As Obama surveys the Electoral College map, he needs to take several things into consideration. First, he needs to look at defending the Kerry states. That means he must make sure he is running strong in the Mid-Atlantic states of Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, where John McCain is actually quite popular and familiar, due to his constant media presence on shows like Imus in the Morning over the last fifteen years. He also needs to check his strength in New Hampshire (where McCain has twice won important primaries) and Maine. Obama also needs to shore up his position in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Oregon. If he feels like he is holding the line in all these Kerry states, then he is free to go on offense.

As with both Kerry and Gore, Obama can deliver a knockout blow by seizing either Ohio or Florida. And he might consider exerting maximum pressure in one of these two states by selecting a running mate like Gov. Ted Strickland, Sen. Sherrod Brown, or Sen. Bill Nelson. Doing so could pin McCain down in a do or die fight to win in spite of a homestate running mate on the Democratic side.

But that is not Obama’s only way to the nomination. Provided he holds the Kerry states, he can win the nomination without winning either Florida or Ohio if he wins Iowa and Colorado, plus either Nevada or New Mexico. For some insight into the probability of winning these states, Kerry lost Colorado by 100,000 votes, Nevada by 21,000 votes, Iowa by 10,000 votes, and New Mexico by 6,000 votes. Selecting New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson as his running mate would go a long way towards turning these states blue. I also think Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas or Governor Janet Napolitano of Arizona could be helpful with this Southwestern Strategy.

Over the course of this primary season it has become evident that Obama does least well among white voters in the Greater Appalachia region. Despite this, Obama has real strength in Virginia and North Carolina. Winning both Virginia and North Carolina would bring victory even without Ohio or Florida. With the immensely popular former Governor Mark Warner on the ballot in Virginia for a U.S. Senate seat, and with Obama’s crushing victory in the primary there, it’s hard to see how a Obama/Kaine or Obama/Webb ticket could possibly fail to carry the Old Dominion. However, it’s not clear that victory in Virginia would bring victory elsewhere.

Another way of tackling his weakness straight on is to select someone with a lot of military experience/expertise like former Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia, former CENTCOM commander Gen. Anthony Zinni of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, or Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island.

It looks like 2008 is shaping up to be a true realignment election, which means a shift in the makeup of each party. That argues against playing against the old map. I think Obama should play to a new map, either by going after the Southwest, or by going after Virginia and North Carolina. Here’s how I would focus my energy:

1) shore up Kerry states.
2) go after Iowa, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada.
3) work for Ohio, Florida, and Missouri.
4) put pressure on in Virginia and North Carolina.
5) go fishing in South Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska, Montana, and Alaska.
6) test Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas, and Georgia.

All of these states are more fertile ground than West Virginia and Kentucky. My top vee-pee picks are:

1) Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas
2) Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia
3) Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio
4) Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island
5) Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida
6) Gen. Anthony Zinni of Pennsylvania
7) Gov. Ted Strickland of Ohio
8) Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia
9) Fmr. Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia
10) Fmr. Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota

You could also throw in real wild cards like Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska who, say what you will, would help form an almost unbeatable ticket. Hagel may be destined for the State Department instead, but I think it is likely he will join the Obama campaign in some capacity.

What are your strategies?

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