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THE RACE TO 270: With 41 days left until the general election, President Obama holds a significant lead in most national polls. But as Al Gore learned the hard way, the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue don't go to the man who wins the popular vote in November. So here's a look at where things stand in the all-important Electoral College in the eyes of Real Clear Politics, which keeps running tabs on all the major polls.
Solid Obama (142): The president appears to have secured himself a meaty base of at least 142 electoral votes, via: California (55), New York (29), Illinois (20), Massachusetts (11), Maryland (10), Rhode Island (4), Hawaii (4), Delaware (3), Vermont (3) and the District of Columbia (3).
Likely Obama (37): He should also be feeling pretty confident of another 37 courtesy of: New Jersey (14), Washington (12), Connecticut (7) and Maine (4). Solid + Likely = 179.
Leans Obama (86): Things are a little dicier in seven other states that Obama will likely need this fall: Pennsylvania (20), Ohio (18), Michigan (16), Minnesota (10), Wisconsin (10), Oregon (7) and New Mexico (5). Solid + Likely + Lean = 265, or five votes shy of the total he'll need for reelection.
Solid Romney (76): The GOP challenger, meanwhile, can more or less bank the electoral vote of more than a dozen conservative states: Alabama (9) Louisiana (8), Kentucky (8), Oklahoma (7), Mississippi (6), Arkansas (6), Kansas (6), Utah (6), Nebraska (5), West Virginia (5), Idaho (4), Alaska (3) and Wyoming (3).
Likely Romney (74): It's also looking good for the former governor in Texas (38), Georgia (16), Tennessee (11), Montana (3), North Dakota (3) and South Dakota (3). Solid + Likely = 150.
Leans Romney (41): He also has small but significant leads in Arizona (11), Indiana (11), Missouri (10), and South Carolina (9). Solid + Likely + Lean = 191.
TOSS-UPS: Which brings us to the seven all-important swing states that are still considered to be largely in play: Florida (29), North Carolina (15), Virginia (13), Colorado (9), Iowa (6), Nevada (6), and New Hampshire (4). If the current projections hold—an all-caps IF if ever there was one—Romney would need to sweep all of the current toss-ups, with the lone exception of the Granite State and its relatively meager four electoral votes.
DEEPER STILL: That looks like an uphill battle for the Romney-Ryan ticket because the president currently holds narrow leads in all seven of those swing states based on the RCP statewide averages, including Florida, where he's out in front by a slim 3.1 points.
THE "UNSKEWED" DEFENSE: Team Romney and its allies have been increasingly vocal about the fact they don't think the current polling is correct. The reason? They contend that pollsters are using overly optimistic turnout models for Democrats. If those models were tweaked to be more in line with those used by Rasmussen, instead of trailing Obama by a handful of points nationally, Romney would be on track for a somewhat historic win, they say. Dave Weigel took a look at Unskewed Polls and the man behind them on Monday.
Happy Wednesday and welcome to the Slatest PM, where we're glad to know we were right: There's no need to start hoarding bacon, no matter what the Internet tells you. Follow the entire @slatest team and @JoshVoorhees on Twitter, or fill your host's inbox with whatever is on your mind at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SOMETHING SMELLS FUNNY: Politico's chief political columnist Roger Simon had a little fun with his column last night, writing that Paul Ryan had taken to calling Romney "Stench" in reference to what the Wisconsin Republican would have to wash off of himself if he hopes to one day run his own presidential campaign. The less-than-flattering nickname was quickly picked up by MSNBC, the New York Times' Paul Krugman and a number of others, and reported as fact. The only problem, of course, is that the column was a satire. How do we know? (Other than by reading it in full.) We asked Simon. Full story here.
ABOUT THOSE CUTS: Romney Campaign Now Says They Probably Won't Do Their Tax Cuts After All
COLD WATER: Obama and Romney will square off next week for the first of three presidential debates. Just in case Democrats, already buoyed by the recent polling numbers, are getting a little too excited about the possibility of a dominate performance by the president, Team Obama is trying to keep expectations in check. How can aides go about doing that? For starters, by voicing concerns their boss will be underprepared when he takes the stage in Denver.
(M)AKIN HEADLINES: The final deadline for Todd Akin to drop out of the Missouri Senate race came and went yesterday. With the Republican hopeful's name finally set in stone on the state ballot, Sen. Claire McCaskill wasted little time unleashing her first direct attack on Akin and the "legitimate rape" comments that nearly forced him from the race. You can watch the ad here.
NAME-DROPPING AL-QAIDA: NYT: "Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton indicated for the first time on Wednesday that there was an explicit link between the Qaeda franchise in North Africa and the attack at the American diplomatic mission in Libya that killed four Americans, including the ambassador, J. Christopher Stevens."
LOCKOUT OVER?: ESPN: "The NFL and the NFL Referees Association made enough progress in negotiations Tuesday night that the possibility of the locked-out officials returning in time to work this week's games has been discussed, according to sources on both sides. ... One source says the difference between the NFL and the referees 'is about $2,' while another source described the talks as 'the league wants double sausage and the referees want soy-free cheese.'"
CHECKING THE TRAPS—
WaPo: "Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, addressing the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday for what was likely to be the last time, denounced military threats against Tehran by 'uncivilized Zionists' and attacked Western leaders as handmaidens of the devil."
WSJ: "The pressures threatening China's status as the world's factory floor have been laid bare by a riot this week at a factory that makes parts for Apple Inc. and other electronics companies, a clash that workers said was sparked by onerous security and repressive living conditions."
AP: "An Army brigadier general who served five combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan has been charged with forcible sodomy, multiple counts of adultery and having inappropriate relationships with several female subordinates, two U.S. defense officials said Wednesday."
Reuters: "Demonstrators clashed with police on the streets of Athens and Madrid on Wednesday in an upsurge of popular anger at new austerity measures being imposed on two of the euro zone's most vulnerable economies."
SLATE QUICK HITS—
WHAT YOUR HOST WILL BE READING RIGHT AFTER HE HITS SEND: John Dickerson's look at what it takes to be a good president.
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