McCain tries to steal Pennsylvania; Obama's poll numbers widen

Jake Turcotte

Got 'em right where we want 'em. We like being underdogs. We're the comeback kids. It's not over 'til it's over. Where's that Saks Fifth Avenue credit card - I need some new pants.

If you were playing the '70s game show the $25,000 Pyramid, "Things overheard at McCain Headquarters" could be the answer.

And with 13 days to go, anyone in the political game knows there's plenty of time left. Anything can happen in the last two weeks.

Down polls

It would be preferable for the McCain campaign if poll numbers start turning around, however. Reuters is reporting this morning that Barack Obama's numbers are moving up for the third day in a row.

The latest C-SPAN/Zogby poll results with our full coverage of Election 2008">Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll -- a three-day rolling poll -- gives the Democratic nominee for President a 10-point lead with a 52 - 42 margin.

Says pollster John Zogby, "Obama just keeps growing, he has expanded his lead among almost every major voting group. McCain seems to be out of steam for the moment."


He's showing plenty of steam, however, in Pennsylvania. Not in terms of polling, but emotion. Speaking to a crowd yesterday, McCain yelled, "Stand up, stand up, stand up and fight. America is worth fighting for. Nothing is inevitable here. We never give up. We never quit. We never hide from history. We make history."

Historically speaking, short-term anyway, Pennsylvania is blue. They haven't voted red since 1988. A compilation of current state polls, show McCain down by 11 points.

And unless Bill Ayers starts stumping for Obama or Joe Biden continues talking, the chances of reversing these numbers seem daunting. Especially in light of the party breakdown. There are 1.2 million more Democrats than Republicans in the state.

So why the heck would McCain continue to spend time in the Keystone state? It could be his only option.

It ain't that bad

McCain advisers say internal polling shows different results. The real Obama lead is about half what the public polls indicate, they say. And they say by turning about 2,000 voters per county from voting Democrat to Republican, the McCain campaign can steal the state.

In a conference call with reporters yesterday, McCain political director Mike Duhaime recognized the challenge in Pennsylvania but said McCain resonates with independents.

"Certainly, it's a state that a Republican hasn't won in 20 years," Duhaime said. "But we think Sen. McCain is the right candidate, with an appeal to independent voters. And certainly, the ability to get some crossover Democrats is what you need."


In the race toward the 270 electoral votes, Pennsylvania is key because other states that looked promising for McCain are no longer. They've conceded Michigan. New Mexico is now done. Colorado looks unlikely. Minnesota and Wisconsin seem unreachable.

The states that Bush won in 2004 are turning from red to pink to -- in the case of Virginia anyway -- blue.

North Carolina and Missouri -- usually red states -- are tied up. Obama enjoys an eight-point lead in Virginia.

Kerry and Texas

How daunting of a challenge is it? Politico's Mike Allen summed it up pretty well, recanting an email conversation he had with "the smartest Democrat [he] knows:

“I get the appeal of trying to win one state (Pa.) rather than having to run the table on a lot of little ones (Nevada, Colorado, Iowa …), but this is the equivalent of Kerry deciding it would be easier to just stage a comeback in Texas.”

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