How McCain could win...From the New York Times

Discussion in 'Politics & Religion' started by ZZZzzzzzzz, Oct 24, 2008.

  1. In McCain’s Uphill Battle, Winning Is an Option
    By ADAM NAGOURNEY

    MIAMI — Senator John McCain woke Thursday morning to what has become a fairly common greeting in these tough last weeks of his campaign. A raft of polls showing him well behind. Early post-mortems on his candidacy. Even Republicans speaking of him in the past tense.

    But is it really over?

    As Mr. McCain enters this closing stretch, his aides — as well as some outside Republicans and even a few Democrats — argue that he still has a viable path to victory.

    “The McCain campaign is roughly in the position where Vice President Gore was running against President Bush one week before the election of 2000,” said Steve Schmidt, Mr. McCain’s chief strategist. “We have ground to make up, but we believe we can make it up.”

    The latest New York Times/CBS News poll, released Thursday, showed Senator Barack Obama consolidating his lead over Mr. McCain among many groups of voters, underscoring the degree of difficulty facing the McCain team with just 11 days left in the campaign.

    Even the most hearty of the McCain supporters acknowledge that it will not be easy, and there are a considerable number of Republicans who say, off the record, that the 2008 cake is baked. At this point in the campaign, Mr. McCain’s hopes of victory may rest on events over which he simply does not have control.

    Still, there do seem to be enough question marks hovering over this race that it is not quite time for Mr. McCain to ride his bus back to Arizona.

    “It’s an uphill battle,” said Karl Rove, who was the chief strategist for President Bush going back to Mr. Bush’s first run for governor in 1994. “But I remember seven days out from the Texas gubernatorial race, and everybody was like, ‘It’s all over, we’re cooked!’ And we won by seven points.”

    Here are what Mr. McCain’s advisers are watching hopefully (and Mr. Obama’s are watching warily) as the contest enters its final days.

    States

    Mr. McCain’s advisers said the key to victory was reeling back those Republican states where Mr. Obama has them on the run: Florida, where Mr. McCain spent Thursday; Indiana; Missouri; North Carolina; Ohio; and Virginia. If he can hang on to all those states as well as others that are reliably red, he would put into his column 260 of the 270 electoral votes necessary to win. Mr. McCain’s advisers said they would look for the additional electoral votes they need either by taking Pennsylvania from the Democrats, or putting together some combination of Colorado, Nevada, New Hampshire and New Mexico.

    Mr. McCain’s advisers are most concerned about Virginia, and understandably so. On the other side of the coin, Mr. McCain’s advisers believe that if he wins or comes close in Pennsylvania, he will probably win in Ohio and Florida. Aides to Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama agree that Mr. McCain remains very much in the game in Ohio and Florida. Not easy, but not impossible either.

    Issues

    Two issues have turned up in the final days, courtesy of some inopportune remarks by Mr. Obama and his running mate, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware. Both have entered the campaign dialogue, and it is probably a little too early to tell whether they will have the impact that Mr. McCain hopes they will.

    The first was Mr. Obama’s response to the plumber in Ohio who asked about his proposal to increase income tax rates on households making over $250,000 a year, in which Mr. Obama asserted that there was a need to “spread the wealth.” Mr. McCain seized on the response to reprise the he-will-raise-your-taxes attack that has historically had resonance in states like Florida, Iowa and New Hampshire. “We believe we have traction with the tax issue,” said Charlie Black, a senior adviser to Mr. McCain.

    It was no coincidence that Mr. Obama spent about 10 minutes rebutting the notion that he would raise taxes on the middle class at a rally here in Florida on Tuesday. Advisers to Mr. Obama are carefully watching state polling and focus groups in Florida, Ohio and Virginia, where Mr. McCain is waging a vigorous push on this issue.

    The other was Mr. Biden’s prediction that a foreign power would test Mr. Obama with a crisis in the first months of his presidency. That remark goes to what has been the heart of Mr. McCain’s argument about the need for the next president to have experience in handling high-stakes situations. No one in Mr. Obama’s campaign is disputing the potential damage from Mr. Biden’s remark, but they hope it will be offset by the endorsement of Mr. Obama by Colin L. Powell, the former secretary of state, on Sunday.

    Polls

    Pollsters say there has never been a year when polling has been so problematic, given the uncertainty of who is going to vote in what is shaping up as an electorate larger than ever. While most national polls give Mr. Obama a relatively comfortable lead, in many statewide polls, Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain are much more closely matched. Even a small shift in the national number could deliver some of the closer states into the McCain camp, making an Electoral College victory at least possible.

    “The next 13 days will tell the story,” said Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida, pointing to recent polls showing Mr. McCain gaining in his state. “I’m optimistic. I think he’s going to take Florida.”

    The other question is whether there is a hidden resistance among whites to casting a ballot for an African-American. That could potentially be a problem for Mr. Obama in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Mr. Obama’s advisers argued that race had already been factored into polls; but it was notable that the Times/CBS News poll found that one-third of voters said they knew someone who would not vote for Mr. Obama because he is black. That is a question formulation pollsters use to try to get at prejudice that a voter might not otherwise own up to.

    Turnout

    Mr. Obama has made major strides in expanding the voter pool, especially among young people and African-Americans; the question is whether first-time voters, especially younger ones, will actually turn out. Consider this: An ABC News/Washington Post poll on Thursday found that first-time voters support Mr. Obama by 73 percent to 26 percent.

    Mr. McCain’s campaign looks to history for evidence of how big a step it is for new voters to go from registering, which can take place at a doorstep, to actually voting. Still, by every indication here in Florida — where there were two-hour lines in the southern part of the state as early voting began this week — the Obama campaign may be delivering on the formidable get-out-the-voter operation it has promised.

    Which is not to say they are not a bit worried.

    “Complacency is a big concern of ours, and that’s why we’re going to campaign energetically from start to finish here,” David Axelrod, the chief strategist to Mr. Obama said in an interview. “We don’t want anybody to think that this thing is done — it’s not done. One of the things that can undo us is if people believe that.”