McCain To Stop Fight for Michigan

Polls Show Him Trailing in State

Sen. Barack Obama greets supporters after a rally at Michigan State University to encourage voter registration.
Sen. Barack Obama greets supporters after a rally at Michigan State University to encourage voter registration. (By Bill Pugliano -- Getty Images)
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Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, October 3, 2008; Page A08

EAST LANSING, Mich., Oct. 2 -- Sen. John McCain on Thursday officially abandoned his efforts to win in Michigan, deeming it a lost cause after internal polls showed the Republican presidential nominee trailing badly in the economically hard-hit state, according to officials with the campaign and the state party.

McCain will cease airing television ads in the state, and most of his staff will be redirected to other battlegrounds, including Maine, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, campaign officials said. Plans for direct mail in Michigan will be canceled and no new field offices will be opened as the campaign enters its final weeks.

In the face of falling poll numbers in a number of key swing states, McCain senior adviser Greg Strimple called Michigan "the worst state of all of the states that are in play. It's an obvious one, from my view, to come off the list."

McCain made that call as his rival, Sen. Barack Obama, pressed his advantage in the Wolverine State with two big rallies where he accused the Republican of being part of the problem that led to the nation's current financial crisis.

"Over the past few days, he's talked a lot about getting tough on Wall Street, but over the past few decades, he's fought against the very rules of the road that could have stopped this mess," Obama told thousands gathered at Michigan State University here.

Predicting that the monthly federal job report that will be released Friday will show an increase in unemployment for the ninth straight month, Obama again cast the senator from Arizona as out of touch, saying that "he just doesn't get it."

"Just the other week, my opponent, John McCain, said, and I quote, 'The fundamentals of the economy are strong,' " Obama said. "Well, I don't know what yardstick Senator McCain uses, but where I come from, there's nothing more fundamental than a job."

Public polls in the state show Obama with a clear edge and with momentum on his side. The senator from Illinois hit 51 percent in the new Seltzer and Co. poll for the Detroit Free Press, stretching 13 points ahead of McCain in Michigan.

Obama has made his own strategic retreats, scaling back his initial ambitions for a "50-state" strategy by pulling out of states such as Georgia, North Dakota and Alaska after polls showed the Republican opening a wide lead in them.

As is the case in national polling, it appears to be Obama's edge on handling the economy that has propelled him to the top of the polls in Michigan. In the Free Press survey, Obama held a 15-point lead on fixing problems with the national economy, and had an even bigger edge -- 20 points -- on the question of which candidate is "more likely to fight for the concerns most important to you and your family."

Michigan Republican officials said they received the call from McCain headquarters about noon informing them of the decision to pull out of the state, which Democratic nominees won in 2004 and 2000.

"They said they are pulling the trigger, and that was it. No explanation as to why," said Bill Nowling, a spokesman for the state party. "Obviously, everybody is disappointed. It sends a message to people that Michigan is lost. I don't think that is necessarily true."

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