Obama strategists think he can pry a number of red states from the GOP column, including New Mexico (5), Colorado (9) and Nevada (5) in the West; Virginia (13), North Carolina (15) and Georgia (15) in the South; and Iowa (7) and Ohio (20) in the Midwest. That would give him an added 89 electoral votes, but he may need only one or two of these states to win the election.
Bush defeated Kerry in 2004 by 286 to 251 electoral votes. If Obama can take the same states as Kerry, he would need only Ohio to win the White House.
But McCain's high command told me that they liked their chances in several states in the Democratic column, where their own polls show the race is either very close or the Arizonan holds a slight lead.
McCain has the edge in Democratic Michigan (17), where the economy is in a recession and Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm's Obama-like tax increase is unpopular. He leads in New Hampshire (4), which Kerry carried by a thin 1.3 percent, and is competitive in Pennsylvania (21) that Bush lost by 2 points and where Obama performed poorly in his party's primary.
Polls showing that McCain "holds a lead in states Bush lost in 2004 suggests that the November contest will be competitive," said longtime campaign analyst Amy Walter.
The ABC/Post poll, its first since the end of the primaries, contains a number of intriguing findings that suggest, with all of the head winds John McCain faces, Obama has many troubles of his own. Among them:
-- Party unity. While nearly nine in 10 Republicans are backing McCain, "not quite eight in 10 said they support Obama," the Post reported. Almost one-quarter of those "who said they favored (Hillary) Clinton over Obama" now say they will vote for McCain, "virtually unchanged from polls taken before Clinton suspended her campaign."
-- Experience. Obama "gained no ground on the question of whether he has the experience needed" to be president. Just 50 percent say "he has the necessary experience, almost the same as in early March."
-- Terrorism and Iraq. McCain has a 14-point lead on who can best deal with terrorism, the edge on foreign affairs and runs even on handling the war in Iraq, Obama's core issue.
Last week, Democratic national chairman Howard Dean said his party was still divided over its prospective nominee and that some Democrats were "reluctant" to support Obama.
Translation: This isn't shaping up to be the slam-dunk election many of us thought it would be.