McCain’s Strategy Rests on Pennsylvania
In case anyone was not yet completely convinced of the difficulty facing Sen. John McCain in his quest for 270 electoral votes, Politico’s Mike Allen reports his strategy now rests on one blue state — Pennsylvania.
Team McCain tells us that their path to 270 runs through Pennsylvania, rated by Real Clear Politics as “Solid” blue, with an 11.7-point average polling advantage for Sen. Obama. The smartest Democrat we know e-mails: “I get the appeal of trying to win one state (Pa.) rather than having to run the table on a lot of little ones (Nevada, Colorado, Iowa …), but this is the equivalent of Kerry deciding it would be easier to just stage a comeback in Texas.”
In a conference call with reporters yesterday, McCain campaign manager Rick Davis predicted a McCain sweep of the current toss-up states that went for President George W. Bush in 2004, including: Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Indiana, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada. However, RealClearPolitics reports Obama is leading in major polls in each of those states except Indiana.
CNN’s John King reported late yesterday that one McCain campaign official had written off Colorado and New Mexico — a combined 14 electoral votes that would hand Sen. Barack Obama the victory.
To counter the loss of those states, if the reports are accurate, the McCain campaign will seek to flip Pennsylvania’s 21 electoral votes to the red column. The electoral handicappers over at FiveThirtyEight.com give McCain a two-percent chance of winning The Keystone State — which is slightly better than Obama’s prospects for winning McCain’s home state of Arizona.
Politico’s Jonathan Martin lays out the inside baseball of what McCain needs to do to have a shot at winning Pennsylvania:
If McCain can drive margins in western and central Pennsylvania, like Hillary did in the primary, win the northeast part of the state, hold down losses in the Philly suburbs and, with the help of ethnic white wards, hold down margins in the city of Philly, he could be competitive.
To do that, McCain appears to be banking on the appeal of his “Joe the Plumber” line of attack with blue-collar workers and latent anti-communism by repeatedly raising the specter of socialism in Obama’s “spread the wealth” tax policies. McCain has three campaign stops scheduled today in the state to push his message.
However, with two weeks left until the election, the McCain campaign has one potentially powerful ace left up its sleeve. CNN reports the campaign is walking back McCain’s pledge not to use Obama’s controversial former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, as a campaign issue, in light of comments by Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) likening the McCain campaign’s rhetoric to that of the late segregationist Gov. George Wallace.
“Look, John McCain has told us a long time ago before this campaign ever got started, back in May, I think, that from his perspective, he was not going to have his campaign actively involved in using Jeremiah Wright as a wedge in this campaign,” Davis told conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt.
“Now since then, I must say, when Congressman Lewis calls John McCain and Sarah Palin and his entire group of supporters, 50 million people strong around this country, that we’re all racists and we should be compared to George Wallace and the kind of horrible segregation and evil and horrible politics that was played at that time, you know, that you’ve got to rethink all these things,” he added. “And so I think we’re in the process of looking at how we’re going to close this campaign. We’ve got 19 days, and we’re taking serious all these issues.”
McCain and the Republican National Committee reportedly still had $124 million on hand at the beginning of October. A last-minute swing-state advertising blitz, as Republican pundits are urging, tying Obama to Wright’s most inflammatory comments in moderate regions could do substantial damage to Obama — though McCain could receive significant blowback for breaking a vow not to play the Wright card.
But with McCain’s presidential ambitions hanging in the balance, it’s probably wise not to rule out anything.