WASHINGTON (CNN) – McCain campaign manager Rick Davis posted a 14-minute “strategy briefing” on the presumptive Republican nominee’s official Web site over the weekend that concedes the GOP faces one of the most unwelcoming election environments in history - but claims that John McCain is still in a strong position, due in part to a strategy of appealing to areas dominated by Hillary Clinton during the primary season.
Top on the campaign’s list of targets: southwestern Pennsylvania and southeastern Ohio, which backed Clinton over Barack Obama by hefty double-digit margins. Clinton won both contests.
Davis says that McCain will be able to compete with Obama in major Midwestern states like Michigan and Wisconsin – and that McCain’s association with Democrat-turned-Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman will put Connecticut in play. He also tells observers to “Watch California!”
McCain’s personal favorability ratings are "the highest for any official running for office today," claims Davis – and far surpass Obama’s.
Davis says the general election fight has been too close to call for months, according to Gallup polls. The two candidates split independents, and McCain pulls in a larger share of Republicans than Obama does Democrats.
Unfortunately for McCain, Obama’s numbers, gathered during a heated Democratic primary season, are likely to improve in the coming weeks. And this year, there are far more Democrats than Republicans, making McCain’s current edge among the party faithful far less significant.
“The GOP brand troubles have created a larger group of independent votes that we need to appeal to this election cycle than normal. No longer can a Republican candidate run by just running up the score with the base,” says Davis.
But he adds that the presumptive Republican nominee outperforms his own party’s generic ballot by double digits nationwide, as well as in areas like the border southwest – including the Arizona senator’s home base – and in the crucial swing state of Florida.