The Final McCain Team Spin: A Teleconference With McCain’s Staff

by John Hawkins | October 31, 2008 11:50 am

I have eschewed McCain campaign teleconferences for a long while (details here[1]), but I got invited to one today and decided to go to get the campaign’s final spin on the election.

The McCain team members there were,

Rick Davis, Campaign Manager, McCain-Palin 2008
Bill Mcinturff, Pollster, McCain-Palin 2008
Mike Duhaime, National Political Director, McCain-Palin 2008
Christian Ferry, Deputy Campaign Manager, McCain-Palin 2008

Here are my notes, not quotes, from the teleconference (I cut out the fluff and tried to keep down to the basics).

Rick Davis, Campaign Manager, McCain-Palin 2008

* We are witnessing one of the greatest comebacks since McCain won the primary.

* McCain’s crowds are growing and Palin is a big boost to the ticket. She was in the same area as Biden last night. He had 800 people attending his rally. She had 20,000.

* We have the momentum. We have increased our gains in almost every battleground state in the last week. We think we have shaken off the effects of the bailout that hurt our numbers.

* Obama is going to Iowa even though that state is supposed to be safe. Our internal data says we are even in Iowa.

Bill Mcinturff, Pollster, McCain-Palin 2008

* Every exit poll from 1992 has had a 5 point Democratic ID edge maximum. On election day, I believe the GOP is going to be -3 to -5 behind the Democrats and McCain has always run ahead of party ID. Some of these pollsters have much higher levels than that and that accounts for the inflated poll numbers.

* It is extremely hard for a Democrat to get 50% over the vote and Obama is going to have a lot of difficulty pulling it off.

* Turnout is going to be huge. We are seeing levels of intensity we have never seen before. That can affect the polls.

Rick Davis, Campaign Manager, McCain-Palin 2008

* We’ve spent 325 million so far between McCain and the RNC. This is the most ever spent in Republican Party history.

Mike Duhaime, National Political Director, McCain-Palin 2008

* We have a data and technology edge over the Democrats. We have better microtargeting than the Democrats.

* 1.3 million targeted phone calls and door knocks in the last day. We have done many phone calls and targeted more door knocks than 2004.


* There has been a 16% increase in voter contacts over the 2004 campaign.

Rick Davis, Campaign Manager, McCain-Palin 2008

* There is record turn-out in early vote, absentee vote — whole thing. The demographics of early voting are very similar to 2000 and 2004. In states like Nevada and Florida, the demographics look very similar. Look at absentee and early vote percentages — there are more people, but the breakdown is not significantly different than in previous elections.

* From what we can tell, Obama’s infomercial was primarily seen by his supporters and it didn’t help him according to any of the ads we’ve seen. We don’t see any evidence that the infomercial did anything but help him communicate with his base.

* Over the course of the last 10 days or so, the 27th through the election, we think we will outspend Obama by about 10 million dollars. They’re going to spend more money in Arizona, North Dakota, and Georgia, but they’re going to lose all those states. McCain will outspend Obama on TV on the last days.


Chicago Tribune: Where is McCain going?

He’s going to Ohio and New Hampshire. Monday, he’ll hit 7 cities in 7 different states before ending up in Arizona.

Dana Bash, CNN: Can you talk more about the ad spending. Have you been saving funds?

Obama spent a lot more in the two weeks after the bailout. But, between us and the RNC, we will spend more in the last week.

Mike Bender, Palm Beach Post: Has Crist’s early voting had an impact by extending the voting hours?

We think it’s a good idea, but we don’t know. We think we’re doing very well in early voting.

Indianapolis Star: It looks neck and neck in Indiana. We have seen Palin, but not McCain.

Rasmussen shows us up 3 points there and McCain will probably be there before the end of the election.

New Hampshire Union Leader: Given the polling, why is McCain coming here? What are you seeing?

New Hampshire polling is all over the map. McCain always does well in New Hampshire. We aren’t going there just for nostalgia. We think our field organization there is very strong. New Hampshire loves to vote for people who cut their taxes. Since Joe the Plumber came on the scene, it has helped us.

Summary: There were some chunks of useful information in there. It certainly sounds like the GOP’s get out the voter operation is doing even better than 2004, which was something I had been worried about. It’s also good to know that McCain will have the money to be competitive in the last 10 days or so.

Also, I think that there is something to the idea that SOME of these pollsters are way oversampling Democrats and Obama’s strongest constituencies and that McCain is closing strong. What that could mean is that the McCain campaign and the GOP in general, will do better than they appear to be doing in the polls right now. Unfortunately, McCain needs to do a lot better than he is looking in the polls right now to pull it off. Although they tried to put a good face on things, I didn’t get that impression from the teleconference. We’ll know how it plays out soon enough.

Update #1: According to this link[2], the campaign’s claims about their fantastic turnout operation are complete vapor.

So, who’s right? The campaign that says the GOTV operation is awe inspiring and better than 2004 or the link, that says it’s horrible? I tend to think the link and I’ll tell you why; the base is completely depressed and demoralized. Since that’s the case, I can’t imagine that conservatives are volunteering to help out at anywhere near the pace that they did in 2004 and free labor is usually the backbone of these operations.

  1. details here:
  2. this link:

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