(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.
McCain, Repubs, Palin, Rove, Bush, Cheny, Rumsfield, and others all are responsible for the Obama liklihood of being the winner. A perfect storm to blow in a democratic congress and president. The right wing iditos like Russ and Fox news talking heads can't stand it, and without any integrty, are becoming pathetic. Hopefully all of this liying and demogary willl not work this time.
10 years sober
...and PA, and NM and VA and MI and WI and WA and NC.
Good luck John, maybe your goal should be to give up less than 350 electoral votes because winning is out of the question.
I voted early today for Obama, and most of Texas is fired up and ready to go! Watch which way Texas goes on election night, no one I know has been polled, and Texas just may be the surprise of the night!
McCain you might have had me until you picked that dope Palin. Nobody in VA likes her. Her rally was VA Beach was bogus. All the people and signs were staffers bussed in. She sunk you campaign. You should have picked Tom Ridge at least then you whould have won PA.
Palin just had a great rally here in Colorado. I don't know what you are talking about! Here in El Paso county there are more McCain signs than Obama signs for sure. Coloradans are hard working Americans that believe in capitalism not socialism.
McCain camp is looking for a way to win without Colorado, New Mexico, Virginia, Florida, Ohio. integrity, courtecy, grace, brains, tact, finess, a good education, a real running mate and a real plumber.
Other than that , he's got em right where he wnats'em. You betcha!
Okay so you guys are so liberal and bias. Why are you supporting a man who is a socialist? this what you want for your kids??? maybe you don't know what socialism is, when government use's power to redistribute wealth. In Totalitarian countries , USSR, China, Cuba, North Korea, it has caused widespread shortages of basic goods & services. we will have the media and corrupt democrats to thanks if obama gets in.
Hey what happened to Glenn Beck? he was the best thing CNN had to offer as far as Truth in News.
Beah, I'm sorry to inform you, but Obama is indeed a socialist. Forget his BS, flowery oratory and look at his voting record in the Senate then get back to me. Actions speak louder than words.
It would be wonderful is Barack could really changed things and get rid of the blue state, red state and make us what we should be the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
We have been divided too long and McCain and Palin are still working to divide us even more.
I do believe Colorado will go blue. I and several of my friends and neighbors have already voted and, of course, it was for Obama.
What is being said by the McCain camp is they know they have lost the Presidential election and are trying to stop the damage to the Republican Congres that is already a bloodletting so McCain does not lose favor altogether with the GOP for destroying everything they have, but sorry to let them both know, they brought this on themselves and it is all over except for the fat lady singing, and she is already warming up in the aisles, get the crying towels out Republicans, you are all going to have to get a real job come Nov 4 because there will not be enough rep[ublicans left in Washington to shake a stick at and those who are there will be afraid to even open their mouths for fear of leaving soon behind their brethren, America is tired of the failed Republican policies and devisiveness and bigotry and is ready for a change, a big change that will not include the Republicans unless they wake up and make major changes as well, which we all realize is something they will never do because of arrogance, so perhaps this is the end of the GOP, could not have come to a more deserving party.
We need a uniter in this country to lead us. The McCain Palin ticket is dividing us ever so much and they don't seem to care. My hope is that America puts into office the candidate who really cares about us. Need I say who?...
I'm a Republican woman but knew I would be voting democrat for the first time this election and so is my hubby and my republican friends. Yesterday Colin Powell made me proud; there are many of us Republicans that are supporting Obama. But please do not get complacent, your vote is important.
Florida for Obama/Biden 08
McCain lost this election the day he picked Palin. What was he thinking. I'm a registered republican and I'm voting for Obama!
When you throw dirt, you lose ground!
CNN, please post.
I heard that it is very close in Arizona, McCain's home state. If they continue to campaign the way they are going, Mcain/Palin are going to lose both their home states ...
Arizona and Alaska .... please vote for for Obama/Biden.
News Flash: McCain camp now looking for a way to win without votes! The McCain camp had long been looking for ways to win without a positive platform, but as that has failed to work, the McCain camp is now considering how it can win without votes. The current options McCain opreatives are considering include election fraud (having the machines tally votes for Obama as votes for McCain) and coup.
I love hearing the roll call of all the Obama states. HooYah!
John McCain/Tina Fey 2008!!!
So interesting that you never print any comments that favor
McCain. That's good old CNN!
Too bad the guy with the best message, John McCain, is unable to get noticed by independents and undecideds. We're living in an oligarchy people. Obama is outspending McCain 2-1, 3-1, even 8-1 here in VA, on misleading ads. He's well-funded by his koolaid drinking college kids and liberal elite who in no way represent the majority of America. Oh well, I'm keepin my fingers crossed for the Bradley effect.
I read an article that said Americans believe McCain is using too much negative advertising. What? What ads? I listened to Obama speak in FL today and all he did was make fun of McCain. Who's negative here? Do people really not hear what is being said? Obama nevers says what he is going to do. He just keeps repeating negative statements about McCain. Communication skills are so important. This does not mean only speaking. It means comprehension. How are these Obama supporters not comprehending what is really being said? Cut McCain, say he's negative, but never say anything positive yourself. It appears so many people are worried about losing their jobs. You should be. I will guarantee you that with Obama's economic plan you will be losing your jobs. You will be losing your health insurance. You will be in the line for government handouts that Obama wants for everyone. Businesses will not be able to afford all his tax hikes. They will be forced to make cuts. Prices will rise. You better re-think or, for some, start thinking, about your vote. It is so important and you will be hurting.
Look at all the little Republicans scurrying around like cockroaches under the light. I love it.
i voted for OBAMA today. he gives me hope for Americas future.