- The Washington Times - Friday, October 3, 2008

Republican Sen. John McCain’s campaign said Thursday that he has scuttled most of his campaign for Michigan and is shifting people and resources to Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, reshuffling his efforts amid falling poll numbers.

The politically explosive economic crisis has erased Mr. McCain’s lead in key states and in nationwide polls and propelled Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama ahead, squeezing Mr. McCain out of Michigan and making him look elsewhere.

But Greg Strimple, a McCain strategist, told reporters that the campaign isn’t worried about having to defend states like Indiana, where President Bush won by more than 20 percentage points in 2004, or in other traditionally Republican “red” states such as North Carolina, Virginia, Missouri and Florida.

“We have just started advertising there heavily, and I believe in every one of those states they will snap back,” Mr. Strimple said. He said the campaign takes comfort in being tied or ahead in those states — despite polls this week that show Mr. McCain trailing in each state but Indiana, where he holds a narrow lead.

Still, political analysts said Mr. Obama should not get too comfortable either because the polls will change constantly until Election Day.

“If you go back to the 2000 and 2004 elections, what we see are changes in the lead, back and forth, and I suspect you could very well see that again this time,” independent pollster John Zogby said.

“We’re talking today about a four- to six-point Obama lead in a few polls, but Al Gore led by as much as seven points in September and October in 2000 and George Bush led by as much as six or seven in both months, too. This election is not over,” Mr. Zogby said Wednesday.

Mr. McCain’s campaign said the withdrawal from Michigan will allow the Republican to focus on flipping other traditionally Democratic “blue” states, including Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Maine. The campaign also said it was encouraged by data from states that allow early voting.

The senator from Arizona had made much of his efforts in Michigan, and it was supposed to be a state where Mr. McCain could make inroads with blue-collar voters, whom Mr. Obama had trouble attracting in the Democratic primaries. Now Mr. McCain is left hoping he can still do that in Pennsylvania.

The Obama campaign said it’s still putting effort into defending Michigan.

“We will continue to fight for every vote in Michigan because middle-class families there just cannot afford more of the same,” campaign spokesman Nick Shapiro said.

Three weeks of stomach-churning economic turbulence and the Bush administration’s failure to win a bipartisan economic rescue plan have benefited Mr. Obama’s “time for a change” campaign. Polls show him with leads in several battleground states, including Ohio, Pennsylvania and even Florida, where Mr. McCain had led for months.

Mr. McCain has also suffered on important measures such as who voters think would best handle the economy. Earlier polls had shown the two candidates tied, but Mr. Obama has seized the lead on that issue.

The economy is likely to grow in importance as an issue. Analysts said the economy likely will weaken this month, with the jobless rate expected to climb when the U.S. Labor Department announces unemployment data Friday.

McCain campaign strategists hope the economic issue will become less intense if both chambers of Congress complete an financial rescue package this week.

“Since McCain and Obama both supported the rescue plan, and suggested changes that made it better, they both own the plan, and whatever short-term impact it will have on the markets,” Republican economic strategist Cesar Conda said.

“Unfortunately, the economy is still slowing down. McCain has got to push his broader pro-tax cut, pro-growth agenda in order to regain the political offensive,” Mr. Conda said.

Recent polls show some good news for Mr. McCain. An ABC/Washington Post poll found the Republican trailing Mr. Obama by four percentage points. Among other findings:

• Mr. Obama trails among white voters by 13 points, the same deficit Sen. John Kerry had with whites in 2004.

• Mr. McCain now leads his opponent 47 percent to 45 percent on who could reach across the aisle in Congress to forge legislative compromises, erasing Mr. Obama’s 12-point advantage on this issue in August.

• Mr. McCain has edged ahead as the candidate who can best handle foreign policy, the Iraq war, terrorism and international crises.

• He also leads among independents, 48 percent to 45 percent.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide