I've categorized the States as follows:
- "Locked" -- States that Bush won (or lost) by 20 or more percentage points. There are 85 "locked" electoral votes (EVs) for Red and 50 for Blue.
- "Firm" -- States that Bush won (or lost) by more than 10 and less than 20 percentage points. There are 157 "locked" and "firm" EVs for Red and 168 for Blue.
- "Leaning" -- States that Bush won (or lost) by more than 5 but less than 10 percentage points. There are 222 "locked," "firm," and "leaning" EVs for Red and 183 for Blue.
- "Swing" -- States that Bush won (or lost) both times by less than 5 percentage points (excluding the "tossup" States, discussed at next bullet). The swing States that went for Bush both times control 52 EVs. The swing States that went against Bush both times control 65 EVs.
- "Tossup" -- The three States that switched sides between 2000 and 2004, which among them control only 16 EVs. The two States that went for Bush in 2004 (Iowa and New Mexico) control 12 EVs.
The next presidential election could be decided in the swing and tossup States, which split almost evenly in 2004, giving 64 EVs to Bush and 69 to Kerry. Election 2008 would go to the Democrat candidate if he or she could pick up 18 EVs in the swing-tossup States, everything else being the same. The three tossup States (Iowa, New Mexico, New Hampshire) plus a small Red swing State (e.g., Nevada) would do the trick.
But the leaning States aren't out of play in a close election. And, there, Democrats have far more to gain than Republicans, with 65 Red EVs up for grabs, as against only 15 Blue EVs.
Barring exceptionally good or bad news for the country between now and November 2008, the outcome in the tossup, swing, and leaning States probably would hinge on the candidates' personalities and such bread-and-butter issues as the trend in unemployment and the perceived success or failure of Bush's economic reforms. And so, the election of 2008 could well come to down the personalities.
Hint to Democrats: Go with Barack Obama (not Hillary).
Hint to Republicans: Counter with ? (not Newt).