According to my always shaky grasp of higher math we have 30 days left until election day. Give or take.
Can John McCain still somehow win this thing? Yes. Maybe. In theory. But it would be tough. RealClearPolitics.com has Obama with 260 electoral votes. 9 more throws it to the House. 10 more is win for Obama.
If those numbers are accurate, Obama can win with just Ohio. Or just Florida. Or just Indiana, just Missouri, just Virginia or just North Carolina. Or he can win with Colorado and New Hampshire. Or Colorado and Nevada. So many ways to win. He could hold onto what he has, move out of every other battleground state and throw all his resources into just, say, Virginia, and he'd win.
RCP has McCain at 163. He pretty much has to run the table.
If you were playing poker you'd want to be holding Obama's cards. He's got three jacks. McCain has a pair of twos. Obama has so many ways to win, and McCain has so many ways to lose.
McCain has almost no choice now but to go even deeper into the gutter. He has to try and do to Obama what George W. Bush did to McCain in 2000. McCain 1.0 wouldn't have gone there. But McCain 2.0 -- The Creature That Ate John McCain -- will go for it.
The next 30 days will likely be unpleasant. But it will be hard to change the math. We've already seen so much Republican mud that I suspect the voters are inured to it. And McCain faces the dilemma of the next debate. Having hurt himself by coming across in the first debate as angry and contemptuous, he either has to stay the angry course, or try and convince the voters he finally took his prunes and come off as less hostile.
Here's the problem: a nasty debate McCain would mesh with a mudslide attack but reinforce the voter's sense that he's maybe too much of a dick to spend four years with. While a nice-guy debate McCain would seem hypocritical if he's simultaneously running Rove-style ads.
Tough to square that circle. My prediction is that we get an air-war mudslide from McCain and his 527's on the one hand, and the terse gritting-my-teeth-trying-to-be-civil McCain at the debate. I don't think that's going to work. I think it will come off as phony and desperate.
McCain will attack, Obama will respond but in more measured tones. McCain will try one more desperate gamble, if he can come up with one. But I sense that the country, while it has not decided to vote for Obama, has decided not to vote for McCain.