New York, Oct 17 : Republican John McCain for the last 19 days of the presidential campaign will be playing nothing but defense as the global financial crisis, coupled with his rival Barack Obama's steady performance through the three presidential debates, have left him with an extremely difficult path to the White House.
The Washington Post reported that McCain has been unable to pick off any state won by the Democrats four years ago, and he must prevent Obama from winning any of half a dozen Republican states that now appear vulnerable.
Republican strategists see trouble almost everywhere, facing the prospect of not only losing the White House but seeing Democratic majorities in the House and Senate grow as well.
That could force a competition for resources during the final weeks, but strategists said a McCain comeback would be most helpful in relieving some of the pressure on other GOP candidates, the paper said.
The Republican brand is in trouble for all these guys, said Alex Castellanos, a party strategist.
"It seems like an eternity ago, but it was only a few weeks, that the Republican brand was defined as populist, outsiders, McCain-Palin who are going to change Washington. Now we're back to a Republican brand that is George Bush, economy, and Wall Street and Washington insiders. That's hurt everybody," he said.
Without a shift of voters back toward McCain, Republican candidates and party leaders may be forced in the next two weeks to confront the question of whether they should move more money to targeted congressional races to hold down anticipated losses in the House or Senate, or continue to try to hold the line for McCain in the Republican battlegrounds.
On the day after their clash at Hofstra University, Obama warned his supporters against overconfidence, while McCain sought to convince his that, despite national and state polls that show him trailing, there is time enough left to turn the race back in his direction.
The strategists in both camps have virtually conceded Iowa and New Mexico, two states won narrowly by Bush in 2004, to Obama.
McCain's campaign and the RNC still point to Pennsylvania and, to a lesser extent, New Hampshire, as potential pickups. But McCain has so many red states to defend that he may not have either the time or the money to convert Democratic turf.
Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said that, in addition to Iowa and New Mexico, he feels increasingly good about Virginia and Colorado.
If Obama holds all the states Democrats won in 2004 and adds Iowa and New Mexico to his column, then he will need only one of those two to win the election.