Barack Obama offered his closing argument in the race for the White House today as he returned to his message of hope for America and linked Republican rival John McCain to increasingly unpopular President George Bush.
With just eight days to go until election day, Mr Obama is looking to consolidate his lead in national polls as he lays out the choice facing the nation.
Mr McCain faces internal party disputes as he tries to paint his Democratic rival and a Democrat-controlled US Congress as “dangerous” for America.
Speaking in Canton, in the key battleground state of Ohio, Mr Obama said: “In one week, you can put an end to the politics that would divide a nation just to win an election; that tries to pit region against region, city against town, Republican against Democrat; that asks us to fear at a time when we need hope.
“In one week, at this defining moment in history, you can give this country the change it needs.”
The 47-year-old Illinois senator went on: “After 21 months and three debates, Senator McCain still has not been able to tell the American people a single major thing he’d do differently from George Bush when it comes to the economy.
“Senator McCain says that we can’t spend the next four years waiting for our luck to change, but you understand that the biggest gamble we can take is to embrace the same old Bush-McCain policies that have failed us for the last eight years. We can’t afford to take that risk.”
Mr Obama said his rival did not represent change for America and added: “That’s why he’s spending these last weeks calling me every name in the book.
“Because that’s how you play the game in Washington. If you can’t beat your opponent’s ideas you distort those ideas and maybe make some up.
“If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run away from. You make a big election about small things.
“Ohio, we’re here to say: ’Not this time; not this year; not when so much is at stake.’”
The latest average of national polls by RealClearPolitics.com puts Mr Obama more than seven points ahead of Mr McCain, for whom time is running out.
McCain campaign insiders have started apportioning blame for the Republican’s faltering campaign even before the race is over.
His surprise choice of Alaska governor Sarah Palin would be central to any post mortem. McCain campaign aides have accused her of acting “like a diva”, contradicting the campaign’s official stance in public, and “positioning herself for her own future” in the 2012 Republican presidential primary contest.
Her rallies frequently attract more than 10,000 people but Mr McCain’s are always held in smaller, more intimate arenas with an audience of about 1,000.
Recently, Mrs Palin has criticised the campaign’s use of automated phone calls and told reporters the McCain campaign was not “giving up” on Michigan even as it withdrew resources from the state.
The US website Politico.com also reported she feared McCain campaign aides were “going to try and shred her” after the election. It also reported she blamed them for arranging her initial TV interviews which were widely seen as disastrous.
However, Mr McCain told NBC’s Meet the Press yesterday that he was “so proud of her”.
Earlier today, at a press conference in Cleveland, Ohio, Mr McCain aimed to strengthen his economic stance and said Mr Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate majority leader Harry Reid represented “a dangerous threesome” for America.
The Democrats could establish a filibuster-proof majority in the US Senate if they win nine seats on November 4. They are also widely expected to retain control of Congress’ lower house, the House of Representatives.
Control of both houses, and the presidency, would hand the Democrats power unrivalled in Washington since Democratic President Lyndon Johnson in 1965 – and has led to Republican fears of a lack of checks and balances, the foundation of the US system.
“With one week left in this campaign, the choice facing Americans is stark,” the 72-year-old Arizona senator said. “My economic goals and policies are very clear.”
He said he would protect Americans’ savings and retirement accounts, get the stock market rising, help keep people in their homes and “create millions of high-paying jobs”.
“We need action today, even as we lay the foundation for growth tomorrow,” he said. “This election comes down to how you want your hard earned money spent. Do you want to keep it and invest it in your future?
“Or have it taken by the most liberal person to ever run for the presidency and the Democratic leaders who have been running Congress for the past two years - Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid? This is a dangerous threesome.”
He added he would bring “enormous talent” from outside Washington, “to shake up the government and get it working to promote economic growth and jobs for the American people”.
“My team and I will take action to put an end to this economic crisis, restore confidence in our markets, get stock and home prices moving up again, grow businesses, create jobs and restore the great American dream,” he said.