If the candidates’ itineraries are a reflection of their internal polling and the morale at their campaigns, then Sarah Palin’s newly announced bus tour of West Virginia should tell you a lot.
CLEVELAND, Ohio (CNN) — In what may be another signal that the troubled economy is forcing John McCain’s campaign to play electoral map defense, Sarah Palin has scheduled a bus tour for Sunday through West Virginia, a state that’s been leaning red throughout this presidential race.
Palin had already scheduled a bus tour of Pennsylvania on Saturday, but she will now repeat that act on Sunday by making various unannounced stops throughout West Virginia, culminating in a campaign event in southeast Ohio. It’s a swing geographically reminiscent of Hillary Clinton’s effort during the Democratic primary to court white working class voters in Appalachia. Clinton won the West Virginia primary over Barack Obama by a whopping 67-26 margin.
Look at the map and you will find that McCain and Palin are playing a lot of defense trying to keep the states Bush won in 2004. They’ve conceded Michigan, and are largely focusing their efforts on the Big Three: Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania to a lesser degree.
Obama was routed by Hillary Clinton during the Democratic primaries in West Virginia and other neighboring white blue collar states. Polls show the race here is tightening, and a recent ARG poll gives Obama an 8-point lead, although this one is probably an outlier. If he can rally a unified Democratic base along with riding a wave of national disillusionment largely driven by the state of the economy, he may be able to make a last minute run at winning West Virginia.
As we enter the home stretch before the election, the pattern is holding. Barack Obama’s map to 270 is expanding, while McCain’s has remained stagnant and is limited to holding the Bush states from 2000 and 2004.
Update: According to Ben Smith, Palin landed in West Virginia but went campaigning in Ohio. State Democrats held several counter-events over the weekend.