(CNN) - The McCain campaign is looking at an Electoral College strategy heading into the final two weeks that has virtually no room for error and depends heavily on a dramatic comeback in Pennsylvania, which hasn't backed a Republican for president in 20 years.
While Iowa, New Mexico and Colorado are still officially listed as McCain target states, two top strategists and advisers tell CNN that the situation in those states looks increasingly bleak. Iowa and New Mexico always have been viewed as difficult races, but the similar assessment of Colorado reflects a dramatic shift for a campaign that had long counted on the state.
"Gone," was the word one top McCain insider used to describe those three states.
This source said while the polls in Colorado remain close, he and most others in the operation were of the opinion that the Obama campaign and its allies have a far superior ground/turnout operation and "most of us have a hard time counting on Colorado."
Campaign manager Rick Davis is among the dissenters, believing the state remains within reach, several sources in and close to the McCain campaign say.
Election Center: Check out the latest state polls
The McCain strategy depends on holding a handful of Bush '04 states that are now rated tossups by CNN: Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Missouri and Nevada. It also depends on keeping Virginia, which CNN now considers leaning Democratic, in the GOP column.
But even if McCain won all six of those states, in addition to those in which he is already favored, he would still be shy of the 270 electoral votes needed to claim the presidency.
Which is where Pennsylvania and its 21 electoral votes come into play. Most polls show McCain trailing by 10 points or more in the state, but one top adviser told CNN on Monday, "The election hinges on Pennsylvania. We'll win Virginia and Nevada in the end, but lose without Pennsylvania."
President Bush twice heavily targeted Pennsylvania - but both times came up short.
Despite the less than optimistic political assessment of Colorado, McCain at the moment continues to buy television advertising in the state: roughly $700,000 a week the past two weeks with similar spending levels ordered for the week ahead.
Obama is spending a little less than $1 million a week in Colorado.
(One of the McCain sources said that ad spending in Colorado could be increased - even doubled - to somewhere in the ballpark of $1.5 million. "We're not giving up on Colorado," one of the sources said. "But we need to have a math scenario that doesn't count on it.”)
That Obama advantage is also on display in North Carolina, where the Democratic nominee has outspent McCain more than 3 to 1 on television ads.
In the past week, however, McCain essentially matched the Obama levels - $1.1 million to $1.2 million, respectively.
McCain campaign communications director Jill Hazelbaker disputed the sources' accounts.
"We see the race tightening both internally and in public polling," she said. "We are within striking distance in the key battleground states we need to win."
What the sources emphasized was that the campaign needed an alternative to 270 that did not count on Iowa, Nevada and Colorado. They did not say the campaign was ready to pull resources.
The internal discussions reflect the narrow menu of options for McCain.
The sources' sober assessment of Colorado and even more downbeat view of McCains prospects in Nevada come even as GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin campaigns Monday and Tuesday in Colorado and Nevada. From there, Palin moves on to Ohio.
Bye bye Colorado.
Next to go blue: GA!
I been reading alot of comments on these websites and blogs you got some really vocal pc users on here. Now about this election, we (as in some black folks) havent had a choice of of electing a "biracial candidate". so to me I have that choice and that choice is really a 2 for 1 he is half white and half black and i will take that while i can. i tried to listen to president bush and mccain but it just dont sit right with me. I heard all the issues and i'm voting on what MATTER to me. the rich should drop some of thier money they wont be broke and i understand they worked hard for it but really, what are they doing with the money??? they should give it to those in need in other countries, people that have less. and i'm tired of these pc users refering to liberal or conservative or what ever they clam to be. we should go by what we are and that is human beings. DO NOT LET THE PARTY NAME FOOL YOU.
Anyway i am truly greatful that Mrs Hillary Clinton prepared Mr. Barack Obama for this BULL CRAP that is taking place now
DON'T DO IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
IF THE MCCAIN Campaign proceeds with this idiotic strategy....all hell will break loose....lest we not forget SARAH PALIN has a WACKO PREACHER IN HER BACKGROUND ALSO!!!!!!
OBAMA, OBAMA, OBAMA, OBAMA, OBAMA, OBAMA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
'Socialist' is an ugly word in the USA. We should deal with it.
Consider If citizen A did a great job and earned 300,000, while citizen B earns 40,000.
If I take an additional 200 from A and just give it to B, that would be socialism. But if the 200 goes instead to roads and schools and police that A needs and wants as much as B, then the only real issue is why wasn't it shared equally?
Half of it, $100 more in taxes, sinks B–his 40K barely covered living expenses, so now he's bankrupt. Can't cover the groceries, so his kids fail more at school, and who knows where that goes. Citizen A, meanwhile, has to cut his vacation from 7 days to 6. And meanwhile the roads are repaired and the firemen still have jobs, so his life is safer.
You can't get blood out of stones, out of the people at the level of the road. Joe Biden is right, it is patriotic to pay taxes because common cause is the only way that works, to keep the whole picture functioning for all.
I do it and I have always been proud of it.
does everyone here know that the stock market historically does better in the first year of a democratic presidency than a republican one? This is counter to what the repubs want you to believe.
Ivoteme – if you wanted to die before you were forced to witness the self destruction of our beloved country, you should have died before the W. presidency.
All the Obama supporters must be on welfare, looking forward to
a "working" man's paycheck,
Obama got my vote and CO will be BLUE as our beautiful sky!
John McCain can not even spell Honor! Now he uses the Scorched Earth Tactic to win! How many of you will suffer for it! McCain says he is a fighter but as soon as his money get low in a state he runs away when the race is close! Now he want to go back to attacking on this nut case Rev. Wright, how many changes can his race go through, he must be the biggest flip flopper i have ever seen in my life!
number of time mccain campaing in pennsylvinia 10 number of time mccain lead in pa 0 should mccain win that state no im annoymous and i proved this message
This just out, McCain is moving his election campaign to a small island in the Atlantic, it is the only place still red, there are three people there and they are all Republicans, hold it, just in, they all changed to Democrats, McCain is rowing off cursing Palin in a leaky canoe and trying to act like he knows what he is doing, which he trulyu does not because he is headed for Palestine if he keeps going the way he is, but then, they could use anothermoron there too, right?
McCain supporters announcing that the sky is falling: Where was your economic foresight in 2000? Or 2004? If you couldn't call something as natural as a housing bubble bursting, I will get my economic predictions from another psychic.
You are starting to sound like the people stocking up on peanut butter and gasoline before Y2K. Remember how that turned out? Put down the Kool AId, dispense with the fear mongering and read what the experts endorsing each candidate are saying about their proposed plans.
I think we are seeing We, the People, waking up and realizing that we DO have to power to change Washington! All we have to do is VOTE!
Everyone I am talking to say they will vote early for Obama to avoid long lines and hopefully avoid "voter fraud".... not Democratic.... but Republican!