Obama aims to put McCain on the run

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Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign manager says the team has crafted a strategy ensuring the Democrats won’t wake up Nov. 4 worrying that the presidential election hinges on the outcome in one swing state.

Instead, the Obama map would put presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain on the defensive in the Midwest, South and even Alaska.

“Our strategic orientation is to play offense,” said Obama campaign manager David Plouffe. “We are going to have a lot of states in play.”

He said the campaign will spend the next four months attempting to register historic levels of new voters, boosting turnout and translating Obama enthusiasm into a Democratic “persuasion army” to convince swing-state voters in their neighborhoods not to vote for Mr. McCain.

Traditional battlegrounds Florida and Ohio remain key, but Mr. Plouffe said if Mr. Obama can hold on to the 252 electoral votes that Sen. John Kerry earned in 2004 against President Bush, he is in good shape to pick up a few more.

“We have a lot of different combinations to get to 270,” he said, citing the number needed to capture the White House. “Our strategic imperative is to get as deep into October as possible and keep those scenarios alive.”

The campaign is advertising in 18 battleground states, including the Republican strongholds of Alaska, North Dakota and Montana.

“There was not a head fake amongst them,” Mr. Plouffe told reporters Wednesday when presenting the map. “Every single state here we intend to compete in, and we think there’s a rationale for winning. Our goal is to keep this list intact. We want to move a couple of them into ‘Safe Obama.’”

The campaign starts with Iowa, a blue state in 2000 where Mr. Obama’s caucus victory in January launched his string of wins. Mr. McCain largely ignored the Hawkeye State this winter.

Virginia and North Carolina “weren’t part of the dialogue” in 2004 or 2000, and with a little bit of attention are tremendous pickup opportunities for the Democrats, Mr. Plouffe said.

“Win the Kerry states, win Iowa and we’re at 259. Win just Virginia and it’s game, set, match,” he said.

He said Mr. McCain will be “stretched very thin” trying to keep up with an expanded Obama map.

“We’re not going to be there in September and October going to the same four states all the time,” Mr. Plouffe said.

Republican National Committee spokesman Alex Conant scoffed at the Plouffe assessment, saying it does not match reality.

“Obama wheezed across the finish line of his party’s nomination, losing the majority of primaries since March 4, including key general-election battleground states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia,” Mr. Conant said, pointing to a poll showing the race a “dead heat.”

The Gallup daily tracking poll released Wednesday gave each candidate 45 percent of the vote, with 1 percent of the 2,600 respondents picking “other,” 4 percent choosing “neither” and 5 percent without an opinion.

The findings, though, show Mr. McCain on the rebound after several national polls showed that Mr. Obama earned a massive bounce after locking down the delegates needed for the nomination June 3.

Some put the Democrat up by a dozen points, and Newsweek’s latest poll last week gave him a whopping 15-point lead, so Gallup was good news for the Republicans.

“This is the first time since Gallup’s May 31-June 4 rolling average that Obama does not have at least a slim advantage over McCain,” said Gallup’s Jeff Jones.

Mr. Plouffe cautioned that his electoral map was drawn based on current state polls and said things can change over the next few months.

That’s where the campaign’s grass-roots organization could pay off if volunteers can spend weekends in battleground states registering as many voters as possible. Mr. Plouffe said adding big numbers of black voters and younger professionals will help reshape the electorate.

He promised to place staff in all of the states and suggested it’s not so far-fetched to compete in states such as Montana because “organization matters more in small states” and as few as 10,000 votes could make the difference.

The campaign on Wednesday announced that it moved state directors into Iowa, Montana, New Mexico, Alaska and Oregon.

Mr. Obama, of Illinois, is working to bring the Democratic party together after a prolonged primary battle with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.

On Tuesday, he asked his national finance committee during a conference call to “consider raising money for Clinton debt relief,” said a source who was on the call.

“We are trying to do everything possible to get Clinton’s big donors and fundraisers squarely on board soon,” the source said.

The comment is an indication the donors will happily write $2,300 checks - the maximum allowed by law - to Mrs. Clinton toward the debt, and probably will help collect checks from other donors as “bundlers” to aid the effort.

Mrs. Clinton added her own voice to the mix this week with personal appeals to her own donor list.

In an e-mail Wednesday, she said the relationship she forged with voters will continue, but added, “There’s something else - less endearing and I hope less enduring - that our campaign has left behind: our substantial campaign debt.”

Mrs. Clinton said she is not asking for anyone’s help to pay back the $12.2 million she loaned herself during the campaign, “but I do need your help paying the debts we accrued to others.”

Joseph Curl contributed to this report.

About the Author

Christina Bellantoni

Christina Bellantoni is a White House correspondent for The Washington Times in Washington, D.C., a post she took after covering the 2008 Democratic presidential campaigns. She has been with The Times since 2003, covering state and Congressional politics before moving to national political beat for the 2008 campaign. Bellantoni, a San Jose native, graduated from UC Berkeley with ...

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