McCain Pulls Back In Several States

by: Chris Bowers

Tue Oct 21, 2008 at 22:44


McCain isn't pulling out of Colorado, but he is pulling back:

Democrats who monitor advertising spending now put at five the number of states where Senator John McCain is reducing his advertising - New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Colorado, Maine and Minnesota.

In essence, Mr. McCain's campaign has decided to spread the advertising time he bought for the upcoming week in those states over the next two final weeks.

While station managers in the affected states said they were not ruling out the possibility that Mr. McCain would pump money back in before election day, on Nov. 4, the move represents a stark reordering of priorities.

The consensus seems to be that McCain will now target Pennsylvania instead of these other states. Outside of the Morning Call Tracking poll, there has actually been somewhat minimal polling in Pennsylvania over the last two weeks. Still, what polling there is indicates that McCain is further behind in Pennsylvania than he is in Colorado. Pennsylvania is also far more expensive, making it more difficult for McCain to compete financially against Obama's overwhelming money machine.

Best as I can figure it, the McCain campaign simply figures that Pennsylvania is worth exactly as many electoral votes as Colorado, Iowa and New Mexico combined. So, they are basically deciding to target the 2004 Bush states, plus Pennsylvania, minus Colorado, Iowa and New Mexico. I still think it is a stupid strategy, but the McCain campaign hasn't particularly impressed me with their intelligence so far. Why would their final move be any less dumb than genius decisions like "Green Screen," "Sarah Palin," and "Suspend Campaign." Just throw poor electoral targeting onto the end of a very long list.

Chris Bowers :: McCain Pulls Back In Several States

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Fear us. (4.00 / 4)
   It's clear that the McCain campaign fears the vast left-wing conspiracy which is fully operational in Colorado.

John McCain lets lobbyists shape his economic policy

I have to be honest... (4.00 / 1)
... I really don't think that McCain would basically cede to Obama the bare minimum of states he needs to win unless their camp thought he had a legitimate shot at winning Pennsylvania. It is possible that their campaign has internal polling that puts them behind in high single digits numbers - not favorable, but certainly not completely out of range. Colorado, more or less, has stayed static even though Obama doesn't have a huge lead there. They made a good judgment -- they are more likely to move voters in PA than in CO.  

PA (4.00 / 4)
Either McCain has some nefarious plan to sweep PA out from under Obama's 10-point lead, or we are just seeing the irrational last-throes of a desperate and broke campaign.

With no early voting in PA and the (alleged) impending blitz of race-based Wright attacks, perhaps McCain simple asked himself "how racists is Pennsylvania?", and liked his own answer.  

"Don't hate the media, become the media" -Jello Biafra


[ Parent ]
I bet you're right (4.00 / 3)
And this Al Giordano guy basically agrees.

But I would think that, to the contrary, the good people of Pennsylvania would be the most inoculated to this sort of thing. After all, they were the focus of all the Wright and bitter stuff in the primary. (And how did they vote? Right in line with demographic expectations.)

And beyond the inoculation factor, there's the fact that it's quite a blue state, and getting bluer. It ran 5 points more democratic than the nation as a whole in 2004. And right now it's... polling 5 points more democratic than the nation as a whole, give or take. McCain has to turn that into 5 points more republican than the nation as a whole - in the next two weeks. That is an utterly quixotic task.


[ Parent ]
"Legitimate shot" (4.00 / 1)
Is a term capable of many meanings.  It's probably the best of a number of terrible options, and in that sense I agree.  However, I doubt they have any secret polling that reveals a landscape substantially different than the public polls.

[ Parent ]
What??? (0.00 / 0)
You're giving McCain too much credit.  McCain has been busting his ass to get Pennsylvania, and the polls have been moving the opposite direction for him.  Its like his whole thing with Iowa.  

Besides, why fight for an expensive state that hasn't gone to the GOP in twenty years, when you have Colorado, which has only recently become a purple state.

My big question is the voter id laws.  Could McCain be pulling out of these states because they have voter id laws and that'll knock down Obama's voters?


[ Parent ]
Maine (4.00 / 1)
That's funny, I thought the McFail campaign just recently decided to put more resources into Maine because a little birdie told them they could win 1 electoral vote.

It is true that Ohio+Florida has always appeared as a Plan B. And with good reason, Obama was heartily competitive in VA and CO before the economy exploded, whereas it took a near-depression to elicit a positive response from our traditional swing states nemeses. But what about McEpicFail and his sidekick, Sarah Failin, are we to believe that PA has now become their Plan A?? Great news for McCain.  

"Don't hate the media, become the media" -Jello Biafra


Pennsylvania (4.00 / 2)
For some reason I'm nervous about Pennsylvania...Both campaigns have campaigned there a lot over the past few weeks, which makes me think this race is closer than some of the polls show. Murtha's comments definitely aren't helpful.

screw it McCain, just target California (4.00 / 10)
That's right. Go look at the Pollster numbers for PA and CA. Identical deficit for McCain! It's 15.3 in both. Since you think Colorado doesn't have enough electoral votes to give you any margin of error, just shoot the moon and go for California. Win that and you can lose lots of other states and still win. Plus, you could sneak in there and maybe no one would notice. It's mavericky you gotta admit.

One Miracle (4.00 / 3)
Like I said yesterday, I think the equation is simple - one miracle is easier than multiple miracles.  Without PA McCain is behind in so many states he needs to win that he can't possibly flip them all.  Therefore, shoot for PA - as unlikely as it seems - and try and change the math that way. I'm sure they feel that Carville's description - "Philly on one end, Pittsburgh on the other, and Alabama in the middle" - is somewhat accurate.  It's not a good bet, but McCain has run out of good bets.  There has been tightening of the polls, and Murtha's jackass comments can't have helped.  Finally, the lack of early voting is probably the final decider.

Murtha's comments... how do they hurt? (4.00 / 2)
Seriously...  Is McCain going to say, "Hey, PA, show us you're not racists by NOT voting for the black guy?"  It's not like Murtha's some hollywood liberal... Geez, he looks like he's worked in  the coal mines himself over the years...

Anyways, here's the deal.... McCain is "married to the pot" to use a poker term.  The odds are against him this hand, but he's losing... and the EV pot in PA is big!  So, he's going all in... like the gambler he is!

So, he has a shot... but the odds are against it!

REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!


[ Parent ]
that's an arguable point (0.00 / 0)
it depends on whether you think that changing the national debate is a) impossible and b) doesn't matter because of early voting.  But that's the alternative to changing the debate in Pennsylvania and it seems to be what they've decided.  I think it's the answer to the question: What do you do when you think you're going to lose but still have hope?  It's the equivalent of fouling in basketball.

[ Parent ]
McCain's plan makes sense.... (4.00 / 1)
...in that they are going to be playing the "fear through racism by other means" card as much as possible up to Election Day, and that card has been perceived to work more effectively east of the Mississippi that west of it (with the possible exception of Missouri, which I can't see McCain's people leaving off the table).  

Further, bouncing between PA, OH and FL (and perhaps NC and VA) allows them to concentrate time used for speaking engagements.  While TV ad buys will be harder than average in states such as PA, I suspect that there will be attempts to duplicate what recently happened with the WA-08 campaign and Republican Dave Reichert's access to almost free TV time worth $500K on a much larger scale within the focused states.

The problem for McCain is that fear of an empty wallet or purse seem to be trumping fears of pretty much anything else.  That and Obama's debate appearances, where he came across as calm, steady, capable and clear-headed, appear to have settled the opinions of most of these targeted voters.

It'll get uglier between now and Election Day in these focused states, but it's still Obama's race to lose.


It's a gamble, but that's all they've got (4.00 / 4)
The more I think about it from a game theory point of view, the more it actually makes some sense.

If they can get PA back into play, that does give them more options. Right now, as demonstrated by your victory chart, they have exactly one, very improbable path: run the table on 8 states. If they can win PA, there are suddenly several combinations that are possible. They're all hard, but they're not as hard as winning all 8 states, and there are several different paths.

Here's another way to look at it. Right now, if the national polls don't get substantially closer, they will lose. They have no chance. Accepting the PA loss and trying to win back some of the Bush states might be the best strategy if all you're trying to minimize the size of their loss. But losing by 2 EV is just as bad as losing by 190. So any winning strategy for McCain has got to assume the national margin will get closer. If it doesn't, they lose either way.

PA is probably harder than CO, but it's clearly easier than IA, maybe easier than NM. There's also the somewhat remote possibility that PA is really closer than we're seeing for some reason (such as a Bradley effect in Appalachia). If they continue to spread themselves around, and don't pick off a big Kerry state, closing in the national margin won't help much, because they still have to run the table on those 8 states. If the national polls close, and PA is in play, they suddenly have several possible routes to victory. If the polls don't close, it won't matter.

Conduct your own interview of Sarah Palin!


exactly (0.00 / 0)
In other words, I can see McCain hoping to get 5-point nationwide lift. If he can get PA within that margin, AND he somehow gets the lift, then he wins.

It's a desperate strategy, but a rational one.

The truth about Saxby Chambliss


[ Parent ]
Street money and Bradley effect? (4.00 / 1)
Maybe they just figure the election is lost anyway, so their only hope is to just pray for a Bradley effect and for Obama to refuse to distribute street money again (which, considering how much money he has, seems like it would be a mistake).  I can't really think of any else, but I guess we'll have to watch the PA tracker to see if anything tightens up.

They're paying street money, or so I've read (0.00 / 0)
They learned their lesson from the primaries.

[ Parent ]
I thought it was still up in the air? (0.00 / 0)
Here's an article from... today:

http://www.philly.com/philly/h...


[ Parent ]
Street money (4.00 / 3)
I get $200 of the nefarious "street money" every year. $100 for the primaries, and $100 for the general. Every committeeperson gets it.

You get paid $100 for taking the day off work, and standing outside the polls. Also, you get paid for getting people to the polls. It ain't dirty money. If you look at the average income in Philly, $100 for a days work is fair. In fact, it is reasonable.

Ain't no problem with street money. Glad they learned their lesson.


[ Parent ]
But, they haven't yet, apparently... (0.00 / 0)
See the link I posted in my own reply above.

[ Parent ]
I have no problem with it (0.00 / 0)
It's work, it should be compensated.

[ Parent ]
One more thing about PA... (4.00 / 4)
Is that there is no early voting... Perhaps they figure that they're already lost in the early voting states, so they need a big state with no early voting that if they can just close on election day, maybe they can pull out.

Early voting (0.00 / 0)
I agree, McCain has a greater chance of winning a state without early voting than a state he is similarly behind with early voting.  While this strategy basically concedes that McCain will lose, I see how it might marginally improve his chance.  At least this way a game changing event will effect 100% of the vote in the state.

[ Parent ]
Down-ticket races (4.00 / 1)
Could the strategy have something to do with trying to get better in-sync with down-ticket races? Is the draw-down in NM and CO as much about the fading hopes of the Republican senate candidates there as much as McCain's own fading hopes?

Could it be that they've accepted that they've lost but want to concentrate the presidential campaign in the states where it can be the most help to down-ticket Republicans?

Conduct your own interview of Sarah Palin!


then why PA and NV? why not MN? nt. (0.00 / 0)


[ Parent ]
Chris ... (0.00 / 0)
seen any McPalin TV ads lately? .. I haven't .. not like there was a week ago .. Obama is still on TV a ton .. but I see less McCain ads .. it feels like there are fewer McPalin ads anyway

PA makes sense to me (0.00 / 0)
I think this is as good a strategy as any.  The types of ads the McCain campaign is running (smear ads) are more likely to produce a positive effect in the PA "T" than in CO.  Plus PA gives the opportunity to get 21 EV's in one fell swoop, which is just about the only move that can put McCain back in the race.  Without PA, McCain would only be strongly contesting 265 EV's, so he has to add at least 5 EV's somewhere.  Neither NH nor ME would be enough.  MN and WI look out of reach.  That leaves CO or PA for a full court press.  The choice of PA over CO makes sense to me.

PA is a smart move for McCain (4.00 / 1)
Everyone knows that McCain has a very small chance of winning. But here's why PA is his best option:

It calls Obama on his expand the map (ETM) gamble.

In order to compete in places like Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and Indiana, Obama needed to spend tons of money. He did that, and McCain probably believes that the current polls reflect this spending.

At the same time, money isn't the only investment a candidate makes. Campaigning matters, especially in a tight race, and McCain is as good a closer as he is bad a strategist. With a good closing argument, McCain can make up ground easily, and there's always the danger of an Obama backlash.

So, if McCain cedes Obama the gimme ETM states, Iowa and New Mexico, and spots him Nevada and Colorado (even tossing in Missouri or Indiana), and plants himself in Pennsylvania, he is daring Obama to do one of two things:

1. Risk losing Pennsylvania (by not spending time there) in order to win Virginia, North Carolina, Florida or Ohio OR two or three upsets.

2. Spend the last two weeks in Pennsylvania, which is probably one of the toughest blue states for Obama to win under the wrong circumstances, and risk his chances of victory in the ETM states.

Plus, McCain desperately needs to get the media back on his side, and waging a one-state war will provide a compelling narrative, win or lose, for McCain's own sense of honor. Also, all the Bradley effect stories and flashbacks to the PA primary loss can only hurt Obama across the board.

Of course, this fight to the death in one state didn't work well for Kerry or Gore, but in either case it very easily could have, and McCain has shown himself to be a gambler.

Now, of course, Obama could lock up enough early votes in Virginia, North Carolina or Florida to make McCain's Pennsylvania push a meaningless exercise, but it seems better for him to do this than to try to keep up with Obama's multi-state attack.

All along, I think McCain has depended on residual racism and ageism of seniors like himself, hence all the time he spent in Iowa (one of the oldest states in the country). As that nation's oldest state, Pennsylvania is perfect for that kind of campaign, and a late, tight poll there would be enough to put fear in any Democrat's heart.


another idea (4.00 / 5)
By letting it all ride on PA the election night results will be in by 8 p.m. eastern and allow McCain an early bedtime. Heck, in Arizona he might be able to catch Dancing with the Stars before bed too.

Exactly right. (4.00 / 2)
Wake up from nap about 3:30.  Have dinner, check the news.  Give concession speech at 7:30.  Catch some reruns of Golden Girls (hell, he probably has every season on dvd), take his metamucil and in bed by 9:30.  Why wait it out till 10 or 11, when he'll really be cranky.  

[ Parent ]
They don't call it desperate for nothing (4.00 / 1)
It's a gamble.  A bad one, but they got to have someone in the campaign brain trust that understands game theory and so this is their best shot as they see it, sucks to be them.

Personally, I think they just went to the roulette wheel and bet the wad on red 37... umm... yeah, good luck with that.

I do like that sound of "President Obama"... even more then I like the sound of "Prison Rove".  


They're down to Appalachia (4.00 / 3)
I think they figure the "persuasion" required to flip PA will also help them save VA and NC ... and won't play well in the mid-west/west. This move says they've settled on their closing message and it's going to be ugly...

Self-refuting Christine O'Donnell is proof monkeys are still evolving into humans

Only Sensible in the "Hail Mary" Sense (4.00 / 1)
Pennsylvania is EC vote-rich and has no early in-person voting. (It does have absentee voting, of course.) If your campaign is running on electoral fumes already, it's one of the few grasping at straws strategies left.

It also probably means the McCain campaign will run hard with their "Appalachian strategy" in the remaining days: screaming "socialist," "black," "welfare," "terrorist," etc. Combining that medulla oblongata messaging with maximum vote caging, of course.


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