Candidates sprint to the finish line

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UPDATE 2:

With the hours draining away, rivals Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois and Sen. John McCain of Arizona were taking the long way home in a final lap of frenzied campaigning of a nearly two-year presidential quest.

With polls suggesting Mr. McCain faces a steep uphill path to an upset victory, the Republican began the day in Florida, followed by lightning stops in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Indiana, New Mexico and Nevada before returning to Prescott, Arizona to cast his ballot.

Mr. Obama, aiming to pad his lead by campaigning in states won by President Bush in 2004, also started the day in Florida and traveled on to North Carolina and Northern Virginia before flying home to Chicago. He kept to his schedule even after learning early in the day that his ailing grandmother Madelyn Dunham — whom he suspended his campaign to visit in Hawaii late last month — had passed away after a long battle with cancer.

The 72-year-old Mr. McCain, who supporters say has been energized in the race’s closing days, even plans to break with precedent by doing some post-vote politicking in Colorado and New Mexico Tuesday after casting his ballot.

Sensing one last opportunity, the Republican hammered away Monday at the revelation of an audio recording of an interview Mr. Obama gave in January, in which, Republicans said, the Democrat conceded his environmental program would drive businesses relying on coal power out of business.

Listen to what Mr. Obama says on his plans for the coal states.

“How out of touch is that?” Mr. McCain told a rally in Blountville, Tenn., just over the line from Virginia’s coal-producing southwestern region. “I’m not going to let our coal industry go bankrupt.”

The Obama campaign insisted that the coal comment was taken out of context. Asked about his “cap-and-trade” program to limit carbon emissions by U.S. producers, Mr. Obama appeared to say the cost of obtaining pollution permits would be too high for new coal-fired factories and plants.

“So if somebody want to build a coal-powered plant, they can,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle. “It’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.”

The issue could prove a last-minute boost for Mr. McCain’s hopes in Virginia, Pennsylvania and other coal-producing states.

Both candidates, along with running mates Sen. Joseph R. Biden, Delaware Democrat, and GOP Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, mostly stuck with the tried and true in their final pitches, with Mr. McCain vowing to score a historic upset and Mr. Obama warning supporters not to be complacent as he seeks to become the first African-American ever to capture the White House.

“Florida, don’t believe for a second that this election’s over,” Mr. Obama said in Jacksonville. “We’re going to have to work like our future depends on it for the next 24 hours, because it does. “Now it’s all about who wants it more, who believes in it more.”

Mr. McCain had a lackluster start Monday morning. After little more than four hours of sleep, the nominee headed out to an early morning rally at a huge stadium in Tampa. Reporters thought the event was inside the home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers pro football team, but the first rally of the day was on a grassy lot adjacent to the stadium. Several hundred attended, but one reporter pointed out that Mr. Obama would have been inside the stadium.

A few weeks earlier, Mr. Obama drew 8,000 at the baseball stadium Steinbrenner Field in Tampa. However, Mr. Obama did not come close to filling the 16,000-capacity Jacksonville Veterans’ Memorial Arena during his first stop of the day.

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About the Author

Christina Bellantoni

Christina Bellantoni is a White House correspondent for The Washington Times in Washington, D.C., a post she took after covering the 2008 Democratic presidential campaigns. She has been with The Times since 2003, covering state and Congressional politics before moving to national political beat for the 2008 campaign. Bellantoni, a San Jose native, graduated from UC Berkeley with ...

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David R. Sands

David R. Sands

Raised in Northern Virginia, David R. Sands received an undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He worked as a reporter for several Washington-area business publications before joining The Washington Times.

At The Times, Mr. Sands has covered numerous beats, including international trade, banking, politics ...

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