October 13th, 2008
01:40 PM ET
14 years ago

McCain-Palin schedules show worry about Southern states?

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/10/13/art.mccainva.cnn.jpg caption="McCain is campaigning in states he had hoped to have sewn up at this point in the race."]

(CNN) - John McCain and Sarah Palin are campaigning Monday in two states that haven't voted for a Democratic presidential candidate in more than four decades, a clear indication the GOP ticket is scrambling to defend longtime Republican strongholds with only three weeks until Election Day.

But at a time when the McCain campaign had hoped to have shored up its support in the traditional red states, a string of new surveys show Obama has made significant gains there as voters become increasingly worried about the nation's financial woes.

McCain and Palin held a joint rally in Virginia Beach Monday morning before the two candidates split up, as the Republican nominee heads down to North Carolina as his running mate stays behind for more events in Virginia. It’s only the second time McCain has made visits to either state in more than four months, and comes as a series of battleground surveys suggest his playing field is increasingly shrinking.

Watch: McCain on defense

But while McCain has largely been absent from both states all summer, the Obama campaign has aggressively built up on the ground organizations there, outspent their GOP rival considerably on staff and television commercials, and worked to register tens of thousands of new voters.  The Arizona senator has also been badly out-campaigned in the two states.  According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the Democratic ticket has made nine visits to Virginia and seven stops in North Carolina.  That compares to just one visit in Virginia and two in North Carolina on the Republican side.

And in a sign of just how seriously the McCain campaign is worried about both states, the Arizona senator unveiled a re-vamped stump speech there that an aide says is a "frank assessment" of where the race for the White House stands.

"We have 22 days to go. We're 6 points down," he said. "The national media has written us off…. But they forgot to let you decide. My friends, we've got them just where we want them."

A loss in either state could prove devastating to the Arizona senator's presidential hopes, given his campaign’s recent pullout from competing in Michigan and sagging poll numbers in many of the other key battleground states. Should Virginia or North Carolina tilt Obama's way, the Arizona senator would have to compensate by taking a state such as Pennsylvania that appears solidly leaning in Obama's direction.

But it's not only the nation's flagging economy that is helping tilt both Southern states toward Obama. In addition to the Illinois senator's considerable money advantage there, each state has undergone significant demographic shifts over the last two decades that have made Democrats steadily more competitive.

"The North Carolina and Virgina of today is far more diverse than they were twenty or even ten years ago," CNN Senior Political Researcher Alan Silverleib said. "The states' changing economy has attracted thousands of new voters willing to pull the lever for a Democratic nominee."

Then there’s the unknown variable of an anticipated rise in turnout in the African-American community. In 2006, that voting bloc made up 26 percent of North Carolina's electorate and 21 percent of the Virginia electorate. Obama will likely win a higher percentage of the black vote this cycle in both states than John Kerry’s 87 percent, and unprecedented turnout is expected.

But despite a series of developments that appear to be shifting the states away from McCain, the Arizona senator told his supporters he's not giving up yet.

"Stand up, stand up, stand up and fight," he said at the Virginia Beach rally. "America is worth fighting for. Nothing is inevitable here. We never give up. We never quit. We never hide from history. We make history."

Filed under: North Carolina • Virginia
soundoff (209 Responses)
  1. Spencer/Commonwealth of Virginia

    I hope McCain knows that people in Virginia Beach don't like him that much. He's under the impression that Virginia is McCain Country. What a joke. Tell that to the kids I saw the other day trying to unearth your billboard McCain. Virginia is Obama Country.


    October 13, 2008 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  2. Republican Voting OBAMA

    We are getting desperate and have to shore up the base.

    Obama/Biden 08/12

    October 13, 2008 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  3. Team America

    Comes down to this for me.....3 years experience vs. decades of experience and service to the country.

    Couldn't have an easier choice.

    October 13, 2008 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  4. outsider

    McCain/Palin, less lies, more truths can help you a lot.

    October 13, 2008 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  5. DJ VA

    You might as well not waste your time here in VA, this state is going to be blue. Just face the facts

    October 13, 2008 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  6. Sheep Herding, (i.e. Obama Central)

    I do not know if I am a typical voter, but is this the best our country has to offer? An inexperienced politician who will say anything for personal gain but says it eloquently, or someone who can't get his message across.

    I wish the entire group of current senators and house representatives lose and we get people who care about the people, business, etc. and are smart enough to work for the country rather than themselves and re-election.

    October 13, 2008 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  7. Jeff Schade

    Everyone knows the country is split fairly close to 50/50 Dem/Rep (outside of independents) Obama appears to have a lead in Independents, giving him the edge he now shows in the polls.

    The real difference is going to be voter turnout. High voter turnout among Democrats is going to be what creates the Obama landslide come November.

    No amount of Ohio voters kept from the polls due to long lines or hanging chads is going to be enough to leave this election in dispute.

    October 13, 2008 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  8. Jerry from Maine living in Florida

    Obama continues to run a change the electoral college map strategy.

    And now we're seeing it work.

    McCain is showing us that he cannot run an effective strategy.

    Or at least that he is incapable of putting people in decision making positions that have good judgment.

    Isn't it time we had a president who didn't run their campaign on fear and hate?

    October 13, 2008 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  9. Greg in Mpls

    There is a poll that also shows North Dakota is getting a little close for McCain's comfort. Will he have to go back there?

    October 13, 2008 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  10. death of the republican party?

    You can't run an awful campaign all summer and fall and then decided 22 days out that you wanna talk about the issues. Obama and Biden have been doing that all along. Obama will take VA and just might get NC as well. We are taking our country back one state at a time. No more Bush policies for my country!


    October 13, 2008 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  11. tws1906

    McCain does not campaign in some states, because he thinks he has them sewn up. We will see. He has not set foot in NC.

    October 13, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  12. Janet

    I have to admire his tenacity if nothing else. However, I do believe it may be too little too late.

    Obama '08!!!

    October 13, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  13. tulsa

    Not unexpected.
    I would like to know how he intends on "turning this around" by defending territory that should be his base.
    Of course, there have been a lot of turnarounds in general elections in the past, so the Democrats can't rest. The youth of this country is where the election will be won by Obama.
    The intelligent people who are fed up with lies and stonewalling by the current administration must join with them and reject these two (McCain and Palin) who are all for a continuation of the failed foriegn and domestic policies that led to our current state.
    Vote Obama 08

    October 13, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  14. j

    McCain's a day late and a dollar short with his "new" campagin strategy. This is a poorly run campaign and this man does not deserve to occupy the White House. America can not afford the same failed Republican policies of the last 30 years. America can not afford McCain/Palin in the White House.

    Even though Obama is ahead in the polls, I'm still concerned about how racism and bigotry will play a role when people go to vote. I don't think Obama can afford to take anything for granted and needs to continue to campagin vigorously all the way to the election.

    October 13, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  15. ednadavid

    McCain's campaign should have done a better job from the outset to ensure that they accurately reflected the agenda of their nominee – instead they got distracted with right wing hate politics which I believe has done irreparable damage to John McCain's reputation as a moderate – I feel really bad for him. In addition the hard right wing views of his running mate – does not seem to be helping the campaign much. Maybe it is not too late for him to gain ground in this race.

    October 13, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  16. L-Mani

    Sure your making history all right. By running what has to be the most racially and politically divisive general election campaign in modern day history.

    As a High School teacher it is always great to see how much more culturally diverse in population and thought our students are becoming. I shudder to think about the damage done to our progress on racial matters would be if McCain win's from this tactic.

    If he win's, then the very fabric of America loses.

    October 13, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  17. tsm

    McCain is searching for the "words" that he thinks the American people want to hear. It has nothing to do with whether or not he can deliver. He is just trying to say what he thinks we want to hear to get our vote. This week its is one thing and next week it will be something else. He will keep throwing his "new plan" out right up until the election.

    October 13, 2008 11:29 am at 11:29 am |

    List for obama Acorn of people that is illegal to register to vote during any election

    1-dead people(zombies)
    2-illegal alien (yes little green people to)
    3-criminals ( person w/a criminal record)
    4-fictional characters (mama joe or papa joe)
    5-cartoon characters (mickey mouse , scooby doo)
    6- super heroes (superman , spider man , ironman)
    7- new people ( babies , children , not of age to vote)
    8-crazy people ( a person w/ mental problems)
    9- and many other reasons

    personal comment: if McCain losses this election is because obamas fraud machine Acorn.

    October 13, 2008 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  19. Bill Charlotte,NC

    His new message is just more of the same b.s. and fear with nothing new to offer.

    October 13, 2008 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  20. jude


    October 13, 2008 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  21. (Former) Lifelong Republican for Obama, Columbia, TN

    I just want the McCain-Palin team to GO AWAY! It is such a sad and pathetic example of a ridiculous campaign and the thought of these two running this nation in such serious times is beyond depressing!

    October 13, 2008 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  22. A house divided

    With the Clintons on the stump – it reminds me of who was the true candidate of my party.

    I will never vote for the candidate who hated on Hillary and encouraged the divisive intra-party vitriol JUST to win by any means.

    That hate and vulgarity and filth- coming from the Obama camp was worse than anything ANY republican can ever do.

    October 13, 2008 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  23. JV

    Now what made you think that we will vote for you. We need a President that can stand for us and make sure we go in a right direction from here on out. McSame only talks about WAR and run negative ad. as much as possible. I wish he would have spent more quality time talking about issues and his plan. I would say Obama has done a smart move, which shows that he can me the next President of USA.

    October 13, 2008 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  24. Amy

    I don't know what happened to John McCain.

    He has made poor decisions throughout this campaign-from putting lobbyists in charge of his campaign, to choosing an unqualified, dishonest and unethical running mate, to changing his message and vision almost daily. His campaign is inciting hate and division.

    He may have been a brave soldier, but a leader he is not.

    October 13, 2008 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  25. L-Mani

    One more thing. Whoever said experience equates to leadership? Those are two fundamentally different things.

    Case in point:How many people here would let the Chairman of Lehman Brothers manage their stock? Exactly.

    October 13, 2008 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
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