All Politics Is Not Local
Does it matter where candidates campaign?
Posted Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2008, at 3:30 PM
McCain and Palin have out-campaigned their opponents in Pennsylvania by a larger margin than in any other state, notching 35 appearances to 25 between Obama and Biden. Yet the state now rests comfortably in the blue column. Since June, no less, only three polls have found McCain tied with or leading Obama—and all three were in the two weeks after the Republican National Convention. McCain campaigned heavily in Pennsylvania in that span, making five stops between Aug. 30 and Sept. 11, twice with Palin.
Not coincidentally, those were McCain's best two weeks in the national polls, too, a bump largely attributed to the initial giddiness over Palin's selection and a calmer economic landscape. McCain is almost certain to lose the state, but it is not for lack of effort.
(Obama 16, Biden 9, Michelle Obama 2; McCain 5, Palin 6, Cindy McCain 2)
Obama made six unanswered stops in Virginia in July and August, then another eight after John McCain showed some belated interest in the formerly red state. But it wasn't until mid-September that Obama saw the first sign he was gaining any traction there. (McCain was in Virginia twice in June but didn't return until Sept. 10; his last visit was two weeks ago.) It's unclear whether Obama's campaigning, plus nine stops by Joe Biden since Sept. 4, have much to do with their eight-point lead; the break in Obama's favor since mid-September coincides almost exactly with his move ahead of McCain in national polls. That, in turn, coincides with the week the economy became unmoored.
The best theory one could give about Obama's attention to the Old Dominion is that it made Virginians more sympathetic to this general trend toward Obama. This hasn't been true everywhere. In other states where he was modestly behind in the early summer but has not since visited as frequently, like Indiana (five stops since July), the mid-September boost is much less evident.
We've set up heat maps of all the candidates' travels here. If you'd prefer to customize the timeline yourself, visit Map the Candidates. You can also use it to follow their travels for the remaining week of the campaign.
Chris Wilson is a Slate contributor.