Friday, October 03, 2008

McCain looks to Maine's rural district for one vote

When John McCain's campaign pulled out of Michigan yesterday, leaving it to Barack Obama, it allocated its resources elsewhere, including one of the most rural states and one of the most rural congressional districts in the nation: Maine and its Second District.

Votes in the Electoral College are determined by a state's number of congressional districts plus two (each state's number of senators). Maine and Nebraska, which have two and three districts respectively, award a vote for winning a district and two for winning a state. We like that system; it would make candidates campaign in states they would otherwise ignore. But why would McCain go after a single vote? Some models show it could win the race for him.

Sasha Issenberg of the Boston Globe reports from Bangor: "While both campaigns have long expected that Obama would carry the state, both public and private polls show the race closing. . . . Much of McCain's gain appears to derive from a renewed appeal in Maine's Second, the largest district east of the Mississippi River, sprawling through the state's rural north and east. Maine consultants describe the differences between the electorates in their two districts in lifestyle terms: The southern, liberal First is hiking and kayaking, the Second is hunting and fishing."

Expect Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to visit. "Palin status signifiers are familiar, even prosaic here: The moose-hunting, church-going hockey mom married to a snowmobiler is a well-established demographic," Issenberg writes. Christian Potholm, a political consultant and Bowdoin College government professor, told her, "A lot of eastern, western, and northern Maine is like Alaska in terms of the psychographics. In Palin's case, she will appeal to them with that attitude she brings. They're always angry about something, and she's angry." (Read more)

UPDATE, Oct. 5: Palin will be in Omaha tonight, "another sign that Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District is in play," reports Maggie O'Brien of the Omaha World-Herald. "It's rare for a member of the national ticket in either party to visit traditionally Republican Nebraska this late in a presidential campaign." (Read more) Oct. 6: Peter Slevin of The Washington Post checks out the district.

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