Is John McCain Worried About South Dakota?

Gallup polling released last week showed that while Barack Obama is not dominating in the purple states -- he leads John McCain by a mere 45 percent to 43 percent margin in the most competitive swing areas of the country -- Obama is performing remarkably well in the red states. Specifically, in the states that George W. Bush carried by a 6 percentage point margin or greater in 2004, Obama trails by a narrow 46 percent to 43 percent margin.

Case in point: South Dakota. Rasmussen Reports polling out of the state last month showed Obama within 4 points of McCain -- 44 percent for the Republican, 40 percent for the Democrat. Don't believe the numbers? Don't believe it's close? McCain apparently does, campaigning today in South Dakota. Here are First Read's thoughts:

*** Easy Rider? McCain should feel at home today in Sturgis, SD, where motorcycle enthusiasts from all over will be hanging out. But this visit may not be about appealing to Harley voters -- but voters actually living in the Dakotas. Of the red states where Obama has been spending money, the one where he's had the most impact is clearly North Dakota. In fact, Obama's been polling so well in that state, there is speculation the campaign may add neighbor South Dakota to its target list. The McCain camp knows Obama's been gaining some ground in the region, so this event seemed like a way to at least get some local coverage in the Dakotas and see if they can easily snap these states back into the Red column like some in the GOP believe.

Does this mean that South Dakota is necessarily in play? It doesn't appear that the Obama campaign is advertising in the state in a serious basis just yet. At the same time, it does look like the state is potentially in play -- and Obama is advertising in the neighboring states of Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa, some of which just might bleed into South Dakota. So this just might be another one to keep an eye on...

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.

There's more...

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