A numbers game - By Daniel Riordan

For the first time in a long time, it feels like a race for the White House.
Mitt Romney has been strengthened by good showings at debates, a slow-to-grow economy and some missteps by President Obama’s campaign.
During election season, my favorite place to go to on the web is the New York Times’ 538 Blog (http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/).
It forecasts the race and uses a lot of data to project who is going to win.
Right now, Obama has a 70.4 chance of winning. That had dropped into the 60s earlier this week.
He’s clinging to a less than two percent lead in the popular vote and has dropped below 300 electoral votes.
I still think this race comes down to Ohio. And the President is doing well there.
But some states are now in play that could make the math fuzzy for Obama.
In a race to 270 electoral votes, you want to look at Wisconsin, Iowa and New Hampshire.
Obama currently has leads in all of those states.
If he carries those and Ohio he wins the election 281 to 257.
However if he loses Ohio he loses the election 275 to 263.
WIsconsin is a real state in play for both parties. Typically blue, Wisconsin is getting bombarded with advertising from both campaigns.
With Paul Ryan as Romney’s running mate, Wisconsin has a real shot at going red for the first time since 1984.
If that happens, Obama’s in real trouble. If he still carries Ohio, Iowa and New Hampshire, he wins 271-267.
But that then leaves no margin of error for his campaign.
Romney is doing much better in the South than I and many in the media imagined.
Polling trends suggest that the South may be going blue in the next 20 years due to demographic changes.
While states like Mississippi and Alabama are solidly red, you have seen shifts in states like Virginia and North Carolina.
Romney should win both Virginia and North Carolina.
North Carolina was a battleground state but Romney’s camp feels so good about it they are pulling out of there and chalking it up in the win column.
Just because I’m a numbers and political geek, my dream scenario would be if Obama carried Ohio and New Hampshire but lost Iowa and Nevada.
This, along with the other states going according to plan, would leave the two candidates tied at 269-269.
Without someone at 270, a series of steps would take place to decide who the next President would be.
This is an unlikely scenario however as Nevada is solidly blue.
If you asked me a month ago, I would have said that Obama would win going away.
After the White Houses’ handling of Libya, the economy still slowly gaining steam and a lethargic first debate, Obama has let Romney back in.
Unemployment dropping below eight percent didn’t seem to give Obama a big bump.
A lot can happens in the new few weeks.
But looking at the numbers, it seems like I may want to stock up on some coffee.
Because I have a feeling that Tuesday night might be a lot longer than we previously anticipated.