First, a genuine compliment for Sen. John McCain: He is faring very well, physically, on this long campaign trail.
I had thought a candidate of McCain's age would struggle more -- based on the grueling demands I've witnessed while working in presidential politics.* McCain has handled the road pretty well so far, though new data shows that his reliance on joint campaign events is shrinking his political footprint in swing states. Today's Wall Street Journal article reports a striking disparity in the campaigns' schedules:
In the five weeks since the fall campaign officially began, Sen. Obama, his wife, Michelle, and vice-presidential nominee Joe Biden have appeared at a total of 95 separate events in states that both sides are contesting. Sen. John McCain and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, have appeared at 55 events in those areas... according to a Wall Street Journal tally based on schedules provided by the campaigns.
That is a staggering gap. McCain regularly relies on Gov. Palin and his wife to flank him at events, while the Obama campaign favors individual deployments to drive local press coverage and field outreach. McCain is also doing a few less solo events than Obama:
Sen. Obama himself has been on the stump a bit more than Sen. McCain has, holding four more swing-state events over the five-week span. Over the weekend, for instance, Sen. McCain held one rally, in Iowa on Saturday, while Sen. Obama held four in the Philadelphia area.
The Journal was cautious with this scoop, running this piece under the comically bland headline, "Obama Camp's Travel Seems a Factor In Recent Leads in Battleground States." Seems a factor -- you don't say! This is a huge problem for the GOP. McCain is already getting outspent on local and national advertising. His current strategy is to route around the "media filter" and reach voters "directly," as his aides say, and that makes local events and mobilization even more crucial.
Instead of deploying the ticket's brand names as widely as possible, however, McCain is letting Obama literally double up on local impact. When it comes to reaching swing state voters, though, less is definitely not more.
* Extra note: Skeptical readers may argue that was a backhanded compliment, or a way to raise the age issue, but a candidate's health and stamina are worth assessing. Congress should also require independent doctors to review all presidential candidates' medical records, as The New York Times and other publications have editorialized.