Final-Weekend Push Starts in Midwest

The Washington Post's David Broder explains why 2008 was the best election season he'd ever covered since the Kennedy-Nixon campaign.
By Peter Slevin and Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, November 1, 2008

DES MOINES, Oct. 31 -- With barely 100 hours left in the presidential campaign, Sen. Barack Obama returned to Iowa, a state described by one adviser as "hallowed ground" for its role in launching his improbable candidacy, while Sen. John McCain spent his second straight day in Ohio, a state he almost certainly must win to reach the White House.

"What you started right here in Iowa has swept the nation," Obama told 25,000 supporters at a downtown rally that seemed a world away from the gatherings in coffee shops and high school gymnasiums that marked the months before he won the January caucuses.

His campaign signaled its growing confidence by running television ads in McCain's home state of Arizona, as well as Georgia and North Dakota -- three states that, until recently, McCain was expected to win easily. Obama continued to campaign exclusively in states won by President Bush in 2004.

Yet McCain said he was optimistic as he launched a final blitz that will include stops in seven states on Monday. He told a crowd in Hanoverton, "The pundits, my friends, have written us off as they've done before. But we're closing, my friends, and we're going to win Ohio."

McCain strategists told reporters that Obama's lead is narrowing and predicted a historic upset. Political director Mike DuHaime said McCain's forces have recorded 150 percent more phone calls and door knocks this week than the Bush campaign did during the same stretch four years ago. The goal is 17 million more contacts with voters before polls close.

"We've been able to really expand, year after year," DuHaime said, "using our technology."

The McCain campaign continues to face a daunting electoral map, where a wide array of polls show Obama with several plausible paths to victory.

A surge in early voting by Democrats marks a reversal of the pattern that helped Bush win in 2004 and makes McCain's task more difficult. So far, 200,000 more Democrats than Republicans have cast ballots in Florida, while 19 percent of Democratic early voters in North Carolina did not vote in 2004.

"The die is being cast as we speak," Obama campaign manager David Plouffe asserted. "On Election Day, Senator McCain is not going to have to just carry the day but carry it convincingly."

McCain has less money, a smaller field organization and a closer identification with the nation's economic troubles and the unpopular Bush administration.

Obama continued to hammer McCain as a candidate who has no significant economic policy differences with Bush. He said his opponent would do little to help the middle class and had turned to negative campaigning despite a 2000 pledge not to "take the low road to the highest office in this land."

"But the high road didn't take him to the White House then, so he decided to take a different route," Obama said, warning the Des Moines crowd to expect four more days of "slash and burn, say-anything, do-anything politics."

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