McCain Campaign Wishful Thinking

>> Sunday, June 8, 2008

McCain Campaign Wishful Thinking

I heard about the McCain campaigns strategy video that they put online. I have to say that the presentation was the first thing I have been impressed with done by the McCain campaign. It is a clean and fairly well narrated video. It has many string visuals and some nice power point bullets thrown in. It does address many of the important aspects of the campaign and does outline a general strategy against Sen. Obama. However, I think many of their arguments will not hold up and many are already specious. In the end, the presentation felt more like an exercise in positive thought and wishful thinking than a road map to victory.

The video is organized into four distinct groupings. These categories are political environment, electoral map, organization, and money. I will treat each category in chronological order assessing the arguments strengths and weaknesses.

Political Environment

The McCain campaign does offer some strait talk when the narrator Rick Davis tells the viewer that the political environment and the state of the Republican brand are at in the worst states ever for them. This is very true and due in large part to the policies of George W. Bush McCain is intent on perpetuating. To illustrate how bad it is Davis foes through the litany of economic and national security issues that plague the country. He makes a remark about the favorability ratings of the GOP and Bush not being particularly high.

To combat these problems they are going to rely on two things. The special John McCain aura of Maverickness and the disillusionment of Clinton voters as a result of the primary contest. The video includes three important graphics in this section. The first is a chart that purports to show that people project their own ideologies onto McCain.

McCain Strategy 8

This graph is very important because it demonstrates how poorly McCain has been defined by Democrats and by the media at large. He is not a moderate he is a conservative and his views are out of line with many Americans. As a corollary to this whether McCain’s views are out of line with a given person may depend on the moment as he has a habit of reversing, switching, altering, changing, his position to fit the audience and the moment. This constant switching has the effect of making people believe that he is in fact aligned with them because the media and his opponents have not painted him as the chameleon he is. This is something that can change and needs to change for the Dems to achieve victory.

Another part of this graphic is the depiction of Sen. Obama as having views that are too liberal and out of the mainstream. This is a clue to a strategy McCain and the GOP plan on perusing. They wish to try and reinforce this apparent perception that he is too liberal and might be some sort of socialist. It is fairly obvious and Obama needs to be ready for it.

The next important graphic is one that reveals voters top issues. This one is important because it shows what the McCain camp thinks are its strengths and weaknesses and might tell us where they will focus some of the policy attacks. The top issue there is immigration. That is where McCain leads Obama the most. I think that this means the McCain camp will try to make immigration a major issue in the southwest and use the issue to try and peal away Latino support. Remember they believe that McCain is tephlon so his reversals on the issue will not be seen as an issue. McCain will try to play both sides of the fence on this issue.

McCain Strategy

The graphic also shows McCain losing on the economy, health care, and the war in Iraq. I was really surprised to see them use a graphic that shows McCain losing on what are going to be three of the most important issues this coming November. They tried to spin it as a plus that he was only down 5 on economic matters but losing an issue as big as this is a major problem for McCain as is losing his signature issue Iraq. This is doubly baffling because they have a graphic that shows how important Obama issues are compared to McCain and McCain would be the obvious loser.

The last graphic of importance in this section is the one dedicated to showing his regional outperformance of generic Republican. The important thing in this graphic is to understand exactly how McCain probably accounts for his over performance.

McCain Strategy 2

His best improvement is in the “border south” region. This is not a term I was particularly familiar with but apparently, it includes Virginia, W. Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, Maryland, and Arkansas source. It appears to be referring to Civil War Border States. These states would include much of Appalachia. Appalachia has so far, been unfriendly territory for the Obama campaign. McCain also likes to point out his lead in Florida a state where Obama did not run a full campaign.

I think I should state at this point that I have no idea where McCain got most of these numbers. He could simply be making them up for all I know but might as well refute his statements with his own numbers.

Electoral Map

This is a particularly fun section. I am taking all of my electoral stuff from Nate Silver at In this section, I am not sure that the McCain campaign and I are on the same planet. They make some assumptions and statements that are flat out laughable. Let us start by putting up what the McCain people view as the traditional battle ground states and what they view as safe Republican states.

McCain Strategy 3

McCain Strategy 4

There are several important things to note in these too graphics. The first thing is that McCain considers states like Virginia and Alaska to be safe and solid. Obama intends to campaign there and he might have a shot at winning those two states. At the very least McCain may have to spend money there. Next check out what the battle ground states are in McCain’s mind. Tennessee is not a battleground. Nor will W. Virginia or Kentucky be battleground states. Similarly, Arizona is not likely to be fought over. The next graphic though is where the money is.

McCain Strategy 5

I believe these are the states McCain is targeting to swing to him in November. I think he is in for a big disappointment. California is not going for him. 538 has a 97% probability calculation that it goes for Obama. Does Mccain really think he can afford to spend the money and time chasing after California because it has independents in it? McCain’s special map also has Connecticut coming to him on the back of the Joementum. He also thinks he can make a play for the disaffected Dems in Penn and Ohio using the Appalachia vote to his advantage. 538 has 68% probability that Penn Goes fro Obama and 49% in Ohio. These states McCain is looking at really are not looking to good for him.

McCain thinks he can target these Midwestern Rustbelt states and pick off a big chunk of Obama’s electoral votes. I really do not see these areas hit extremely hard by economic factors voting for McCain. This is born out by his own numbers that show him losing on the economy. 538 concurs that the states that appear in the upper Midwest on the McCain map are, with the exception of Michigan, fairly out of reach for him. Michigan will more than likely come around after Obama gets a chance to campaign there since he was unable to in the primary. 538’s scenario analysis has Obama winning all of the Kerry states at a 24.81%. Compare this to the Scenario analysis for McCain winning all of W’s states at 8.008%.

Obama is in a stronger electoral position that McCain is judging by McCain’s special map.


This section of the presentation was briefer. It focused on what McCain is touting as his lean mean campaigning machine. Davis highlights a supposed flexability and dedication to grass roots effort by implementing regional campaign managers. These managers are supposed to be able to do their own thing in some capacity when it comes to messaging and the get out the vote drives etc. In addition to this McCain was highlighting the opening of regional and state campaign offices in the states he planned to target on his special map. They tout the fact that they are up and running in 23 states.

This tiered and flexible campaign system is mostly a sham. I say this because they highlight how the regional managers are working with the RNC people in their region. The reason they are doing this is because the McCain campaign itself is not raising money all that well. They need to rely on the hybrid system that they created to skirt the campaign finance laws. The McCain campaign is tied to the GOP at the state level because that is the only place they have money.


The McCain campaign has a complex relationship when it comes to the subject of campaign finance. I did a diary some time ago on the fundraising disparity between the two campaigns and where each is getting their money. Obama is raking in the money from donors under 200 and raising enormous sums of cash from half of the democrats. McCain’s camp understands this and that is why they created the hybrid where they are funneling money to the lower levels of the state and RNC organizers and proMcCain campaigners. On a strictly campaign-to-campaign level, McCain is left in the dust. However, the ability of donors to give unlimited sums to the RNC and other McCain subsidiaries is allowing him to stay afloat. Here is the graphic he uses to show the hybrid advantage.

McCain Strategy 6

See how much more money the RNC has than the McCain campaign itself? That is because McCain continues to fail when it comes to getting money from small donors. Only $20,454,345 or 23% of his money has come from donations under $200. McCain would be unable to campaign properly without the RNC. His burn rate at this point is 78% compared to 86% for Obama and neither has significant debt.

McCain also talked about his staff difference where he has 250 employees and Obama has over 1,000. To me this is a simple reflection of the fact the Obama campaign can afford people. McCain has to have fewer people on his campaign because the RNC cannot pay for his staff. McCain tried to use Obama’s April burn rate as some sort of evidence that his lean campaign is better but we all know that spending Clinton into the ground was part of the Obama strategy. He could afford to take the hit in April if it got her out quicker.

So that is my tour and analysis of the McCain strategy video. There are some interesting things revealed in it. The probable use of immigration as a tool, the need to assure supporters that they can handle the crap brand and being out fundraised. The probable attack on Obama as too liberal and the strange decision to possibly target California as a swing state. I think most of the presentation ended up being spin and wishful thinking though.


O-le,O-le, O-le, O-le! O-le, O-le!

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