Forty, Forty, Forty-Eight Hours to Go...

Welcome to Standard time... and the last 48 hours of the 2008 presidential race.

Here's what I'm reading (and watching) this morning:

1. Adam Nagourney's bird's-eye view of the final sprint, via the New York Times. "Mr. Obama was using the last days of the contest to make incursions into Republican territory, campaigning Saturday in three states — Colorado, Missouri and Nevada — that President Bush won relatively comfortably in 2004," he writes. "Mr. McCain... turned his attention to two states that voted Democratic in 2004 — Pennsylvania and New Hampshire — reflecting what his aides said was polling in both states that suggested the race was tightening. Still, his decision to spend some of his time in the final hours on Democratic turf signaled that Mr. McCain had concluded that his chances of winning with the same lineup of states that put Mr. Bush into the White House was diminishing. Mr. McCain’s hopes appear to rest in large part on his ability to pick up electoral votes from states that Senator John Kerry won for the Democrats four years ago."

Can he do it? McCain's staffers are correct to say the polls are "tightening" in Pennsylvania; since Oct. 20, McCain has managed to slash Obama's average lead in half, from 13.4 percent to seven percent today. But nearly all of that narrowing is a result of undecideds breaking for the Republican, whose numbers have climbed four points--from 40 percent to 44 percent--over the same period. The problem for McCain is that Obama's support has held steady--steadily, that is, above 50 percent. On Oct. 20, the Illinois senator was polling at 52 percent in the Keystone State; today, he's at 51.2 percent. As much as the margin narrows, McCain simply can't win Pennsylvania--and, likely, the election--unless swipes considerable support from Obama, dragging him down into the 40s. Time is running out.

2. Nate Silver's Nov. 1 polling round-up, via FiveThirtyEight. Here, Silver spots each candidate the states that would break their way if (and that's a big if) the polls tighten considerably before Tuesday. McCain would surge ahead in North Carolina, Florida, Indiana, North Dakota, Montana, Georgia and Missouri. Meanwhile, Obama would still prevail in New Mexico (Obama +10), New Hampshire (+10.7), Minnesota (+11.5), Michigan (+12.7), Wisconsin (+11) and Iowa (+15.3). In this scenario--which is the best McCain can hope for--the election would come down to Virginia, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Nevada. From here, I'll pass the mic to Nate: 

Which pretty much explains why McCain has spent much of the past two days in the Keystone State--and why Joe Biden is returning for an Election Eve rally in Philly. About 55-65 percent of the 2004 electorate has already voted in New Mexico and Colorado, and according to the latest polls, large majorities of those votes have gone to Obama. If Obama picks up these two Bush states plus Iowa, McCain has no choicebut to win Pennsylvania. Otherwise, the election is over--no matter what happens in Florida, Ohio and the rest of the "battleground."

3. Chuck Todd's incredible state-by-state Election Day guide, via MSNBC. Seriously--it's incredible. Read the whole thing.

4. Ross Douthat's essay on "Obama and the Race Card," via the Atlantic. Amid last-minute liberal hyperventilating about how "race will doom Obama yet," this is an important, even-handed reminder that 2008 wasn't a dirty election by any stretch of the imagination--and that being half-African-American has helped Obama as much (if not more) than it's hurt him. "Consider, for a moment, that here we are, five days away from the election, and a Republican nominee for President has run a campaign against an African-American opponent that has barely touchedany of the traditional racially-charged domestic-policy issues," Ross writes. "Now there are various reasons why none of these issues have played a role in the campaign:  Attacking on some of these fronts would have required flip-flops on McCain's part; attacking on others (crime, especially) would have reaped vastly diminished returns compared to GOP campaigns of yore; etc. But it's also the case that the Obama campaign (and its surrogates and allies) have done a masterful job of boxing the GOP in on race-related fronts, playing off the media's biases, McCain's sense of honor, and the Republican Party's unpleasant history to create a climate of hair-trigger sensitivity around terrains and topic that usually hurt Democratic candidates." Couldn't agree more.

5. David Broder's look back at this "amazing race," via the Washington Post.  "The voters -- bless 'em -- ignored the oddsmakers," the Dean writes. "They were determined to do their own thing -- set the nation on a new course, sharply different from that of George W. Bush. It did not matter much to them that McCain was too old, by conventional standards, to be running or that Obama's mixed-race background broke the historic color line on the presidency. It was the emergence of these two implausible but impressive candidates that gave 2008 its special stamp... For decades, I have said that the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon campaign was the best I ever saw. But most of the drama in that contest came after Labor Day. This time, the excitement was generously distributed over a whole year, with moments of genuine humor from Huckabee, a torrent of uninhibited conversation from McCain and Biden, and rare eloquence from Obama and both Clintons. The country faces a choice between two men who both promise the nation a more principled, less partisan leadership. And meanwhile, what a show it has been -- the best campaign I've ever covered."

As for me--well, I haven't been covering elections, like Broder, since the 1960s. But I imagine this one will be hard to top.  

6. Fred Armisen impersonating my NEWSWEEK colleague Richard Wolffe on SNL. 

 

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