Obama, McCain battle across campaign’s closing day

MIAMI — The presidential candidates are capping a history-making campaign with a dash from Florida through a half-dozen other crucial states as John McCain tries for an upset over Barack Obama.

With little sleep, McCain was darting through seven swing states today, arguing that victory was virtually at hand despite national polls showing otherwise.

“My friends, it’s official: There’s just one day left until we take America in a new direction,” the Republican Party’s choice to succeed President Bush told a raucous, heavily Hispanic rally in Miami just after midnight.

Obama, comfortably ahead in national polls, was getting a later start with a rally in Jacksonville at midday and a swing through longtime GOP bastions that might go to his Democratic Party this time.

“I feel pretty peaceful,” Obama said on the “Russ Parr Morning Show.”

“The question is going to be who wants it more,” he added. “And I hope that our supporters want it bad, because I think the country needs it.”

It has been the longest and most expensive presidential contest ever — featuring for the first time an African-American as a major party standardbearer.

Asked in an interview broadcast this morning what most displeased him about the nearly 2-year-long contest, Obama cited attacks launched by Republicans against his wife, Michelle.

“There’s a Republican or right wing media outlet … that went after my wife for awhile in a way that I thought was just completely out of bounds,” Obama said on CBS’s “The Early Show.”

“I would have never considered or expected my allies to do something comparable to the spouse of an opponent,” he added. “They support their spouse, but generally they really should be bystanders in this process, even if they’re campaigning for me. … I mean that’s what you’d expect. And that doesn’t make them suddenly targets.”

All that’s left now is for the campaigns to make sure people vote, unleashing an unprecedented get-out-the-vote campaigns.

Surrogates for both men, including Democrat Caroline Kennedy and one-time Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, hopped from morning show to morning show urging voters to get to the polls if they haven’t already cast ballots. More early voting is happening than ever, a process that changes the meaning of Election Day somewhat, with some 27 million votes cast in 30 states as of Saturday night. That’s more than ever. Democrats outnumbered Republicans in pre-Election Day voting in key states.

All told, the election will have cost $1 billion, and the candidates together will have spent about $8 per presidential vote.

The candidates were sprinting across time zones and states in eleventh-hour bids to get to the magic number of 270 electoral votes — the total needed to seal the presidency.

McCain’s journey stretched from Tampa through Tennessee, whose media market reaches into the much-coveted state of Virginia, which is trending Democratic for the first time since 1964.

McCain also was scheduled to hit Pennsylvania, Indiana, New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada before ending early Tuesday with a rally in Prescott, Ariz. He was scheduled to finish the day — and the campaign — at home in the Phoenix area.

Obama was set to make a quick trip to Virginia and Indiana before returning to Chicago for a massive rally in Grant Park.

McCain’s running mate, Sarah Palin, was racing through five Bush states — Ohio, Missouri, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada — in an effort to boost conservative turnout. The Alaska governor has been a popular draw for many GOP base voters.

Joe Biden, Obama’s running mate, was to campaign in Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Polls show the six closest states are Florida, Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Nevada and Ohio. The campaigns also are running aggressive ground games elsewhere, including Iowa, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Colorado and Virginia.

Obama exuded confidence Sunday at events in three cities in the bellwether state of Ohio, which voted for President Bush in 2000 and 2004 but is trending Democratic this year as it struggles against an anemic economy.

“We cannot afford to slow down or sit back or let up,” Obama told voters at an evening rally in Cincinnati. “We need to win an election on Tuesday.”

In New Hampshire, McCain held his last town hall meeting of the 2008 campaign — something of an exercise in nostalgia, as he conducted dozens of such freewheeling affairs in the months leading up to his victory in that state’s primary.

McCain took voter questions on issues like illegal immigration and paying for college while thanking New Hampshire for rescuing his campaign in 2008 and in the 2000 Republican primary, when he briefly upended George W. Bush.

“I come to the people of New Hampshire to ask them to let me go on one more mission,” McCain said in Peterborough, where he was introduced by Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling.

———

Associated Press Nedra Pickler contributed to this report from Cincinnati. Associated Press Laurie Kellman contributed to this report from Washington.

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