George Will

55: California has that many electoral votes, more than one-fifth of 270. McCain, who likely will be relying on $84.1 million taxpayer dollars, cannot afford to compete in California.

15: Obama, probably relying on voluntary contributions, will have enough to spend speculative millions on, say, North Carolina (15). In 2004, Bush won it with 1,961,166 votes (56 percent) but in this year's primary, where turnout was below what it will be in November, Obama (875,683) and Clinton (652,824) received 1,528,507, slightly more than Kerry received in the 2004 general election.

56: That is the number of jurisdictions that will be deciding the allocation of the 270. There are 50 states and the District of Columbia. Maine and Nebraska, however, award two electoral votes to the candidate who wins the statewide popular vote, and one to whichever candidate carries each congressional district. Maine has two districts, Nebraska three. Since the two states decided to abandon winner-take-all allocation of their electoral votes (Maine in 1969, Nebraska in 1991), each state's congressional districts have not differed in their presidential preferences. But Nebraska's Second District is, essentially, Omaha. Obama might sense an opportunity.

4: That is the number of commas in the number of possible combinations of jurisdictions that can give a candidate 270 or more electoral votes. The votes disposed by the jurisdictions range from one (the Maine and Nebraska congressional districts) to three (7 states and D.C.) to California's 55, with 17 different numbers between three and 55.

2016: Assuming, not rashly, that Barack Obama wins, 2016 is the next time Hillary Clinton, who will then be 68, can seek the Democratic nomination. By then, the median age of the electorate will be 47, so for many millions of voters, Bill Clinton's tenure will seem only slightly less distant than Grover Cleveland's, the last Democratic presidency that did not make sensible citizens wince.


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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