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The Rundown

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.)

And speaking of Congress, is Ted Stevens guilty? Was that massage chair a gift or a loan?

As for today's most important label of all: Obama still has it. He's the favorite.

By Ben Pershing  |  October 21, 2008; 8:00 AM ET
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

to all you small business owners that are going to redistribute their wealth if obama wins, please fire the people that voted for obama first...

Posted by: Dwight | October 21, 2008 11:30 AM

The new S-word. Swamped.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 21, 2008 11:34 AM

While we're talking about label and "associations," were you aware that the RNC Fox News Irish Catholic bigot Hannity is associated with white supremacist Hal Turner?


Posted by: Roy | October 21, 2008 11:39 AM

No, Pennsylvania will not go to McCain. We got it for Kerry and Obama is going to do better than Kerry.

And is the Washington Times still around- the endless pockets of Reverend Moon, hmmm?

Posted by: Silverspringer | October 21, 2008 2:00 PM

While we're talking socialism, let's call the "bailout" to the big wigs what it is...socialism.

As for the "evangelical" Palin and her pet names for Obama...."judge lest ye be judged."

As for McCain....exactly WHO IS John McCain?
What do we know about him?

Posted by: Sag | October 21, 2008 2:11 PM

Nate over at fivethirtyeight.com pretty conclusively shows that PUMAs are an extinct species. The combined trackers now show Obama with 88% of Democrats support. Just short of Kerry's 89% and ahead of Gore's total of 86%.


What do you think? Time for a follow-up article on all that coverage they received in August?

Posted by: Wirro | October 21, 2008 2:29 PM

I was one of those who voted for Hillary in the primary. I live in rural PA, and I would never consider voting for McCain. Yes, this is a Republican region, but my informal yard-sign poll shows that McCain's lead in this area is much smaller than Bush's lead over Kerry.

As I looked at it, Hillary was finished by the time the PA primary rolled around; thus, I voted for Hillary because it was the only chance to show my support for her, and now I get to enthusiastically vote for Obama.

Posted by: pennsylavania dem | October 21, 2008 2:34 PM

You mention New Mexico: the McCain camp is in the process of pulling out of New Mexico and sending their resources to ... where else? ... Pennsylvania!

Sorry, folks, we tried to lure them into wasting their resources in our fair state, but they read the chile leaves correctly and decided to pack it in. They're not even supporting their doomed New Mexico GOP congressional candidates much.

Keep up the great work, Pennsylvania Democrats!! The rest of the country doesn't think the GOP has any chance in your state, either!

Posted by: NewMexicoChileHead | October 21, 2008 3:05 PM

I talked with one vet in Pennsylvania and he said, vote for Obama. He's going to take care of you. Personally I don't have much use for politicians. If he wins, I hope he takes care of the veterans. The long term costs for health care because of the war is going to be a huge financial burden and as the war goes on these costs will grow. What are they doing? Giving money away to save failed banks. AIG got more than the VA. One party can blame the other. The real costs are high and with all this debt it's a problem. It's a growing problem.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 21, 2008 11:16 PM

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