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October 6th, 2008
10:21 AM ET

McCain's Retreat from Michigan

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John P. Avlon
Author, Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics

The biggest political news last week was not the Biden-Palin VP debate, but a comparatively little noticed announcement with much farther reaching implications:

McCain's campaign is pulling out of Michigan – essentially conceding the nation's 8th largest state and its 17-delegates.

This is big news because two weeks ago there were signs that the McCain campaign might be pulling ahead in Gerald Ford's home state. The Economist had just published a typically thoughtful analysis of its status as a battleground state.

McCain won Michigan in the 2000 primary and was always expected to do well with its independent voters. Michigan is notorious to political scientists as the home of Reagan Democrats in Macomb County, perhaps the most famous swing district in the nation.

Sarah Palin's selection was supposed to help swing northern border-states like Michigan, and her announcement may have helped move the state in McCain's direction briefly, but the economy has eclipsed all other considerations.

Michigan's place on the map as a keystone state in the north-Midwest also indicates the implications of this pullout – it's bordered by Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio – all key battlegrounds. Two weeks ago, McCain was surging in Minnesota and Wisconsin – now he's fighting to keep Indiana Republican, which it's voted since 1968.

The larger strategic issue is that McCain is reallocating limited resources to hold on to states Bush won in 2004, while Obama is playing offense to realign red states including Florida, Virginia, Nevada, Colorado, Ohio and North Carolina. Play with the CNN electoral map calculator and you'll see how pivotal Michigan was to McCain's math. Now he has to run the table in the battleground states, while Obama only needs to pick off a few swing states from the Bush 04 column.

A week is a long time in politics, and 30 days is an eternity – but the clock is ticking and we might look back at last Thursday's decision to pull out of Michigan as a fateful "tell" in a campaign that is falling behind and running out of time.


Filed under: John McCain • Raw Politics
soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. John

    This is truly a sad moment in history for our Great Country. The Economy, Energy, Environment, Housing, Healthcare, War, and Global Relations are the issues we should be discussing. McCain's rants about irrelevant issues, obvious misrepresentations and complete distortions exposes more than his "Campaign First" slogan. It clearly illuminates how stupid he thinks the American Voter really is. Every decision he has made, selecting Palin, suspending his campaign, pulling out of Michigan, and now, "The Attack Machine" clearly depicts his "Country First" intentions. What good can he do in the White House after he has sold his integrity to get there. No one will believe anything he says or stands for. I truly had a great deal of respect for Senator McCain before all this Tom Foolery and Trickery. Letsget back to the issues, and then maybe he can deserve my vote.

    October 6, 2008 at 7:34 pm |
  2. Jeff

    That's right loser McCain, get out of our state. We don't need you or your senile leadership. Our nation needs to move forward, not revert back to the 1800's.

    October 6, 2008 at 6:54 pm |
  3. MIKE LAKE WORTH FLORIDA

    The cracks are begining to show in the McCain campaign. The Palin bounce which had no shelf past the convention,the loss at the first debate which was supposed to be McCain's strong point, the pullout of Michigan, and now negative campaigning. If McCain loses the debate tomorrow night he might as well back it in. No amount of mud slinging will do him any good.

    October 6, 2008 at 4:13 pm |
  4. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    The air in Michigan is too polluted from the economic crisis and that's why John McCain is pulling out.

    October 6, 2008 at 2:42 pm |
  5. GAIL Centre,Al;

    Tuesday night Mccain needs to come out swinging. The campaign's decision to leave michgan is concerning. I guess they have another plan, I hope it's a good one, there's not much time till nov. 4. MCcain- Palin will pull it off, they have too. Obama as our president is outrageous. His character, WHAT CHARACTER.

    OBAMA THE BRIDGE TO THE UNKNOWN
    SCARRY ISN'T IT

    October 6, 2008 at 2:24 pm |
  6. Jeff in Los Angeles

    The funny part is that his campaign is so disorganized, that his own running mate didn't even hear the news until she read it in the paper, and then even stated McCain was wrong for pulling out of Michigan. So much for staying on message, and daily talking points.

    October 6, 2008 at 2:19 pm |
  7. Rose for Calif

    Does this tell us that the McCain's campaign is getting desprate?
    Them pulling out in states that could help them win, not good.
    Now personal attacks from the McCain spokewoman (Nancy Pfotenhauer) didn't sit right with me this morning. Saying that Senator Obama had ties with 60's radical terrorrist William Ayers like they were paling around. Not true again the McCain people are lying.
    Stick with the ISSUES NOT THE LIES and personal attacks PLEASE!

    October 6, 2008 at 2:08 pm |
  8. jenny

    The RETREAT has just started.This will be the THEME of his campaign in the coming weeks,"WE ARE RETREATING".He will be foeced to return to several Red States to DEFEND them and prevent them from turning BLUE States.John McCain has proven to the American people that he is a TOTAL FAILURE in POLITICS,THE WAR, THE ECONOMY and PRESENT DAY HISTORY.TOO OLDand TOO ARROGANT.His biggest problem is -–HE does not get it-.

    October 6, 2008 at 1:34 pm |
  9. Camina T. in Arroyo Grande CA

    MIchagan is where the Repubs were recently busted for a new stlye of voter caging .As reported by the Michagan Messenger ,the Repubs were going to try to remove the vote from foreclosure victims. Obama filed a lawsuit to stop this caging and the Department of Justice was getting involved. Perhaps the Repubs have just moved on to another state with their caging plans?

    October 6, 2008 at 12:35 pm |
  10. Austin.

    Smartest move McCain has made thus far!!

    October 6, 2008 at 12:15 pm |
  11. Claudette Siar

    McCain was delivered his fate in Michigan by union workers as he exited the factory to the workers chanting Obama, Obama, Obama! Yes, all the way through the factory and out the door. So I think he got the message from Michigan, get out!

    October 6, 2008 at 11:50 am |
  12. Rahni, Connecticut

    Michgian saw right through you and Palin lies. I hope the other battle states will come to the same conclusion.

    Rahni, Connecticut

    October 6, 2008 at 11:49 am |
  13. Pat

    It is shameful that McCain has turned his Campaign into a swift boarding, attack regime.And by doing so he has given Obama no choice but to respond and protect his image and integrity. The McCain attacks of the past week almost make Karl Rove look good and that has to be seen as a less than honourable position.

    It seems the McCain Camp has nothing positive to fuel their tank. Their stump speeches, Ads, Interviews, have been an overdose of verbosity flavoured only with verminous suppositions and surreptitious deeds! Whatever ever happened to the "Straight Talk Express" and the Man who claimed his Integrity was his essence? What a difference a day makes in the life of John McCain! OBAMA 08! We can't afford another four years like the last eight!

    October 6, 2008 at 11:39 am |
  14. Moe NY

    Yes, the economy has eclipsed all other considerations in this presidential race. With that being said, McCain does not/should not stand a snowballs chance in hell of winning. This economic situation in America is just horrible, and it all happened on the republican watch....8 years of republicans making disasterous decisions regarding the ecomony. Now, I am seeing and reading where the McCain camp, with Caribou Barbie, are starting a smear campaign. Have they no honor or respect for themselves? Sleaze will get them nowhere as the American public has finally caught onto the republican smear and fear tactics.

    October 6, 2008 at 11:32 am |
  15. Brenda Harris

    Well there you have it. The maverick cop-out. Shows he can't put country first. If you don't support his views; he'll cut you off .

    and I read an acticle where Palin fired people that did't see things her way up in Alaska; fear of a little opposition I suppose.
    She wants the VP to acert more authority;said they will reform Washington. So, will they fire everyone in washington and put in more mavericks like themselves. What a scary thought ,winking at you. Where I come from a wink meant "Just kidding"

    October 6, 2008 at 11:10 am |
  16. Lorie Ann, Buellton, California

    I think whoever wins, will have the challenge of a lifetime. I don't envy the winner's huge job of once again governing a divided country.

    Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif.

    October 6, 2008 at 11:05 am |
  17. Lester from Huntsville, Alabama

    When will the so called "older white blue-collar voters" be honest and admit that race plays a major part in their decision to back anybody but Sen. Obama. In the democratic primary they chose to back Hillary and now in the general election they will if necessary defect to the McCain camp though he may be miles away from them as it relates to the issues all to keep from giving Barack their full throated support. Now as then the excuse is "experience". This from many of the same people who voted for JFK who was younger and had less "experience" than Barack Obama. Some of these same people gush and drool over Sarah Palin though she only had 19 months as Governor of Alaska when she was first tapped to be Sen. McCain's V.P. Before that she was mayor of Wasilla...a small town she actually left in debt and prior to that a runner-up in the Miss Alaska pageant. At least Mr. Obama served as a junior Senator from Illinois for 8 years over a district more populous than her entire state before finally being elected as a U.S. Senator. Prior to all of this he had been the first African-American President of the Harvard Law review graduating at the top of his class compared to John McCain graduating number 896 out of 899. The "experience" argument has often been used against people of color to keep us in our perspective places while being looked over and ignored when it comes to others. When we try to climb up and out of where others think we belong...we are often termed "uppity". Have you heard that word lately? I sure have.

    October 6, 2008 at 10:42 am |
  18. Lou

    And McCain says he puts his country first! and then bails out of Michigan where the economy is in peril!!!! I think the Republicans should change their slogan from Drill baby Drill to Run McCain Run

    October 6, 2008 at 10:41 am |
  19. Cindy

    Why is this pull out a big deal? The truth is that Obama has pulled out of places too...one being Georgia because he saw that he could not win here. You are trying to make a mountain out of a mole hill.

    Cindy...Ga.

    October 6, 2008 at 10:25 am |