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McCain Advisers Don’t Deny Scaling Back in Wisconsin and New Hampshire

A pair of McCain campaign officials went to extraordinary lengths today to sidestep a news report that the campaign was halting new advertising buys in Wisconsin and New Hampshire — an indication that the campaign may be preparing to abandon the states with two weeks left until the general election.

In a McCain campaign conference call with the GOP presidential nominee’s traveling press corps, Mike DuHaime, Sen. John McCain’s political director, and campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds sought to paint a rosy picture for McCain in Pennsylvania, but reporters wanted to talk about the report from ABC’s George Stephanopolous. The report asserts that the campaign is stretching out existing ad buys in Wisconsin and New Hampshire — Colorado was added in an update — rather than purchasing new air time.

Asked about the report, DuHaime said:

“I believe that Wisconsin and New Hampshire very much remain in play for us. They are obviously states that Sen. [John] Kerry won…Our plan is to compete heavily in both of those states, and we think we’ve got a great shot.”

Bounds was asked if he was denying ABC’s report, but he ducked the question:

“We reserve the right to move advertising dollars around, and it shouldn’t be overly-analyzed. We will continue to shift resources in and out of states as our strategy plays out.”

When asked if the campaign is, in fact, “stretching” its existing buys, Bounds said:

“I have to be pretty firm on this…We continue to be on the air in all of our target states, including Wisconsin and New Hampshire. We, of course, reserve the right, just like the Obama campaign, to adjust our buys in these markets based on the strategic objectives we need to achieve. Today, John McCain’s message is in Wisconsin and New Hampshire. We expect to move strategically toward touching voters in key target states so we can win on Election Day.”

McCain has not appeared in Wisconsin since Oct. 10. He is slated to appear at a rally in Manchester tomorrow.

If McCain’s schedule in coming days lacks appearances in Colorado and New Hampshire, it will be a further indication that the electoral map has gotten considerably smaller for the Republican — and Pennsylvania will become even more of a must-win state for McCain.

UPDATE: Marc Ambinder adds Maine to the list.

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