Obama takes White House battle to rival's home turf

Barack Obama is using his record levels of fundraising and grassroots organisation to take the fight to his Republican rival John McCain’s home turf in the final week of the race for the White House, US political pundits said today.

Both presidential candidates held simultaneous rallies in Pennsylvania today, but Obama campaign aides said it was the only traditionally Democratic-leaning state the Illinois senator planned to visit before November 4.

From today the battle to become the 44th president of the United States will take place on Republican-leaning turf as Mr Obama’s campaign expands the electoral map.

Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Indiana, North Carolina, Nevada, Missouri and Colorado are all key battlegrounds this year, all voted for Republican President George Bush in 2004, and Mr Obama leads in the latest polls in all 11 of these states.

Newt Gingrich, the former Republican house speaker, told the New York Times: “Any serious Republican has to ask, ’How did we get into this mess?’

“It’s not where we should be, and it’s not where we had to be. This was not bad luck.”

As the race heads towards its climax, Mr Obama also bought a 30-minute prime time infomercial which will be presented across the major US television networks tomorrow night – a rare and expensive move by a presidential candidate which could even delay the baseball World Series final.

In Florida, which offers 27 of the 270 electoral college votes needed to win the presidency, the Obama campaign is making a vigorous push after becoming convinced they can win the Sunshine State following two days of rallies there last week.

Tomorrow night it will host the first joint rally by Mr Obama and popular former President Bill Clinton.

Mr Obama’s vast fundraising has also enabled the Democrat to “obliterate” his rival on the state’s airwaves, Florida’s former Republican chairman Al Cardenas said.

“It’s tough to make up territory when the other guys are just obliterating you on the airwaves,” Mr Cardenas told the US political website Politico.com.

He conceded that Mr Obama, who has outspent Mr McCain by about three-to-one on adverts in the state since January last year, was ahead but insisted that the Republican had narrowed the gap.

Last week alone, Mr Obama enjoyed more than a four-to-one advantage on Florida TV, spending 4.2 million dollars (£2.7 million) compared with the Republican’s 1.1 million dollars (£700,000), according to the Campaign Media Analysis Group.

The Democrat has repeatedly broken fundraising records, bringing in 150 million dollars (£96.2 million) in September, more than double the record he set a month before.

And he opted out of public funding so is free to spend whatever he can raise in a bid to get elected, while Mr McCain is restricted to spending no more than 84.1 million dollars (£53.9 million) between his party’s national convention and the election a week today.

The Obama campaign’s extensive grassroots organisation and a get-out-the-vote drive has also turned what was about a 250,000-voter registration edge into a 650,000 advantage in the state.

In Pennsylvania today, Mr Obama urged against complacency as the latest average of national polls by RealClearPolitics.com gave him more than a six-point lead.

“In this last week we cannot afford to slow down, sit back or to let up,” he told about 9,000 people who were stood in mud at a cold and wet rally in Chester.

As the McCain campaign postponed a rally in Quakertown, Pennsylvania, due to bad weather, Mr Obama went on: “Whether it’s rain or sleet or snow, we are going to go out and we are going to vote because there’s too much at stake.

“There is too much at stake right now for us to back off. We are going to finish the job.”

Dressed in jeans, trainers and a rainproof coat, he added: “John McCain’s ridden shotgun as George Bush has driven our economy towards a cliff.

“And now he wants to take the wheel and step on the gas.”

Mr Obama, 47, even suggested a McCain administration would be worse than Mr Bush over the last eight years.

But in Hershey, Pennsylvania, the 72-year-old Republican suggested the Democrats were prematurely celebrating victory.

“What America needs now is someone who will finish the race before starting the victory lap, someone who will fight to the end, and not for himself but for his country,” Mr McCain said.

Nicolle Wallace, a senior McCain campaign adviser, told reporters: “We feel good that when people hear the message about spreading the wealth versus raising taxes, they respond.

“It’s just a matter of whether, given Obama’s saturation paid advertising, we can get the message out there.”

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