WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. presidential candidate John McCain plans a wide-ranging campaign that would go after voters often ignored by his Republican party, which in the past has focused on getting conservatives to the polls.
“We need to go all over America ... (and) compete hard in every section of the country,” McCain, the party’s presumptive nominee, said on “Fox News Sunday” in an interview taped on Friday.
McCain, who still has not won over many conservatives, made clear he planned a broader campaign than those waged by President George W. Bush when he faces either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton as the Democratic candidate in the November election.
The Arizona senator said he would go after votes of blacks and Hispanics, two traditionally strong Democratic blocs, as well as independents and young voters who have been attracted to the Democratic campaigns this year.
“I‘m not sure that the old red state, blue state scenario that prevailed for the last several elections works,” McCain said, referring to the way television networks depict Republican states as red and Democratic states as blue on election night.
“I think most of these states that we have either red or blue are going to be up for grabs.”
As an example he promised a fight for California which has become heavily Democratic over the past two decades and has often been written off by Republicans.
Before Democrats can start concentrating on the November election they must pick a nominee and Obama, an Illinois senator, and Clinton, the New York senator and former first lady, have two more months of nomination contests to go.
Their next battleground is Pennsylvania on April 22 but this weekend they were in Montana, a large, sparsely-populated state that rarely gets any political notice.
In a race where every delegate to the party convention that picks the nominee is fought over, Montana’s contest on the last primary day of the year, June 3, has taken on unexpected importance. In recent elections, the party’s nominee has been chosen by states holding early contests.
“I, for one, am pretty pleased that Montana is going to have the last say in who we’re going to nominate for the presidency of the United States,” Clinton said during a campaign stop in Missoula, Montana.
The New York senator was the only candidate on the campaign trail on Sunday. All three return to the U.S. Senate this week where the Iraq war will be center stage when Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander on the ground, testifies before Congress.
Obama, who would be the first black U.S. president, is leading the race for the 2,024 delegates for the nomination but will not be able to reach that figure when all the primaries are over and in fact trails in polls in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a Clinton supporter, predicted on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that she would win by five to 10 percentage points. The state’s Democratic senator, Robert Casey, an Obama backer, agreed “It’s going to be tough.”
Some Democrats worry a prolonged fight will split the party into two camps, alienate voters and strengthen McCain.
“An awful lot of Democrats, even those who are supporting Hillary Clinton in this case, are beginning to get nervous about where this is taking us -- putting at risk congressional races, Senate races, gubernatorial races and, candidly, the presidential race itself,” Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, an Obama supporter, said on CNN’s “Late Edition.”
But party chairman Howard Dean disagreed.
“The fact of the matter is we’re having record turnouts everywhere,” Dean said on ABC’s “This Week.” “We get to run an election in Pennsylvania four or five months before the big election. We haven’t done that in years.”
He did acknowledge that at some point the infighting does become detrimental and again called for the superdelegates -- party officials and dignitaries who are not bound by any state voting and can go either way -- to step forward and make their preferences known before the end of June.
“The only thing that is going to make John McCain president is disunity among Democrats,” Dean said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
(Additional reporting by Thomas Ferraro and Ellen Wulfhorst, editing by Jackie Frank)
To read more about the U.S. political campaign, visit Reuters "Tales from the Trail: 2008" online at blogs.reuters.com/trail08/