Continued from page 1

“People are getting more enthusiastic about McCain because he is getting more aggressive toward Obama, which makes Republicans and conservatives believe McCain actually can win,” said Jeffrey M. Frederick, the newly elected Republican Party chairman in Virginia.

The state, once reliably Republican, has become a battleground this year.

“The poll shrinkage results more from McCain’s aggressiveness and the more people hear about Obama, the more enthusiastic they get about McCain,” Mr. Frederick said.

In Indiana, another usually Republican state where polls show a tight race, Mr. McCain is winning the hearts of conservatives, helped by polls that suggest Mr. Obama is neither inevitable nor unbeatable.

“It’s the polls - it’s definitely happening,” said state Rep. Jackie Walorski, a Republican from Elkhart. “But it’s not that these hard-core conservatives I talked with at the county fair here are softening their attitudes toward McCain. They’re sliding toward him out of fear of a liberal Obama presidency, and they think McCain can win.”

In Michigan, Mr. Anuzis said, “the idea that McCain all of a sudden could win is generating a degree of excitement and involvement among people, many of whom may not have been very excited or motivated by McCain at the time he locked up the nomination.”

Jay Kenworthy, communications director for the Indiana Republican Party, said his state’s voters are getting to know Mr. Obama and not liking what they see. “We hear people saying, ‘McCain may not have been my guy, but we can’t afford Obama,’” he said.

Mr. Kenworthy said a tax raiser who is weak on national defense - the image Republicans are trying to create for Mr. Obama - is “not a good combination in the Hoosier state.”

Mr. Anuzis agreed: “As a good Republican and even as a good conservative, you’re looking at the alternative with Obama on domestic policy and the Supreme Court.”

In South Carolina, where a large black population is expected to help Mr. Obama in a normally reliable Republican state, Republican Party Chairman Katon Dawson attributes “the poll gains to McCain beginning to draw contrast between not only the candidates but the two parties’ philosophies. I see optimism that we have a chance to possibly to win and optimism builds enthusiasm.”

Mr. Beltram sees Mr. Obama as a drag on Democratic candidates “down-ticket,” giving a glimmer of hope to state and local Republican candidates.

“Although the interest in McCain is only tepid, we are very excited about our prospects for many local elections that we thought 60 days ago would be very difficult,” Mr. Beltram said.

Nevada Republican Party Chairman Sue Lowden said polls are narrowing in Mr. McCain’s favor, although data show more voters are registering Democrat rather than Republican.

“McCain is attracting independents and Hillary Democrats. The more time he spends in Nevada, the more people like him. It’s a small state and easy to reach out to voters,” she said.