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Obama bids to close the deal with voters in final week

High-flying Barack Obama was set to present his "closing argument" to voters as the Democrat's epic White House duel with beleaguered Republican John McCain entered its final full week.

india Updated: Oct 27, 2008 11:57 IST

High-flying Barack Obama was set on Monday to present his "closing argument" to voters as the Democrat's epic White House duel with beleaguered Republican John McCain entered its final full week.

With just eight days to go, the rivals were to hold competing rallies in the rust-belt states of Ohio and Pennsylvania after a weekend battleground blitz through western states tilting towards the African-American Obama, 47.

A day after drawing more than 150,000 supporters to monster rallies in Colorado, Obama was to give a "closing argument speech" in Canton, Ohio that would urge voters to choose "hope over fear, unity over division," aides said.

"In his speech, Senator Obama will tell voters that after 21 months and three debates, Senator McCain still has not been able to tell the American people a single major thing he'd do differently from (President) George Bush when it comes to the economy," a campaign statement said.

Obama, fired up by an astonishing prowess at fundraising, was to follow up his Ohio speech with a 30-minute advertisement airing on national networks at huge expense on Wednesday evening.

Republican National Committee spokesman Alex Conant said Obama's "closing argument" amounted to an appeal for voters to hand Washington over to one-party rule as the Democrats prepare to tighten their grip on Congress.

"Obama's latest speech is more of the same empty rhetoric repackaged with the urgency of tightening polls and still-undecided voters," he said, attacking the senator as "untested and inexperienced."

McCain's electoral map is shrinking as he battles to hold on to states won by Bush in 2004 such as Iowa, where on Sunday he shrugged off national and pivotal state polls that suggest Obama will triumph on November 4.

An ABC News-Washington Post national poll gave Obama a 52-45 per cent lead over McCain among likely voters, down from his 54-43 per cent margin last week.

"We've closed in the last week and if we continue this close in the next week you're going to be up very late on election night," McCain told NBC.

The Arizona senator argued that he had long had major differences with the hugely unpopular Bush on issues such as climate change and government spending.

"Do we share a common philosophy of the Republican Party? Of course," McCain said, in a remark seized on by Obama to buttress his case that McCain has marched in lock-step with the president.

"But I stood up against my party, not just President Bush but others as well, and I have the scars to prove it," McCain added.

The White House contenders flew east after sparring in the western states of Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada, which could seal victory for Obama if he can win all the states that Democrat John Kerry captured against Bush in 2004.

But the Democrat is also pursuing a multi-pronged strategy to keep McCain on the ropes in Republican bastions out east including Virginia and North Carolina.

As he is expected to do throughout the remaining week of the campaign, McCain rammed home his contention that Obama is a closet socialist bent on raising taxes on ordinary Americans.

The 72-year-old former Navy pilot also struck a defiant stance as he told supporters he relished the election battle, and repeated his contentious claim that the Democratic nominee had already drafted his inauguration speech.

"What America needs now is someone who'll finish the race before starting the victory lap, not for himself but for his country," he said.

But McCain is now fending off reports of panicked dissent within his camp as top aides reportedly turn their fire on his running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

The Republican camp has been embarrassed by revelations that 150,000 dollars was lavished on chic designer outfits for Palin when the first-term governor was being sold to voters as an average "hockey mom."

Insisting in Florida Sunday that she would stick to her own attire from now on, Palin said "enough about clothes and hairdos and high heels."

In another blow to the Republican campaign, The Anchorage Daily News, the biggest newspaper in Palin's home state of Alaska, endorsed Obama as did the Financial Times in its Monday edition.

First Published: Oct 27, 2008 11:52 IST