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With Election Nearing, McCain Clings to Fantasy

I’ve been playing around with the interactive electoral map at 270towin.com, trying to find a plausible way for Sen. John McCain, the GOP presidential nominee, to win the general election, and one question becomes increasingly mind-boggling: What in the world is McCain still doing in Pennsylvania?

According to RealClearPolitics, Pennsylvania is solid for Sen. Barack Obama, who leads by an average of 13.6 percentage points in recent major polls in the state.

McCain’s last public campaign event before last night’s presidential debate was Tuesday morning, in Blue Bell, Pa. — an exurb of Philadelphia. McCain is scheduled to return to the Philly area today for a rally in Downingtown, Pa., before returning to New York to tape an appearance on “The Late Show with David Letterman” and speak at the Al Smith Dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel this evening.

This raises another question. McCain arrived in New York at around 2 p.m. Tuesday, in advance of the debate. He left his hotel at approximately 9:40 this morning. If McCain keeps his schedule, this means he will have spent all of Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in New York, where he has no chance of winning, or Pennsylvania, where he has a miniscule chance. With 19 days left until the election, is this really the most efficient use of the GOP presidential nominee’s time?

Furthermore, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin spent the day in New Hampshire yesterday, another “solid” Obama state, per RealClearPolitics. Why?

It appears the McCain campaign is clinging to the fantasy that it can hold onto the previously red states and even turn some formerly blue states red. A rational reading of the tea leaves should convince McCain’s political advisers that if they want even a remote possibility of winning on Nov. 4, they need to adopt a strictly defensive posture.

The race is boiling down to a small handful of toss-up states: Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Indiana, Missouri, Colorado, Nevada and one swing electoral vote in Maine. President George W. Bush carried all these states in 2004, and Sen. Barack Obama is leading in the polls– at least marginally — in all except Missouri.

This is where the map at 270towin.com comes in. Basically, it all comes down to Virginia, which, by the way, CNN just moved from “toss-up” to Obama’s column. If you give McCain all of the other toss-ups, including the vote in Maine — already an unlikely scenario — Obama still wins with 276 electoral votes. If McCain takes Virginia as well, he will win with 275.

Obama is leading the RealClearPolitics average in Virginia by 8.6 percentage points. FiveThirtyEight.com, the electoral handicapping Website, gave Obama a 94 percent chance of winning the state as of yesterday. On the McCain campaign press bus the other day, a Washington reporter — recognized by others as a Virginia expert — predicted an easy Obama victory.

If McCain wants to retain the faintest glimmer of hope of becoming president — barring drastic unforeseen, game-changing circumstances — he and Palin should forget Pennsylvania and New Hampshire and focus strictly on the toss-ups — particularly Virginia.

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