Theoretically, any candidate for President of the United States of either Major Party can win the plurality in any State and thereby gain its entire complement of Electoral Votes. However, one has to- as one gazes into the crystal ball regarding any Presidential Election nearly two months before- take into account what is probable, as opposed to what might be possible.
One has to assume, then, that- absent some bizarre set of unforeseen circumstances or some calamitous event unanticipated at this time between now and November 2d- John Kerry will likely win at least 4 of 6 New England States (New Hampshire will almost certainly go to President Bush; Rhode Island might very well be "in play", of which more in a bit), all of the coastal Mid-Atlantic from New York through the District of Columbia, the continental Pacific Coast States plus Hawaii, and Illinois, giving the Democratic presidential candidate 186 electoral votes as a "base".
George W. Bush, on the other hand, will likely win the entire Intermountain West (including Alaska; however, New Mexico might very well be "in play"- again, of which more in a moment), the States of the Great Plains from the Dakotas down through Oklahoma, the entire South (as I have argued ever since he was chosen, having Senator John Edwards on the ticket is not going to help much in Edwards' home region)- excepting Florida, which is really no longer a typical Southern State- plus Indiana and, as already noted, New Hampshire, giving the President a "base" of 215 electoral votes, 29 more than is in Kerry's "base".
This would leave 137 electoral votes for the two candidates to battle for, mainly in the Midwest from Pennsylvania (a State with its eastern "foot" in the Mid-Atlantic region but its western "foot" in the industrial Great Lakes region, thus it is part of a "braoder Midwest" for purposes of this election) out through- excepting Illinois and Indiana, both pretty much already claimed- Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri and including West Virginia, a normally Democratic stronghold which went for Bush four years ago. 101 of the 137 electoral votes up for grabs in this analysis are within this broader Midwest region (only Florida, New Mexico and Rhode Island being outside it).
Between the two National Conventions, I happened to go on a two-week-long vacation "road trip" out to the Midwest and back. Both Major Party candidates were campaigning in the region during much of this time (in fact, on one particular day, I just barely beat President Bush's motorcade from Hudson, Wisconsin into St. Paul, Minnesota not all that long before the authorities closed off the bridge along I-94 between the two States for security reasons)- a clear sign that this region is, indeed, the key to victory in November. Of the total 137 electoral votes seemingly up for grabs (101, again, of which are in the broader Midwest), Senator Kerry would need to pick up at least 84 of these in order to gain the "magic" 270 electoral votes needed to elect a President; the incumbent President needs only 55 of these to win re-election.
My impressions, while I was out there, were that there were a fair number of what we might call "Kerry Republicans" in States like Ohio (particularly in areas hard hit by losses of manufacturing jobs and outsourcing), yet an equally fair number of "Bush Democrats" in places like Minnesota. This suggests the real possibility- if not the probability- that otherwise usually Democratic States (like a Minnesota or a Wisconsin or a Michigan) could tip toward President Bush, while otherwise often Republican States (such as an Ohio or a Missouri) might well go for Kerry- making the ulitmate Bush/Kerry breakdown in this region very very difficult to predict. (This is the same issue, by the way, that could also give Senator Kerry New Mexico and President Bush Rhode Island).
What I will here note, in a kind of follow-up to my previous Commentary entitled 'IT'S GOOD TO BE THE KING', is that- when we do begin to see a hardening consensus, either towards or away from the President's re-election, it will almost certainly be in this region- along with the State of Florida- that same will first well evidence itself. The potential impact of Florida, of course, cannot be ignored: with 27 electoral votes, it provides just about half of what President Bush would need beyond his "base" (per the analysis in this piece) to win re-election and almost all that Senator Kerry would need to close the "gap" between his "base" and the President's (again, according to the assumptions we have already made in this Commentary).
I will close by mentioning just one other thing: Senator Kerry, in his Labor Day campaigning, revealed a new campaign litany- that the "W" in George W. Bush stands for "wrong". To be fair, Kerry principally applied this to the President's domestic- primarily economic- policies and downplayed its use re: the current Administration's foreign and military policy. However, it does evince Senator Kerry's continuing emphasis on what he might have done differently had he, and not the President, been in the White House these past nearly four years; the Bay State Senator apparently continues to fail to emphasize what he will do (and, more to the point, will not do) should he actually be elected President.
I have argued, all along, that Economics is not going to be the key to victory in this election in any event: the what I have termed a "Retarded Recovery" of the U.S. economy is hitting different sectors of that economy, in different parts of the country, in different ways, and the way a given voter might vote- where economic issues are paramount for said voter- is, therefore, "all over the board" when applied to large numbers of such voters. National Security is, therefore, still going to be the issue that breaks any logjam within the center (again, assuming it hasn't already begun to break up that logjam and the boost seen in the polls in the aftermath of the GOP Convention isn't the beginnings of a consensus to re-elect the President) and, thus, Kerry cannot continue to be primarily talking about what he might have done differently in relation to dealing with the now-deposed regime of Saddam Hussein; the Democratic candidate, instead, simply has to more fully address that which I brought up in the first part of my Republican Convention "wrap-up" Commentary entitled 'JUST WHOSE AMERICA IS THIS, ANYWAY?'- that is, he has to begin to talk more about what might happen if the allied support which he hopes he can better arrange for current and future American military action than the Bush Administration might not, in fact, materialize.
Simply put, there is just far too much- at least so far- of Senator Kerry as the anti-war candidate, one continuing to run against a war which was launched nearly 18 months ago, and comparatively little about how he intends to wrap up the current situation in Iraq significantly better than President Bush can. If "running against Iraq" should continue as the overly dominant theme of the Kerry/Edwards campaign re: National Security for the rest of the period leading up to the General Election, then- indeed- as far as the Bush/Cheney campaign is concerned, it is good to be the "king"!