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John McCain's Iowa stop: Smart move or odd detour?

A mere five weeks from now, as night sweeps across the continent on Nov. 4, the 2008 presidential campaign presumably will be decided by the results in a handful of key states.John McCain campaigning in Iowa

Iowa doesn't seem likely to be one of those. So we were left puzzled by a John McCain itinerary that found him spending a good part of Monday and much of Tuesday in that locale.

We can only assume that he and his political advisers know something that the polls of that state's voters aren't detecting. They better, because with one exception, several surveys in Iowa over the last month have shown Barack Obama solidly ahead in the fight for its 7 electoral votes.

If McCain and his camp don't have good reason to dispute these findings, it's hard not to view the roughly 24 hours he just spent in Des Moines and vicinity as a waste of time at this point in the White House race.

No doubt McCain would love to keep Iowa -- which President Bush narrowly carried four years ago -- in the Republican column. He, along with running mate Sarah Palin, held a rally in the state two weeks ago. But not only does winning it loom as a difficult challenge for the Republican ticket, it's hardly key to its path to victory.

Obama began with a big advantage in the state over McCain. The 2006 midterm elections showed a drift toward Democrats there. And in early 2007, with an eye on a strong showing in Iowa's Democratic caucuses, Obama began organizing his support among Iowans.

His victory in the caucuses early this year showed how successful his efforts were -- and ensured that a ground-level operation was in place that could then focus on the general election.

McCain, by contrast, did not invest much time or energy in the state's GOP caucuses -- and was rewarded with a fourth-place finish. Competing hard in Iowa made little sense for him; his path to the Republican nomination lay elsewhere. But it meant that once he locked up the nod, he lacked ...

... the type of organization in the state Obama already had established.

McCain's selection of Palin as his running mate helped excite Iowa Republicans about his candidacy; social conservatives exert significant influence within the state party. But most of those pesky polls -- taken post-Palin -- simply haven't shown a major shift toward McCain among other Iowa voters.

Here's the bottom line: McCain can afford to have the state's electoral votes subtracted from the base of 286 that Bush won in 2004 and still win the presidency -- as long as he rebuffs Obama's aggressive efforts to win Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Colorado and Nevada.

And McCain can deal Obama's White House hopes a virtual death blow by winning Pennsylvania, a Democratic state in 2004 where polls show this year's race a squeaker.

So again, we wonder ... what attracted McCain to Des Moines this week, rather than Wilkes-Barre, Pa.?

-- Don Frederick

Photo credit: Getty Images

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Comments () | Archives (8)

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I want to vote for McCain - Palin, but I don't want to be called a racist! Barry loves to play the race card!

This just in:

McCain called Obama and invited him to join him in Iowa. No word as yet if Obama is biting the hook. Check back in 24 hours.

Answer to the article's final question--folly. McCain's inability to run a decent campaign, choose a good running mate, or handle a political hot potato (financial crisis) without panicking are all good reasons not to vote for this man.

The reason Democrats are so angry is that they are watching America go down the toilet while Republicans divert their attention and cheer on the very culprits who are destroying it. Another big frustration is the multitude of hypocritical, hateful christians that want respect from all people without compromise or giving their respect to anyone. If Sarah Palin becomes the Vice President of the United States I am going to vomit. She is a lying, deceitful, rat in sheep's clothing and the world is absolutely appalled that Americans are so stupid. Do they not recognize blatant lies and pandering when they see it? Especially after an eight year lesson on this sort of thing.. It is truly shameful. I'm convinced that at this point OJ Simpson could run for president, preach a pro-life stance and teaching of abstinence in schools(even though doing so results in MORE abortions from MORE unwanted pregnancies due to ignorance) and deny global warming and evolution despite the MOUNTAINS of evidence to the contrary, and he would win 99% of the christian vote while Fox News sings his praises. A McCain/Palin ticket would divide this country like never before in our history. The major difference between Republicans and Democrats is that Democrats want everyone to have freedom to live as they choose(one of the ideals this nation was FOUNDED on) and Republicans want to force everyone to live as they do. It will NEVER happen and trying to do so will only further divide this country and keep us from worrying about more important issues like SCHOOLS and HEALTH CARE. A message to the Christians out there- I support your right to believe what you want to, but stop letting crooked politicians and corrupt media outlets use your religion to mislead and pander to you. You should know that the majority of Republicans, behind closed doors, refer to you as "useful idiots". That is, good for money and votes, but not much else. Stop believing the lies that you learn from watching media outlets controlled by corrupt Republicans. For the actual TRUTH about Obama, his great amount of experience, his past successes, and his long track record of helping out the little man even when he must pass up opportunities to make a lot of money, JUST READ THE WIKIPEDIA PAGE ABOUT HIM. After that, you can make up your own mind. Just stop quoting the blatant lies, you are beginning to sound like retarded parrots who have been living in Karl Rove's office... if you even know who Karl Rove is. He is the guy who writes Palin's, McCain's, and Bushes' speeches, and comes up with their crooked strategies to mislead America for the good of the rich and corporations. Ignorance is not a sin, but WILLFUL ignorance is.

I'm living in Iowa currently, this place is so far left, as far as farmers go, that it's absurd. John McCain is living in the past, the Iowa of prior elections is not the same Iowa that exists today.
However, Iowa democrats are different than urban democrats. Iowan Dems are largely blue collar, union members, and pro-small business, anti-outsourcing farmers. They care little for liberal social issues like gay marriage.

Iowans are not smart enough to comprehend how NAFTA has benefited their farming industry. They hate republicans and love populism.

And don't forget how outspoken he's been against ethanol subsidies...

I'd be shocked if McCain is within 5 points in Iowa.

Palin talks about Obama - does she even realize she might be the only VP candidate to ever be indicted? Based on what I have seen - she doesn't have a clue.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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