The State of the Election: Plains
Kansas (6 electoral votes)
Despite Barack Obama's roots in the Jayhawk State -- his mother was born there -- John McCain has always led. Sen. Pat Roberts (R) is now coasting toward a third term. The toughest battle has been in the 2nd District, where Rep. Nancy Boyda (D) is trying to win a second term after her surprising win in the 2006 wave election for Democrats. Boyda had been one of the GOP's top targets, with State Treasurer Lynn Jenkins (R) considered a top-tier challenger. But Boyda is now a slight favorite to win.
McCain has been well ahead of Obama in every statewide poll, but the Cornhusker State is one of two to allocate some of its electoral votes by congressional district. This has made the 2nd District, centered around Omaha, a battleground. The Senate race to succeed the retiring Chuck Hagel (R), a onetime McCain ally who has declined to endorse his fellow Republican, has turned into a coronation for former governor and former agriculture secretary Mike Johanns. Scott Kleeb (D) trails badly. GOP Rep. Lee Terry, expected to sail to reelection, is now in a tossup with Jim Esch, who is also benefiting from Obama's effort to win that electoral vote.
South Dakota (3)
McCain should win easily here, despite Obama's support from favorite son Thomas A. Daschle (D), a former Senate majority leader whose top political operatives occupy some of the most critical positions in the Obama campaign. Sen. Tim Johnson (D), who missed most of 2007 while recuperating from a brain aneurysm, was once considered a top Republican target for defeat. But every GOP heavyweight passed on the race. Joel Dykstra (R), a little-known state representative, is trailing by more than 20 percentage points in all public polls.