Forget Palin, McCain needs Peyton

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Hours before the second presidential debate, Senator John McCain might want to hire a new political consultant.

Although his Sundays are booked, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning has shown he knows how to erase a deficit – and fast.

Coming nearly five years to the day after he miraculously wiped out a a 35-14 deficit with less than five minutes on the clock, Manning pulled off another miracle this past Sunday over the hapless Texans.

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The quarterback – with a lot of help from his defense – rallied the Colts to a 21 point scoring spree in just over two minutes to win the game.

Hoosier-Loser?

If Manning were to join the team, he would probably want to start in his own backyard. The usually-secure Hoosier state was won by the current President by 21 points in 2004.  McCain's lead?  Only five points – 51 to 46 percent according to a new CNN/Time Magazine/Opinion Research Corporation poll.

"I'm glad it's a battleground state, because we here in Indiana are not battle-fatigued," said Gary, Indiana Mayor Rudy Clay. "We are going to work very hard to get people to the polls."

That Indiana remains in play underscores the uphill battle McCain is facing.  North Carolina is all tied up, with each candidate getting 49 percent of the vote.

Red or blue?

New Hampshire, the only possible red state in a sea of blue, is tilting toward Obama with a 50 to 47 point edge.  Wisconsin, on McCain's wish-list this year, is starting its blue drift, giving Obama a five-point lead.

What about Todd?

Michigan? Toast. The McCain campaign pulled out of the state last week despite offers from Palin for her husband, Todd, to canvass the state.

"It's been the worst state of all the states that are in play," said McCain political director Mike Duhaime last week. "It's the obvious state, in my perspective, to come off the list."

Character

The challenge now for McCain is to turn the tide. One strategy, which is causing plenty of fireworks, is to go after Obama's character. This has been a cornerstone of running mate Sarah Palin's new stump speech, bringing up the founder of the Weather Underground, Bill Ayers, and his ties to Obama at every campaign stop.

She has three stops lined up today, including two in Florida (Jacksonville and Pensacola) and one in Greenville, North Carolina.

Tuesday, she's expected to hit Obama on health care. And the word from the McCain campaign is "it's a definite" that Palin will tee-up Bill Ayers again.

New McCain ad

In the meantime, new campaign ads are out as well. Today's new ad from McCain is called "Hypo" as in "hypocritical." It slams Obama for protesting negative ads.

"How hypocritical," says the announcer. "Obama's social security attack was called a falsehood. His health care attack, misleading. Obama's stem cell attack?  Not true. Barack Obama. He promised better.  He lied."

New Obama ad

Meanwhile, the Obama campaign is determined not to get swift-boated. They launched a new commercial today calling attention to McCain's strategy of trying to change the conversation.

Of course, the Obama campaign got some great help from an unknown McCain aide who said, "If we keep talking about the economic crisis, we're going to lose."

"He’s out of ideas," the voice in the ad begins. "Out of touch. And running out of time. But with no plan to lift our economy up, John McCain wants to tear Barack Obama down. With smears that have been proven false."

Pressure

With 27 days to go and a lot of ground to make up, McCain hopes – just like Peyton Manning – that he can rally his team to a late-in-the-game scoring fest.

If the McCain camp is worried, they don't sound it. Perhaps they know Manning's definition of pressure, "Pressure is something you feel when you don't know what the hell you're doing."

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