When John McCain conducted a not-very-effective interview with the Editorial Board of the Des Moines Register a couple of weeks ago, the respected Republican strategist (and longtime associate of McCain’s) Mike Murphy had this to say on the Swampland blog, after discussing the interview itself:
What the Hell was McCain even doing there in the first place?….Obama is going to win Iowa.
….So, 35 days left and McCain is in Iowa? Why put McCain in the wrong state, at the wrong place? No surprise the result is the wrong message and the wrong tone.
Mike DuHaime, McCain’s political director, said internal campaign polling does not make the electoral map look as bad as some public polls suggest. For example: Asked why, if he has given up on Michigan, McCain has not given up on Iowa, a state that looks strong for Obama in public polls, DuHaime said because the campaign’s polling has Obama’s lead in the low single digits.
Hmmm. Them must be some mighty odd “internal polls.” FiveThirtyEight.com lists nine surveys of IA since the beginning of September. Six showed Obama with a double-digit lead. The only one showing a close race is from the Big Ten outfit three weeks ago, which just started polling last month, and has no track record. In fact, per RealClearPolitics, there hasn’t been a published poll showing McCain ahead in Iowa since the beginning of the year. That’s not the case with a number of other states that McCain seems to have conceded.
Polls aside, there are four big reasons that virtually everyone outside the McCain campaign has been assuming Obama would carry the state this year: (1) Iowa had one of the country’s strongest pro-Democratic trends in 2006, producing a gubernatorial landslide, a Democratic takeover of the state legislature, and pickups of two U.S. House seats (one against the previously invulnerable Jim Leach, who’s now endorsed Obama); (2) Barack Obama built a powerful organization in the state prior to the Caucuses, which is still in place; (3) McCain skipped the Caucuses in both of his presidential campaigns, which Iowans consider a deadly insult; and (4) McCain has also stubbornly opposed federal subsidies for ethanol, an issue so important to Iowans that a long line of presidential candidates in both parties (including George W. Bush) have flip-flopped on it precisely because of its importance in Iowa.
So I’m with Murphy: I don’t know what’s up with McCain and Iowa. Maybe he has a major weakness for corn dogs and potluck dinners.