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Two Weeks Left: Go North, Old Man!

The Washington Times explains how John McCain is working for an improbable Pennsylvania win by stumping in uh, racially unenlightened areas that carried Hillary Clinton in the state's April 22 primary. (Sample passage: "'I don't think America is ready for a black president, and I'm planning on voting for Senator McCain this time,' said the man, who refused to give his name but added as he walked away, 'I'm not racist.'") This comes on the heels of the McCain camp's dawning realization that Colorado, New Mexico, and Iowa are basically lost causes--which would mean McCain's only path to victory is through a 2004 blue state. With Michigan's abandoned, the new VW is that Pennsylvania is the longshot flea-flicker play.

But McCain has one other, at least equally plausible, route to victory that I can identify: a blitz of New Hampshire and Maine.

New Hampshire was a red state in 2000 and was a tossup for much of this campaign before shifting strongly to Obama. But by most polls NH is no more blue than PA. McCain has been campaigning there for eight years--he's probably met a decent chunk of its population--and has won two dramatic Republican primaries. McCain could make a late and dramatic return to the site of his great political launching pad in hopes of reminding people what they liked about him in the first place. (He could bring along Mike Murphy for the full nostalgic effect.) New Hampshire is also a lot smaller than PA, presumably making it easier--and cheaper, for an underfunded canddiate--to turn around; it's a sailboat, not a supertanker like PA.

New Hampshire brings four electoral votes. If Obama wins the Kerry '04 states plus Iowa, New Mexico, and Colorado, but McCain wins New Hampshire, we have a 269-269 tie which almost certainly (but not not definitely) goes to Obama via the House.

Which brings us back to my favorite topic: Maine, which splits its two electoral votes by congressional district. As I've written before, McCain has almost zero chance in the state's Portland-anchored southern first district. But there's reason to think that, with some effort, he could pull off an upset in the more rugged, Bangor-centric, moose-hunting 2nd district. In which case, with a NH win, the final result is 270-268 for McCain. (Don't trust my math? I don't blame you. Make your own electoral map.)

Would I bet a single dollar on this scenario? Maybe if you gave me 5-1 odds. Remember, McCain still has to hold all the other Bush '04 states, including Virginia, which barely looks possible. But if he can, it's worth noting that Pennsylvania isn't McCain's only hope--and maybe not even his best one.

--Michael Crowley