Sunday, November 2, 2008

PERKASIE, Pa. | Sen. Barack Obama is keeping to his three-rallies-per-day campaign schedule, while Sen. John McCain will be on the stump until 1 a.m. the last three nights of the campaign and hit eight states on Monday alone.

Mr. McCain got his best polling news in a month Saturday, pulling ahead of the Illinois Democrat in the Friday sample of the Zogby poll, albeit by a statistically insignificant single percentage point.

Mr. Obama, who continues to hold significant leads in every other national poll and in most key states, plans no more stops in New Mexico or Pennsylvania, the latter of which Republicans have targeted this election. Mr. McCain, however, stopped here Saturday and plans more campaign rallies in the state.

With less than 72 hours until Election Day, which also is expected to deliver major congressional gains to the Democratic Party, the two men stayed on point and on message as they blitzed through battleground states. Mr. Obama worked west to east through Nevada, Colorado and Missouri, while Mr. McCain focused on the East, stumping in Virginia and Pennsylvania before hitting New York for an appearance on “Saturday Night Live.”

“Let me give you some straight talk about the state of the race today: three days left, three days. The pundits have written us off, just like they’ve done several times before,” Mr. McCain said, his voice hoarse as he battles a mild cold.

The usually eloquent Mr. Obama also showed road weariness as he got a bit tongue-tied. “Nevada, I have just three words. I have two words for you. I said three, maybe two. I just got two words for you: Three days.”

In a new Zogby poll, Mr. McCain took a one-point lead, 48 percent to 47 percent, in the third day of a three-day rolling survey and was making significant inroads with several groups of voters, although Mr. Obama still held the lead over the whole three-day sample, 49 percent to 44 percent. But pollster John Zogby said things may be starting to trend toward Mr. McCain.

“He is beginning to cut into Obama’s lead among independents, is now leading among blue-collar voters, has strengthened his lead among investors and among men, and is walloping Obama among NASCAR voters. Joe the Plumber may get his license after all,” Mr. Zogby said. “If McCain has a good day tomorrow, we will eliminate Obama’s good day three days ago, and we could really see some tightening in this rolling average.”

Friday’s Zogby sample is an “outlier” among the major tracking polls, all of which give Mr. Obama a significant lead, as they consistently have since mid-September, though the size of the lead has varied wildly. The five major surveys tracked at Real Clear Politics that took their last sample Friday have the Democrat leading by five to 10 percentage points.

Obama strategist David Axelrod brushed aside the Zogby poll, saying there is “not a lot of evidence this is changing dramatically.”

“You would expect the race to narrow,” he said. “There are no huge landslides in American presidential politics.”

Mr. Axelrod touted Mr. Obama’s strength in states President Bush won in 2004. All of his remaining schedule is hitting those red states, and he has no plans to return to Pennsylvania.

“I don’t see Senator McCain making inroads in so-called blue states. He has to find some place to win,” he said. “If he can’t break through in a state like Pennsylvania, it could be a very difficult day for him.”

While Mr. McCain plans stops on Sunday in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire before holding a midnight rally in Miami, Mr. Obama will spend all day campaigning in Ohio, including a Cleveland rally with singer Bruce Springsteen, then hit Florida, North Carolina and Virginia on election eve. Mr. McCain plans to blitz across eight states Monday, ending at a 1 a.m. Tuesday rally in Arizona.

Mr. Axelrod was not impressed with the hectic McCain campaign schedule and insisted his boss is setting a “pretty brisk” pace.

“We’re not taking anything for granted,” he said. “We’re going to work this thing right up to the final minute.”

The poll came as Mr. McCain continued to hammer the Democrat over his plan to tax Americans making more than $250,000 - a number that has crept down, first to $200,000, then to $150,000 and finally to $120,000, although the Obama campaign said New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a campaign surrogate, simply misspoke Friday on the latter figure.

“Interesting how the definition of rich has a way of moving down,” Mr. McCain said at a rally in Springfield, drawing boos and jeers from the crowd. “Classic liberal left - tax and spend, redistribute the wealth.” He contended that Mr. Obama was “running for redistributor in chief; I’m running for commander in chief.”

Also Saturday, Fox News unearthed a 2003 interview in which Mr. Obama supports tax relief only for people making less than $80,000 a year.

“You know the problem was that they weren’t targeted at the short-term stimulus of the economy,” the Democrat says in the interview. “What we should have done is, if we were going to initiate tax cuts, and I’m a strong supporter of tax cuts for working families like the Earned Income Tax Credit, to initiate things like cuts in the Social Security tax, and other taxes that are really burdensome on families that are making 50, 60, 70 thousand dollars a year.”

The McCain campaign teed off on the tape, calling it more proof the Democrat plans to raise taxes for many more Americans than he claims.

“If Barack Obama would’ve had his way, Americans making $75,000 a year would be paying higher taxes today,” said McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds. “When Barack Obama reflected on the 2003 tax cuts, he clearly implied that Americans making more than $70,000 a year should have been excluded from across-the-board tax relief, and in 2008 he voted in support of higher taxes on Americans making just $42,000 a year. Barack Obama’s current plan for higher taxes is changing.”

Mr. Obama remained confident. “We have a righteous wind at our back,” he told one audience on Saturday.

The Democrat, who has often appeared to be running against President Bush, not Mr. McCain, mocked a campaign stop in Wyoming by Vice President Dick Cheney, who said, “Our country cannot afford the high-tax liberalism of Barack Obama and Joe Biden.”

Mr. Obama sarcastically congratulated Mr. McCain for the endorsement. “He really earned it,” he told his Pueblo, Colo., audience. “Senator McCain had to vote 90 percent of the time with George Bush and Dick Cheney to get it.”

Joseph Curl traveled with the McCain campaign; Christina Bellantoni was with the Obama campaign in Nevada.

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