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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


Even as most political observers were focused on events in Congress or on the vice presidential debate, a small but important piece of hard campaign news came out yesterday: the McCain campaign has given up on the battleground state of Michigan.
According to Mike Allen of Politico, McCain’s strategists now say they must win in one of three battleground states won by both Gore and Kerry: Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. RealClearPolitics’ polling averages currently show Obama up by eight percentage points in PA, and by five points in WI and MN.
While polls can change, the decision to pull ads and other resources out of a key state like Michigan is a real event with serious consequences. Some of you may remember Al Gore’s fateful decision late in the 2000 campaign to give up on Ohio, and significantly reduce resources in Gore’s home state of Tennessee, in order to go for broke in Florida. That move had consequences, all right.
The underyling reality is that McCain’s options are rapidly shrinking. Taking the 2004 map as a baseline (and assuming, of course, a close race), he’s already all but lost one state carried by Bush, Iowa, where his decision to skip the Caucuses in both 2000 and 2008 probably doomed him from the get-go. He’s in varying degrees of trouble in four others: CO, NM, VA, and FL. And NC and IN are shaky as well. At the moment, NH is the only state won by Kerry where McCain’s in good shape. And now MI is off the board. So far as I know, the only previously targeted states that the Obama campaign has conceded are GA and ND, where Gore and Kerry were routed. And virtually everyone in politics agrees that Obama has a significant advantage in ground resources in all the battleground states, with the possible exception of FL.
At the moment, the McCain campaign’s overriding mission is to regain some national momentum by trying, through sheer nastiness, to shift attention from fears about the economy to doubts about Barack Obama, reinforced, they hope, by the other two debates. But the electoral vote map is not friendly to their candidate, which means he’s not likely to get any breaks in the close race the GOP is trying to engineer.

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