It's not out of the question. Obama holds the Kerry states and picks off IA, NM, and NV. McCain holds the remaining states. This would set up a historic battle for the Presidency in ways that many Americans probably do not anticipate. Here's a possible run-down of what to expect:
From the Constitution, here's what it says we do if no one reaches 270 EVs:
In this event…each state delegation has a single vote. To be elected, a candidate must receive an absolute majority of state votes (26) in order for that candidate to become the President-elect. The House continues balloting until a candidate receives an absolute majority of the state votes.
Let's look at how the House votes first—by delegation. The New York delegation is heavily Democratic, New York would have one (1) vote for Obama, Utah has more Republicans, and will go for McCain. Each state, regardless of size, (inexplicably) gets one vote. The votes are based on the incoming makeup of the House, and so if each delegation votes down party lines the outcome will probably fall to
- 27 D-Controlled State Delegations
- 21 R-Controlled State Delegations
- 2 Evenly Split
This is not likely to change because Democrats seemed poised to pick up seats in Red States, not lose them. So pending that no one falls on their knife for another party, advantage goes to Obama and the voters do not have to reflect how their state voted. Dean and his 50-state strategy would be lauded in retrospect.
The Senate gets to choose the VP. Again, reading our Constitution:
If no candidate for Vice President receives an absolute majority of electoral votes, then the Senate must go into session to elect a Vice President. The Senate votes in the normal manner in this case (i.e., ballots are individually cast by each Senator, and not by State delegations).
Additionally, the Twelfth Amendment states that a "majority of the whole number" of Senators (currently 51 of 100) is necessary for there to be a selection of one of the two candidates. This provision essentially prohibits the sitting Vice President from casting a tie-breaking vote in the case of an evenly divided chamber.
Which means, it favors Biden being elected VP.
But hopefully people vote in large enough numbers so that this doesn't happen...