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McCain Makes Seven-State Swing In Bid for a Come-From-Behind Win

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Sen. John McCain closed out the last full day of his more-than-10-year quest for the presidency on Monday after eight rallies in seven states, with a midnight gathering in Prescott, Ariz. Video by Anna Uhls/washingtonpost.com

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By Juliet Eilperin and Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, November 4, 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nov. 3 -- Sen. John McCain closed out the last full day of his more-than-10-year quest for the presidency on Monday with eight rallies in seven states, hoping to produce the kind of comeback that has pulled his candidacy from the ashes before.

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His voice hoarse from repeatedly declaring that "I am an American, and I choose to fight," the Republican nominee flew across the country aboard his Straight Talk Air, starting with a 1 a.m. rally in Miami that drew 15,000 people and ending in his home state of Arizona, where close polls underscore the challenge he faces going into Election Day.

Senior adviser Mark Salter called him "relaxed, energetic, cheerful and determined." Another top aide said McCain "knows exactly where he stands in the race. He knows he's coming from behind. He's fighting to the end."

That end to the campaign will come Tuesday, when voters will choose between McCain and Democratic Sen. Barack Obama. At 72, McCain would be the oldest presidential candidate elected to a first term, and the first to have a female running mate at his side.

From the beginning, McCain has been campaigning against the history-making possibility of the nation's first black president and facing tremendous political head winds: a country wearied by war, frustrated by economic decline and eager for a new direction after eight years of President Bush.

A former prisoner of war who began his campaign on the strength of decades of foreign policy experience, McCain made his final message to voters a blunt warning about the economic dangers of putting a liberal in the White House. In what amounted to speed rallies at airport hangars across the country, he urged the undecided to consider their pocketbooks before voting.

"Senator Obama's massive new tax increases would kill jobs, make a bad economy worse," he told a crowd of about 1,300 in Tampa. "I'm not going to let that happen."

Before the day was over, McCain and his two charter planes had touched down in Florida, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Indiana, New Mexico, Nevada and Arizona. In each place, he exhorted supporters to help turn out votes and to ignore polls that show him losing.

"We need to win Virginia on November 4th," he told a crowd at a Tennessee airport just over the line from southwestern Virginia. "Knock on doors, get your neighbors to the polls. I need your vote."

McCain's aides described a thread-the-needle strategy that involves holding on to reliably Republican states while somehow defying the odds in states such as Virginia and Pennsylvania that seem out of reach. "We need to hold those red states and we need a big break along the way," senior adviser Steve Schmidt said. "We have a narrow-victory scenario."

Top strategists also offered a preemptive warning about exit polls Tuesday, predicting that they will favor Obama early in the day but that they may not reflect reality.

"Rather than looking at the exit polls, we should wait until we start seeing actual election results from key precincts and counties to gauge who won the election," McCain pollster Bill McInturff wrote in a memo to reporters.


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