At WaPo today, Dan Balz and Philip Rucker offer a baseline general election story on Romney’s electoral college strategy. From beginning to end, they emphasize that Mitt has a “narrow path to victory,” without a lot of room for maneuvering or feints. That path is basically what Karl Rove, with his knack for making every straight line look crooked, calls a “3-2-1” plan, based on winning three traditionally Republican states Obama grabbed in 2008 (IN, NC and VA), then the two classic “tossup” states (FL and OH), and then one out of a grab-bag of other battleground states, including IA, NH, NV and CO (with many GOPers adding MI and PA based on their party’s recent down-ballot performance, though neither state has gone Republican in a presidential election since 1988).

The bottom line is that Romney has little margin for error, and even if he wins back Obama’s “breakthrough” states along with the two big tossups, he’s going to have to win somewhere in the northeast, in Rust Belt Land or in the Western states where his weak standing with Latinos is a really big problem (offset partially, at least in NV and AZ, by his exceptional strength among LDS voters).

Interestingly, the Balz/Rucker piece appears the same day WaPo has released a new poll of VA, one of those must-win Romney states, showing Obama up there among RVs by a 51-44 margin.

If this sort of battleground maneuvering fascinates you, check out one of the many interactive Electoral Vote mapping sites available on the web, where you can play at being Grand Strategist. It becomes pretty apparent very quickly that whatever strategery Team Mitt deploys, it’s going to need a significant national shift from where we are now to get safely to 270.

NOTE OF EXASPERATION ADDRESSED TO COMMENT THREAD: Yes indeedy, the “we” in the last paragraph means “the situation as it exists today,” and is not a secret signal that I am supporting Mitt Romney via the 10,000 words a week I write trashing him. C’mon, folks, you can disagree with me or dislike me without this sort of silliness.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.