Perkasie: Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama sought to energize voter turnout on Saturday in the final, frenetic weekend of a long and grinding US presidential election campaign.
McCain spent the day in Virginia and Pennsylvania looking to turn out the vote on Tuesday. Virginia normally votes Republican but appears to be siding with Obama, while McCain is trying to steal traditionally Democratic Pennsylvania from Obama.
Obama, enjoying a lead in national polls and in many battleground states where the election will be decided, sought a knockout punch in three states that went for President George W. Bush in 2004 -- Nevada, Colorado and Missouri.
Nowhere to be seen on the campaign trail was Bush himself. With a popularity rating below 30%, Bush was not asked to campaign for McCain. Obama has consistently sought to portray his opponent as a Bush clone.
The Obama camp gleefully pointed out that Vice President Dick Cheney had spoken warmly of McCain in Cheney’s home state of Wyoming. McCain, in Springfield, Virginia, ridiculed Obama for a line in his stump speech in which the Democrat says his victory in the party’s primary had vindicated his faith in the American people.
Americans on Tuesday will vote in what amounts to 51 separate elections in each state and the District of Columbia. Each state has a number of electoral votes based on the size of its representation in Congress. Whichever candidate gets 270 electoral votes wins the White House.
They will choose between Illinois Sen. Obama, 47, who would be the country’s first black president, and Arizona Sen. McCain, 72, the former Vietnam prisoner of war who would be the oldest person ever elected to a first presidential term. If current polling is accurate and stands up on Election Day, Obama will win, possibly by a comfortable margin.
Signs of hope
But McCain and his aides see signs of hope from their own polling as well as some public opinion polls. A Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll released on Saturday said Obama’s lead over McCain dipped slightly to 5 points.
Obama’s aides say they have built a campaign operation aimed at winning close contests with hundreds of thousands of volunteers. The Obama campaign is so flush with cash that it took the step of buying advertising time in McCain’s home state of Arizona because aides sensed an opening there.
McCain sees his best chance to take away a traditionally Democratic state in Pennsylvania, where Obama has the lead. McCain campaigned in Pennsylvania after Virginia.
While Obama has many combinations of states that he can use to get to 270 electoral votes, McCain’s path is narrow. He has been mostly racing around states Bush won in 2004 trying to defend them.
In Newport News, McCain pounded away at what he considers his best theme, that Obama’s plan to tax Americans who make over $250,000 a year could well be extended to include people who make far less and push the economy deeper into crisis.