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Why Obama should visit Alaska, Part II

Two more reasons why Barack Obama should visit Alaska — and soon:

Firstly, John McCain would face a tough choice between potentially watching the state flip to Obama and having to pay a visit himself. Apart from the jet lag, what is the downside of visiting Alaska? The McCain team seems to have a fear of acknowledging weakness on the electoral map; hence, their reticence to admit that Virginia (among others) is a swing state. It’s one thing for McCain to visit Kentucky or Louisiana — states that are not especially competitive this year, but that went Democratic as late as 1996. But Alaska has always been as red as red gets. So McCain either looks like he’s in panic mode because he has to visit Alaska, or with a little luck for Obama, a poll will come out later this summer showing Obama a couple of points ahead, which might also trigger some bad press for McCain.

Secondly, Obama could force McCain to clarify his position on drilling the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). McCain has now come out in favor of offshore drilling, but gave a non-answer answer to a Missourian’s question about ANWR drilling today, which McCain has consistently and somewhat vocally opposed doing in the past. Most Alaskans want to drill the ANWR, so McCain would either have to (i) explain why he wants to drill everywhere else but not the ANWR — not an easy sell to Alaskans or (ii) come out in favor of ANWR drilling, which creates a much clearer flip-flop from his previous record. Obama, though he also holds a position on ANWR that would be unpopular with the locals (and probably the rest of the country), can at least place a claim to being consistent. Obama is not going to be able to flip the the offshore drilling issue like he did the gas tax — it is too easy for McCain to frame it as a matter of national security — but at least he would be staging the issue in such a way as to encourage McCain to flop.

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