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Did The Mccain Campaign Really Mess Up In Florida?

In the Times this morning, Adam Nagourney has a front page story on the McCain campaign's troubles in the state of Florida. Here are the two crucial paragraphs:

Even as state Republicans sent up flares over the summer, warning that the Florida of 2008 is not what it was in 2004, Mr. McCain yielded the airwaves to Mr. Obama, focusing his attention, money and energy on other states. Mr. McCain’s campaign waited until Sept. 1 to begin a serious round of advertising.

Mr. McCain clearly could still win the state’s 27 electoral votes. But the battle in Florida is offering — on the widest stage of any of the contested primary states — an object lesson in the disparities in the resources, aggressiveness and political cunning that Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama are taking to contests across the country. [Italics Mine]

Nagourney goes on to make a bunch of good points about Obama's excellent organization, and the Republicans' unwillingness to really grasp the importance of early voting. But let's look at some numbers: According to, Obama is currently leading nationally by 9 percentage points, while in Florida the Illinois senator only leads by 2.2 percentage points. In other words, McCain is running ahead of his national average by almost 7%. In 2004, George W. Bush only beat his national percentage by a couple of points in Florda.

So, was it actually dumb for the GOP to ignore the state? I still see almost no chance that Florida decides the election (if Obama wins Florida, he will certainly win a bunch of other states that put him over the top). And because it is such a large and expensive state, and because McCain is so short of money, it is unclear whether, even in hindsight, McCain was wrong to focus his time and resources elsewhere. Florida may not be the place it was in 2004, but that can be said of a whole slew of states.

“It was a strategic error on their part,” Obama’s campaign manager, David Plouffe, tells Nagourney late in the piece. I'm just not so sure.

--Isaac Chotiner