John White , professor, politics, was quoted in an Oct. 18 Canwest News Service (Canada) article about the states presidential candidate Sen. John McCain must win in order to win the presidency. See his comments in the article below.

Obama's gains leave McCain defending his home turf
Republican writes off some states, scrambles to pull ahead in others

From: Canwest News Service Date: Oct. 18, 2008 Author: Sheldon AlbertsJohn McCain's road to the Nov. 4 presidential election has been long and winding -- and now his path to the White House is looking increasingly narrow.

With 17 days before Americans vote, McCain is being forced to spend most of his campaign time defending home turf -- states that voted Republican in 2004 -- against recent gains made by Barack Obama.

The Arizona senator, meantime, is facing bleak polls showing his campaign trailing in every state won by Democrat John Kerry in 2004.

The upshot? McCain likely needs to win every one of several hotly-contested "red state" battlegrounds -- including Florida, Ohio, Colorado, Virginia, Missouri, North Carolina and Indiana -- to reach the 270 electoral college votes needed to become president.

In all those states except Indiana, state poll averages currently show Obama with either a narrow or statistically significant lead.

"McCain has to draw an inside straight, which is still possible, but extremely unlikely," says John White, a politics professor at Catholic University in Washington.

"It's like climbing Mount Everest. It's a very steep road."

McCain has trailed Obama in most national polls since the third week of September, when the White House announced emergency plans for a $700-billion bailout of troubled Wall Street banks.

But the national polls are useful only as a barometer of the country's mood, since the president is chosen by 538 electoral college voters allotted based on results from the 50 U.S. states and District of Columbia.

Ever since the financial crisis began, McCain has seen his standing fall in almost every state considered competitive at the beginning of the election cycle. He has essentially conceded Iowa -- won by President George W. Bush in 2004 but where Obama currently enjoys a 12-point lead -- and earlier this month pulled campaign resources out of Michigan, a Kerry state four years ago.

Pennsylvania, a 2004 Democratic state where Obama struggled against Hillary Clinton, was considered a toss-up until stock markets began to plummet. Obama now leads by double digits.

Ohio, the swing state that put Bush over the top in 2004, remains a toss-up. But McCain leads in just one of five recent polls.

The campaign schedules for both Obama and McCain provide startling evidence of McCain's electoral predicament. McCain held rallies Friday in Florida, where four out of five recent state polls show him trailing, and will on Saturday visit North Carolina, which hasn't voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter in 1976, but where Obama has spent millions on advertising and organization.

McCain's running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, campaigned Friday in Indiana, which hasn't voted Democrat since 1964.

"Rather than trying to embark on some of Obama's territory, McCain is being forced to shore up his base and keep those red states red," says Mark Rozell, a presidential campaign expert at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. "Whereas Obama is going into states that haven't voted for a Democrat since 1964, like Virginia."

Obama will spend the next few days playing offence in Republican territory, holding rallies in Missouri, Virginia, Florida and North Carolina.

"The very fact that we're talking about Missouri being competitive, about North Carolina up for grabs and Florida being in Obama's camp -- it was almost unthinkable a couple months ago," says Rozell.

If current polls are correct, Obama can claim the White House under a number of different election-night scenarios. If Obama wins Iowa and holds all 2004 Democratic states, he need only win six of the eight largest 2004 Republican battlegrounds to become president.

He can also capture the White House by winning Colorado New Mexico and Nevada.

The current projection by RealClearPolitics.com shows Obama winning 286 electoral college votes -- including states that are either solid or leaning Democrat, but excluding toss-up states where he is ahead. McCain has solid or significant leads in states totalling 155 electoral votes.

"You are looking at eight or nine (Republican) states where it is within a couple of percentage points either way. How conceivable is it that McCain will win every single one of them?" asks Rozell. "I would not be betting my money on John McCain or U.S. stocks in the immediate future."

If McCain loses, analysts say it will be because of a perfect storm of negative factors: the faltering economy, Bush's record-high unpopularity, shifting demographics in key states and the failure by his running mate, Sarah Palin, to convert Hillary Clinton supporters in states like Pennsylvania and Ohio.

In Virginia and Colorado, McCain has been hurt by demographic trends tilting the populations toward the Democrats. Both states have seen influxes of immigrants and young urban professionals. Obama leads in Virginia by an average of eight points in state polls; in Colorado the margin is six.

Both candidates are cautioning their respective supporters against assuming the election is already decided.

McCain, campaigning in Miami, reminded supporters his candidacy has been considered dead on several occasions, and that each time he has rallied to victory.

"The national media has written us off. Senator Obama is measuring the drapes

. . . but they forgot to let you decide," McCain said.

"Nothing is inevitable here. We never give up. We never quit."

At a New York fundraiser Thursday night, Obama reminded voters about Al Gore and John Kerry, who lost in 2000 and 2004 amid widespread Democratic optimism.

"Don't underestimate the capacity of Democrats to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Don't underestimate our ability to screw it up," Obama said.

COLLEGE COMPARISONS

In the U.S., people in each state technically vote on whether to send Republicans or Democrats to the Electoral College. A look at 2004 and polling projections for this year

2004

George W. Bush 286 electoral votes

John Kerry 252 electoral votes

2008 (Current Projection, RealClearPolitics.com)

Barack Obama 286 electoral votes

John McCain 155 electoral votes

To close to call 97 electoral votes

ELECTION BATTLEGROUNDS

In States that voted Democrat in 2004 where McCain currently leads: Zero

States that voted Republican in 2004 where Obama currently leads: Nine (Ohio, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina, Missouri, Florida, Colorado, New Mexico, Virginia)

Source: RealClearPolitics average of polls.

Related News