From NBC's Domenico Montanaro and Mark Murray
Despite public polling to the contrary, the McCain campaign claims to be "dead even" in Iowa.
"He has similar polling," Campaign Manager Rick Davis said of Obama during a conference call with reporters. "He's headed back there."
Obama held an event today in Des Moines and will take his daughters trick-or-treating in Chicago tonight. Iowa borders Obama's home state of Illinois. Obama also skipped an event in the state when he left the trail to visit his ailing grandmother in Hawaii.
A Mason-Dixon poll, conducted Oct. 22-23, showed Obama up 51%-40% in Iowa. A Marist College poll, conducted in the same period, showed Obama up 52%-42%. Research 2000, conducted Oct. 19-22, showed Obama up 54%-39%. There have been no reliable polls in the past week.
Davis and political director Mike Duhaime (formerly Giuliani's campaign manager) urged reporters to not underestimate their ground game. They cited the millions of dollars the Republican National Committee has poured in. Davis called it "historic" and said it has "exceeded any campaign ever." Davis said the RNC-McCain campaign have spent about $325 million. Duhaime said the RNC has 1.1 million volunteers.
McCain pollster Bill McInturff (formerly the Republican part of the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll) stressed that Republican voter intensity is on the rise and urged caution on some polling, because of what he believes is some have been showing too-high Democratic to Republican party identification advantage. He believes Party ID will skew about three to five points in favor of the Democrats on Election Day.
The Oct. 17-20 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll had a five-point Party ID advantage (41%-36% with 17% strictly Independent) for Democrats and showed Obama up 10 percentage points.
"I think this is going to be a close popular-vote race, a close electoral vote race," Davis said. "We see a close race today, doesn't matter what it was 10 days ago."
Davis continued: "We had a saying during the primary, 'Believe your eyes.' There was not a single poll that showed us up in a lot of the primaries; we're confident we can accomplish the same thing in the general election. we have no indication to the otherwise."
But that's not exactly true.
Before the New Hampshire primary: The NBC/Mason-Dixon poll had McCain up over Romney, 32%-24%; USA Today/Gallup: McCain 34%, Romney 30%, Huckabee 13%; CNN/WMUR: McCain 32%, Romney 26%, Huckabee 14%, Giuliani 11%, Paul 10%.
Before South Carolina: Three Republican polls showed McCain up with Huckabee narrowly trailing and Romney and Thompson battling for third.
Before Florida: Quinnipiac: McCain at 32%, Romney at 31%, Giuliani at 14%, and Huckabee at 13%; Miami Herald: McCain 25%-23%
The NBC/Mason-Dixon poll (released 1/24) did have Romney up.
INDIANA: When asked what the campaign is doing in Indiana, since Palin has been there and Mccain has not, Davis said, "I have a sneaking suspicion that you'll see him before the campaign is over."
He then cited the efforts by Mitch Daniels, who "has towed a lot of the effort. We value Indiana; We know Obama has put in a lot of resources. I am really bullish we'll close strong there and be able to pick up a win there.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Davis dismissed polling in the state showing McCain down by as much as double digits.
"There is not one state that shows more of a disparity in public polling numbers," Davis said, adding, "John McCain has always closed incredibly strong in New Hampshire. We think New Hampshire has always been a battleground. We wouldnt go there just for nostalgia purposes. We want to win."
He continued, "New Hampshire is a tough state to poll." He also said he was confident in the field organization in the state and that on the issue of taxes, Granite Staters should prefer McCain.
"Frankly, since Joe the Plumber has come on the scene," Davis said, crediting Joe with getting Obama to admit to wanting to "spread the wealth" and that Obama's plan for "cutting taxes for 90% of people is just hogwash."
"The state of New Hampshire is going to be a barn burner," he said.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this post inaccurately noted that Obama would be trick-or-treating in Iowa with his daughters.]