To be sure, both candidates lead by only a narrow margin in some states, and the numbers in some states may be skewed by polls that were just plain wrong. And enough states are close -- carried by a candidate by 7 percent of the vote or less -- to suggest that we are headed to an election as close as 2000 and 2004.
But it's not going to be on the same battlegrounds. McCain has narrow leads in some familiar target states -- Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire and Ohio. But he also leads narrowly in states that were not on the target lists last time -- Alaska, Montana, North Carolina, Virginia and (!) Texas. Obama has narrow leads in some familiar target states -- Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. But also in some states not on 2000 or 2004 target lists -- Colorado, New Jersey and (!) Massachusetts.
Moreover, some states that were prime targets in 2000 and 2004 may not be this time. McCain leads by 8 percent in Florida and by 18 percent in West Virginia -- until 2000 considered safely Democratic. Obama leads by 8 percent to 10 percent in Minnesota, Oregon and Wisconsin. As I counseled some months ago, it's time to throw out that old map of the red states and blue states. There are more states -- and some different states -- in play this time.
It may be time, too, to throw out the old rule that says that economic distress moves voters toward Democrats. McCain is maintaining or improving on George W. Bush's performance in Michigan, which has the nation's highest unemployment rate, and in economically ailing Ohio. Obama is running significantly better than John Kerry or Al Gore in economically vibrant Virginia and North Carolina.
In these changes on the political map you can see reflections of the tribal warfare in the Democratic primaries. Obama clearly underperforms the potential Democratic vote among older, downscale, Latino, Jewish and Appalachian voters. Whether that will remain the case is uncertain. But right now, at midpoint, this looks like a presidential race unlike any other.
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