- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 16, 2008

Democrats breathed a sigh of relief as Sen. Barack Obama returned from his weeklong Hawaiian vacation, happy that little had changed: the candidates remain neck-and-neck in national polls and the battleground states are still battlegrounds.

Some had feared that presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain would spend the week meeting voters and reminding them that Mr. Obama was enjoying the islands, but instead the Arizona senator held just one town hall meeting.

The Republican participated in multiple fundraisers and private briefings and made himself available to the press for questions on the Russia-Georgia war, but he did not gain much in his week of having the mainland to himself.

The latest Gallup and Rasmussen tracking polls Friday are where they were last Friday - either tied or with Mr. Obama having a statistically insignificant lead.

Mr. McCain “spent the week doing nothing,” said Simon Rosenberg of the liberal think tank NDN. He compared the past week to what some called Mr. McCain’s lackluster campaign schedule while Mr. Obama was locked in a fierce primary battle.

“If the election were held today, Obama would win comfortably, and John McCain has done nothing to alter that in the last two months,” he said. “The McCain people, for all their recent attacks have not seen any evidence of movement in state or national polls.”

Over the week the ad war escalated, with the campaigns trading nasty back-and-forths on economic policy.

Despite the candidate’s absence, the Obama campaign was able to generate headlines over the week. The team announced that Mr. Obama’s vice presidential pick would be shared first with supporters via text message, an idea that prompted some mocking but will allow the campaign to collect valuable voter data.

Team Obama also challenged Florida volunteers and organizers to make 50,000 calls this week, and they delivered, making 125,000 calls in 48 hours.

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe thanked Floridians on a conference call Thursday night, telling them, “We will rise and fall together” and saying the calls prove what the organization is capable of accomplishing in the fall.

“What you’re doing is really going to be the recipe for victory,” he said, adding the campaign “will ask you to work harder than you know how.”

In the coming days, Mr. Obama will visit California, Nevada, New Mexico and Florida.

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