September 7, 2008
By RICHARD S. DUNHAM
The Houston Chronicle
ST. PAUL, MINN. — The confetti has been swept away. The bunting is boxed up. And John McCain and Barack Obama are hitting the campaign trail with gusto.
But as the two candidates and their running mates crisscross the country in search of the ever-elusive swing voter, the competing campaigns have mapped out very different paths to the presidency.
For the Democrats, the key to winning the White House is connecting with middle-class Americans who are struggling with rapidly escalating costs and global economic competition.
For the Republicans, the road to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. runs through Main Street, USA. McCain, Vietnam vet and Washington maverick, must convince economically stressed Middle America that he has the personal profile — tough, tested, honest, patriotic — that will make them safer and more prosperous. . .
"McCain cannot win on a standard 'we can do better than the other guys' line because Bush has trashed the Republican label," said Southern Methodist University political scientist Cal Jillson. "He has to run on character, touting his own and reducing Obama's to rubble."
Polls taken during the Republican convention show a tight race, with Obama leading on issues and McCain ahead on personal characteristics. The Democrat clearly has an edge with middle-class Americans: 60 percent of voters told the CBS/New York Times poll that Obama understood their needs and problems, compared with just 44 percent for McCain. On the flip side, voters by 46 percent to 24 percent said that McCain was better prepared to be commander-in-chief.
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SMU Political Scientist Cal Jillson talks about what McCain and Obama will have to do to succeed in the reace for the White House.