Why McCain is Betting Big on Pennsylvania

Election '08

Here is the McCain Pennsylvania targeting theory, as best as I can tell:

  1. McCain has to win a state where he is way down: Right now, McCain is more than 8.0% behind in states worth 277 electoral votes (the Kerry and / or Gore states plus Virginia). With only 270 needed to win, and 269 to tie, he has to target a state where he trails by more than 8%. That isn't even an option.

  2. Take a look at the 8% or more states: A quick glance at last week's polling from the 277 8% or more states (the Kerry and / or Gore plus Virginia states) doesn't show a pretty picture for McCain. A short list of states quickly emerges:

    StateEV'sObama %McCain %Margin# Polls
    New Hampshire450.0%43.0%+7.0%1
    New Mexico553.5%43.5%+10.0%2

    If a state isn't listed here, then it is even worse for McCain. These six, crappy options are his only choices.

  3. Why not New Hampshire? McCain has did well in New Hampshire during the 2000 and 2004 primaries, and it is also the closest state here. So, why not New Hampshire? Because he needs to pick up at least nine electoral votes to crack the 277 8%+ Obama states, and New Hampshire is only worth 4.

  4. Why not Virginia?: Why doesn't McCain just target Virginia, which is worth enough electoral votes and closer than Pennsylvania? Because Virginia is the most early voting of all early voting states, with early voting starting one month ago. During that month, Obama has repeatedly and continually posted large leads in Virginia. By comparison, Pennsylvania has no early voting (except for no-fault absentee). Given that, compared to Virginia, a far lower percentage of the vote in Pennsylvania has already been cast, a 3% difference in polling doesn't really mean anything. Easier to come back from an 11% deficit with 3% of the vote in than a 8% deficit with 30% of the vote in.

  5. Why not Minnesota? Or Wisconsin? Or New Hampshire and New Mexico? Why shouldn't McCain just target a smaller, cheaper combination of states that reaches nine electoral votes, instead of Pennsylvania? The reason is Colorado, and it's nine electoral votes. While McCain only trails by 5% in Colorado, some estimates are that 50% of Colorado votes will be early votes. This means that McCain needs a way to overcome not only the 277, but potentially 277 + 9 (Colorado). The only state on this list that provides that sort of coverage is Pennsylvania.

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