Election 2008

Carolyn Kaster/AP

Pennsylvania Emerges as Pivotal State in McCain Campaign

October 22, 2008 02:28 PM
by Christopher Coats
Republican presidential nominee John McCain has sharpened his focus to a few key states, with a special emphasis on Pennsylvania.

A Final Push for the Republicans

After reducing advertising and campaign costs in states like Colorado, Wisconsin, Maine and New Hampshire, the McCain campaign has shifted focus to key battleground states, such as Florida, Ohio and Indiana.

However, Pennsylvania presents a pivotal challenge to Sen. McCain and a possible weakness to opponent Barack Obama. Sen. Obama lost the state by 10 percent to Sen. Hillary Clinton in the primary, and faces strong opposition in the central and rural western areas.

With 21 electoral votes up for grabs, the state offers a chance for Sen. McCain to make up the ground he stands to lose in several smaller states if current polls continue to hold.

While supporters think a victory in Pennsylvania is possible, it will be a daunting task. Voting for Democrats in every presidential election since 1992, Pennsylvania currently offers Sen. Obama an 11-point lead, according to the RealClearPolitics average.

In addition to the lead, the Democrats were able to register more new voters this year, amounting to 1.2 million more registered Democrats than Republicans in Pennsylvania.

To overcome Sen. McCain’s current deficit, the campaign has been targeting former Sen. Clinton supporters who may have felt left behind or spurned by the Obama campaign.

"When we look at our numbers, we think we're competitive here," McCain advisor Mark Salter told the New York Times. "We would like to get as many Clinton supporters as we can."

Still, the McCain campaign is lagging behind the Obama campaign in overall spending, allotting about half of what his opponent is, thanks in part to the Illinois senator’s cash advantage after a record-setting month of fundraising.

In addition to shifting advertising dollars to the Keystone State, the McCain campaign has sent some of their key figures there for appearances across the state, including running mate Gov. Sarah Palin as well as Sen. McCain’s wife, Cindy McCain.

Reactions: Warnings of complacency

While a McCain victory in the state would be a challenge, his camp’s presence there seems to have some worried. Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell called on the Obama campaign to dedicate more resources and time to the state, especially western Pennsylvania, where the Illinois senator still lags behind.

Echoing Rendell, Sen. Bob Casey suggested that the campaign should not get too complacent, citing Pennsylvania’s tendency to shift in the final days before an election.

While cautious, Sen. Obama himself does not have any immediate plans to return to the state, relying on his existing ground team to hold the lead.

Opinion & Analysis: Faulty polls?

Despite national and battleground poll numbers pointing to an Obama lead, some have suggested that Sen. McCain is actually in a better position to win the election on Nov. 4 thanks to the sources of the polling data.

DJ Drummond at the blog Wizbang argues that polling agencies are unfairly skewed toward supporting a Democratic candidate. Pointing to the location of the headquarters of each polling place, Drummond suggests that the results are altered in favor of Sen. Obama, concluding that Sen. McCain may actually emerge as the winner.

Related Topic: A last blast of cash

Politico reported this week that hopes for a final surge of McCain campaign funding to bankroll advertisements critical of Sen. Obama have begun to fade as the election enters its final two weeks. “Donors just weren’t willing to give the money,” explained Chris LaCivita, the strategist behind the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004, to Politico. “They were hurt badly in the market crash and they were always concerned about how McCain would react.”

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