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First thoughts: Two different maps

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** Two different maps: On TODAY and Morning Joe, NBC's Tim Russert took at a stab at November's electoral map. And this morning, we do the same, to show how different Clinton's and Obama's paths to 270 are. This is where we start, and we will be updating this regularly between now and November.
Obama vs. McCain
Base Obama: CA, CT, DE, DC, HI, IL, ME, MD, MA, NY, RI, VT, WA (168 electoral votes)
Lean Obama:  NJ, MN, OR, WI (42)
Toss-up: CO, IA, MI, MO, NV, NM, NH, OH, PA, VA (112)
Lean McCain: AR, FL, GA, LA, MS, MT, NC (81)
Base McCain: AL, AK, AZ, ID, IN, KS, KY, NE, ND, OK, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, WV, WY (135)

Clinton vs. McCain
Base Clinton: CA, CT, DE, DC, HI, IL, ME, MD, MA, NJ, NY, RI, VT (172)
Lean Clinton: AR, MN, OR, WA, WI (44)
Toss-up: FL, IA, MI, NM, NH, OH, PA (101)
Lean McCain: CO, LA, MO, NV, VA (47)
Base McCain: AL, AK, AZ, GA, ID, IN, KS, KY, MS, MT, NE, NC, ND, OK, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, WV, WY (174)

*** Mixing and matching: Obviously, there's a lot of mixing and matching one can do, as Russert did this morning. Check out how Obama can win without BOTH Ohio and Florida, as long as he wins Kerry's states plus Colorado and Virginia. Or toss in New Mexico, Iowa, and Nevada and he can lose Michigan, too. Clinton's path looks more traditional as long as she doesn't lose Oregon or Wisconsin. If she adds Ohio or Florida and loses Oregon, she can get it back by adding Arkansas. If she carries Oregon, but loses Wisconsin, she'll need Florida and Arkansas; Ohio and Arkansas won't do it. And as Russert pointed out, it's a bit too easy, again, to get to 269-269 -- meaning no candidate gets 270 and the election goes to the Dem-controlled House. In that scenario, by the way, each delegation gets one vote, so the formula is not cut-and-dried. And there would be pressure on some lawmakers to vote their state instead of their party. Sound familiar? Oy…

VIDEO: Hillary Clinton reportedly says only she, and not Barack Obama, can win again John McCain. NBC's Tim Russert looks at the issue.

*** Hillary's Mountain West problem? Is it just us, or does right now seem a lot like the weeks leading into Ohio and Texas, when Obama was picking up a superdelegate or two per day? Yesterday, Obama got two more of them: Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal and former Montana Sen. John Melcher. While these are two more superdelegates for Obama, they also represent Clinton's problems west of the Mississippi. In the past couple of election cycles, Democrats have made huge gains in the Mountain West (in Colorado and Montana, especially). And these elected officials seem to be gravitating toward Obama, not Clinton. Her numbers are not great in Colorado or Oregon; Bill Clinton was never overly popular out in the Mountain West. Could that Bill hangover be hurting Hillary? 

*** He said, they said: This discussion of the electoral map gains even more relevancy today with the report that Hillary told Bill Richardson that Obama "can't win." This version of events apparently took place in the days/hours right before Richardson went public with his Obama support. According to one source familiar with the Richardson-HRC conversation, she repeatedly told him Obama couldn't win. But this wasn't the only Obama electability conversation the Clintons and Richardson apparently had. A source with knowledge of earlier conversations between the Clintons and Richardson tells NBC News that it was Richardson who insisted to the Clintons that Obama could not win because of his inexperience. This source adds that Richardson repeatedly said that to both of them as the reason he wasn't going to endorse Obama because he was "Not ready -- can't win." However, this took place in and around Super Tuesday. So the he-said, they-said on this issue continues. No doubt the bad blood between the New Mexico governor and the Clintons has only gotten worse. Actually, it's likely that both sides are speaking the truth: Richardson may have believed Obama couldn't win on Feb. 5, but was convinced differently after Obama went on his 11-contest winning streak.

*** John's excellent adventure: Has McCain's bio tour worked? He ends it tomorrow in Memphis, which could be his most high-profile event, where he attends the events surrounding the anniversary of MLK's assassination. But what did McCain gain this week? The tour received some attention in newscasts and newspaper articles -- but nothing compared with what the latest dramas in the Clinton-Obama race attracted. The tour certainly hasn't hurt McCain. But did it help him? Just asking: What if they unveiled his bio each day at stops in three key states like Michigan, Florida, and Iowa? McCain is weaker in Iowa than a Republican should be and has ground to make up there. Also, stumping in Florida and Michigan would only serve as a chance to stick a finger in the eyes of the Democrats regarding their delegate dispute in those two states.

*** McCain tour, Day 4: The fourth leg of McCain's "Service to America" tour takes him to Jacksonville, FL. Per NBC/NJ's Adam Aigner-Treworgy, McCain lived there with his first wife and three children upon returning from his first tour in Vietnam upon the ill-fated Forrestal. When he shipped out again -- eventually to be shot down and taken prisoner in North Vietnam -- his family remained in Jacksonville and were cared for by the soldiers stationed at Cecil Field, the location of today's speech. "My family lived here before I went to war, and this is the place I came home to after the war," McCain will say, according to excerpts of his remarks. "We lived here again in 1974 for two years, when I was Executive Officer, and then Commanding Officer of VA 174, the Replacement Air Group at Cecil Field… This place was never more special to me than during my unexpectedly long deployment overseas, when the good people of this place looked after my family in my absence. I have always been indebted to Florida friends and neighbors in Orange Park for taking such good care of my family while I was away."

*** On the trail: Clinton raises money in Beverly Hills, CA and then appears on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno; Obama is down in Chicago; Bill Clinton campaigns in Altoona, PA, then heads to Kentucky (May 20 primary); and Chelsea Clinton stumps in Pennsylvania.  

Countdown to Pennsylvania: 19 days
Countdown to North Carolina, Indiana: 33 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 215 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 292 days
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