Discuss as:

First thoughts: Our final map

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Carrie Dann
*** Our final map: With two days before Election Day, the final NBC News map shows Obama remaining above the 270 electoral-vote mark, with a 286-157 lead over McCain. Last week, Obama held a 286-163 advantage. Our changes: We moved Montana and North Dakota (which has same-day voter registration) from Lean McCain to Toss-up. In addition, we moved Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and New Jersey (the latter of which we should have moved a couple of weeks ago) from Lean Obama to Likely Obama. So here's where we stand:

Likely Obama: CA, CT, DE, DC, HI, IL, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, NJ, NY, OR, RI, VT, WA, WI (227 electoral votes)
Lean Obama: CO, IA, NH, NM, PA, VA (59 votes)
Toss-up: FL, IN, MO, MT, NV, NC, ND, OH (95 votes)
Lean McCain: AZ, GA, NE 02, SD, WV (34 votes)
Likely McCain: AL, AK, AR, ID, KS, KY, LA, MS, NE (the rest of the state), OK, SC, TN, TX, UT, WY (123 votes)

*** Good news and bad news: Our new map comes at the same time as the release of a final round of Mason-Dixon polls, and they contain both good news and bad news for the candidates. The numbers: Obama is ahead five points in Colorado (49%-44%), two in Florida (47%-45%), four in Nevada (47%-43%), and three points in Virginia (47%-44%). Meanwhile, McCain is up one in Missouri (47%-46%), three in North Carolina (49%-46%), and two in Ohio (47%-45%). The good news for Obama -- and bad news for McCain -- is that if Obama holds on to his leads in CO, FL, NV, and VA, he's going to easily win on Tuesday, racking up well over 300 electoral votes. But the bad news for Obama -- and good news for McCain -- is that Obama is below 50% in all of these polls. And if undecideds break decisively for McCain, that's how he would pull off the upset. But if the 2004 presidential contest taught us anything, it's that turnout sometimes is more important than undecided voters. In our final NBC/WSJ poll before the 2004 election, Bush held a one-point lead over Kerry, 48%-47%. And there was the assumption that undecideds breaking for the challenger over the incumbent would propel Kerry to victory. But that didn't happen. By the way, our final NBC/WSJ poll comes out first thing tomorrow morning.

*** Southern discomfort: While everyone is trend-spotting demographics and geography through the Obama prism, don't forget to examine the state of the Republican Party through those same lenses. In the House, for instance, the grim picture for the GOP is on full display. According to one Cook Report estimate by House editor David Wasserman, the GOP -- in a worst-case scenario -- could have as few as 16 members left in the Northeast (versus 79 for the Dems). In the South, the GOP lead in House seats could be in single digits, 74-68. In the Midwest, 61-39 could be the House seat split. And finally, out West, powered by the Dem strength on the Pacific coast, the Dem lead could 66-32. Step back and look at those numbers: Nearly half of the House GOP caucus may be rooted in the South. Just as it wasn't healthy for the Democratic Party when it appeared rooted in just the Northeast and the Left coast, neither is it good for the GOP to be seen as simply a regional political party.

*** Vice squad: It shouldn't be a surprise that Dick Cheney supports the GOP presidential ticket, but Obama didn't let anyone forget that support after Cheney said nice words about McCain and Palin while campaigning yesterday in his home state of Wyoming. "Earlier today, Dick Cheney came out of his undisclosed location and he hit the campaign trail," Obama said, per NBC/NJ's Athena Jones. "He said that he is, and I quote, 'delighted to support John McCain.' So I'd like to congratulate Sen. McCain on this endorsement because he really earned it." And the Obama campaign has now cut a brand-new TV ad noting McCain's "Cheney endorsement' (versus Obama's endorsements by Colin Powell and Warren Buffett). Perhaps this is why we haven't seen Bush and Cheney (until yesterday) on the campaign trail… 

*** Biden as Bill Clinton? NBC/NJ's Mike Memoli, who frequently covered Bill Clinton during the primary season and now travels with Biden, says that he's been feeling a sense of déjà vu lately. In the past three days, Biden has held FOUR events in venues where the former president rallied supporters for his wife before the Ohio and Pennsylvania primary contests. (In all four -- Allentown and Williamsport, PA, and Lima and Marion OH -- Memoli notes that Clinton's crowds were bigger.) The coincidence makes sense in that the Scranton-born Biden has much the same mission on the road that Clinton did: to vouch for his candidate in small towns, often in red counties. The larger-than-life former president appeared to move the needle with his early-vote blitzes of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Texas. Can Biden do the same?

*** What "spread the wealth" means? The Boston Globe has a great piece from a Western, PA, county that Kerry won 51%-48%. It found folks open to Obama's message in an area hit hard by steel plant closings. But it touched on something we hadn't yet heard -- that for some voters "spread the wealth" isn't necessarily a rich vs. middle class argument. Rather, it's redistribution from middle class to poor. As the Globe puts it, "[T]he notion may play on racist fears of black welfare recipients siphoning money from working-class whites -- fears that have special resonance since Obama is black."

*** On the trail: McCain begins his day campaigning in Pennsylvania, holding events in Wallingford and Scranton before heading to a town hall in Peterborough, NH and then an after-midnight rally in Miami. FL. Obama spends his entire day in Ohio, attending rallies in Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati. Palin also is in Ohio, hitting Canton, Marietta, Columbus, and Batavia. And Biden campaigns in Florida, stopping in Tallahassee, Gainesville, and Dayton Beach.

Countdown to Election Day 2008: 2 days
Countdown to Electoral Vote Count: 67 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 79 days

Click here to sign up for First Read emails.
Text FIRST to 622639, to sign up for First Read alerts to your mobile phone.
Voting problems? Call 866-OUR-VOTE or log on to 866ourvote.org.