Plouffe on McCain's "high-water mark"

Barack Obama's campaign manager says that John McCain will only see his numbers dip from now on. But with the GOP convention coming up, is he right to be so confident?

Published August 28, 2008 3:47PM (EDT)

DENVER -- "We think that McCain is at more of a high-water mark right now than we are," David Plouffe, Barack Obama's campaign manager said Wednesday, expressing his conviction that the presumptive Republican nominee is about to see his support among women and undecided voters erode.

But the notion that this is John McCain's high-water mark is not exactly confidence-inspiring, since Plouffe was speaking to reporters at an event hosted by Time magazine on the same afternoon that his boss was becoming the official presidential nominee of the Democratic Party. We're smack in the middle of what should be the Democrats' loudest, proudest and most aggressive gathering. And we're only days away from a Republican convention that, with Rudy Giuliani as its keynote speaker, is likely to look a lot more like a bloody hockey game (starring Obama as the puck) than the curling match that had taken place in Denver until the Clintons and Joe Biden goosed the proceedings.

Plouffe, who was joined by Obama spokesman Dan Pfeiffer, gave Time writers Jay Carney and Karen Tumulty first crack before he took questions from other journalists. Asked about possible second thoughts about Obama's plan to give his Thursday night speech in the monstrously large Invesco Field, Pfeiffer and Plouffe emphasized that it was a strategic move designed to increase their chances of winning Colorado. "We're thrilled with it," Plouffe said. "Colorado is a big battleground state and if it slips into the Obama column and out of the McCain column [McCain] will be in big trouble."

Plouffe also emphasized his confidence about close races in states, especially Western and Southern states, where, he said, the Obama campaign "has an ability to readjust the electorate" by bringing out African-Americans and young people who have not voted in past elections and who may not be reflected in current polling. "We don't want to just increase African-American turnout," said Plouffe, "but for it to be the highest it's ever been in history. We want not just increased turnout among voters under the age of 30, but for it to be the highest it's ever been."

Even in a state like Ohio, which has a less flexible electorate, Plouffe said that if McCain replicates George W. Bush's 2004 numbers, it might not be good enough, since he's counting on Obama bringing out "a lot more voters than John Kerry did." The difference, he said, is Obama's field operation. "One thing we never run into out there is McCain people on the ground," he said. McCain, Plouffe argued, "is obsessed with chasing news stories" and creating media cycles while Obama is still focused on the grass-roots campaign that won him the primary, and the conviction that the best way of convincing an undecided voter is to have a friend, family member or colleague tell the voter about Barack Obama. Of course, Plouffe did not address the possibility that if John McCain is controlling the news cycle, that friend, family member or colleague is probably telling the undecided voter that Barack Obama is a Muslim.

By Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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2008 Elections Barack Obama John Mccain R-ariz.