McCain Plays Defense

After hitting Pennsylvania, McCain's campaign to visit four more crucial states.

ByABC News
October 16, 2008, 9:25 AM

Oct. 16, 2008— -- Emerging from what many political analysts are calling his strongest debate performance yet, Sen. John McCain will in coming days campaign in four traditionally Republican states where he is locked in tight contests with his Democratic challenger, Sen. Barack Obama.

McCain will visit the Philadelphia area today before returning to New York to tape the David Letterman show. The McCain campaign is hitting Pennsylvania hard, hoping to peel it off from the Democrats.

But he is spending the following days in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and Missouri, where a total of 66 electoral votes are at stake. President Bush carried all four of these states. North Carolina last went Democratic in a presidential race in 1976, when Jimmy Carter won it. Virginia has not gone Democratic since 1964 when it was won by Lyndon Johnson.

The latest polls show Obama ahead in Virginia and Florida. McCain and Obama are effectively tied in Missouri and North Carolina. This has forced McCain to play defense in these states with less than three weeks to go instead of being in blue states that his campaign has targeted, such as New Hampshire, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

"It's a sign of a troubled campaign that is behind the eight-ball and has an extremely limited path to victory," said ABC News political consultant Matthew Dowd.

McCain has two events in Florida Friday, in Miami and Melbourne. A campaign official said he would be in North Carolina, Virginia and Missouri over the weekend. McCain's running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, campaigns in North Carolina today.

McCain advisers say Obama spent his way into putting North Carolina in play, using his formidable campaign warchest to bombard the state with TV ads.

Obama outspent McCain on TV in North Carolina from Sept. 28 to Oct. 4 by an eight-to-one margin -- more than $1.2 million compared with $148,000 for McCain, according to TNS Media Intelligence Campaign Media Analysis Group and the Wisconsin Advertising Project.