IN THE PAPERS:
The red and blue map is about to be turned upside down in November, as both Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama plot a path to the presidency featuring an electoral map with states won by the other party in 2004 and 2000.
New battlegrounds are about to emerge in the Midwest, Rocky Mountain West and the South. Beware Democrats in New Jersey and Pennsylvania! Watch out Republicans in Virginia, North Carolina and Colorado!
Dan Balz of the Washington Post reports the Obama campaign believes it will need to hold every state won by John Kerry in '04 and then pick off a few states that have voted Republican in the past two elections in order to capture the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House.
Balz writes, "The Kerry map gives Obama 252 electoral votes. To pick up the next 18 electoral votes, Obama will target Iowa, Virginia, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado. His list also includes Ohio, where he lost the primary to [Hillary] Clinton but which, in the 2006 midterms, shifted dramatically toward the Democrats."
Not so fast -- The McCain campaign believes the Arizona senator's potential appeal to independents and some Democrats will shine the way to 270. If everything holds, Republicans and Democrats will set their sights clearly on the other's terrain, writes Balz. "McCain and Obama offer a rare combination of nominees able to poach on the other party's turf. Both have proven appeal to independents. McCain will target disgruntled Clinton supporters; Obama will target disaffected Republicans. Women, Latinos and, especially, white working-class voters will find themselves courted intensely by the two campaigns." LINK
The sprint to 270 is in full gear. Team Obama is actively pursuing Aaron Pickrell, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland's chief political strategist, and Dan Carroll, who was an opposition researcher for Bill Clinton in 1992, report Adam Nagourney and Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times.
The outstanding Obama campaign organization has pivoted completely to the task of taking on the full force of the Republican Party -- which has historically out-gunned Democrats in presidential contests. "The question is whether the more organically grown game plans that carried Mr. Obama to victory in Democratic primaries and caucuses can match the well-oiled organizations Republicans have put together," write Nagourney and Zeleny. "Mr. Obama has moved in recent days to transform his primary organization into a general election machine, hiring staff members, sending organizers into important states, and preparing a television advertisement campaign to present his views and his biography to millions of Americans who followed the primaries from a distance."
And beyond strategy, are the issues of the campaign. "With Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton now having formally bowed out of the race and thrown her backing to him, Mr. Obama wants to define the faltering economy as the paramount issue facing the country, a task probably made easier by ever-rising gasoline prices and the sharp rise in unemployment the government reported on Friday. Mr. McCain, by contrast, has been emphasizing national security more than any other issue, and has made clear that he would like to fight the election primarily on that ground," Nagourney and Zeleny write.