Electoral College Snapshot: Bush 291 – Kerry 200 – Tossup 47

While the new polls coming in from Newsweek and Gallup yesterday got a lot of attention, including here, the RealClear Politics average of the polls taken since the debates still has a slight Bush lead: 49.0% to 46.3% to 1.5% in a three way race.

More importantly, especially in a very close race, are the state-by-state numbers, since that’s actually how the race is decided. RealClear Politics‘ current Electoral Count, based on the most recent significant poll in each of the 50 states plus the Districts, allocates the electoral votes this way: Bush 291, Kerry 200, and 47 still listed as toss-ups. Breaking it down further, RCP has it: Solid Bush 176, Leaning Bush 115, Solid Kerry 153, Leaning Kerry 47, and Toss Up 47.

It only takes 270 to win, so Kerry will need to not only win all the toss-up states but pull 23 votes out of the Leaning Bush column to eke out a narrow victory. (One presumes a 269-269 goes to Bush, since the House of Representatives would decide, although there are all manner of other contingencies should that happen as discussed here previously.)

That’s certainly doable, although difficult. Florida, with 27 electors, is the most obvious target among the Leaning Bush states. Bush was only up 5.4% in a three-way race as of the latest poll. Still, as the name implies, Bush has a reasonable shot at pulling in the toss-up states, too. The most juicy of those is Pennsylvania, which has 21 electors and was deadlocked at 46.7 – 46.0 (Bush) in the poll taken on the eve of the debates.

One advantage of Bush’s horrible performance in the first debate is that expectations for his performance will be rock bottom for Round 2 next Friday. Presuming that he actually shows up alert this time, he should get a bit of a bounce from them. What’s clear, though, is that hopes that Bush would be able to put Kerry away and coast to a landslide are all but dashed at this stage.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.