LANSING, Mich. – With polls showing Barack Obama building a strong lead in Michigan, aides to John McCain’s campaign said Thursday that they were pulling their television ads in the state and moving their resources to Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Maine.
The decision was another sign of McCain’s weakening position amid the nation’s economic turbulence, and it came as a surprise even to the Michigan Republican Party chairman who was notified in a morning phone call.
For much of the summer, McCain’s advisers listed Michigan and its 17 electoral votes as one of their top targets for expanding the map beyond the states won by President Bush in 2004. But the McCain campaign’s hopes of picking up blue-collar voters in this struggling industrial state appear to be fading.
Obama has shown a clear advantage over McCain on economic issues in recent polls. And that advantage might be particularly pronounced here where the state’s unemployment rate is the nation’s highest at 8.9 percent.
Professor Ken Goldstein, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who oversees a project that studies political advertising, said both sides started the summer running hard in Michigan, but polls soured for McCain after the Wall Street collapse. The economic trouble rocking much of the rest of the country now “has been going on in Michigan for four years” he said – a point Obama hammered as he campaigned here Thursday.
“The playing field has tilted,” Goldstein said. “Taking Michigan off the map will obviously mean that McCain will have to win an inside straight – just about every state George W. Bush won. You can say all you want the race is competitive. If you’re pulling out of Michigan, it is big news.”
On a conference call with reporters Thursday evening, McCain’s aides gave only a cursory explanation for retreating in Michigan – and noted that Obama too had scaled back his efforts to win red states such as Georgia and North Dakota.