With the conventions over, Labor Day behind us, and a 60-day stretch between now and Election Day, the Romney-Ryan campaign is poised to start emptying its enormous campaign coffers, investing heavily in attack ads. What's worth pausing to appreciate, however, is not just the carpet-bombing ad strategy, but where the ads will air.
Overnight, the Republican campaign released 15 new television ads, which will begin airing in eight states effective immediately. Each of the spots are catered to address the issues that are most likely to resonate in the given states. This one, for example, will air in North Carolina.
There are related ads airing in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Virginia.
What's wrong with that list? Nothing at all; both sides agree that these are the states most likely to dictate the outcome of the presidential election.
But what's interesting about the list of targets are the states that aren't poised to be bombarded with ads: Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan aren't on the list. Indeed, we also learned this week that the Karl Rove and Koch brothers' operations aren't investing in these states, either, at least as far as the presidential campaign is concerned.
In other words, the Romney campaign's goal of expanding the electoral battlefield appears to be over already.
This could, I suppose, still change if there's a sudden shift in the polls, but for now, the race will come down to same eight states we've long assumed would decide the election.
For Republicans, this isn't particularly good news. Let's say we take all of the electoral votes Obama won in 2008, shift Indiana and Nebraska's 2nd congressional district from "blue" to "red," and move the eight battleground states into the toss-up category. Let's also assume, as everyone does, that Romney/Ryan will win every state McCain/Palin won four years ago.
Where does that leave us? Obama goes into the campaign's home stretch with 247 electoral votes behind him (23 short of what he'll need to win), while Romney has 191 electoral votes lined up (79 short of his goal). As a simple matter of arithmetic, that leaves the president with more far avenues for victory.