

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