Pennsylvania May Be Key to McCain Victory

Wednesday, 22 Oct 2008 02:22 PM

By Jim Meyers

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The John McCain campaign has been stepping up its efforts in Pennsylvania, a state many observers believe the Republican must carry if he is to win the White House in November.

Andrew Sullivan on his Daily Dish blog presents an electoral map drawn up by James Poulos of the Culture11 Web site showing “McCain’s best case scenario,” with McCain carrying enough states to garner the 270 electoral votes he needs to win the presidency.

One “blue state” conspicuously red on the map is Pennsylvania, with its 21 electoral votes.

James Poulos Map of How McCain Thinks He Can Win:


Noting that recent polls show McCain trailing Democrat Barack Obama by double digits in the state, Sullivan observes: “It’s hard to imagine McCain winning Pennsylvania, but it’s also hard to see how he wins the election without it.”

And the McCain campaign “is pulling out all the stops” in Pennsylvania, according to a headline on the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Philly.com site.

On Monday, McCain’s wife Cindy made four stops in the state, speaking at two rallies, visiting a hospital and meeting with the mothers of U.S. troops. She was accompanied in Philadelphia by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

On Tuesday, McCain made three appearances in Pennsylvania, and running mate Sarah Palin was in Lancaster, Pa., over the weekend.

“We will win Pennsylvania, and those 21 electoral votes will be the margin that puts us over the top,” campaign spokesman Peter Feldman told Philly.com.

“We wouldn’t be here unless we were 100 percent confident of that.”

Despite the recent polls, there are a number of encouraging factors indicating that McCain could pull out a victory in the Keystone State:

  • Barack Obama spent heavily in Pennsylvania during the primaries, but still wound up losing to Hillary Clinton by nearly 10 percentage points.

  • Democratic Rep. John Murtha no doubt turned off some likely Obama voters with his comment on Monday that just five or 10 years ago his southwestern Pennsylvania district was “redneck.” That remark came after he apologized for an earlier comment that “there is no question that Western Pennsylvania is a racist area.”

  • In the same vein, some voters haven’t forgotten Obama’s remark during an April fundraiser that “bitter” voters in rural Pennsylvania cling to guns and religion because of their economic frustrations.

  • McCain strategists believe their candidate appeals to pro-gun working-class voters in the western coal country, many of whom supported Hillary, and to independents and moderates in the counties around Philadelphia, The New York Times observed in an article headlined “McCain Fights to Keep Crucial Blue State in Play.”

  • Philadelphia is one of the only major cities where McCain’s advertising campaign is nearly as vigorous as Obama’s, according to The Times.

  • McCain appeals to independent-minded, socially conservative voters in the state, where more than 10 percent of residents are military veterans and its large numbers of older residents make it third in the nation in the percentage of people 65 and older.

  • Although the state did go Democratic in the last four presidential elections, the margins of victory were modest.

  • Pennsylvania has large numbers of Catholic voters, in particular older Catholics, and “aging, practicing Catholics who live in key battleground Rust Belt states are the pivotal swing voters who elect presidents,” George J. Marlin, author of “The American Catholic Voter: Two Hundred Years of Political Impact,” wrote in the August issue of Newsmax magazine.

    Catholics have increasingly favored socially conservative Republicans in recent decades, Marlin noted. George Bush actually fared slightly better among Pennsylvania Catholics in 2004 than he did overall in the state, even though he was running against John Kerry, a Catholic.

    And when Obama squared off against Clinton in the primary, Hillary walloped her rival among blue-collar Catholics, winning 70 percent of the vote.

    McCain acknowledged the importance of victory in the state during a campaign stop on Tuesday: “We need to win Pennsylvania on November 4, and with your help — with your help — we’re going to win.”

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