With two weeks to go until the election, the Republicans pulled another John McCain special — they announced, or let it be known, that they were pulling out of New Mexico, Colorado and Iowa, all running at around 7% plus for Obama, with Iowa hitting an 11% high. The three states together would give Obama 21 votes — 5+9+7 respectively — which would be sufficient to win the presidency. What’s their game?

It’s Pennsylvania, apparently. Team McCain’s game plan is to sacrifice the west, hold Florida and Ohio, and gain Pennsylvania, which will keep things at equilibrium, thus guaranteeing McCain the presidency. It also involves holding Missouri, North Carolina, Nevada and Virginia as well, though one of those — and only one — could be lost.

Given that Pennsylvania is running between 10-13% ahead for Obama it is a frankly desperate strategy and one wholly based on the veracity of “the Bradley effect”, the idea that white people are too ashamed to tell pollsters that they won’t vote for Obama because he’s black.

However it may be that the principal purpose of the strategy is less to win but to take the one strategy that has a long, long shot of winning, but which in any case gives the candidate something to do, some sense that he is not wandering aimlessly round meetings near airports doing the same pointless rah rah to diminishing crowds.

Possibly it’s also a cover for a Senate strategy. By now many Republicans — David Frum is the most vocal — want McCain to admit the thing is lost, and spend most of his time touring marginal Republican Senate seats, like New Hampshire and Georgia. McCain could say that he has a chance of winning NH and a chance of losing Georgia so needs to be there.

Neither would be true, but it would give him cover to try and get these people over the line, and help avoid the Republican nightmare which is that the Democrats would get a filibuster proof majority in the Senate — 60 seats, a gain of 10-12 on their current quota. Impossible three months ago, it is still a long shot, but now within the bounds of possibility.

GOP professionals fear that the McCain team is throwing everything away, and it confirms everything they thought about him — that everyones always thought about him — that he’s a bit of a jerk out for himself, even in the Hanoi Hilton (see Counterpunch).

Mind you, he has allies — the Democrats, e.g. Joe Biden, telling a group of fundraisers that Obama would face a testing international crisis within six months and arrgggggghhh … the worst of Biden, the garrulous boaster, the “let me tell you how it is” man, spouting off and forgetting there are thing THINGS SUCH AS DICTAPHONES JOE … good for a day or two of making trouble.

It’s been added on to the “spread the wealth” thing, which McCain will relentlessly hammer, his rallies appearing full of signs saying “X the teacher”, “Y the dental hygienist” etc etc, all of which if they are true will benefit from Obama’s tax plan more than McCain’s.

Indeed you can fill in a sign on the McCain site, and get the finished artwork sent to your email. I reserved “Adolf the Housepainter” though the software would not accept “Walnuts the C-nt”.

With these possibilities narrowing down, people are starting to look at the actual election itself (though fully a third of people will vote before the date, which is nuts), and how it could go crazy. Already in Ohio and Florida, voting machines are screwing up recording Obama votes as McCain votes, there are no paper trails, there are three hour queues. Goddamit, Americans spend so much time telling each other that they’re the best at anything, that they can triumph over etc etc, but they’re actually crap at everything.

Eight years they’ve been wandering around in this voting system daze, about the same time they’ve been trying to rebuild at Ground Zero. It’s hopeless. People from the modern world look on and despair.

That’s of course if it is just sheer screw ups. Or have the GOP always intended to have this mess? So they can both try and steal the election and/or appeal a clean result if they lose? These are not people after all. Lizards in white shirts and pearls. Flushed down toilets as pets, they are now reappearing, ready to slither up your orifice. That is their game.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey