1 p.m. ET: Does John McCain's (narrow) road to victory run through Pennsylvania?
The Washington Times -- from a wonderful SALTLICK, Pa. dateline -- reports today that the GOP nominee is "throwing almost everything he can" into the state, looking to pick off (white) voters who backed Hillary Clinton in the primary. Playbook picks up the theme: "Team McCain tells us that their path to 270 runs through Pennsylvania." Democrats scoff at this strategy.
So who's right? Is the state winnable for McCain, and is this the best way for him to use his remaining two weeks and meager (compared to Obama's) war chest?
First, the polls: The last three public surveys of Pennsylvania have pegged Obama's lead at 10, 8 and 15 points. Go back a bit further, and see that in the last 10 polls, McCain has only been as close as 7 points (once), while Obama has been up by double-digits seven times. McCain's camp claims that their internal polls show the race closer, and that may well be true, but it's worth remembering that campaigns always say that. (The alternative is to say, "We agree. We are losing badly and have no hope.")
Now, it's true that Clinton beat Barack Obama in the April primary, 55-45, and absolutely creamed him in rural areas outside of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Some of those voters may well defect to McCain, and some may indeed be unwilling to back a black candidate. But are those voters really lying to pollsters now? Yes, we've read all about the "Bradley effect," but still aren't convinced these voters won't just tell a pollster that they're voting for McCain.
Still, even if you concede that McCain is going to bring in all these disaffected white voters, won't black turnout be astronomical for Obama? Most polls have to use turnout numbers from 2004 and 2000 to estimate the black vote, but won't the actual result be much higher? Of course, we -- and the McCain campaign -- will know all the answers in two weeks. But one final thought: Even if McCain wins Pennsylvania (21 EVs), can he also hold Florida and Ohio and North Carolina and Virginia and New Hampshire and New Mexico and Iowa? He could well "throw everything he has" into Pennsylvania and win it, but still lose the race.
8 a.m. ET: In recent days, the presidential race has become increasingly about labels. Which ones will stick? Sarah Palin keeps calling Barack Obama's policies socialist -- which for some reason has become the "S-word." Will it soon be blocked by profanity filters? She did not dub him a communist, though Northern Virgina might be C-word country, according to John McCain's brother.
Is Obama anti-American? Michelle Bachmann may or may not still want to investigate the matter (and scholars can investigate how she single-handedly managed to put her own House race in play). And there remains the question of which candidate will perform better in real America and among real Americans -- perhaps their votes will count twice on Election Day.
But at least Obama's not erratic, as the Democrat's camp continually contends McCain is, or angry or even -- gasp -- ideological. At least Obama has not called McCain racist, as John Murtha did some of his own constituents. Then Murtha walked that back a bit and explained that actually, they were just rednecks. Or they used to be. Oh. (Here's a label many Democrats are thankful Murtha does not have -- Majority Leader.)
As for today's most important label of all: Obama still has it. He's the favorite.
October 21, 2008; 8:00 AM ET
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