PROVISIONAL BALLOT WATCH….Last I heard, the Ohio secretary of state estimated that they would end up with about 175,000 provisional ballots. At best for Kerry ? making some fairly heroic assumptions about the bulk of the provisionals being the result of Republican challenges and so forth ? they might split in his favor 65%-35%. That would break down to 113,000 for Kerry vs. 61,000 for Bush, a difference of 52,000 votes.

In other words, Kerry needs to be within about 50,000 votes in order for the provisional ballots to have any chance of tipping Ohio in his direction. Right now, he’s behind by 140,000 with 99% of the precincts reporting, so getting within 50,000 seems like a rather forlorn hope.

Now, these numbers might be wrong. Maybe there are more provisional ballots. Maybe they’ll break even more sharply in Kerry’s favor. Maybe once the regular count is finished he’ll be closer than 140,000. But that’s a lot maybes, and it’s pretty unlikely they’re all going to happen.

In other words, it doesn’t look like the provisional ballots are going to save Kerry. I know that conclusion won’t be popular with my readers, but that’s the way I see it. We’ll know more by Wednesday morning.