(CNN) – Campaigning across the border in Ohio, John McCain insists he’s neutral about what happens in Pennsylvania’s primary and Democratic contests beyond.
“I have never stated whether I wanted this election to stretch out or not. That is up to the Democratic Party voters and I have nothing to do with that,” said McCain.
The Republican nominee in waiting said he doesn’t know whether the Democratic race helps or hurts him, saying he’s heard arguments for both.
But privately some of McCain’s advisers tell CNN they do have an opinion. They’re secretly rooting for a big Pennsylvania win for Hillary Clinton, because they’ve concluded the longer Democrats bruise each other in battle, the better it is for McCain.
They point to polls among Democratic voters showing the longer the bitter race goes on, the more each candidate’s supporters say they won’t vote for the other.
But while those McCain aides say they want Clinton to stay in the race for a while, they increasingly say they would rather not run against her.
Those in the McCain camp who say they think Clinton could be tougher to beat than Obama point to both the map, and the makeup of Clinton and Obama’s supporters.
When it comes to the map, some McCain advisers say they would likely lose the traditionally red state of Arkansas to Hillary Clinton, where she was first lady and polls well against McCain. If Obama is his opponent, McCain aides think their candidate would likely win Arkansas.
In terms of voters, McCain aides say if Obama is his opponent, it would be much easier to woo Clinton’s primary voters like conservative white working class Democrats.
They also argue that if McCain ran against Obama, he would have a leg up on the Democrat with many Hispanic voters, who have flocked to Clinton in many Democratic contests. McCain often notes how well he has done with Hispanic voters over the years in his home state of Arizona.
Regardless, McCain aides are devising two general election strategies, one against each Democratic candidate.
After all, if there is anyone who knows how quickly a candidate’s political fortunes can change, it’s John McCain