The Barack Obama campaign has announced a "50 state strategy" for the fall campaign.
Steve Hildebrand, his deputy campaign manager, sent out an e-mail to supporters this week that said, "Today, I am proud to announce that our presidential campaign will be the first in a generation to deploy and maintain staff in every single state."
And it makes sense to campaign in every state, right? I mean because voters in every state get to vote and every state (plus Washington, D.C.) gets votes in the Electoral College, right? So campaigning everywhere just makes sense, doesn't it?
Well, no. It's a big country. And even though the two nominees will have a minimum of $85 million for their eight-week general election campaign (and quite possibly more if they refuse public financing), they don't really want to spread their resources over all 50 states.
They feel it doesn't make sense.
If a state votes reliably for the Republican nominee every four years, why should John McCain spend a lot of time there?
If a state votes reliably for the Democratic nominee every four years, why should Barack Obama campaign there?
So eliminate those states, and the campaign map starts shrinking fast.
Could Barack Obama dramatically increase black voter registration in the South and win Southern states that Democrats have not won in a long time? Well, he could. (And I'll write more about this later.)
But as John Kerry demonstrated, Democrats don't really have to win any Southern states to claim the White House. Kerry lost them all in 2004, but had he won Ohio, he would have become president.
We have two candidates this time, however, who have the ability to reach across party lines to independents and that could change some things.
This has led some to think that John McCain actually could win California, for example, because it has a lot of independents, he's good on the environment and not bad on immigration, and has the support of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
A McCain win in California would almost certainly assure his victory because it would rob the Democrats of their bedrock state and its 55 electoral votes.
But winning California will be very difficult for McCain for one reason: abortion.
McCain is pro-life, and pro-life candidates do not win California. (Schwarzenegger, a Republican, is pro-choice. Had he been pro-life, he would never have been elected governor.) The last pro-life presidential candidate to win California was George H.W. Bush, and that was 20 years ago.
OK, so Obama is the favorite to win California. So does that mean Obama campaigns in the other 49 states to get the 270 electoral votes he needs for victory?
Nope, not worth it. Here is one Obama game plan for victory: He wins every state that John Kerry won in 2004 (which means Obama could lose Ohio and Florida), plus he wins Iowa, Virginia, Colorado and New Mexico.
Now that means Obama has to hold onto all those states that Kerry won, including some that McCain will go after hard, like Michigan, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Wisconsin and New Hampshire.
There will be a few other states in play, but, as you can see, it is not a 50-state map and it won't be a 50-state campaign.
But don't worry if you don't happen to live in a state that will be hotly contested. I hear the whole thing is going to be on television.