Strategists for John McCain insisted late Thursday afternoon that it was Barack Obama, not the Arizona Republican, who was on the defensive when it came to the electoral map.
On a conference call for the press hours after it was announced that McCain would be pulling resources and staff from Michigan, Mike DuHaime, the campaign's political director, and Greg Strimple, its senior adviser, outlined a strategy akin to political rope-a-dope, in which their campaign had goaded Barack Obama into pouring in money into un-winnable locales.
"One of the strategic decisions our campaign has made is to let Mr. Obama spend his resources there until the point where we got closer to the election... I believe that in every one of those [swing states] they will snap back aggressively in our favor. These are states with a conservative voting constituencies where you have the most liberal member of the United States Senate running at the head of the ticket. And in my years of polling I have never seen someone with a more aggressive liberal imagery among the electorate."
Under the current map, they argued, there was a clear path for them to reach the necessary 270 Electoral College votes.
"When we look at the electoral map and we look at Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, Missouri, and Indiana, all states that Republicans have been winning repeatedly in the past in presidential elections, all states where we are tied or ahead in current public polling that puts us at 206 electoral votes," said Strimple. "We are currently competing aggressively in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Nevada, New Hampshire and New Mexico, where we have the combination of any of those states to get ten more electoral votes in order to be successful and have Mr. McCain the next President of the United States."
The assertions seemed, at best, cherry-picked and, at worst, ignorant of recent polling trends. Over the last week Obama has taken leads in several of the states Strimple considered McCain holds, including Ohio, Virginia, Florida and even North Carolina. In the toss-ups, the Democratic candidate is fairing even better, perhaps save Nevada.
Nevertheless, Strimple had a message to push. And in his political universe Obama's movement in the polls was not nearly enough to change the electoral dynamics.
"I am sure that Barack Obama and his campaign today are frustrated because despite the unmitigated negative campaign they have run for the last three weeks, despite the financial crisis that is facing our nation, despite their massive spending in the last ten days, they are having a tough time breaking 50. And certainly they are concerned that the same thing that happened to them in the primaries, where all the undecided voters broke against them in the end, is weighing heavily on their minds."
Later in the call, Strimple was asked if he could point to a poll where McCain had broken 50. He ignored the question.
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