Barack Obama and John McCain headed into the final weekend of the presidential campaign today focused tightly on the economy.
Mr Obama is looking to expand his base while Mr McCain is fighting to hold what were previously Republican bastions.
Mr McCain spent today rumbling across Ohio by bus, telling voters he feels their economic pain and hoping to lay claim to its 20 electoral votes. Aides say the campaign believes he probably has to win Ohio to be elected, and they did not rule out returning to the state before voting begins on Tuesday.
Mr Obama spent the day on a campaign rush across the Midwest, with a quick stop home in Chicago to see his family. He makes his first stop back where his run began, in Des Moines, Iowa, where he upset Hillary Clinton in the first electoral test of the year.
Independent polling in Iowa shows Mr Obama consistently ahead in the race for the state’s seven electoral votes, but Mr McCain’s campaign maintains the race is actually tighter than it appears.
After stopping at home for Halloween, Mr Obama will head for a rally in Gary, Indiana, where Republicans are dominant but polls show the race tight.
Sprinting into the weekend, Mr Obama will go West, hoping to claim Colorado and maybe more. Mr McCain will fly to Virginia, usually friendly country for the Republicans but another place where polls give Mr Obama the edge.
McCain aides said the Arizona senator was likely to swing West also, to play to his base. A recent poll from Mr McCain’s home state showed the two candidates in a statistical dead heat.
There was nothing complicated about their closing arguments to voters, with the economy the top concern. Mr Obama focused on linking Mr McCain to an unpopular President Bush and blaming them both for the nation’s economic woes.
“John McCain has been right next to George Bush,” Mr Obama argued. “He’s been sitting there in the passenger seat ready to take over every step of the way.”
Mr McCain had hoped the election would turn on issues like the Iraq war, where he could use his military background to convince voters he’s the best choice as commander in chief. But he effectively has conceded that it’s all about the economy and people’s financial struggles.
“Ohio is hurting,” Mr McCain said. “People in Ohio are having trouble staying in their homes, keeping their jobs. We have to get this economy out of the ditch.”
Mr McCain was missing few tricks, campaigning with Joe the Plumber, the Ohio man Mr McCain has made central to his stump speech since the plumber confronted Mr Obama over raising taxes. The plumber, Joe Wurzelbacher, of Toledo, Ohio, has joined Mr McCain for the final push.
Mr Obama has an edge in most polling, both nationally and in key states. His closing schedule reflected that, including a swing through Missouri and another full day in Ohio on Sunday. Ohio provided the margin of victory four years ago, giving Mr Bush a second term.