As the Presidential election heats up this summer, rolls into the conventions and then heads down the home stretch in the fall you will see a lot of national polls saying Obama is at X%, Romney at Y% in the polls. And that'll be OK for what it is. And you'll hear plenty about those numbers.
But, as we all know from our civics class (and as was so dramatically brought home to us in the 2000 election) who gets the most overall votes is not necessarily the winner. In fact, that's not a measure of winning or losing at all in U.S. Presidential elections.
Nope. Let me re-introduce you to "the electoral college." While there are a lot of details to it, basically, each state counts for a certain amount of "electoral votes" based on the number of Congressional seats and Senatorial seats it has. So, a state like California has a lot of electoral votes while a state like North Dakota has very few.
Anyway, the way you win the Presidency is you win enough states to get you to a majority of the electoral college - 270 electoral votes.
This means that it's not really one big race the two Presidential candidates are running, but rather 50 separate races...focusing on whatever strategy and states they think will get them to the magical 270 vote electoral vote count.
All that to say...one way you can keep track of how things are going for real in the race is to look at an Electoral College Scoreboard map and track how things are going for your candidate over the next few months. There are quite a few out there. The one I'm currently looking at is HERE.
You can see that based on up-to-date polling in all the states that Obama would win more electoral votes than Romney at this point, but not enough to get 270 electoral votes. Not surprisingly, we see several key states with lots of electoral votes are in the "tossup" category. If one candidate were to win a few more of these than the other...that candidate will be the next President.
It's also kind of fun to see where each candidate has their strongest support. For example, check out the huge lead Obama has in California, NY and Washington State. Makes sense. Then look at Romney-land. Big leads in the South and rural states...also not surprising.
Here's to some interesting map watching.