From now until Election Day, the U.S. might as well consist of just eight or so states, not 50.
Those are the battleground states where President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney, their running mates and spouses will be spending much of their time in what remains of the 2012 race for the White House.
It's all about amassing the 270 electoral votes required to be elected president. NPR's analysis of the race at this point suggests the eight states that are most in play are Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.
Both presidential campaigns are looking for the combination of those states that helps them reach the almighty 270.
You can search for that combination, too, using NPR.org's new interactive "Swing State Scorecard" (npr.org/scorecard). Summon up your inner political consultant by figuring out the available routes to 270.
Our interactive scorecard lays out in a table all the combinations that get each candidate over the top. Assuming, as we do, that Obama begins with 237 electoral votes from blue states that can be safely placed in his column, a quick glance at the table tells you Obama could win by adding a combination of just two additional states, such as Ohio and Florida, to his column. Those two would give him a total of 284 electoral votes.
On the other hand, if you start out as we do by assuming Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, begins with 206 electoral votes from safely or likely red states, then he needs to add a combination of at least four states to get to 270.
For instance, winning Florida, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin would give Romney a total of 276 electoral votes and make him the 45th president.
Play around with our scorecard yourself and share your results with us and your friends.
In electoral math, as in math class, it's important that you show your work. So here's how NPR Senior Washington Editor Ron Elving assigns the states:
Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin
3 Lean Republican
Arizona, Montana, North Carolina
6 Likely Republican
Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee
15 Strong Republican
Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wyoming
3 Lean Democratic
Michigan, Oregon, Pennsylvania
6 Likely Democratic
Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Washington
10 Strong Democratic
California, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont
*** We plan to update this list by reassigning states as polls and other information warrant.