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. Dave

    If McCain has the Democrats "right where he wants them," then he must enjoy having a boot on his neck. He reminds me of the dismembered knight in Monty Python's Holy Grail film, lying there limpless and insisting "it's just a flesh wound."

    After the kind of campaign McCain has run, with all its ugliness, he's right where he deserves to be – LOSING. Here's hoping he loses even bigger, because pandering to the ugliest factions of America should be rejected, not rewarded.

    October 13, 2008 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  2. obama 08-12

    Thanks for all the republicans who are voting for democrats this year,least you guys can see that america needs change now.

    October 13, 2008 11:40 am at 11:40 am |

    26 years of the same old...same old...

    22 days from the election new..new...new...

    48 adding years and days.... if we add a % sign we would see that

    48% is far more than the % of this historic vote that McSameold will get

    Yup, its that old-white-retired guy from Ma. A former Republican
    Just doing the math...


    October 13, 2008 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  4. Zion

    McCain/Palin are only focused on keeping their base energized. You need more than your base to win. I see Palin will be repeating the "Drapes," comment like a parrot. Don't they get it, these sorts of comments are what's causing people to not take you seriously.

    October 13, 2008 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  5. CS in PA

    So which McCain will show up this week? The bitter, mean spirited McCain or the kinder and more gentle McCain?

    Give it up GOP – you have thrown this one into the drain!

    October 13, 2008 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  6. Rob R

    New Obama yard signs are going up everyday in my neighborhood (in North Carolina). I hardly see any McCain signs. While that doesn't prove the outcome on Nov 4, it does show that Obama has a real shot to win here. There are lot of new residents in both VA and NC that have come from the Northeast and West Coast. I know, I'm one of them who will be gladly voting Obama.

    October 13, 2008 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  7. Leah,Texas

    Vote for the candidate with intelligence, integrity, and wisdom.

    VOTE – OBAMA '08

    October 13, 2008 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  8. John, Austin TX

    McCain is so stupid.
    "Just where we want them"?? This isn't some military operation or war combat strategy. Get your head out of that McCain. If you're losing it's because you've been completely unfocused. Focus and make a case for voters to vote FOR YOU, not just against Obama.

    October 13, 2008 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  9. GiGi

    It takes a lot more than to whip his "you-know-what", from John McCain, it's a matter of trustworthiness, which the Republicans do not have, thanks to the White House incumbent, but it is also accusing his opponent of being exactly what he are; are of touch, and a big defender of the the big oil companies and corporations in America. Nobody stays in the senate for 26 years and can say honestly they"ll change the system, because actually they have been part of it, so much so that what is at stake in this election are the interest of the few, that John McCain represents, versus the ones of the common good. As simple as that.

    October 13, 2008 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  10. Emma, San Jose, CA

    High hopes for the McCain/Palin camp. It will not change the fact that
    Palin is unqualified and that McCain is an enraged, impulsive guy who has the wrong experience. By the way, a lot of us seniors do not care about the required distributions from our investments. It won't make that much difference for the economy and we are not taxed heavily on the distributions. (Except for very rich seniors like McCain).

    October 13, 2008 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  11. johnrj08

    I refuse to believe that all Republicans are stubborn ideologues who would actually vote to put our country in the hands of someone who thinks that mankind walked alongside living dinosaurs. I think that when many of them walk into that voting booth on November 4th, take a look at two words on the ballot, then take a deep breath and vote for Barack Obama. The words they see will be "Sarah Palin." No candidate in their right mind would accuse a sitting U.S. Senator of having terrorist sympathies, being a baby-killer, or suggest that he agrees with the political rants of a aging preacher. More importantly, no rational candidate would expect voters to be so grossly uninformed that they would believe her routine distortion of the facts. It is time for this former television weather girl to go home and abuse her powers in a place where it won't damage the whole country.

    October 13, 2008 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  12. John, Minnesota

    I watched a few minutes of McCain and Palin in Virginia Beach this morning. I can't even believe the what comes out of their mouths.
    Palin actually said "... we'll stop abuse of power in Washington." What?!
    She is found guilty of abuse of power in AK and then says that?
    This shows how out of touch with reality the M/P campaign is. I think it's insulting how dumb they think Americans are.

    I gotta believe Americans are smarter than this...then again, these same people voted in Bush... twice. God help us.

    October 13, 2008 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  13. PA voter

    98 more days until George W. Bush is out of office!!!

    And McCain wants us to replace GW with Mc90%? Keep dreaming!

    October 13, 2008 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  14. Critical Thinking

    He keep reminding us that jobs are disappearing – but he talk about giving tax cuts to businesses so they can provide jobs. BUT THEY KEEP SENDING THEM OVERSEAS. What does McCain plan to do to discourage off-shoring?As we have seen, you cannot say "well, when we give companiesbreaks, they will know what they need to do". This does not work.

    Also, he just mentioned his plan (again) to purchase bad mortgages so people will not lose their homes – who will buy these mortgages and take the hit? I respect seniority, but you can no longer lean on your number of years in gov't and expect people to overlook the lack of a viable plan. And I understand that we are to focus on the top of the ticket, bet the second half of the ticket is not limited to taking messages and making coffee. VP is an important position so the public ought to have confidence in that person as well.

    McCain just advised his audience to choose well when choosing a president – I will........


    October 13, 2008 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  15. M. WINNERS

    I'm listening to McCain's speech as I write this – It sound as though he's reading most all of Obama's financial recovery plan!

    Jeez, not an original thought in the old guys head!

    I've already sent in my early ballot and voted Obama/Biden and the big "D" for everyone else. It's time for REAL change...

    October 13, 2008 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  16. sensible Cape Coral Fl

    The need for experience has been dreadfully exaggerated. Look at the present administration. I know of no other administration that has the accumulated experience of this one. Hell of a lot of good it has done us. I'll take good judgement over experience any day.

    October 13, 2008 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  17. Daniel Shack

    If McCain would just STOP LYING about what Obama will do and start TELLING THE TRUTH about what he is going to do (nothing so far), maybe people would start listening to his little squirrely butt.

    October 13, 2008 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  18. Susan

    Too late for McCain and Palin. They have proven to us that they want the politics of old. They want to run a country under fear and hatred. John McCain, a man I once so admired, has lost all of his honor and dignity. Sarah palin is a disgrace to be on a national platform. Obama supporters must not be complacent, but must get out the vote to ensure this war mongering, hate filled duo do not disgrace our country as they have disgraced themselves. JohnMcCain showed his true self in the past few weeks. What a horrible man he truly is!

    October 13, 2008 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  19. Kay

    People, we can't feel we have won the election until Nov. 5th. Get out and vote no matter what the polls say!


    October 13, 2008 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  20. lost

    We fought in RVN McCain...I was there while you were sitting it out. You, so spoiled, were protected by your family reputation and money. The VC and NVA didn't want you hurt.

    Don't tell me and others about your "losses" during RVN! We lost that war, but maybe you don't remember because you weren't in it and are too old to remember.

    It's time to quit fighting and talk. So take it from Obama, "negotiate" first.

    October 13, 2008 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  21. Daniel Shack

    If McCain would just STOP LYING about what Obama will do and start TELLING THE TRUTH about what he is going to do (nothing so far), maybe people would start listening to his little squirrely butt.

    October 13, 2008 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  22. Spencer/Commonwealth of Virginia


    -Governor Tim Kaine(d)
    -Sen. elect Mark Warner(d) -aka- The former Governor with the best approval rating in the country
    -Sen. Jim Webb(d)

    These are the facts! VIRGINIA WILL BE BLUE.


    October 13, 2008 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  23. Robin

    McCain wasted an entire week attacking Obama, now there's only 22 days left and 2 days before the final debate. Obama today is about to release a detailed recovery plan, McCain only game plan is to focus on maintaining gridlock in Washington.... which means he has no economic plan.

    October 13, 2008 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  24. Still for Hill but now ONLY for Hill

    The Clintons with Biden on the stump- reminds me of who should be our democratic nominee.

    Biden and Obama should be stumping for HRC.

    The democrats trashed and swiftboated their best- just to install Obama.

    My need for change is not as great as my desire for fair campaigns, truth, justice and equality.

    No racism and no sexism.

    Till then- only Hillary will get my vote.

    October 13, 2008 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  25. Todd in Utah

    Folks, beware of an Obama campaign tactic that has gone into effect. Have you noticed that normally conservative blogs have been overrun recently with pro-Obama rhetoric? This is a calculated move to try and persuade undecided voters and others that Obama is overwhelmingly the popular choice. Read the messages carefully and you'll recognize a very similar tone to many of them, probably the same writer using multiple names.

    Don't be swayed by such boorish tactics. The race is extremely close. Don't fall for this deception.

    October 13, 2008 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
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