Monday, August 11, 2008

McCain's only hope: l'audace, l'audace, l'audace

As our examination of the electoral maps shows, McCain is simply faced with too much pressure by too many Obama offensives on too many fronts. He can either seek to retain the negative object through perfect defences of, at minimum, Colorado, Ohio and Virginia or he can change strategy completely.

In this respect I think McCain's situation is somewhat analogous to Robert E. Lee at Chancellorsville. There Lee's 45,000 Confederates were roughly outnumbered two-to-one by Union troops. Rather then await destruction by Union attack, Lee opted to throw caution to the winds and attack himself, splitting his army in two in order to do so. The result was what historians from Shelbe Foote to David McCollough have described as "Lee's perfect battle."

McCain can await defeat in the South West, the Rustbelt and the South East Coast or he can take the offensive, seize the positive object and go all out to try and turn blue states red.

His best opportunities lie in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

In New Hampshire, McCain can draw upon his strong in-state popularity there as the Primary winner of both 2000 and 2008 as well as the failure of the Obama campaign to overcome Senator Clinton in the earliest days of the Primaries.

In Pennsylvania, the Obama versus Clinton contest laid bare the demographic divisions within the Democratic Party providing a detailed roadmap for the McCain campaign to strike at Obama weaknesses in the state.

But it is in Michigan where a combination of factors may offer McCain his best chance. There he can play off the state's poor economic condition after years of Democratic party state rule, the recent jailing of Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, the Dubya-esque unpopularity of Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm and lingering Democratic difficulties from the state's discounted Primary. In the case of Michigan, 538's scenario analysis puts the Democrat's chances of winning the election having lost Ohio and Michigan at 4.21% (the Pennsylvania number would assuredly be lower).

The map, and thus the electoral mathematics, dramatically changes if McCain flips a major state to red and in all three states there are Democratic vulnerabilities. Therein lies the genius of the offense: by attacking, McCain can challenge Obama either into ignoring his attack and risking the loss of a key state or force him to redeploy defensively, allowing McCain to pursue his own offense.

So how does McCain best channel Lee? Where should he make his Chancellorsville-like stand: Pennsylvania or Michigan? Based upon the evidence laid out thus far, it would seem Michigan is the obvious choice and this would indeed be the case were it not for the interesting question of Republican VP choices and it is to this that we shall turn our attention to next.

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