Oct. 22, 2008 -- The math is looking ominous for Sen. John McCain.
With 13 days before the election, polls in varying degrees show a growing national lead for his Democratic opponent, Sen. Barack Obama.
The polls are also showing a more pronounced tilt toward Obama in battleground states, where the election will likely be decided.
Barring a highly irregular electoral realignment, McCain needs a surge over the next 13 days that would propel him to sweep a string of five or six key states where he is now tied or behind in the polls. Lose any one of those states and his bid for the White House could be over.
"It's very much an uphill battle," Michael Dimock, associate director of the Pew Research Center, told ABCNews.com.
Dimock, whose own poll gave Obama a 14 point lead nationally on Tuesday, said many of the states still being contested "have been reliably 'red' in the past, so I don't think it's an impossibility."
Nathan Gonzales, the political editor of the Rothenberg Political Report, was more pessimistic for McCain.
"McCain is facing extremely long odds with time running out," Gonzales said. "He has to win a number of states where he's not even leading in or tied in right now."
Compounding McCain's problems is the fact that voting has begun in several key states, and if McCain "were able to change the game over the next 10 days, those votes have already been cast," Gonzales said.
McCain was scheduled to join forces today with running mate Sarah Palin for a couple of stops in Pennsylvania, a state where he is trailing in the polls but which is seen as a must-win.
He is also expected to get reinforcements today from "Joe the Plumber," the Ohio plumber who became famous earlier this month for confronting Obama over his plan to raise taxes for families who make over $250,000 annually. He's expected to make an appearance at at least one McCain campaign stop in Ohio.
McCain needs the help.
An analysis by ABC News political unit of data in a ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll has found that in 30 "red" states that President Bush won by 14 percentage points in 2004, McCain and Obama are now dead even.
More significantly, in 16 states identified as presidential battlegrounds, Obama has a hefty 54-43 percent lead, according to ABC News' analysis.
McCain is now trying to pick his spots among those battleground states to find some formula for reaching the 270 electoral votes needed to claim the White House.
ABC News' electoral map, based on CQ Politic's analysis, indicates that Obama has polling leads in enough states to collect 291 electoral votes.
McCain, according to the CQ map, is leading in enough states to give him 174 electoral votes.
McCain Must Mount Another Comeback
McCain, who came from behind to win the GOP presidential nomination, faces daunting odds to pull off another big victory. But he revels in calling himself the campaign's underdog.
If current polling numbers hold, McCain needs to prevail in Florida, Missouri and North Carolina, three states that traditionally vote Republican in presidential elections but which now are all considered toss-ups.
Missouri Republicans had to be unnerved last weekend when Obama drew monster crowds of 75,000 and 100,000 in Kansas City and St. Louis. And in North Carolina, Obama's presence in the race is expected to create a huge turnout among black voters.
But winning those three states would lift McCain's total to just 227 electoral votes, still 43 short of the prize.
That puts tremendous pressure on McCain to win the big states Ohio and Pennsylvania. Ohio is considered to be up for grabs, but several polls give Obama a double-digit lead in Pennsylvania. Despite the polls, McCain is making a concerted effort in the state.
Winning those two states would give McCain another 41 electoral votes -- but would still leave him two votes shy of the magical 270.
The scenario means that McCain must win at least one more state, and his likely targets would be either New Hampshire, Colorado or Nevada. McCain started today in New Hampshire, and both he and Palin have been making forays into Nevada. There are indications that McCain's campaign is scaling back on advertising in Colorado.
Jeffrey Pollock, a Democratic strategist not involved with the Obama campaign, said McCain "needs to draw an inside straight. It's a tough thing to do, but it's not impossible."
Pollock also warned that two weeks ago, before the stock market melted down, it appeared the race would go down to the wire.
"The numbers have shown a propensity to change quicker than we are used to," he said.
Dimock said McCain's campaign has been hurt by the financial crisis, and he needs to change the subject.
McCain's camp "took a stab at it by referring to [Joe] Biden's comment about Obama "being tested" with an international incident if he's elected president, Dimock said.
Dimock also said, however, that Pew's recent polling found that McCain was rapidly aging in the voters' eyes.
Last month, 22 percent of the people surveyed by Pew thought McCain was too old for the job, but in the poll released this week that number jumped to 34 percent, Dimock said. He believed that was a reaction to McCain's negative ads and attacks on Obama.
"McCain could try to change the tone of the campaign and his image, but there's not a lot of days left," Dimock said.