McCain’s State-by-State Strategy — or Lack Thereof

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Lindsay Lohan and Miley Cyrus. Photo: AP

There's only two weeks left, which means it's time for the McCain campaign to make some tough decisions. CNN's John King, his Poseidon-coiffured hair flowing in the breeze, reported last night that McCain was giving up Iowa, New Mexico, and, supposedly, former red state Colorado for dead. Adding those states to the ones Kerry won gives Obama the presidency, which as you can imagine is kind of a problem. So McCain may be looking to pick off Obama's old primary bugaboo, Pennsylvania, and its lush bounty of 21 electoral votes. It may be a long shot, but McCain's options are dwindling. And as reports from other swing states show, even winning Pennsylvania might not be enough.

• Jonathan Martin reports that McCain's campaign was pushing back against the idea that they're giving up on Colorado, pointing out that Sarah Palin was there yesterday and the RNC is still running ads. However, they still "avoided making firm commitments about Colorado, careful to avoid portraying any state as a must-win." [Politico]

• Isaac Chotiner doesn't "quite understand why McCain thinks he can win PA but not VA or CO." [Plank/New Republic]

• Chuck Todd and friends also hear denials that McCain is leaving Colorado, which is good because he "really can’t give up there, no matter what the polls say." [First Read/MSNBC]

• Larry Eichel writes that, though "McCain continued to treat [Pennsylvania] as if the whole election depended on it," Obama "apparently feels comfortable enough about his position in Pennsylvania that he has no plans to return to the state before the middle of next week." [Philadelphia Inquirer]

• Joseph Curl examines one reason why McCain may be targeting Pennsylvania: race. McCain is "working the blue-collar, white suburbs and rural areas across the broad midsection of the Democrat-leaning state," where experts believe the "Bradley Effect" may be stronger than normal. [Washington Times]

• Michael Tomasky thinks that if McCain really does think Colorado, Iowa, and New Mexico are gone, "it makes sense to aim at Pennsylvania." Of course, if McCain is relying on that state, he'll need to "focus on arguments that he thinks will be especially suited for Pennsylvania" and its rural, working-class, partly Appalachian voters. That could mean "more Ayers, more socialism — and it may mean the reintroduction of Rev. Wright, which McCain said he wouldn't use." Obama should "persuade the Clintons to spend the last week of the campaign in the state to keep it nailed down." [Guardian UK]

• Michael Crowley believes that instead of relying on racists in Pennsylvania, another "plausible route to victory" may be New Hampshire and Maine. New Hampshire went red in 2000, used to be a toss-up in this election, and "McCain has been campaigning there for eight years." Maine, meanwhile, splits its electoral votes, and McCain could possibly "pull off an upset in the more rugged, Bangor-centric, moose-hunting northern district." If McCain could pick up five electoral votes in New Hampshire and Maine, he could win 270–268. [Stump/New Republic]

• Katharine Q. Seelye looks at Obama's surprising strength in North Carolina, which she chalks up to a number of factors: "an influx of new voters and a change in demographics; a slowing of the state’s economy and the collapse of the nation’s financial system; Mr. Obama’s extensive ground organization, huge financial advantage and amount spent on television (seven to one over Mr. McCain); the state’s large population of blacks and students; and Mr. McCain’s neglect of the state." [NYT]

• Alexander Burns writes that Obama "has made new gains in two key counties that could tip the balance in the swing states of Nevada and North Carolina." The counties are ones that George W. Bush won in both 2000 and 2004, and are "critical to McCain’s chances," but are currently swaying toward Obama. [Politico]

• Tim Padget says McCain's "outlook in the Sunshine State for his campaign is surprisingly dark." While it's clear McCain would be having an easier time if he didn't pass over Florida governor Charlie Crist as his running mate, the real problem may be "the widespread feeling that McCain hasn't tapped into the more civil, issues-driven political style that most Floridians have embraced since Crist was elected in 2006." And the running mate McCain did select "may be reminding Floridians too much of Katherine Harris, one of the state's most polarizing political figures." [Time]

• Jonathan Weisman and Christopher Cooper note, however, that McCain holds some advantages in Florida: "a Republican ground operation that political operatives on both sides recognize as historically superior to the Democrats," for one, and two demographic voting blocs — "conservative retirees statewide and rural whites in northern Florida" — that have been historically more reliable voters than Obama's young and minority supporters. [WSJ]

• Andrew Sullivan passes along anecdotal evidence of an "early voting tsunami" in Florida and elsewhere. [Atlantic]

• Party Ben provides more personal anecdotes, but this time about Obama's surprising support in Omaha, Nebraska, where Obama hopes to pluck a single electoral vote. Ben was "astonished" at the number of Obama yard signs, and even heard a small child defend Obama's tax plan on the playground. [Mojo/Mother Jones]

Related: Jennifer Senior and Dahlia Lithwick on Palin’s ‘SNL’ Appearance and McCain’s Problems With Women

For a complete and regularly updated guide to presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain — from First Love to Most Embarrassing Gaffe — read the 2008 Electopedia.