Opinion: John McCain’s political guru explains how he wins Pennsylvania


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Amid reports of the John McCain camp narrowing the number of states in which it is truly competing, all eyes in the political world have turned toward Pennsylvania (in part because that’s where the candidate spent his day, hard at it on the stump).

With polls showing Barack Obama poised to win at least four states President Bush carried in 2004 -- Iowa, New Mexico, Virginia and Colorado -- the question has become: Which major state could McCain snatch from the Democratic column to maintain GOP control of the White House?


That’s where Pennsylvania, with its 21 electoral votes, comes in, as Newsweek’s Andrew Romano adroitly detailed earlier today. Appropriately, Romano also cast a skeptical eye on that strategy, in light of what the Pennsylvania polls have been indicating.

McCain’s political director, Mike Duhaime, counters such naysaying.

He conducted a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon, and The Times’ Bob Drogin relates that the operative insisted ‘we feel we’re going to be successful’ in Pennsylvania.

One reason: Duhaime termed McCain the most appealing GOP presidential candidate to Pennsylvania voters since Ronald Reagan.

He also broke down some numbers from the ’04 race, arguing that . . .

. . . since Democrat John Kerry won the state by only 140,000 votes, McCain ‘needs to flip’ only 2,000 votes in each of the state’s 67 counties.

Here’s what else Duhaime had to say, as passed along by Drogin:

He said the campaign is operating three dozen offices in the state and is making hundreds of thousands of phone calls every week to identify and persuade potential GOP voters. The data-mining efforts are aimed at identifying former Hillary Rodham Clinton supporters and independents who are prepared to consider McCain’s message. He said the internal data is ‘trending’ in McCain’s direction and is showing ‘a lot of things’ not apparent in the opinion polls. Overall, Duhaime said, McCain has drawn strong support from what he called a ‘Democrats for McCain’ movement in and around Scranton and in the state’s western Rust Belt region. ‘That gives us optimism,’ he said. McCain anticipates good news as well, he said, in the southern and central part of the state, near Harrisburg, York and Lancaster -– all cities that the candidate, his wife, Cindy, or running mate Sarah Palin have visited in the last few days. Duhaime predicted that McCain would surprise prognosticators even in Philadelphia, a Democratic stronghold where Obama is seen to hold a hammerlock. Kerry won the city by more than 400,000 votes four years ago, winning every single ward. Duhaime said that Obama wouldn’t be able to repeat that feat, however, and that McCain would garner more votes than Bush did in the city.

The McCain focus on Pennsylvania may end up paying dividends, given how easily Clinton, in April’s Democratic primary, bested Obama in areas of the state such as Scranton. But if that prediction about Philadelphia pans out, jaws will be dropping on election night.


-- Don Frederick