(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.
a way to win without:
It's impossible for McCain to win without Colorado unless he gets a Kerry state, all of which have been polling even more favorably for Obama (mostly double digits.) If McCain gives up Colorado, the race is over.
Pennsylvania is also next to impossible for McCain. They are still adverstising here heavily but there are now 1.2 million more registered Democrats in the state than Republicans. 4 years ago when Kerry carried the state there were only 200,000 more registered Democrats. PA is over.
First of all I want to say thank you to Colin Powell. Limbo's statements don't bother me since I considered the source. However, Pat Buchanan's statements did. He had the nerve to say C. Powell was "ungrateful" for all the things the republican party had done for him. First of all, the republican party didn't give him anything-he worked for it and paid all his debt in full. Buchanan should be fired as he really contributes nothing but spiteful madness. Ed Gordon (guest MSNBC) asked Chris Matthews if he had ever been asked why he was voting for a white person. Of course no one could honestly answer that so why is it Mr. Powell is being asked about "his vote?" He doesn't owe anyone anything. It is his God given right to do what he wants to and I for one welcome him. Smart man-smart choice.
Second, I am disappointed in all the Obama supporters who chose to look at that hateful Palin woman on SNL. I personally made sure I didn't watch her ugly face on my t.v. You need to stop making her feel we enjoy her hateful rhetoric. I know she's a good laugh but I can't find her funny. She incites hate and that may possibly get Sen. Obama and his family hurt or worse. She better hope and pray this doesn't happen...
I just hope Americans can look beyond color barriers and vote what is best for YOU in your situation. Nov. 4th can't come fast enought.
McCain will not take Pennsylvania. He is not close in any state that went Blue in 2000. If he is conceding Colorado and he loses it the rest doesn't matter. But it is all in the hands of the voters.
Colorado is out of reach although Palin will be here (3) times this week.
Gone Baby Gone!
FL and NV will go blue, too! We're working really hard here in FL to give our state to Obama! Early voting started today...can't tell you how many former Repubs were in line voting for OBAMA!!
For McCain to win CO he has to sweep all of the rural areas with about 70%, then somehow hope that Colorado Springs and Pueblo outdo Denver and Boulder while Fort Collins, Greeley, and the rest of the Northern I-25 corridor is at best a split.
Not gonna happen.
YES!!! C'mon mccain, (who isn't even worth enough to have the first letter in his name cappitalized) pull outta Missouri too!!! haha this just keeps getting better and better.
I don't understand why the Republican Party and the McCain/Palin campaign haven't figured out that the attack ads aren't going to work in 2008. The Carl Rove strategy, which has worked in the past and primarily appealed to older voters, will not be effective this time around because the voting demographics have changed. So, they can continue to spend but as long as it's negative ads, it won't help.
Check the facts people, the reason why Obama has outspent McCain is for the simple fact that Obama's campaign is only accepting money through donations. It's not Barrack's fault that McCain had the oppurtunity to accept donations but declined and took government funding over donations, the american people have said enough of the way Busch/McCain have run washington and have had there chance to tell america by donating.
Even though most of the poll news regarding Obama is positive, this election still feels like the Rays clinging to 3-1 lead in the 8th with the bases loaded. Hopefully the outcome is the same.
Really? I mean, I'm eager to see McCain lose, but by giving up on Colorado, he'd pretty much be conceding two weeks early. Doesn't make much sense to me. Where else is he going to win?
The best way for McCain to go out is to endorse Barack Obama.
The best way for Palin to go out is to run for the office of President of the United States of Alaska.
And another thing, taxes will have to be raised no matter what. Look at what we are in.
McCain has already lost the voters respect by the way he has run his campaign. He is going to lose the election big time!
If polls hold true, McCain is already mathematically out of this race. He should stop wasting his supporters' donated money. But.. McCain is a contradiction... He'll still take his supporters donations.. as he's giving up on the states that he needs to take in order to win.
If he runs this country as erratically and illogically as he runs his campaign.. we would be doomed.
McCain's down in the polls in a large part because his GOTV is poorly organized, unmotivated and virtually forgotten. I guess all those convention attacks against community organizers have come around full circle, huh? Obama is better, in every way.
I've been thinking about this a lot, and I think if NH and VA both go blue, we will know before the polls even close on the west coast, that Obama has won.
VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!
Especially the young! Don't let Obama down!
Ruh Roh Astro! Soon McCain will run out of states to leave. lol When he left us here in Michigan it was still kind of close now the polls have him down by like 10pts here so he'll be in big trouble if he leaves any others.
Bill – Ann Arbor, MI
McCain's problem in Colorado has to do with his statement earlier this summer about revisiting the water deal between those states in the West with water (ie Colorado) and those without (ie Arizona).
That is an incredibly touchy subject for those with, and could be considered the primary subject for some folks out there. By saying he would revisit those agreements, he put himself on the wrong side that argument with those people.
If he keeps pulling out of states, he's eventually not going to have any place to run. I can live with that.
There's no way to do it. It's over.
GOP, dress warmly over the next 16 years....it's going to be very cold for you.