From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Carrie Dann
*** No change to the map: Although we saw the needle move in Obama's direction after last week's events -- including McCain's own stumbles -- the newest NBC electoral map this week is essentially unchanged. Obama holds a slight 233-227 lead over McCain. Our only change was moving New Jersey from Likely Obama to Lean Obama after various polls showed him with a single-digit lead there.
Likely Obama: CA, CT, DE, DC, HI, IL, ME, MD, MA, NJ, NY, RI, VT (157 electoral votes)
Lean Obama: IA, MN, NJ, NM OR, PA, WA (76 votes)
Toss-up: CO, MI, NV, NH, OH, VA, WI (78 votes)
Lean McCain: FL, IN, MO, MT, NC (67 votes)
Likely McCain: AL, AK, AZ, AR, GA, ID, KS, KY, LA, MS, NE, ND, OK, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, WV, WY (160 votes)
Video: NBC Political Director Chuck Todd discusses how the government's Wall Street bailout plan may force McCain and Obama to ratchet back spending promises and looks at new polling from the battleground state of Pennsylvania.
*** Three states to watch: But we have our eyes on three "Lean" states that we could move back to the Toss-up column. The first is Pennsylvania, where a new TODAY Show/NBC/Mason-Dixon poll shows Obama with a two-point advantage, 46%-44%. And the other two are Florida and North Carolina, where polls show Obama closing in on McCain. For now, because all three states show the same leader in polls that we trust, we're leaving them in their lean status. But do note that many a Democrat believes North Carolina is a state where the electorate really may have changed. It's a fascinating state this cycle, actually -- not a single white male Democrat is in the top three races on the state's ballot.
*** Bailing out the bailout: Is this bailout going to make it through? It seemed like a slam-dunk Friday, but there are enough folks on both sides who seem intent on making sure this bill is debated somewhat. Will Congress roll over like they did for the Patriot Act and for Homeland Security? And what about Obama and McCain -- will they come back to DC to vote on the bailout and to introduce their own reforms?
*** Race affecting the race: Not too long ago, we implored Democrats and the media against saying that an Obama loss would reflect poorly on America -- i.e., the only reason he could lose in this political environment is because of the color of his skin. Yet according to a new AP-Yahoo poll, race is certainly out there. The poll found that one-third of white Democrats harbor negative feelings about blacks, and it also noted this: "Statistical models derived from the poll suggest that Obama's support would be as much as 6 percentage points higher if there were no white racial prejudice." "Look, if you're asking me are there some people who might not vote for me because of my race? Of course," Obama told John Harwood of CNBC and the New York Times. "Are there some who might vote for me because of my race? You bet. I think ultimately, though, the question's going to be decided by a guy or a woman who is working hard every day trying to save enough to send their kid to college, trying to pay the bills."
*** Debate prep: What's going on with this report about Michael Steele playing Obama for McCain's debate preparations? Is this really the case? Or is it really Rob Portman? We'll find out later today. Meanwhile, the Obama camp is using uber-lawyer Greg Craig as their McCain stand-in.
*** So who's campaign is more negative? While Saturday Night Live drove home the narrative of McCain's misleading TV ads, it's again worth noting that McCain isn't the only one running them. In addition to that earlier Spanish-language hit linking McCain with Rush Limbaugh on the thorny issue of immigration, Obama began airing a new ad on Social Security, which argues that the Bush privatization plan that McCain backed in 2005 would cut benefits in half. But that's not quite true, according to the folks at Factcheck.org; they cite a report by Obama economic adviser Jason Furman noting that benefits would by cut by about 28%, not 50%. On the stump, moreover, Obama has suggested that had the privatization plan succeeded, seniors' retirement money would now be at risk given the current financial crisis. But that's not fair either, since the Bush plan would only affect young workers. Of course, McCain is now up with his first Tony Rezko ad. "His economic adviser, William Daley. Lobbyist. Mayor's brother," the ad goes. "His money man, Tony Rezko. Client. Patron. Convicted Felon. His 'political godfather.' Emil Jones. Under ethical cloud. His governor, Rod Blagojevich. A legacy of federal and state investigations. With friends like that, Obama is not ready to lead."
*** Get out of my dreams, get into my car(s): Last week wasn't a kind week for McCain, and his weekend didn't get much better after Newsweek reported that the McCains own 13 cars -- three of which are foreign made. Michigan Dems jumped all over that news.
*** On the trail: McCain, in Pennsylvania, holds an Irish-American town hall in Scranton before meeting up with Palin for a rally in Media. Obama attends a rally in Green Bay, WI. Biden speaks to the National Guard Association in Baltimore. And Michelle Obama campaigns for her husband in Wisconsin, hitting Madison, Wausau, and West Allis.
Countdown to the first presidential debate: 4 days
Countdown to the vice presidential debate: 12 days
Countdown to the second presidential debate 15 days
Countdown to the third presidential debate: 23 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 43 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 120 days
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