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Lagging in the polls, McCain targets voters in battleground states

Video by Philip CROWTHER

Text by AFP

Latest update : 2008-12-09

As Democratic candidate Barack Obama expands his lead, Republican rival John McCain faces an 'uphill battle' to win over working-class voters in key states like Pennsylvania.

 

While Republican John McCain revels in the role of the underdog and castigates pundits for writing him off in the race to the White House, his campaign is working frantically for a final comeback.
   
With less than two weeks left before the November 4 election, polls show a tough road to victory for the Vietnam war veteran on an electoral map awash in Democratic blue.
   
Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama's lead among likely voters reached 14 points in a poll published by the Pew Research Center Tuesday while surveys show the Illinois senator ahead in most battleground states.
   
Experts say the key to a McCain comeback lies in winning over independents and white, working class voters who are conservative on issues like national security and supported Obama's former foe Hillary Clinton in the primaries.
   
McCain campaign insiders insist that the public polls do not paint an accurate picture of the race, and that states like working-class Pennsylvania, where Obama is leading by eight to 10 points in recent surveys, are still winnable.
   
"It's about moving a few thousand votes per county," McCain's political director Mike DuHaime told reporters.
   
The campaign has attracted large numbers of volunteers who are placing thousands of phone calls every day to their fellow Democrats, DuHaime said, adding that a sophisticated tracking and call-back system will help improve turnout and sway fence-sitters.
   
"Senator Obama has yet to close the deal with voters," DuHaime said.
   
"He's a great campaigner and a great speaker but is he ready right now to be president? There are lingering doubts."
   
But analysts are not convinced McCain can turn the tide in Pennsylvania, which has not picked a Republican president since George H.W. Bush in 1988.
   
"I think it's out of McCain's reach," said Larry Sabato, professor of politics at the University of Virginia. "I don't believe a single blue state will defect."
   
It is hard to imagine a scenario in which McCain could close the gap and defeat Obama in Pennsylvania, said Dan Keyserling of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.
   
"That is a state that both candidates have been exploring from very early on because they know how important it will be," Keyserling told AFP.
   
"I don't think there's a lot to settle out there."
   
But senior McCain advisor Nicole Wallace said there was still plenty of time left to sway voters by "making clear that the choice between Barack Obama and John McCain has a very significant impact on our nations' economic health."
   
"It's an uphill battle to spread the message. We're vastly outspent," she told AFP.
   
But voters who do hear the message will choose someone who "believes in creating wealth and spreading success like John McCain does," Wallace said.
   
"The vast majority of Americans do not believe that we grow our economy by redistributing wealth."
   
A key part of McCain's multi-prong attack against his rival has been to tell voters that Obama is a shifty, job-killing socialist bent on "redistributing wealth."
   
McCain has warned voters that Obama lacks the experience or judgment to lead the country "in this dangerous world," and stressed his own love of country, with his campaign slogan "Country First."
   
And he told supporters in Moon Township Tuesday that unlike Obama, who told a San Francisco fundraiser in April that people in Pennsylvania "cling" to guns and religion because they were "bitter," he knew the truth was "they love their country and they love their values and they believe in the future of this country."
   
"Western Pennsylvania is the most patriotic, most God-loving, most patriotic part of America," McCain told a cheering crowd.
   
Roman Demanczuk, an unemployed cabinet maker who wore a shirt proclaiming "vote McCain not Hussein" to a rally in Bensalem, Pennsylvania was among those convinced Obama's tax policies would hurt working families.
   
"It smacks of socialism," he said noting that his parents were born in Ukraine and were forced into labor camps by the communist regime.
   
"I know he's talking about tax cuts for us but he's going to raise taxes on corporations and corporations don't pay taxes -- they pass them on to consumers through raising prices on milk and gas."

Date created : 2008-10-22

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