John McCain and Barack Obama are ending the presidential race with a furious sprint to the finish line. Most polls suggest that Obama is maintaining a lead both nationally and in several key battleground states, but McCain is nipping at his heels in some surveys.
In his concluding message, Obama has gone back to basics, arguing that it's time for a change and that McCain would continue the unpopular policies of fellow Republican George W. Bush. The Democratic nominee got last-minute reinforcement for this message over the weekend when Vice President Dick Cheney praised McCain and said he would vote for the Arizona senator. This prompted Obama to tell a rally in Columbus, Ohio: "With John McCain, you get a twofer: George Bush's economic policy and Dick Cheney's foreign policy." Obama's campaign also put together a TV ad linking McCain with Bush and Cheney.
In the run-up to Election Day, Obama planned visits to the usually GOP states of Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia before flying home to Chicago, and he planned an Election Day trip to Indiana, normally Republican but also in play this year for the Democrats. Joe Biden, Obama's vice presidential running mate, scheduled trips to Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
McCain planned last-minute visits to Florida, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Indiana, New Mexico, and Nevada before ending his campaign Monday night in his home state of Arizona. Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, his running mate, was traveling through Ohio, Missouri, Iowa, Colorado, and Nevada before ending her campaign in her home state of Alaska.
In Wallingford, Pa., McCain told a rally that he wouldn't be a clone of Bush or Cheney: "We need a new direction, and we have to fight for it," the GOP nominee said.
In another last-minute development, the Republican Party of Pennsylvania said it would immediately begin running a TV ad reminding voters of Obama's relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, his former pastor in Chicago. The state party declined to say how extensive the buy would be, suggesting that the ad might not be running in many places and that party strategists were hoping for extensive media coverage to spread the word. The ad features now famous clips of Wright condemning America. A narrator says, "Does that sound like someone who should be president?"
An explanation on the Pennsylvania GOP's website added: "We feel that it is necessary that the American people remember that Obama sat in a church and listened to this man preach hate for many, many years. What does that say about his judgment? Do we want the next president of the United States to have spent years listening to hateful rhetoric without having the good judgment to walk out?"
The Washington Post/ABC News tracking poll on Sunday gave Obama a lead of 9 percentage points over McCain nationally among likely voters, 53 to 44, a slight widening of his margin from a day earlier. What makes the endgame even more promising for Obama is that he is ahead, however slightly, in the six battleground states of Pennsylvania, Nevada, Iowa, New Mexico, Virginia, and Colorado and is about even with McCain in the normally GOP states of Ohio, Missouri, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, and Indiana.
Obama's get-out-the-vote drive also appeared to be superior to McCain's in most states.
But pollsters warned that some surveys found more support for McCain and more doubts about Obama than were indicated in the Post/ABC poll and that there could be a surprise on Election Day.