If you start handicapping states for November, you might get something like this:

Start with assigning all of Kerry’s states to Obama, the rest to McCain.  Now shift New Hampshire to McCain, who is popular there, having spent about a year of his life campaigning there.  Then take Iowa away from McCain, who won the caucuses there and leads in the early polls.  Colorado seems likely to go to Obama as well, and also New Mexico.

Which leaves the electoral vote at :  Obama 269, McCain 269.  Now, if Obama leads in one Congressional District in Nebraska….
With an election that chose shaping up, it seems to me that both sides have to be looking at a VP choice who can bring in a state to tilt the scales.

So, what is a winning strategy here?  The GOP can exploit an advantage here, that their convention is second, so they can see what happens with the Democrats and then, if need be, choose a candidate who can deliver a state with more electoral votes.

For the Democrats, a lot of names come up:  Jean Sibelius, who is already on most lists, Evan Bayh, Brian Schweitzer.  The names Tim Kaine and Blanche Lincoln also surface from time to time.  I like Schweitzer as the most likely to bring in the electoral votes.  However, it’s just 3 votes, and the Repulicans can perhaps get more.

McCain’s best options here are Olympia Snowe, Tim Pawlenty, and Tommy Thompson.  Pawlenty could be part of an all-out strategy to win over Minnesota, which will get a boost from the fact that they are having the convention there.  But Pawlenty’s approval ratings have been mediocre of late.  Thompson is an uninspiring campaigner, but his presence on the ticket would almost certainly give Wisconsin, a state that is always close, to McCain.

If the final score is 269-269, we could see a new wrinkle to election SNAFUs.  To win the House vote, a candidate needs the votes of 26 states.  But that might not be possible, given that some delgations may be evenly split.  If the House is deadlocked, the Senate selects one of the two Vice-Presidential candidates, who, in the absence of a President, immediately ascends to that office.  A note of caution if Obama thinks of putting Hagel on his ticket.

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