PRESIDENTIAL candidates Barack Obama and John McCain have entered the penultimate stage of their campaigns with negative attacks toned down in favour of filling voters with optimism.
The final week is traditionally used to ensure voters have a positive impression of the candidates before they are shepherded to the polls in the last 72-hours.
This weekend it inspired comic performances from both men on the stump and their surrogates followed suit.
Since moving past the negative stage McCain has been more relaxed. He laughed with a crowd in New Mexico on Saturday as he told them Obama had drafted his inaugural speech based on opinion polls.
McCain said when he won he would ask Obama for a copy of the speech and put it in the state museum beside an edition of the Chicago Tribune which mistakenly declared Herbert Hoover to have lost an election he in fact won.
McCain’s comment was based on a report in the New York Times which referred to notes made by a Democratic speech writer in spring when he was working for Hillary Clinton.
“Maybe I am a bit old fashioned. I prefer to let voters decide things,” McCain said and joked his Democratic rival probably had his first State of the Union address finished too.
Obama was just as pepped-up in Colorado, quipping McCain and President George W Bush were akin to Batman and Robin.
His running mate Joe Biden said the Republican candidate criticising the outgoing president was like Butch Cassidy turning his gun on the Sundance Kid.
The shift in emphasis has been matched by more focused campaigning. After spreading the net across the mountainous western states late last week both campaigns have returned to go toe-to-toe in the eastern battlegrounds.
First up is the traditionally Republican state of Virginia where on Saturday Biden hosted a rally at a rural high-school outside the Virginian town of Suffolk.
That night musician Dave Mathews played at an Obama benefit concert in the state’s capital and today Sarah Palin will speak at two rallies here.
From here the campaigns will return to Florida where they are effectively tied in the polls and on to Ohio where Obama leads.
According to the polls McCain’s prospects of winning Iowa are slim but his visit there yesterday revealed a strategy to galvanise conservatives in the rural parts of mid-western America.
Both Palin and McCain have spent a lot of time this month campaigning in farming towns around Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, Indiana and Missouri — rather than pitching for the urban centres.
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