Been doing some election gaming on LATimes electoral map (is that the only useful thing that paper has done in the last 4 years?). Given the number of states Kerry appears to be playing defense in, the “Ohio is a must win for Bush” theory loses some steam. If you assume Kerry wins Ohio, plus PA, NH, NM, OR, HI (states leaning Blue, unless you count recent trends in the Islands, or in PA’s case, where you a Bush win would be curtains for the Dems), but Bush counters with FL, AZ, NV, AR, CO, MO (all of which seem pretty safe bets at this stage — look for Kerry to downplaying Florida this weekend), then Bush would need only 21 electoral votes from among 5 midwestern/rust belt states (MN, WI, MI, IA, and WV) that collectively account for 49 electoral votes. Polls in those states show neck and neck or a slight Bush lead. While no one needs to write off Ohio just yet, and the President stands a good chance if the state Republican party gets out the vote, there are numerous combinations that lead to a GOP victory, even assuming the worst in some other critical states. There is guarded optimism in the Bush-Cheney camp, and the map explains why.