There’s no question the post-convention bounce Republicans enjoyed exceeded insider expectations, even mine. And as the days out on the hustings drag on, and Sarah Palin heads back to Alaska, several in Washington are wondering: Just how long is the shelf life on the McCain-Palin lead?

Rasmussen’s daily tracking poll today shows the race again in a dead heat, tied at 48, including leaners. But even if the other nationwide polls are accurate, and John McCainJohn Sidney McCainWhoopi Goldberg wears 'my vice president' shirt day after inauguration Budowsky: Democracy won, Trump lost, President Biden inaugurated Schumer becomes new Senate majority leader MORE has a 2-to-3-point lead, it doesn’t really matter unless those national numbers start translating into McCain pulling ahead of Obama in key battleground states.

Sen. Obama was right yesterday when he said that, on a state-by-state analysis, he’s looking pretty good on the path to the presidency; consider that in order for McCain to win, he needs to hold all of the states that went red for George Bush. That means states like Iowa need to vote Republican this year, but that’s not likely, given McCain’s deep and vocal opposition to ethanol, the lifeblood of Iowa farmers.

And then there’s talk that Sen. McCain could actually win the state that resurrected his primary campaign — New Hampshire. Think again … a CNN-Time poll has Obama leading McCain by six points (51-45 percent). In New Mexico, another key swing state won by Bush in 2004, McCain finally has a lead, but only recently did he pull ahead, and it’s within the margin of error (49-47 percent).

The point here is the nationwide bounce the McCain campaign is enjoying of late will amount to nothing if that same enthusiasm doesn’t trickle down to the states that tip the scales in the Electoral College. Sen. McCain’s team knows that; but if they’re fighting for ground that should have been theirs from day one (Virginia, North Carolina, etc.) then their job remains that much more difficult as the clock ticks toward Election Day.

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