McCain Vs. Obama: New Electoral Map Emerges

A weekly wrap on the state of the '08 presidential race.


June 8, 2008 — -- IN THE PAPERS:

The red and blue map is about to be turned upside down in November, as both Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama plot a path to the presidency featuring an electoral map with states won by the other party in 2004 and 2000.

New battlegrounds are about to emerge in the Midwest, Rocky Mountain West and the South. Beware Democrats in New Jersey and Pennsylvania! Watch out Republicans in Virginia, North Carolina and Colorado!

Dan Balz of the Washington Post reports the Obama campaign believes it will need to hold every state won by John Kerry in '04 and then pick off a few states that have voted Republican in the past two elections in order to capture the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House.

Balz writes, "The Kerry map gives Obama 252 electoral votes. To pick up the next 18 electoral votes, Obama will target Iowa, Virginia, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado. His list also includes Ohio, where he lost the primary to [Hillary] Clinton but which, in the 2006 midterms, shifted dramatically toward the Democrats."

Not so fast -- The McCain campaign believes the Arizona senator's potential appeal to independents and some Democrats will shine the way to 270. If everything holds, Republicans and Democrats will set their sights clearly on the other's terrain, writes Balz. "McCain and Obama offer a rare combination of nominees able to poach on the other party's turf. Both have proven appeal to independents. McCain will target disgruntled Clinton supporters; Obama will target disaffected Republicans. Women, Latinos and, especially, white working-class voters will find themselves courted intensely by the two campaigns." LINK

The sprint to 270 is in full gear. Team Obama is actively pursuing Aaron Pickrell, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland's chief political strategist, and Dan Carroll, who was an opposition researcher for Bill Clinton in 1992, report Adam Nagourney and Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times.

The outstanding Obama campaign organization has pivoted completely to the task of taking on the full force of the Republican Party -- which has historically out-gunned Democrats in presidential contests. "The question is whether the more organically grown game plans that carried Mr. Obama to victory in Democratic primaries and caucuses can match the well-oiled organizations Republicans have put together," write Nagourney and Zeleny. "Mr. Obama has moved in recent days to transform his primary organization into a general election machine, hiring staff members, sending organizers into important states, and preparing a television advertisement campaign to present his views and his biography to millions of Americans who followed the primaries from a distance."

And beyond strategy, are the issues of the campaign. "With Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton now having formally bowed out of the race and thrown her backing to him, Mr. Obama wants to define the faltering economy as the paramount issue facing the country, a task probably made easier by ever-rising gasoline prices and the sharp rise in unemployment the government reported on Friday. Mr. McCain, by contrast, has been emphasizing national security more than any other issue, and has made clear that he would like to fight the election primarily on that ground," Nagourney and Zeleny write.

Obama has tapped political director Matthew Nugen to oversee the Democratic National Convention on behalf of his campaign. That announcement came on Sunday.

The debate about the debates. If you haven't heard, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and ABC News have invited Obama and McCain to participate in a 90-minute, primetime town hall meeting from Federal Hall in New York City. In a letter to both candidates, ABC News president David Westin extended the offer on a date that can be agreed upon by all parties.

McCain will follow Obama in announcing this week that all of his fundraisers will be open to the press, reports NBC News. There will be a print pool reporter allowed inside, but no still or video coverage. McCain's first open press, no video fundraiser, is Monday.

The weekend was very quiet for the Arizona senator after his successful effort to stay in the news last week as the Democratic race came to a close.

Last week, McCain fired away at Obama for not voting against a resolution to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization last fall. He challenged Obama to debate with him in a town hall format, and launched a major ad buy in important swing states. But the effort by McCain to gain media attention is delicate. He and his campaign really are frustrated by the media's interest in the protracted Democratic race -- and showing their frustration goes against McCain's "happy warrior" image.

Politico's Jonathan Martin explains: "For McCain and his small coterie of fiercely loyal advisers, it's a fine line to walk. Having clinched the party's nomination in early March, his campaign has spent the last several months finding ways to insert itself into a press narrative that's been dominated by the just-ended Democratic fight. To that end, they picked up and extend the media-guilting campaign begun by Hillary Clinton and 'Saturday Night Live,' and sharpening their critique of Obama. But in doing so, they've already raised the question of whether McCain can maintain his upbeat warrior image while running an uphill race covered by a press the campaign sees as biased, and against an opponent for whom the candidate can barely conceal his contempt," writes Martin.

Clinton, D-N.Y., conceded the Democratic nomination to Obama Saturday before thousands of cheering supporters at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. "We may have started on separate journeys, but today, our paths have merged and we're all heading toward the same destination. Today, I am standing with Senator Obama to say, 'Yes, we can,'" she said. "Today, as I suspend my campaign, I congratulated him on the victory he has won . . . I endorse him and throw my full support behind him."

"For many Clinton supporters -- particularly women who had hoped the former first lady would become the nation's first female presidential nominee of a major party -- the end is difficult to accept," write the prolific ABC News duo who've been following Clinton during the entire campaign, Kate Snow and Eloise Harper. LINK

"Note" author and ABC chief political reporter Rick Klein writes about Clinton's "gracious" but "delayed" exit on "The primary campaign that formally ended with Clinton's suspension of her campaign cleaved the party in two -- dividing along lines of black and white, male and female, blue-collar and white-collar. In this history-making year, Clinton's challenge as she joins Obama on his quest -- whether or not she joins his ticket -- will be to subsume the personal piques of the just-ended campaign and convince her supporters to believe as strongly in him as they have in her," he writes.

Fedora, dark glasses and all, even Matt Drudge was at the National Building Museum for the historical event. Credit Nagourney and/or Mark Leibovich of the New York Times for spotting the highly influential newsguy against a wall. The Drudge Report Web site earned the ire of the Clinton campaign during the course of her campaign, for pushing negative stories and using unflattering pictures of the former first lady.

With Clinton no longer in '08 waters, the race for women voters heats up as the McCain campaign senses an opportunity to convert Democratic women who might be upset with the way their gal was treated. In speeches, McCain has been making a play for the frustrated Clinton supporters. "Many Clinton voters say that she will remain their leader, that she has created a lasting female constituency, a women's electoral movement unlike any other," Jodi Kantor of the New York Times writes in Saturday's paper. The key question, "(c)an she pivot millions of supporters in the direction of Mr. Obama, the candidate she just stopped denigrating?"

On "Good Morning America Weekend," feminist author Gloria Steinem reflected on the Clinton candidacy and admitted she didn't think Clinton would win. She said that the woman who stands against women's issues is usually a person who is elected to office (She cited former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as an example). On Clinton: "There was a flawed campaign, that's true. There are other parts of it, too," Steinem told ABC's Snow. She thinks Clinton needed to not only champion women's issues, but also shown her feminine side more. "The forces on her to imitate a male commander in chief were profound."

Mark Penn, the former Clinton chief strategist, pens an op ed explaining what went wrong with the Clinton campaign. LINK

In other news...

First lady Laura Bush made her third unannounced trip to Afghanistan, arriving in the capital of Kabul before visiting the remote Bamiyan Province. In an exclusive interview with ABC News' Jonathan Karl, Bush talked about the work that still remains in the country. "We have seen a resurgence of Taliban and al Qaeda killings and kidnappings in Afghanistan," she said, per Karl. "I don't want people to think it means we need to give up. I think it just means we really need to stand more strongly with Afghanistan."

Karl writes, "Mrs. Bush has made support for Afghanistan's women -- who endured brutal repression under the Taliban regime -- one of her signature issues. This is her third trip here, the second traveling alone, without the president. Previously, no first lady had ever stepped foot in Afghanistan. The first lady's trip to Bamiyan Province is rich in symbolism. Dirt poor and remote, Bamiyan became a symbol of the Taliban's backwardness and senseless brutality when two enormous Buddhist statues were blown up in March 2001 by Taliban militiamen. They were destroyed under an edict to remove the 'gods of the infidels.' The statues had stood for more than 1,500 years and were considered among the world's greatest ancient cultural treasures."

On the significance of the statues' destruction, Bush said, "I see it as a symbol of what the Taliban did and what al Qaeda does. [It was] a way of destroying the past, a way of destroying what people before you thought, or what they believed, or what they liked, and I think it really is representative of a sort of destruction of civil life, cultural life, civil society that they represented," she said, according to Karl.

No joke, Al Franken's official! Minnesota Democrats endorsed the comedian of "SNL" fame to challenge Republican Sen. Norm Coleman.

Mike Huckabee is gonna have a great line about this one! The former Arkansas governor and former Republican presidential candidate performed the Heimlich maneuver on a North Carolina politician who was chocking on food. Again, the world waits for the Huckster to drop one of his witty one-liners about assisting a Republican candidate for North Carolina lieutenant governor.


On "Fox News Sunday," two men rumored to be in the running for their party's vice presidential nod talked about the McCain/Obama match up. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty predicted that Hispanics, women and middle-class voters will crossover to vote for McCain, just as they chose Clinton over Obama in large numbers in some places during the Democratic primary fight.

Pawlenty repeatedly rejected the idea that Obama is a change agent, arguing the senator has consistently voted along party lines during his four years in the Senate. "You look at Sen. McCain's voting record -- he has consistently and regularly reached across the aisle to get things done in a big way. The change really has been from Sen. McCain, somebody who's willing to take risks, take on big issues and get things done for the country."

Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine shot back with Democrats' talking points about McCain having voted with President Bush 95 percent of the time last year.

Pawlenty cited the 2005 energy bill that McCain opposed and Obama supported and the fact that Obama was not part of the Gang of 14 bipartisan group on judges -- which McCain joined -- as examples of how McCain has bucked the GOP.

The governors also sparred on health care and foreign policy.

The headline: Kaine and Pawlenty basically said they would take the vice presidential job by not saying they wouldn't. On what Kaine would do if Obama asked him to be vice president: "It would be difficult for anybody in those circumstances to say no. "On what Pawlenty would do if McCain asked him to be vice president: "It would be difficult to turn that down."

The host of the secret Clinton/Obama meeting Thursday in Washington, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, was one of many Clinton backers on the Sunday programs promoting an Obama/Clinton ticket. "I've looked at every other possible candidate. No one brings to a ticket what Hillary brings. Eighteen million people committed to where she's going," she said in an appearance on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., explained his view of the differences between McCain and Obama, also on "This Week." "... This is not the Wharton Business School against the London School of Economics," he explained. "You've got a liberal in Sen. Obama, who will repeal the Bush tax cuts that expire in 2011. The capital gains rates will go up. Dividend tax reductions will go down. The marginal rates will all go up.

"John will say keep the tax rates in place. He will be talking about energy independence. One way to help our economy is stop sending $450 billion overseas, with oil prices this high. Look for oil and gas in our backyard, find alternative energies to get away from fossil fuel consumption. And at the end of the day, stop spending."

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry's response: "The fact is that John McCain voted 95 percent of the time with George Bush last year, and 90 percent of the time with George Bush over the entire presidency. That's not a change. That's not reform. That's not a difference.

"And on the economy, it's profound for the American worker and people who are struggling today. Barack Obama wants to give every worker $1,000 reduction in their taxes. So, he's going to give a tax cut to the middle class and for people struggling to get into it. For people earning $50,000 or less, who are retired, he's going to do no taxes for them, and he's going to pay for all of this and be fiscally responsible by not continuing the irresponsible Bush tax cuts that this nation at the high level cannot afford."

Over on CBS's "Face the Nation," in a bizarre, parallel universe-like moment, Howard Wolfson spun for Obama. (No, this is not a joke. Wolfson, the Clinton communications chief, who was unconvinced months ago that Obama had passed the commander in chief threshold, vouched in an unofficial capacity for the Illinois senator).

"I think Barack Obama ran an amazing race. He energized enormous numbers of Americans to come out and vote. And I think we can't afford a third George Bush term. John McCain is running to be the next George Bush. We can't have that in this country. The economy is spiraling into recession. John McCain says more of the same. We've got terrible problems in Iraq. John McCain says more of the same. We need a fundamental change, a fundamental break. And I think Barack Obama offers that. And I think the American people are going to respond very affirmatively to that," he said.

Wolfson didn't help end the rumors that Clinton is jockeying for the vice presidential slot, saying that she was willing to do whatever Obama asked of her. "She's willing to do whatever she can, whatever she's asked. And I'm sure President Clinton feels the same way. She'll do whatever she can for Senator Obama," he said. He did mention that Clinton is not pursuing the job.

Also on "Face the Nation," Virginia Sen. Jim Webb dodged a question about whether he would accept the vp nod. "I -- you know, this is not something that's come up," said Webb. Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., expressed support for Obama putting Clinton on the ticket and said he hope Bill Clinton will play an active role in the campaign. "He's well-loved and respected around the world. And there's certainly parts of the United States that people still miss, love, and hope that we could see his presence."


Obama heads to North Carolina -- one of those red states the campaign believes might swing blue in November -- on Monday.

McCain raises campaign coin in Virginia on Monday.