Rove: McCain seen more likely to beat Obama in fall

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Joseph Curl

Sen. John McCain would have an eas­ier time beat­ing Sen. Barack Obama than Sen. Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton in this fall’s pres­i­den­tial race, ac­cord­ing to an anal­y­sis con­ducted by Karl Rove, Pres­i­dent Bush’s for­mer po­lit­i­cal strate­gist.

In fact, the na­tion­wide anal­y­sis of state polls shows that in a head-to-head matchup, the Ari­zona Repub­li­can would be just nine elec­toral votes short of the 270 needed to win the pres­i­dency. Mr. Obama was 75 votes from the magic num­ber.

Two months ago, the same com­pi­la­tion of state polls put the Illi­nois Demo­crat ahead of Mr. McCain 228-204, with the rest of the avail­able elec­toral votes in the “tossup” pile, as about a dozen states had poll mar­gins of less than 3 per­cent­age points.

“In the seven weeks lead­ing into Penn­syl­va­nia, Obama be­gan to lose sup­port among work­ing­class Democrats and Catholics, two groups crit­i­cal to any Demo­crat’s vic­tory in Novem­ber,” Mr. Rove said April 29.

“And then his com­ment as­sail­ing rural and small-town vot­ers as ‘cling­ing’ to guns, faith and xeno­pho­bia ce­mented in the minds of many vot­ers the no­tion he was hos­tile to Mid­dle Amer­ica and an elit­ist. All th­ese hurt his com­pet­i­tive po­si­tion ver­sus McCain, while help­ing boost Clin­ton’s,” he said.

Mr. Obama’s com­ment three weeks ago in San Fran­cisco that work­ing-class vot­ers in older in­dus­trial towns rocked by job losses “get bit­ter” and “cling to guns or re­li­gion [. . . ] or anti-im­mi­grant sen­ti­ment” res­onated through­out Penn­syl­va­nia, which he lost to Mrs. Clin­ton, New York Demo­crat, by nearly 10 points.

Mean­while, Mr. Obama spent much of April 29 repu­di­at­ing re- marks made by his long­time pas­tor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., who one day ear­lier said, among other things, that the U.S. gov­ern­ment could be re­spon­si­ble for the cre­ation of the AIDS virus.

The 2008 elec­tion may well play out in the in­dus­trial heart- land, es­pe­cially in key states such as Penn­syl­va­nia, Ohio, Michi­gan and Wis­con­sin, which all have large num­bers of work­ing-class vot­ers. All but Ohio went to the Demo­cratic nom­i­nee Sen. John Kerry in the 2004 pres­i­den­tial race.

Mr. Rove said Mr. McCain has a chance to put some of those states in the Repub­li­can col­umn.

“If it is Obama ver­sus McCain, then McCain has a bet­ter shot in the in­dus­trial Mid­west — Penn­syl­va­nia, Michi­gan, Ohio and Wis­con­sin — than he does against Clin­ton,” he said.

Mr. Obama’s re­cent prob­lems have helped Mr. McCain: In the Rove poll anal­y­sis of April 18, Mr. McCain picked up 24 elec­toral votes against Mr. Obama from the week be­fore. But Mrs. Clin­ton has ben­e­fited as well. In a McCain-Clin­ton race, Mr. McCain lost 41 elec­toral votes, with all go­ing in to the “tossup” cat­e­gory, but he still leads 214-161.

Democrats say they ex­pect the econ­omy and the war in Iraq to be the main is­sues in many big swing states this year, which fa­vors them.

“The Repub­li­can Party’s wish­ful think­ing aside, when the vot­ers see John McCain’s real record, his prom­ise of a third Bush term and his will­ing­ness to keep our troops in Iraq for 100 years in­stead of in­vest­ing in Amer­ica, they will de­cide that McCain is the wrong choice for Amer­ica’s fu­ture,” said Damien LaV­era, spokesman for the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee.

Party lead­ers also con­tend that the Rocky Moun­tain states are in play this year and are tar­get­ing Colorado, with nine elec­toral votes, along with Ne­vada and New Mex­ico, each with five.

De­mo­graph­ics in the re­gion have changed from 2004, when all three voted Repub­li­can. The His­panic im­mi­grant pop­u­la­tion has in­creased and many new res­i­dents are more in­de­pen­dent and con­cerned about is­sues such as the en­vi­ron­ment and growth.

While Mr. Rove said Mr. McCain “may have a prob­lem” in Ne­vada, “I don’t buy the hype about Colorado — I think Obama has a prob­lem in Colorado.”

The na­tional elec­toral maps, which Karl Rove & Co. com­pile weekly based on the latest state polls, change reg­u­larly, and Mr. Rove said the polls vary widely in qual­ity and quan­tity.

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