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McCain Just Says No to Indiana

A Democratic partisan in Indiana e-mailed to alert me to the Obama campaign’s organizaing efforts in the Hoosier State. Obama presently has 14 field offices open in Indiana, and according to both my source and an article in the Indianapolis Star, has plans to open about a dozen more. The head of Obama’s field operations in Indiana is Emily Parcell, who was Obama’s political director in the Iowa caucuses.

The McCain campaign, meanwhile, has no offices in Indiana, and doesn’t have plans to open any. From the Indianapolis Star article:

McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, is taking a different approach to Indiana.

Some might call it confident; some might call it laid-back at best.

Asked whether the campaign has any plans to open an office in Indiana, campaign spokeswoman Leah Yoon — who is based in Michigan, not Indiana — had a one-word answer: “No.”

I have suggested before that there is a certain arrogance in the way that the McCain campaign conceives of the electoral map. While they have come around on states like Virginia, they have been slow to acknowledge that Obama has any chance in states like Montana, Indiana, and North Dakota, where polling has indicated a tight race. There have been seven Indiana polls conducted since April; McCain led in four of those polls, while Obama led in the other three.

Our demographic model thinks that Obama is somewhat defying gravity in Indiana and that McCain remains the slight favorite. Nevertheless, it thinks that Indiana will play a more central role in determining the outcome of the election than other ostensible swing states like Missouri, Wisconsin, Oregon or North Carolina. And one needn’t go back very far to remember what happens when one campaign competes in a state and the other doesn’t. Think of Obama’s half-hearted efforts to compete in Kentucky, West Virginia and South Dakota in the Democratic primaries, and what happened to his results there. Likewise, consider the way that the Clinton campaign tried to hedge its bets in South Carolina and Wisconsin, and how voters in those states reacted. Or, consider the entire strategy of the Rudy Giuliani campaign outside the state of Florida.

Obama will spend nearly 24 consecutive hours in South Bend, Indiana on Tuesday and Wednesday, leading to speculation that he could name Evan Bayh as his Vice Presidential nominee. Should Obama take advantage of the opportunity in Indiana and pick Bayh? Perhaps; Bayh is exceptionally popular in Indiana, including with independents and many Republicans. But that might also give the McCain campaign an excuse to wake up and invest some resources in that state, which it is presently either too cocky or too afraid to betray weakness to do. It might be better to let the McCain campaign think it is calling a bluff, and instead show him a good hand.

Nate Silver is the founder and editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.