While the media continues to swarm over the Obama trip to “points beyond,” John McCain is hitting some key swing states to talk about more pressing domestic issues, including energy policy. As the New York Times points out, these are key battlegrounds and it’s a message which may resonate with the hurting pocketbooks of voters more than the opinions of foreign leaders.
“McCain’s message adding domestic oil production to a policy of alternative energy investment and conservation is favored over Obama’s message that blames oil companies, calls for investments in alternative energy, and rejects limited offshore drilling,” concluded a recent Democracy Corps analysis of Mr. Greenberg’s research.
That provides an opening for Mr. McCain on the economy in his most important electoral targets. Mr. McCain has placed top priority on holding Ohio and reversing Democrats’ 2004 victories in Michigan, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, whose combined 42 electoral votes exceed those of Mr. Obama’s critical red-state targets of Colorado, Iowa, New Mexico, Nevada and Virginia.
“It’s not whether he wins or loses the issue nationally, it’s whether he wins it in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania,” Neil Newhouse, a Republican pollster, said of the economy. That’s the turf Mr. McCain aims to occupy while Mr. Obama travels.
I have maintained for some time that energy policy and pain at the pump will be one of the driving issues in November, and McCain’s plan for energy is the more sensible of the two. Will this translate into votes? I obsess over polls far more than is healthy, but I’ve long since come to the conclusion that the COPM states will carry the day for this election. (Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan.) Obama can actually afford to sacrifice Florida, (and he may well have to) but if he can carry those four states, McCain has no realistic path to 270. If Obama carries three of them, McCain’s path is steep and still likely impossible. But if McCain can nab two of them, Obama has work to do elsewhere.
These areas are exactly where McCain is hitting the energy and economic message while Obama tours abroad. Will it provide the needed impact? A look at the most recent poll of polls shows that Obama enjoys a small lead in all four, but Big Mac remains in striking distance. Obama is up by 7.7 in Michigan, 3.6 in Colorado, 4.5 in Ohio and 7.7 in Pennsylvania. Two are inside the margin of error and two are outside, but not by much. This period of time, while Obama talks abroad about Iraq and Afghanistan and McCain talks energy and the economy in these states, should prove instructive. If Obama gets a big bounce in the local polls from this, McCain has a dark cloud on his horizon. But if the local talks on these subjects begin closing the gap with Obama, the Illinois Senator might not want to start picking out drapes for the Oval Office just yet.