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McCain's Political Director on Hillary Voters: "We Feel We Have a Very Good Shot At" Picking Them Up

(CBS)
From CBS News' Chip Reid:

(GREEN BAY, WISC.) - In my report on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric tonight I touched on the Republican strategy in battleground states, particularly in the Midwest, but I didn't have enough time to get into much detail. So here's a little of what was left on the cutting room floor.

We interviewed the McCain campaign's political director, Mike DuHaime, and he talked about how the campaign is targeting Democrats who haven't been sold on Barack Obama.

"There is no shortage of Democrats who are right now not ready to vote for Senator Obama" he told us. "They have questions about his leadership and his readiness to be President."

And a lot of them, DuHaime says, are frustrated Hillary Clinton supporters: "There are certainly a lot of Democrats, some maybe who didn't vote in the primaries, certainly some who did vote for Hillary Clinton, who we feel we have a very good shot at."

So how are they going about it? They're "microtargeting".

They look for areas where there are heavy concentrations of Democrats, especially counties where conservative Democrats predominate, and where large majorities voted for Clinton in the primary. And there are plenty of these target-rich environments in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota -- even Ohio.

A good example -- northeastern Ohio, in the vicinity of Youngstown. That's one reason they held a rally with Sarah Palin (their first rally together after her return from Alaska) in Vienna, Ohio on Tuesday. (Pronounced Vye-enna, by the way.) There are heavy concentrations of Hillary Dems there, and the McCain campaign sees them as ripe for the picking, and they think McCain has what they're looking for.

"I think what we're seeing is that record that Senator McCain has, that streak of independence, is certainly something that is appealing to everyone across the spectrum of the entire electorate," DuHaime says, "so we're seeing an awful lot of Democratic-independents coming our way and a big chunk of independents as well."

There's no way to confirm or disprove that statement. There are no polls reaching that far down.

And of course, they're also hoping Palin will appeal to some Democratic voters here, especially women; but I can tell you from my time following McCain and Palin for the past 3 weeks, the vast, overwhelming majority of people who are flooding these rallies to chant "Sarah, Sarah, Sarah" are hard-core Christian conservatives who never would have dreamed of voting for Hillary.

The McCain campaign's goal is not to swing entire regions of Dems to McCain -- they know that's not going to happen. But if they can move the needle a few percentage points in Democratic areas, they hope that will be enough to make the difference in a close race in one or more of these vital midwestern battleground states.

  • Chip Reid

    Chip Reid is CBS News' national correspondent.