- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 1, 2008

HIGHLAND, Ind. | Flush with cash and confidence, Sen. Barack Obama‘s presidential campaign will run ads in Georgia, North Dakota and even Arizona, seeking to expand the playing field to Sen. John McCain‘s home state in the final days of the race.

The stunning move comes as polls show a tightening race in Arizona and renewed opportunities in the other two traditionally Republican red states where Mr. Obama had earlier scaled down his campaign efforts.

“Early vote is going extremely well in Georgia,” Obama campaign manager David Plouffe told reporters Friday. “If we win it, we win it narrowly. We think we see a pathway here. … We assume it´s going to be close.”

But McCain campaign manager Rick Davis derided Mr. Obama’s moves to expand the map: “We encourage them to pick other states that we intend to win” to spend their money.

Trailing in battleground states across the country — although some new polls show some large gaps closing a bit — Mr. Davis predicted a surprise comeback in the final hours before Tuesday.

“We are pretty jazzed up about what we are seeing in the movement of this election,” Mr. Davis told reporters on a conference call.

“Obviously, we’ve had a lot of ups and downs in the course of this race, and the one that has been the standard that the McCain campaign has created is that we fight back. We are witnessing, I believe, probably one of the greatest comebacks that you’ve seen since John McCain won the primary,” he said.

Mr. McCain himself, campaigning in Ohio, hammered Mr. Obama as a die-hard member of the hard-core liberal left, painting him as an extremist so far removed from mainstream America that he is even more liberal than a self-acknowledged socialist.

“Senator Obama began his campaign in the liberal left lane of politics and has never left it. It’s not an accident that he’s the most liberal senator in the United States Senate, more liberal than a senator who used to call himself a socialist,” said Mr. McCain, referring to Sen. Bernard Sanders, an independent from Vermont.

Mr. McCain rolled out some new firepower — former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani at his first stop in Haverton, Ohio, and California Gov. Arnold Schwarznegger at his last, in Columbus.

The California governor drew thunderous applause when he appeared at a large arena in Columbus with the Republican presidential nominee.

“You look all pumped up, you look ready to elect John McCain president of the United States,” he told the crowd of thousands.

Mr. Schwarznegger holds an annual body-building competition in Ohio, and he said for the next one, “I want to invite Senator Obama.

“He needs to do something about those skinny legs. We’re going to make him do some squats, and then we’re go and give him some bicep curls to beef up those skinny little arms. But if he only could do something about putting some meat on his ideas.”

The Austrian-born actor-turned-politician said he left Europe as it moved toward socialism, and he said he found abundant opportunity in America.

“Now Senator Obama says that he wants to pursue the same ‘spread-the-wealth’ ideas Europe had decades ago,” he said, alluding to the famous rope line conversation Mr. Obama had with “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher.

Mr. Obama, meanwhile, began his final crisscross of the country Friday, telling voters in Iowa and Indiana he needs them to work hard through the weekend and show up at the polls, then he headed to Nevada and Colorado for Saturday rallies.

His aides said they see encouraging signs in Georgia and North Dakota — solid red states where the campaign initially fought, but more recently had pulled out staff and cut spending. Recent polling, and strong early voter turnout in places such as Georgia, pushed the campaign to rethink those moves.

The lines for early voting stretched as long as eight hours in some places in the past few days.

MSNBC calculated that as many as 188 million people could be registered to vote this election — a giant increase over the previous record of 142 million in 2004. Mr. Davis at the McCain campaign predicted that actual turnout could reach 130 million.

Mr. Obama continued to draw huge crowds Friday, and became especially nostalgic in downtown Des Moines, the capital of the state that gave him his first victory 10 months ago.

“What you started here in Iowa has swept the nation,” he said. “A whole new way of doing democracy started right here in Iowa and it’s all across the country now.”

During an economic portion of his speech, a man shouted, “I need a job, Obama!”

The candidate responded, “I’ve got to get elected first, so let me finish my speech.”

Mr. Obama’s campaign noted that Mr. McCain has piped robocalls into voters’ homes in Arizona, a move that suggests the Republican is worried about holding his home state.

Mr. Plouffe said Mr. Obama is overwhelmingly winning Hispanic voters in Arizona and has a group of grass-roots supporters who have been working hard despite its not being a traditional battleground, particularly with its senior senator on the presidential ballot.

The Obama campaign sent its Arizona supporters an e-mail this week noting new polls showing Mr. Obama “neck and neck” with Mr. McCain.

“If enough of you take the time to get involved and do your part, we could pull a real upset,” field director Jon Carson wrote. “The way to do that is to talk to Arizonans face to face, and let them know the importance of their vote in this election. But we’ve only got five days left to do it.”

Reporters asked Mr. Plouffe why Mr. Obama would not visit these new states for a last-minute attempt to woo voters, and the campaign manager said it was just time constraints.

“If we had a few more days, we think that would give us more flexibility there,” he said. “This election is going to be very ferocious over the next four days.”

Mr. McCain is still fighting to flip Pennsylvania, where Gov. Edward G. Rendell said Friday that the race is “closer than the polls indicate.” Urging people to get out and vote in Tuesday’s general election, Mr. Rendell said Mr. Obama does not have a double-digit lead in Pennsylvania as many polls have shown.

“I’ve seen polls that have the race as close as four points,” he said.

Mr. McCain will set a frenetic pace from now until Election Day. After a two-day bus tour through the pivotal state of Ohio, the Republican makes two stops in Virginia on Saturday, then appears just before midnight on TV’s “Saturday Night Live.” Stops on Sunday include New Hampshire, a state that twice revived Mr. McCain’s presidential campaigns. One aide dubbed the visit a “nostalgia tour.”

The 72-year-old senator will campaign furiously Monday, visiting seven cities in seven states before arriving for a midnight rally in Phoenix, where he will watch the election returns Tuesday and attend a celebration at the Arizona Biltmore.

Christina Bellantoni reported from the campaign trail with Mr. Obama; Joseph Curl reported from the campaign circuit with Mr. McCain.

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