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Economic unrest shifts poll campaigns

The turmoil on Wall Street and the weakening economy are changing the contours of the presidential campaign map.

world Updated: Oct 06, 2008 00:38 IST

The turmoil on Wall Street and the weakening economy are changing the contours of the presidential campaign map, giving new force to Senator Barack Obama’s ambitious strategy to make incursions into Republican territory, while leading Senator John McCain to scale back his efforts to capture Democratic states.

Obama has what both sides describe as serious efforts under way in at least nine states that voted for President Bush in 2004, including some that neither side thought would be on the table this close to Election Day.

Obama is using North Carolina — a state that Bush won by 13 percentage points in 2004 — as his base for debate preparations this weekend.

By contrast, McCain is competing in just four states where Democrats won in 2004: Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, followed by Wisconsin and Minnesota. His decision last week to pull out of Michigan reflected in part the challenge that the declining economy has created for Republicans.

But McCain’s abrupt decision — which caught many members of his own party by surprise — also underlined the tactical political squeeze he finds himself in: With Obama using his fundraising advantage to compete in so many places, he has forced McCain to spend money to hold on in what had been viewed as safe Republican states, like Missouri and Indiana, while limiting McCain’s ability to play offense on Democratic turf.

Obama now has a solid lead in states that account for 189 electoral votes, and he is well positioned in states representing 71 more electoral votes, for a total of 260, according to a tally by The New York Times, based on polls and interviews with officials from both campaigns and outside analysts. It takes 270 electoral votes to win the presidency.

McCain has solid leads in states with 160 electoral votes, and is well positioned in states with another 40 electoral votes, according to The New York Times tally, for a total of 200. Just six states representing 78 electoral votes —Florida, Ohio, Virginia, New Hampshire, Nevada and Colorado — are tossups.

Obama appears to have significantly more options to reach the 270 threshold.

That is not a fanciful battle: There are plausible outcomes that would leave the two men with a 269-269 electoral vote tie, forcing the election into the House of Representatives.