Exclusive: McCain’s Five-Step Path to Victory
by N. M. GUARIGLIA, RYAN MAURO
September 24, 2008
With the post-convention bounces fading, the race has tightened and Obama appears to have settled with a slight lead in national polls and in the Electoral College. Obama has the potential to substantially increase his projected margin of victory through massive turnout of African-Americans and younger voters. McCain’s pick of Sarah Palin as his running mate has provided his supporters with optimism, and his argument that he’s the “real agent of change” is resonating. However, McCain must further refine his message in order to win the election. There are five steps McCain must immediately take:
1) McCain must craft a coherent message to voters, explaining to them why the economic downturn occurred, how he foresaw this crisis years ago, and what he will do to fix it. His campaign made one of its most serious mistakes in not highlighting McCain’s foresight on the Freddie-Mae and Freddie-Mac crisis, allowing every news article about the economy to become an ad for Obama.
There is little time left to correct this issue. If McCain can prove that he has credibility on the economy, his attacks on Obama’s tax-raising agenda will allow him to become the more trusted candidate on this issue.
2) He must make his comprehensive energy plan, which he calls the Lexington Project, become the historical equivalent of the Manhattan Project. McCain and all his surrogates must say “Lexington Project” at least three times in every campaign stop, in every interview, in every speech. The failure to do this at the convention is another important opportunity missed by the campaign, but there is still time to drive home this message.
The two top issues are listed as the economy and gas prices. However, they are really one issue. When Americans complain about the economy, they are mostly thinking about their struggle at the pump and how it causes everything else to become more expensive. Therefore, whoever wins the energy debate is far more likely to win the economy debate.
3) McCain must stop Obama’s attempts to appear as a credible challenger to America’s enemies during Friday’s debate by challenging him on a whole host of foreign policy-related issues. To hone his message, McCain should focus on Iran. He should stop focusing so much on the fact that Obama would meet with Ahmadinejad without preconditions, and focus on Obama’s proven naiveté by voting against labeling the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist group.
Any student of the Middle East know that’s the IRGC is one of the largest, if not the largest, outfits sponsoring terrorists today, including Hezbollah and Hamas (groups which have “legitimate claims” according to Obama) and the insurgents in Iraq. The IRGC’s role in terrorism is so blatant, even Senator Clinton voted in favor of the resolution, which is another fact that McCain must raise. How could a President Obama contain a nuclear Iran if he isn’t even willing to take basic measures to call a spade a spade?
4) McCain must emphasize that he has a plan, not just an ambition, to reform every part of the federal government. He must pledge to begin a thorough review of every department of the government, and give a timeframe for this review to be completed. He has sworn to fight pork-barrel spending and partisanship that harms the country, but McCain must make the case that his administration will dramatically change the government, making it slimmer, less costly, and more effective.
5) Colorado is the new Ohio. If the race does not take a decisive turn, this race will come down to Colorado. Sure, McCain can theoretically pick off a blue state, but if you look at the polls during each candidate’s peaks, the final map becomes fairly obvious. Most so-called swing states like Michigan and Pennsylvania have shown Obama leading even during McCain’s peak. McCain would be wise to focus on Colorado.
McCain must win two out of Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico. Obama has held a steady lead in New Mexico, and McCain usually has a small lead in polls for Nevada. Colorado has consistently shown a small lead for Obama, although some polls have shown McCain briefly pulling ahead. This shows that McCain has the capability to win here. While it is tempting to invest resources in places like Wisconsin, McCain must invest whatever it takes to solidify a lead in Colorado before being distracted elsewhere.
When the polls showed McCain behind or tied with Obama at best, he made a decisive move by picking Palin as his running mate, leading to a successful convention. We are again at a point in time where the polls appear to have stabilized (as much as polls can anyway) with Obama holding a slight lead. The McCain campaign must again change the dynamics of the race as described, or it must begin preparing its face-saving argument that a close second was honorable in such a tough political environment.