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Monday, October 27, 2008

What the hell is McCain doing in PA?

A New Republic reader suggests:

McCain drew less than 500 people to a rally in suburban PA two days ago. Then he went to Western PA and flubbed the attack lines against John Murtha's comments so that the sound bite was completely incoherent. On Monday he drew crowds of about 2000, then 15 people at an airport rally (yes, that is correct--no zeros) ....

Now the Obama campaign is doing a major head fake in PA. They "accidentally" leaked an "internal" poll showing Obama up by only 2 percent in PA. I guarantee you that no such poll exists and that this was done both to motivate volunteers in the state (and maybe elsewhere) and prevent them from getting too complacent and also to sucker the McCain campaign into spending more time there. Ed Rendell has asked Obama to come back and campaign in the state-another major ruse. They know that McCain makes most of the decisions for his campaign and that they can goad him into spending more time in PA by pretending that it is close there. Let's see if Obama actually returns to PA before November 4th, but I sincerely doubt it. They are brilliant.

Ezra's comment: "It wouldn't shock me."

Well, it would shock me. There are two key problems with the idea that Obama head-faked McCain into PA. First, it's just too smooth and subtle for a major campaign to rely on it (leak one poll and get Rendell to issue one plea, and the entire McCain campaign will switch gears? Please.) It just gives too much credit (and affords too much power) to the campaign. It's like movies where they have the CIA tracking someone in the U.S., live, from multiple satellite cameras, while simultaneously tapping all of their twittering, debiting, and toilet paper consumption. If the CIA could actually do any of this, do you think 9/11 would have happened? Would the FBI still be struggling to identify the anthrax attacker? Hell, would the N.O. levies still be beaver-inspired shit piles? Campaigns, like govt bureaucracies, have about 1/10 the power that is credited to them. Mostly, they are large, unwieldy, and harder to maneuver than the Exxon Valdez.

The other key problem with the PA juke-out theory is that the Obama campaign has proved, time and time again, that they don't work this way. They don't worry about winning the week, or psyching McCain out, or quick-spinning the press. They keep their eye on the long game, and assume the short game will fall into place. McCain's campaign, which has done the opposite (c.f. suspending the campaign, "Joe the Plumber," and that twinkly flautist from Alaska), would be much more likely to try something like this -- and as his performance proves, while it's great copy and solid Hollywood scripting, it just doesn't work on the trail.

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