One of the most important strategic developments of this year's US Presidential campaign has been Obama's "50 state strategy".
As the target states reduced over the summer, there was much criticism of this strategy.
However, today John McCain is having to visit his own state of Arizona in order to shore up the vote there. And we see the Obama campaign doing well in states previously considered off-limits to Democratic presidential campaigns, such as Indiana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Montana, Virginia and Georgia.
This is obviously making it difficult for McCain. He's been spending a lot of time in states which should have been a shoe-in for him - thus missing important opportunities to spend time in more crucial states such as Ohio and Florida.
Most importantly, by widening the scope of his campaign beyond the focus on Ohio and Florida of recent elections, Obama has motivated volunteers and donors in states which normally don't get touched by the Democratic campaign for President.
As a bonus, Obama's strategy will probably trickle down to win the Democrats some congressional seats which they would otherwise not have won.
So, all in all, the strategy is proving very fruitful.
There is much historical backing for a flexible state strategy. It is tempting to think of the Presidential state map from the last couple or so elections as being relatively fixed: The Democrats win California, the north-east and New England. The Republicans win Texas, the mid-west and the south. Ohio and Florida are the ding-dong battlegrounds.
But if you look back at previous elections, the map has always been changing. Indeed, if you go back to the election of the Republican William Taft in 1908 (below from 270towin.com), the map of the states he won, versus those won by his Democratic challenger William Bryan, was almost the complete reverse of the prevailing map from the last decade or so. Taft won California, the north east and New England. Bryan won Texas and the south.
If you look at the 1960 Nixon/Kennedy map (below), that is quite topsy-turvy, compared to today's conventional picture. Nixon won California. Kennedy won Texas. Obviously, Nixon had been governor of California and Lyndon Johnson, Kennedy's VP nominee, swung his home state of Texas. But you still see Kennedy swabbing up much of the south, while Nixon takes Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and Wisconsin, which are currently relative Democratic sinecures.
Even as recently as Jimmy Carter's election in 1976, the map (below) looks rather weird when compared to today's political landscape. (This is, in part, explained by Jimmy Carter hailing from Plains, Georgia). Carter cleaned up the south, including Texas. But Gerald Ford, his Republican opponent, won California and north eastern states which are present-day Democratic strongholds, such as Michigan, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and Conneticut.
By the way, Google have an excellent interactive map of the states and counties, and how they have voted in recent elections.