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Defiant McCain Kicks Off Ohio Bus Tour

On a bus tour around Ohio, Republican Presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) participates in a rally in Defiance, Ohio, at Defiance Junior High School. (Melina Mara / The Washington Post)

By Michael D. Shear
DEFIANCE, Ohio -- Sen. John McCain launched a two-day bus tour of the Buckeye State in a place that describes his mood.

The Republican is defiant, his top aides say, unwilling to give up the dream he has pursued for more than a decade, despite public polls which suggest that it is slipping away quickly.

The temperature was 24 degrees when the campaign bus pulled out out this morning for three outdoor rallies, the beginning of a final five days that advisers say will take McCain back to Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Missouri, before winding up with a six-state spree on Monday.

"I know history. I know the last time anyone was elected president of the United States without carrying the state of Ohio was John F. Kennedy," McCain told several thousand people who packed the town's square. "My friends, we are going to carry Ohio and we are going to with the presidency and we need you out there working every single moment for the next five days."

McCain ordered his brain trust onto the trail this week for a final set of briefings on how they can win. Advisers Mark Salter, Steve Schmidt, Charlie Black, Matt McDonald and Nicolle Wallace are here. Political director Mike DuHaime left Wednesday to go back to Washington.

On the plane from Florida to Ohio Wednesday night, Sen. Lindsey Graham offered a peek from the inside.

The campaign's tracking polls show steady improvement, he told a small group of reporters gathered around the front of the press cabin. In many of the battleground states, their polls show McCain trailing but well within the margin of error.

If McCain enters the weekend in that position in Florida and Ohio, Graham said the campaign believes they will win in those states. The same goes for Virginia and North Carolina -- places that he said the campaign believes are closer than public polls suggest.

Graham -- who is McCain's best friend and has been by his side for much of the past two years -- said that the most critical number will be their internal tracking polls on Friday. If those show the Obama getting more than 50 percent in those states, "then we lose," he said bluntly.

But, like other top aides, he expressed optimism about the two messages McCain has been pushing: Obama's desire to "spread the wealth" and Sen. Joe Biden's comment that Obama will be tested as president. They feed the narrative that Obama is not ready to be president, he said.

DuHaime, who is charged with implementing the campaign's strategy, briefed reporters on the details.

McCain's hope lies in winning a group of historically Republican-leaning states: Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia and Missouri. If he can do that, DuHaime said, then he can win the election with one of two endgames: a victory in Pennsylvania or a combination of wins in New Hampshire, Iowa, New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado.

The key demographic, aides said, is older white voters, who seem to be coming home for McCain. In a strategy memo this week, the campaign asserted that "our long identified target of 'Walmart women' -- those women without a college degree in households under $60,000 a year in income, are also swinging back solidly in our direction."

DuHaime expressed hope that the senator's fate is up to the voters who continue to tell pollsters they are unsure of how they will vote.

"This race is very close down to the wire. Undecided voters are deluged with historic amounts of advertising. The most negative ads in history. The most positive ads in history. The most money ever spent on a campaign," he said. "And yet we are still sitting here very close together."

Pressed by reporters about public polls which show large leads for Obama in some of those critical states, DuHaime said that McCain's two pollsters -- Bill McInturff and Ed Goeas -- both believe that the public polling is not accurate.

"Iowa is closer than most people think," he said.

In the strategy memo, McInturff had noted, "As other public polls begin to show Senator Obama dropping below 50 percent and the margin over McCain beginning to approach margin of error with a week left, all signs say we are headed to an election that may easily be too close to call by next Tuesday."

In Defiance, several thousand people put on their coats and hats to hear McCain make his final argument.

Graham introduced him by mocking Obama's infomercial, saying, "Thank God for cable," and comparing watching it to torture by joking that "If we'd played that at a prison camp, it would have violated the Geneva Convention."

He predicted that McCain will win northwest Ohio because "this is a Joe the Plumber kind of town. The only thing we're going to spread around in Defiance, Ohio, is a chance to do better."

When McCain took the stage, he lived up to his advertised defiant mood. As the end of the race nears, his delivery is getting more urgent, and he pounds his lines out with an energy reminiscent of the final days before the New Hampshire primary, when the Republican nomination was on the line.

"Yes, we will lead. Yes, we will prosper. Yes, we will be safer. Yes, we will pass on to our children a stronger, better country," he thunders. "But we must be prepared to act swiftly, boldly, with courage and leadership. I am an American and I choose to fight. Don't give up
hope. Be strong. Have courage and fight."

McCain aides said that Joe "The Plumber" Wurzelbacher would be joining McCain on the trail in his home state later today. But McCain apparently got mixed up about when Joe was meeting up with the campaign.

"Joe's with us today. Joe where are you? Where is Joe? Is Joe here with us today? Joe I thought you were here today," McCain said, getting no answer from Joe in the crowd.

Recovering quickly, he said: "Alright, you're all Joe the plumber, so stand up.... Thank you.
Wherever you are Joe, let's give him a round of applause for what he's done for America."

By Web Politics Editor  |  October 30, 2008; 12:08 PM ET
Categories:  Battlegrounds , John McCain  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Study: Campaign Financing Not an Issue for Voters
Next: Bill Clinton Campaigning With Obama in Fla.


McCain has even lost his lead among really old people. They know he could go at anytime and Sarah the winker would be the President. Her negatives are above 50% now. No one, except McSame and his loyalist are saying (whether they believe it or not is another story) that she could handle the job.

She is pretty though, you have to give her that. Oh yeah, and she dresses REALLY well, I mean REEEEAAAALLY well.

Posted by: DougH1 | October 30, 2008 10:43 PM | Report abuse

McSame, a new campaign starts every morning. From Maverick, to Change to America First to Samuel Joe the unlicensed plumber to PLO spokesman. Sarah's out of control because she's running like a rat on a sinking ship.

There is not much she can do. She has about six national media spot and four of them are embarrassing. She is the only VP candidate in history to not do a Sunday morning talk show since they started. Talk about embarrassed.

Falin is like the old grandma you don't allow your friends to see when they come over.

Posted by: DougH1 | October 30, 2008 10:19 PM | Report abuse

Secret polls just like secret Obama's associations may be all just figments of McCain's and Palin's imaginary 'real' America. Maybe Palin will be her delusional self and thank the great state of Pennsylvania for a decisive win right after a 60/40 defeat. People imagining things usually don't run institutions but get institutionalized unless of course they are politicians.

Posted by: floggy | October 30, 2008 7:42 PM | Report abuse

Go McCain!!!!!!!!!! Us old democrats are rooting for you.

Posted by: ontheblvd | October 30, 2008 5:43 PM | Report abuse

Don't let the MSM, Hollywood and foreign contributers pick your president for you! Use your brain - vote McCain!!!

Posted by: floridarez | October 30, 2008 5:30 PM | Report abuse

Don't let the MSM, Hollywood and foreign contributers pick your president for you! Use your brain - vote McCain!!!

Posted by: floridarez | October 30, 2008 5:29 PM | Report abuse

The fact the economy is a worry on everyones mind should we really trust what the canidates are telling us about their tax policies. Hanlon has been bashing McCain for the last couple weeks but now he starts an attack on Obama's tax plan. It also has links to a tax caluclator that would show you how much your family would be effected. Interesting read.

Posted by: macebruce | October 30, 2008 3:57 PM | Report abuse

In a twisted sort of way I almost want McCain to win this election because four more years worth of failed Bush/McCain policies would for all intents and purposes be the end of the Republican party as we know it today. They would become the 4th party gadflies that they deserve to be.

The only question is, would this country survive it?

You people out there who live in economic downtrodden states like Ohio, Pa and Virgina etc, if you are stupid enough to vote for McCain you will deserve every single bit of economic hardship that a McCain presidency will give you.

Posted by: DrainYou | October 30, 2008 3:21 PM | Report abuse

John McCain Gets Stood Up By Joe The Plumber!

Now this is hilarious!!!

McCain calls on Joe The Pretend Plumber to stand up and be recognized...but Joe's nowhere to be found, and it confuses the hell out of McCain.

Phoney Joe must have been trying to get a record deal or something...

Two-thirds of McCain's "crowd" were bused in school students:

A local school district official confirmed after the event that of the 6,000 people estimated by the fire marshal to be in attendance this morning, more than 4,000 were bused in from schools in the area. The entire 2,500-student Defiance School District was in attendance, the official said, in addition to at least three other schools from neighboring districts, one of which sent 14 buses.


Posted by: DrainYou | October 30, 2008 2:59 PM | Report abuse

If the GOP suffers a crushing defeat next Tuesday it will be time for real Republicans to pick up the pieces.

The program should read:

1. We will defend the United States against all enemies.

2. We will be careful stewards of your money and control spending.

3. We will not tell you how to live your life.

4. All are welcome in our tent.

Marginalize the crackpots, neo-fascists, purposely ignorant, bigots and those waiting for the rapture - they will vote for you anyway. Cut your ties with A. M. radio.

The American people will respond.

It is time for real Republicans to take their party back. The nation needs you.

Posted by: toritto | October 30, 2008 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Golly, McCain is sure quick to tell others what to do.

That, I guess is what "Representing" People is all about! :-(

Hey! McMoron.

How about YOU Listening for just ONCE!

Get Sarah another Job, or let her run for Steven's Seat.

Despite WHATEVER you Think, WE do NOT want her as our PRESIDENT, if you are rendered unfit, or Die!

Ditch Palin,

Hitch Mitt!

Posted by: SAINT---The | October 30, 2008 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Huckabee Hearts Obama?

See the latest Lies the GOP is trying to spread about Obama

Posted by: pastor123 | October 30, 2008 12:13 PM | Report abuse

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