2:45 p.m.: It's college football season, so maybe we should have realized a long time ago that there's an obvious way to sort out the presidential campaign battleground states -- by conference.
In fact, a strong argument can be made that the Big-10 -- Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, etc. -- is where the championship will be decided on Nov. 4. So what better place to look for guidance than .the Big Ten Battleground Poll, which helpfully is out today with a new batch of surveys in those key states. The most notable results: Barack Obama up 11 points in Pa., 12 in Ohio, 22 in Mich., and -- wow -- up 10 in Indiana. For comparative purposes, that lead in Ohio is on the high side but not unprecedented while the Pa. lead is about average. But the Hoosier State number is definitely one of a kind. (Read about the poll, co-directed by a founder of pollster.com, and judge it for yourself.)
What other conferences might host big games on Election Day?
The SEC boasts Florida (always highly ranked, in both senses) and Georgia (coming on late in the season). The ACC gets a piece of Florida, plus pivotal Virginia and North Carolina. The Big East also gets chunks of Florida, Ohio and Pa. The Pac-10, home of The Rundown's alma mater, has ... um ... Washington? Maybe the system isn't perfect, but when you sit down to watch games this Saturday, keep it in mind.
8 a.m. ET: In recent weeks, it's seemed that the lion's share of press coverage in the presidential campaign has gone to John McCain. All that attention hasn't necessarily been friendly, and Barack Obama certainly got more media play earlier in the season. But in October, many of the best stories have focused on the Republican nominee, and for an understandable reason; the team protecting a lead in the 4th quarter is always less interesting to watch than the team scrambling to get back into the game.
So let's put aside, for one Thursday morning, the focus on McCain's message problems and Sarah Palin's more-expensive-than-some-houses wardrobe and take a closer look at where the junior Senator from Illinois stands.
First, Obama's ahead. Maybe it's 12 points, or maybe it's a lot less. Maybe he's built up a huge lead in formerly red states, or maybe it's neck and neck. Either way, his advantage is clear and -- despite some arguments to the contrary -- apparently steady.
Thematically, Obama keeps hitting on the economy and health care -- generally the Nos. 1 and 2 domestic issues polls show voters want to hear about (how much do they care about McCain's main theme, taxes?). His financial advantage is allowing him to flood the airwaves with spots both positive and negative, playing in states where McCain can't afford to and doubling and tripling the GOP's spending in states where he can.
Questions remaining: Will Obama focus on playing offense in the red states, or will he circle back and try to shore up his lead in Pennsylvania, as Ed Rendell suggests? Will he keep spending his cash running the same few ads over and over (yes, we know McCain is just like Bush), or will he send some extra money to help House and Senate Democrats? It is getting late in the 4th quarter, but unlike in football, no one will blame Obama if he tries to run up the score.
October 23, 2008; 8:15 AM ET
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