The Political Story that Really Mattered Yesterday

Having slept on it, I still think that although Sarah Palin didn't fall flat on her face, as some on the right had worried she would, her performance did little to nothing to move the ball forward for John McCain. But more or less, Vice Presidential debates don't matter for the electoral outcome, barring some unforgettable and unforgivable gaffe. Lloyd Bentsen's clear victory over Dan Quayle in the 1988 veep debate, for instance, didn't do much to help push Michael Dukakis across the finish line.

But there was a major political development yesterday that will have a significant impact on the ultimate outcome of the presidential election: The McCain campaign pulling out of Michigan. The Politico's Jonathan Martin had the scoop, and here's The New York Times on the story:

Senator John McCain is giving up on his efforts to win the state of Michigan, his campaign said Thursday, in the latest sign that the faltering economy has reshaped the presidential race and cost Mr. McCain support in crucial states.

Ceding Michigan is a major blow to the McCain campaign, which had spent heavily on television commercials there and where Mr. McCain had campaigned repeatedly in the hopes that he could appeal to enough blue-collar voters, so-called Reagan Democrats and independent voters, to bring the state back into the Republican column in November.

[...]

The McCain campaign has spent nearly $8 million on ads in Michigan, according to the Campaign Media Analysis Group, a company that monitors political advertising, and now it has no more plans to advertise there, campaign officials said. And Mr. McCain canceled a visit he had planned to make to Michigan next week.

Mr. McCain had long made it clear that the state was central to his presidential hopes, returning there to campaign again and again and bluntly telling a crowd at a factory in Belleville this July that "the state of Michigan, as it has in many elections in the past, will determine who the next president of the United States is." His campaign announced its retreat on a day that the news of his ceding the state was almost sure to be drowned out by the buzz created by the much-anticipated vice-presidential debate.

A Dukakis Barack Obama is not, apparently, as the 1988 Democratic nominee lost the state of Michigan by a 54 percent to 46 percent margin. In fact, if this news has any historical resonance, it would be the similarity between McCain's "major retreat," as the Associated Press put it, and John Kerry's decision to pull out of Missouri in mid- to late-September 2004 -- which also indicated his dwindling shot at 270 electoral votes.

Make no mistake, this is a terrible development for the McCain campaign, one that overshadows whatever happened last night (and not much did). The turf upon which the 2008 campaign is being waged was fairly solidly Republican in years past, with McCain increasingly playing defense and hoping for -- as Mark Warner might have put it -- the "triple bank shot" of holding every one of the increasingly endangered red states, from Indiana to North Carolina to Virginia to Florida to Colorado.

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Using Foreclosure To Purge Voters In Michigan

Was meaning to blog this yesterday but my hard drive died.

Unreal:

Michigan Republicans plan to foreclose African-American voters

The chairman of the Republican Party in Macomb County, Michigan, a key swing county in a key swing state, is planning to use a list of foreclosed homes to block people from voting in the upcoming election as part of the state GOP's effort to challenge some voters on Election Day.

"We will have a list of foreclosed homes and will make sure people aren't voting from those addresses," party chairman James Carabelli told Michigan Messenger in a telephone interview earlier this week. He said the local party wanted to make sure that proper electoral procedures were followed.

Today, the Detroit Free Press ran a story with Republicans denying they ever planned such a thing...

Carabelli flatly denied quotes attributed to him, saying he told a staffer for the blog that volunteers only would check to make sure that an address in a poll book matches the one the voter gives.

The GOP is "absolutely not" gathering foreclosed home addresses for poll challenges, Carabelli said. He said the blog was "actually kind of shocking. It's completely untrue."
...

Eartha Jane Melzer, who talked to Carabelli for the blog, said she stands by her story but didn't tape her interview.

"It could be that they're embarrassed at having such a cynical tactic exposed," she said.

Steve Benen inquired as well:

Asked about the GOP's efforts, Carabelli said, "I would rather not tell you all the things we are doing."

That's the lesson learned, apparently.

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Obama Up in MI and NH, McCain Up in VA and MO

Here are the latest swing state numbers from CNN and Time:

Michigan (September 7-9, 966 RVs, MoE 3.0%)

John McCain (R): 45 percent
Barack Obama (D): 49 percent

Missouri (September 7-9, 940 RVs, MoE 3.0%)

John McCain (R): 50 percent
Barack Obama (D): 45 percent

New Hampshire (September 7-9, 899 RVs, MoE 3.5%)

John McCain (R): 45 percent
Barack Obama (D): 51 percent

Virginia (September 7-9, 920 RVs, MoE 3.0%)

John McCain (R): 50 percent
Barack Obama (D): 46 percent

Looking through the write up of the polling linked to above, one piece of data jumped out at me from the Virginia survey:

Obama is leading in southeast Virginia, where he spent Wednesday campaigning, 54% to 41%, despite the Arizona senator's strong military background; the area is home to the Naval Mecca of Norfolk as well as several Army and Coast Guard bases.

The full internals of this poll have not been released, but doing some triangulation it's likely that the margin of error for the subsample of Southeast Virginia is in the neighborhood of plus or minus 7 percentage points, meaning that these numbers are likely right on the edge of statistical significance. That said, if it is indeed the case that Obama is leading by about 13 points in the region, it's hard to see him losing the state. Note that back in 2006 Jim Webb carried the Southwest portion of the commonwealth by a 53 percent to 47 percent margin. So it's definitely worth keeping an eye on polling from Virginia to see if these numbers showing Obama particularly strong in the Southeast portion of the commonwealth are borne out in other surveys.

Anyway, overall this remains a close race.

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McCain Failing to Move the Numbers in Key Kerry States

John McCain has been investing big dollars on advertising in both Michigan and Pennsylvania, outspending Barack Obama in the two states, both of which John Kerry won in 2004 -- and which are key to Obama's electoral strategy. And just how are McCain's efforts coming along? The latest numbers out of Michigan can't be too reassuring for the GOP.

Barack Obama still holds a solid 47% to 40% lead over John McCain in the key battleground state of Michigan, according to the latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of voters there.

The trend out of Michigan, as captured by Pollster.com, doesn't look any better.

Yes, that appears to show Obama moving noticeably and consistently upward in the state and McCain failing to move his numbers even an inch. How about Pennsylvania?

In the Keystone state, Obama continues to see a similarly upward facing trajectory as he is experiencing in Michigan. However, unlike Michigan, in which McCain's numbers are at least staying flat at a time when he is outspending Obama in the state, in Pennsylvania, McCain's numbers are actually moving South.

Impressive.

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McCain's Organization Gap Persists

There has been a good deal of talk about the enthusiasm gap facing John McCain, which potentially makes it significantly more difficult for him to be able to keep the White House in Republican hands this fall. But as important, or even perhaps more important, is the substantial organizing gap his campaign faces.

I have noted that the Obama campaign is on track to have something like ten times as many organizers in Missouri as the McCain campaign -- a number that underscores why this year the state looks more purple than red. The numbers around the country don't look too different. Here's the The Indianapolis Star:

The election is four months away, but for now the score in Indiana is Barack Obama, 6; John McCain, 0.

Zero campaign offices, that is.

Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, has opened five campaign offices -- in Evansville, Fishers, Fort Wayne, Muncie and South Bend -- and will open a sixth in Bloomington on Monday.

Jonathan Swain, a spokesman for Obama's campaign in Indiana, said plans are to have 25 to 30 campaign offices in the state.

It's part of a push by Obama to become the first Democratic presidential candidate to win Indiana's electoral votes since Lyndon Johnson did so in 1964.

Here's Marc Ambinder:

A Michigan source sends along a memo from the Obama campaign's Michigan state director, Amy Chapman -- an "update," she calls it, on what the campaign is doing. And what they are doing is bringing jobs to Michigan:

To date, the campaign has hired more than 90 paid staffers and plans to hire another 80 by the national convention. There will be five full-time "constituency voter coordinators" who work with coalitions and affinity groups, like women, gays and veterans. All in all, the campaign plans to pay more than 200 people in Michigan. That's about twice as many staffers as the Kerry-Edwards effort did in 2004.

And here's what's happening in Florida from The Orlando Sentinel:

John McCain's Florida problems may be growing: Democratic voters have out-registered Republicans by a nearly 7-to-1 margin since January.

State totals show Democrats gained a net of 106,508 voters from January through May, compared with 16,686 for the GOP -- a shift that could muddle any McCain campaign math that banks on a Florida win to gain the White House.

New Democratic registration outnumbered Republicans in six Central Florida counties -- even heavily Republican Seminole County.

There's a reason why polling out of a state like South Dakota, which the Republicans tend to win by about 20 points in presidential elections, shows Obama within 4 points. There's a reason why the polling in Indiana, a state that the Democrats haven't carried in more than 40 years, shows Obama tied or leading. Organization matters. Having boots on the ground moves numbers. And for as effective as television ads are, as well as a national media strategy, having actual people actually meet voters makes a difference.

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