McCain Pulling out of Michigan

October 2, 2008

A frustrated Michigan could not be reached for comment:

John McCain is pulling out of Michigan, according to two Republicans, a stunning move a month away from Election Day that indicates the difficulty Republicans are having in finding blue states to put in play.

McCain will go off TV in Michigan, stop dropping mail there and send most of his staff to more competitive states, including Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida. Wisconsin went for Kerry in 2004, Ohio and Florida for Bush.

I don’t have all that much to add about what a bad sign this is for McCain, other than to point out that the list of states he will be focusing on is a bit misleading. McCain could win all three of those states, and he would still lose the election. Regaining the lead in Ohio and Florida is certainly job one for the GOP (I’m not sure why Wisconsin is even mentioned here), but doing so is a precondition for making the race serious, not a strategy for winning it, which will have to focus on states like Colorado, Nevada, New Hampshire, and, especially, Virginia.

(h/t Chevy Chase)

UPDATE 6:31PM: JMart has the McCain camp’s official reaction, which is much more sensible than the abbreviated summary of it:

We’ll do a conf call at 5:45pm ET on the state of the race, but it’s really sort of laughable. We played in MI to spread the field on Obama. As you know, Obama has already abandoned a number of states from his 50 state strategy. If we win FL, MO, NC, VA, IN and OH — all states Republicans have won for decades — that puts us at 260 electoral votes. We need to find 10 electoral votes from CO, NV, NM, NH, MN, WI, and PA. Frankly, we have an easier map than Obama. He’s on the defense.

This at least acknowledges the math, but it’s hardly an honest characterization of the . The states he mentions that “Republicans have won for decades” are all close, a number of them leaning Obama, and of the states he mentions for his final 10 electoral votes, only Colorado, Nevada, and New Hamphire are very competitive. Nevada and New Hampshire have a combined 9 votes, which would result in a tie. So combining common sense and the McCain analysis (not the best way of looking at the race, to be sure) leads to the conclusion that Colorado is absolutely essential to a McCain victory. Obama is up about 5 points in Colorado.

UPDATE 7:05PM:

Mike Allen reports a slightly different, and less plausible, electoral vision from an unnamed McCain source:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) now must win Pennsylvania, Wisconsin or Minnesota in order to get enough electoral votes to win the presidency, his campaign says.

Those were considered swing states in 2000 and 2004, but George W. Bush lost them both times.

“Our ability to pick off one of those three states is where our fortunes are largely held,” a McCain official said. “These are states where Barack Obama is on the defense.”

McCain figures that winning one of those three big remaining swing states, plus those he considers safe, would put him 10 shy of the 270 electoral votes he needs to win.

“We can dig up an additional 10 electoral votes in Nevada, Colorado and New Hampshire,” the official said.

Recent polls have showed Obama running strong in some states Bush won in 2004. But the McCain official said the campaign is confident: “We feel strongly that we’re going to win in Florida, Missouri and the traditional Republican states of Virginia and North Carolina.”

He narrows the source of the final 10 votes to the three states I mentioned above, but the path to the first 260 doesn’t make any sense. For one thing, PA is worth twice as many votes as either MN or WI. And it’s difficult to see what states this strategy is condeding to Obama, since the most sensible accounting would suggest that if McCain won all of those states he would hit 260 without any of those states. On top of all that, all three of them are fairly big reaches at this point. The only explanation I can see is that either Allen or his source got confused.

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