The McCain campaign tells the New York Times today how it sees a path to 270 electoral college votes. After talking about holding on the bulk of Bush '04 states that equal 260 votes:
Mr. McCain’s advisers said they would look for the additional electoral votes they need either by taking Pennsylvania from the Democrats, or putting together some combination of Colorado, Nevada, New Hampshire and New Mexico.
Well, take New Mexico off of that list, since another McCain official told Politico yesterday "We have lost Iowa and New Mexico."
(Oddly, McCain and Palin will be in Iowa and New Mexico in the next couple of days. Their scheduling has been befuddling Republican consultants outside of the campaign for some time.)
Without PA, McCain would need at least Colorado's 9 electoral votes to have a shot at 270 (Nevada and New Hampshire together would fall one vote short.)
But McCain is trying to win Colorado on the cheap. Republicans are scaling back advertising there, though it's not a total abandonment. A local political science professor observed: "As McCain continues to spend money in Colorado, he'll spend it in the strong Republican counties and leave Denver alone."
So that's one longshot bet. The other is Pennsylvania, where two more polls came out yesterday showing Obama with double-digit leads.
Obviously, the hope is that social issues and racial factors can trump the economy.
But that was a winning game plan, McCain would have been more competitive in the similar state of Michigan. Yet the campaign pulled the plug on Michigan weeks ago, which was the first sign McCain needed a stronger positive economic message if he was going to have a chance.
And that remains McCain's fundamental problem.
He seems to have finally recognized that insinuating Obama is a terrorist sympathizer wasn't going to take people's minds off of the economy (though robo-calls still push the smears under the radar.)
It's about the economy, but how many paragraphs are dedicated to what McCain himself would do about the economy?
One. And that's just a short summation of his tax cuts, nothing remotely close to a comprehensive economic vision and plan.
The rest of the speech consists of attacks on Obama with over-the-top false claims, largely about taxes. These attacks are being rejected by the public, as Obama holds a 14-point lead on the issue of taxes.
Sure, when you're down, you need to take the front-runner down a peg. But it needs to be done with "Straight Talk," and it needs to be coupled with a compelling message about what you would do differently -- than Bush and Obama.
After McCain's wobbly performance in the midst of economic crisis, strictly attacking Obama just won't do.
He needs to build trust in his economic abilities, with very little time left. That remains his biggest, and likely fatal, problem.