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Starting Gate: One Week To Go

John McCain and the rest of the Republican Party are in dire need of some good news as campaign 2008 enters its final week. They aren't getting any.

The guilty verdict handed down in the trial of Alaska Senator Ted Stevens yesterday was just the latest blow to a party reeling from a political environment that threatens to bring deep and lasting damage in just seven days.

Stevens, who faced a tight re-election fight even had he been acquitted on corruption charges, is now clearly on the verge of defeat that could get Democrats one step closer to winning a 60-seat, filibuster-proof majority. That feat would leave the GOP with very little power with which to oppose legislation, judicial nominations or the Democratic agenda from sweeping through Congress.

Discord in the McCain campaign continues to leak into the press. Anonymous finger-pointing between Sarah Palin's camp and McCain advisers may be taking place at lower levels of the campaign but it's had a polarizing effect on a party that needs every last bit of energy directed towards turning out their voters on Election Day.

Already playing defense in must-win states like Florida and Ohio and GOP strongholds like Indiana, Colorado and Virginia, the RNC yesterday went up on the air in Montana – yes, Montana. A poll last week found Barack Obama with a slim lead in the Western state and Republicans must be seeing something that concerns them enough to divert precious resources into a state that should have been locked up before the race began.

Is there anything out there that constitutes good news for the McCain campaign? Not much. The much-predicted tightening of the polls has yet to begin in a substantial way, although a new Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll this morning has Obama with just a four-point lead and most of the battleground states remain competitive. The campaign is betting the ranch on Pennsylvania, a state they are stumping heavily in today. And they have tradition on their side, hoping that ingrained voting behavior and party loyalty will yet pull them back from the abyss.

But the Obama campaign continues to put the pedal down and has the resources to continue pressing the race not just in key states but also long-shots like Georgia. The candidate has purchased half an hour of airtime on three networks for tomorrow night to continue making his closing argument. Economic issues continue to dominate voter concerns and eclipse almost every other issue in the campaign.

It's often said that a week is an eternity in politics and that's true. But the seconds continue to tick away with very little for Republicans to feel good about seven days out.

Around The Track

  • John McCain this morning called for Senator Stevens to step down. In a statement, McCain said: "Yesterday, Senator Ted Stevens was found guilty of corruption. It is a sign of the health of our democracy that the people continue to hold their representatives to account for improper or illegal conduct, but this verdict is also a sign of the corruption and insider-dealing that has become so pervasive in our nation's capital. It is clear that Senator Stevens has broken his trust with the people and that he should now step down. I hope that my colleagues in the Senate will be spurred by these events to redouble their efforts to end this kind of corruption once and for all."
  • Barack Obama's campaign is asking supporters to take the day off on Election Day to volunteer for the campaign.
  • Republican Party leaders in key states are increasingly grumbling about the McCain campaign's strategy and utilization of resources, the Washington Times reports.
  • Washington Post's Howard Kurtz asks, what if the pundits are all wrong? -- "'If the mainstream media are wrong about Obama and the voters pull a Truman, that is going to be the end of whatever shred of credibility they have left,' says Tobe Berkovitz, associate dean of Boston University's College of Communication."