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5. Use A Vice President to Temper The Age Issue
McCain's campaign is resigned to the fact that late night comics are foaming at the prospect of six more months worth of Old Man McCain jokes. And polls show that the Republican's age he will be 72 by Election Day could have an impact at the ballot box. But both McCain and his advisers have been pointing to a prospect they hope will neutralize the issue: a relatively youthful vice president, who might lesson the fear of, gulp, McCain's death in office. "I'm aware of enhanced importance of this issue given my age," McCain told Don Imus recently, when asked about his vice presidential pick. A few weeks later, campaign adviser Charlie Black elaborated on the assumed power of a solid vice presidential candidate. Back in 1980, Black recounted, Ronald Reagan was running for President as an older man at 69. "The day he picked George Bush to be vice president, the age issue pretty much went away," Black recalled. "If [McCain] makes a good choice, that might alleviate the issue."
6. Make Inroads Among Traditional Democratic Voters
These days Republicans love to talk about the larger crossover vote that McCain wins in the early and unreliable general matchup polls. In one Pew poll from late February, as many as 14 percent of Democrats say they will vote for McCain, compared to eight percent of Republicans who say they will vote for Obama. With so many months before the election, these numbers are not very meaningful. But they point to a key goal of the McCain campaign: upset the traditional partisan divide with a new generation of McCain-o-Crats. This is a defensive strategy as much as an offensive one, given the nine-point advantage that Democrats have in party identification nationwide. (According to another recent Pew poll, only 36 percent of registered voters identify themselves as Democrats and 27 percent as Republicans, the lowest G.O.P. number in at least 16 years.) Campaign staff say they see hope in Obama's recent trouble shoring up the Democratic base of working-class voters.
7. Rely on the Historic RNC Advantage
March was a good example of the disparity between the two candidates' financial machines. McCain attended 26 fund raisers in 24 cities, raising about $15 million. Obama, who was still engaged in a nomination fight, raised more than $40 million, and attended just six fund raisers. God bless the Internet. Much of that Obama money will now be channeled into a major voter registration and get-out-the-vote operation. The McCain campaign hopes to contain the Obama advantage by depending heavily on the Republican Party machinery, which has a historically superior general election get-out-the-vote operation. As a result, the campaign has been encouraging wealthy donors to give even after they have reached their $2,300 donation limit for McCain. Under a program called "McCain Victory '08," donors are encouraged to give up to $70,000 to state and national party funds. After the general election, McCain is likely to accept $84 million in public financing to carry his campaign through the final two months. With the voter files of the Republican Party, they expect to reduce Obama's big money advantage to a curious historical footnote.