From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** The post-convention map: After the conventions and the candidates' VP picks, Obama still maintains a slight electoral lead, according to NBC's map. Obama has 228 electoral votes to McCain's 200, with 110 electoral votes in the toss-up column. The changes from last month, when Obama held a 217-189 advantage: Missouri moves from toss-up to Lean McCain, Pennsylvania moves from toss-up to Lean Obama, and Wisconsin moves from Lean Obama to toss-up. We came VERY close to moving North Carolina to toss-up, but until we see one decent poll showing Obama ahead, we're not there yet. Every North Carolina poll has had McCain ahead, though it is worth noting the RNC and the campaign are finally up in the Tar Heel state with paid media.
Likely Obama: CA, CT, DE, DC, HI, IL, ME, MD, MA, NJ, NY, OR, RI, VT, WA (190 electoral votes)
Lean Obama: IA, MN, PA (38 votes)
Toss-up: CO, FL, MI, NV, NM, NH, OH, VA, WI (110 votes)
Lean McCain: AK, GA, IN, MO, MT, NC, ND, SD (64 votes)
Likely McCain: AL, AZ, AR, ID, KS, KY, LA, MS, NE, OK, SC, TN, TX, UT, WV, WY (136 votes)
*** Show Me the help: Indeed, there may not be a state where Palin helps more than a place like Missouri. Looking at 2006, one of the closest Senate races was in Missouri, where Claire McCaskill over-performed in some key non-urban counties, and it's likely she succeeded with culturally conservative women who are also economic populists. These women have probably been sitting in undecided right now in a place like Missouri. And this where Palin comes in: She can keep these soft Republican women from crossing the aisle. It's no mistake why both McCain and Palin are in Missouri today. By the way, the place where the GOP ticket is campaigning today -- Lee's Summit -- is a place that McCaskill carried in '06 and Bush carried in '04. The McCain folks would like to lock down the Show Me State in September. Trust us, if McCain is still campaigning in Missouri in October, things aren't looking good for the GOP.
*** Today's cable catnip: While Obama leads in NBC's electoral map, McCain has jumped ahead of the Illinois Democrat nationally, according to the post-convention USA Today/Gallup poll. In it, McCain leads Obama by four points among registered voters (50%-46%), after trailing Obama by seven after the Democratic convention (50%-43%) -- which is an 11-point swing. Among likely voters, moreover, the poll shows McCain leading by a whopping 10 points (54%-44%). McCain obviously seems to have gotten a bounce out of his convention. But is it really this big? And is it an ephemeral bounce? Or is it a political realignment after the conventions and the Palin pick? Or maybe is it just an outlier? The gold standard of national polling, the NBC/WSJ poll, comes out Wednesday.
*** Basking in Palin's celebrity: Just asking, but when was the last time a presidential nominee so openly relied on a running mate? Palin is being asked to stay with McCain longer than was planned (she was to be in Alaska this week getting ready to see her son off to Iraq). No doubt the crowds she has attracted are proving addicting to the campaign. And now the campaign is up with a new TV ad that has the two as Lone Ranger-Tonto characters. Palin is almost solely responsible for the closing of the enthusiasm gap. And the addition of her has the Obama campaign completely flat-footed. They have taken their eye off the McCain (Bush?) ball, and are trying to figure out how to respond to Palin. The Obama campaign, on some days, seems to be just making it up when it comes to dealing with Palin. The last week of the campaign has been all about Palin, and it appears the rest of this week will be all about her too (now that she'll sit down for her first national media interview post-VP nomination at the end of this week). But what happens when the campaign narrative shifts away from Palin? What happens when McCain's on his own again? Can McCain ride this Palin enthusiasm all the way 'til November?
*** Palin finally meets the press -- or at least one of them: As mentioned above, Palin will sit down with ABC later this week for her first big interview with the national media. Here are some questions she might expect: Without mentioning her supervision of the Alaskan National Guard (a task all governors have), her state's proximity to Russia, and her son's military service, what qualifies her to be commander-in-chief in such turbulent times? How does she reconcile being a "reform" candidate with being under ethical investigation in her home state? Why did she originally back the infamous Bridge to Nowhere? Does she support Alaska not receiving a single additional earmark under a McCain Administration? (And if so, what would that mean economically for her home state?) Does she now agree with McCain's opposition to drilling in ANWR? Does she believe that the war in Iraq is "a task from God"? Does she support converting homosexuals into heterosexuals, as her church in Alaska promotes? And has her own personal family situation changed her views on family planning and sex education?
VIDEO: Biden discusses the Palin pick with NBC's Tom Brokaw on 'Meet the Press."
*** Where did you go, Joe? Lost in all the Palin celebrity is Joe Biden. Talk about a candidate who has lost his voice -- the guy who was hired primarily to be one of the McCain attack dogs seems to have been muted. Biden is trying to find his voice and because every question he gets is about Palin, he doesn't seem prepared to handle his McCain duties. Yesterday on Meet the Press, he had to spend way too much time talking about Palin, and that for now is time wasted for the Obama campaign.
*** On the trail: McCain and Palin hold a rally in Lee's Summit, MO before heading to a fundraiser in Chicago. Obama is in Michigan, where he holds an economic discussion in Flint and then does a town hall in Farmington Hills. And Biden holds a town hall in Green Bay, WI and later a rally in Des Moines, IA.
*** Hillary watch: Hillary Clinton campaigns for Obama in Florida, holding an economic discussion in Kissimmee and then a rally in Tampa. And this stumping comes as we've received word that Bill Clinton will have lunch with Obama in New York on Thursday.
Countdown to the first presidential debate: 18 days
Countdown to the vice presidential debate: 24 days
Countdown to the second presidential debate 29 days
Countdown to the third presidential debate: 37 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 57 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 134 days
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