- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 9, 2008

COMMENTARY:

The number of Republican Red states where Barack Obama leads is growing, reducing the states in play and thus cutting into electoral votes needed for a John McCain win in November.

As of this week, the freshman liberal senator led or held the edge in Iowa, Ohio, Florida, Nevada, Virginia, North Carolina, New Mexico and Colorado - eight states that can deliver 111 electoral votes to the winner.

President Bush previously won all these states along with a bunch of others that gave him 286 electoral votes to John Kerry’s 251. Mr. McCain can’t afford to lose any of these Red states, unless he can offset his losses by picking off a number of Democratic Blue states and that seems rather problematic right now (though polls show the race tightening in Minnesota and Wisconsin).

But with a little more than four weeks remaining in the presidential race in a brutal economic environment, the grim reality facing Mr. McCain is that his rival leads in more than a half-dozen Red states, while he cannot point to a single Blue state where he is ahead.

That is the predicament in which he now finds himself as Republican strategists grow increasingly pessimistic about his chances against the Obama juggernaut propelled by a national mood of economic gloom.

For months, Mr. Obama has been leading in several Red states that have been trending Democratic, but the Arizona Republican has been able to hold the edge in other must-win battlegrounds like Florida and Ohio. Now even these economically distressed states appear to be leaning toward the Democratic column along with several others as undecided voters begin making up their minds in Mr. Obama’s favor in the heat of an economy teetering toward recession.

Fearing Mr. McCain is fast running out of time to structurally change the election’s focus, Republican strategists say his only hope now is to make his rival’s judgment, inexperience and tax increases the central issues in the remaining weeks.

“McCain has got to make the campaign about Barack Obama. He’s got to say that with everything going on in the world, my opponent hasn’t completed a full term in office other than in the Illinois state legislature - that he is not ready to lead, that he is a risk that Americans cannot afford to take,” said Republican campaign adviser John Brabender.

The contrast between the two candidates on experience alone is stark. Barack Obama has been a U.S. senator for about three-and-a-half years, during most of which time he has been on the campaign trail.

He has in that time held no oversight hearings, even though he chairs a subcommittee, led no legislative battles and led no efforts to work across the aisle in behalf of the “new kind of politics” he has made the mantra of his campaign.

Instead, he rides a populist wave of economic pessimism and panic that appears ready to buy his “change you can believe in” mantra, despite an economic plan few voters understand.

At that plan’s core is a raft of draconian tax increases on critical components of the nation’s economy - tax increases that have been an integral part of his party’s “grow the government” prescriptions for decades.

Mr. Obama intends to raise the top personal income tax rate from 35 percent to 39.6 percent, raise the 15 percent tax rate on capital gains and dividends to between 20 percent and 28 percent, levy higher tax rates on corporations, and increase the Social Security payroll tax on upper-income Americans.

Mr. Obama will be raising taxes on the very parts of our economy that have been the wellspring of its venture capital investment pool that is now on life support.

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