The Chances of — Yes — a McCain Comeback

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Who me? Photo: Getty Images

Things may look bleak for John McCain at this point, and that's because, well, they are bleak. A slew of new state polls out this morning show the battlegrounds shifting even more toward Barack Obama (fourteen points in Ohio? Joe the Plumber, you're fired), not tightening, as some expected to happen in the closing days of the race. And yet, there are — if you look hard enough, and suspend your disbelief — still ways a McCain victory could materialize. In the polls, in the known and unknown unknowns, and in the potential for flat-out luck, there remains a reason to hope.

• Alexander Burns provides some "glimmers of hope" for the GOP, including that AP poll that showed Obama up only one point, some Mason/Dixon polls which show the races in Virginia and Florida tightening, and Governor Ed Rendell's nervousness that Pennsylvania isn't yet locked up. [Politico]

• Steve Bennen notes one big reason to be skeptical of that AP poll showing Obama up only one point: "44% of those in the poll's voter sample were self-identified evangelical Christians, who tend to be conservative Republicans. In the last presidential race, evangelicals constituted 23% of voters." While it's possible that evangelical turnout could increase this time around, a jump that large is "practically impossible, and rather foolish to assume as part of the basis for a national campaign poll." [Hot Air]

• Charles Mahtesian writes that though it looks like a long shot for McCain, "Nearly everyone in a position to know thinks the race for Pennsylvania’s 21 electoral votes is considerably tighter than what recent polls reveal." He breaks down the areas that McCain hopes to perform well in, with Western Pennsylvania seeming "to hold the most promise for the McCain campaign." [Politico]

• Chris Cillizza writes that, as anyone knowledgeable will tell you, "this election has as many — if not more — unanswered questions as any before it." Factors that could contribute to a McCain surprise include the Bradley effect, the youth turnout, an "October surprise," black turnout, or a game-changing gaffe. [Fix/WP]

• Marc Ambinder explores a potential path to victory that McCain's advisers are currently pushing, which, he admits, "rests on certain assumptions about the electorate that seem almost provably false at this point, but not provably false enough so as to render them completely bizarre." It basically boils down to the GOP conducting a superior GOTV operation, and having the most optimistic outcome occur in every battleground state. [Atlantic]

• Rich Lowry believes that it's "very unlikely that McCain can win in Pennsylvania, and that a "more viable scenario would appear to be holding the states Bush won both in 2000 and 2004." If McCain "can close the national gap with Obama, it's possible that" the close battlegrounds like Florida, North Carolina, Nevada, and Virgina swing back McCain's way. Then it's down to Colorado, where McCain is further behind. This is why he should "pour it on in Colorado rather than Pennsylvania, and attempt to thread the red-state electoral needle." [Corner/National Review]

• Karl Rove points to a number of things McCain has going for him right now, like the "emergence of Joe the Plumber and the likelihood of an agreement with Iraq on a continued U.S. troop presence." McCain should also focus on Obama's tax plan, and how it's a "warning sign of a misguided economic philosophy." Overall, McCain must "drive home doubts about Mr. Obama based on his record, and share as much as he can about his own values and vision to reassure voters." [WSJ]

• Steven Stark, looking back from the future at how McCain pulled off an upset: The polls overestimated Obama's lead, he performed below expectations on election night (perhaps the Bradley effect?), and the elderly turned out instead of the youth. And so McCain held onto every Bush state including Colorado, and won New Hampshire. [Boston Phoenix]

• Mike Murphy believes there really is "no state by state way to break out of the campaign's current spiral." Instead, "McCain has to go global with a big closing message," and do something bold, like putting his remaining resources into producing a half-hour, prime-time, direct-to-camera TV address and two prime-time town halls. Of course it's risky, "but a big message move aimed at the entire country is the best option now." [Swampland/Time]

• Larry David is as neurotic as ever as he frets over an Obama loss because of racism or vote-stealing. [HuffPo]

Related: Dahlia Lithwick and Ayelet Waldman on Michelle Bachmann and Why They’re So Worried About Voter Suppression

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.