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Obama, McCain Target Pivotal States in Election Race

Presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain Friday focused on states that could play a pivotal role in the November 4 election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has the latest on the U.S. presidential race from Washington.

With a little more than two weeks to go until Election Day, Democrat Barack Obama is keeping up the pressure on his Republican opponent, Senator John McCain.

Obama campaigned Friday in the southern state of Virginia, which last voted for a Democratic presidential candidate in 1964.

Obama continued his relentless campaign to tie Senator McCain to the economic policies of the Bush administration.

"So I know I am not running against President Bush," he said. "But I am running against President Bush's policies, the policies John McCain has supported, the policies John McCain would continue and that is something that we cannot afford another four years of, more George Bush economics!"

The latest polls give Obama a lead in Virginia. Obama is also competitive in several other states that have supported Republican presidential candidates in recent elections including Missouri, North Carolina and Colorado.

Recent national polls also give Obama a lead over McCain by margins ranging from five to 14 points.

But Obama is quick to caution his supporters not to get too confident in the final two weeks of the campaign.

"You can't pay attention to the polls," he said. "We have got to keep making our case for change."

Also Friday Obama won the endorsement of the Washington Post newspaper, which called him the right man for a perilous time.

Meanwhile, Republican John McCain campaigned in Florida on Friday, another key battleground or swing state where both campaigns are very competitive.

McCain slammed Obama's tax plan and promised that he too would take the country in a different direction from the Bush administration.

McCain acknowledged to the crowd that he is trailing in the polls, but he also urged his supporters to pull off an election surprise on November 4.

"We have 18 days to go. We are six points down," he said. "The national media has written us off. Senator Obama is measuring the drapes. But you know what? They forgot to let you decide. My friends, as it has been in other races, we've got them just where we want them!"

In the final days of the campaign, both McCain and Obama are trying to improve their prospects in several important swing states where the margin is close.

Some of them are large states like Ohio, Florida and North Carolina that are major prizes in the state by state electoral voting that decides who will win the presidency.

Obama has broadened the number of election battelground states to several that normally vote Republican, including Virginia.

University of Virginia political expert Larry Sabato told MSNBC television that Obama is displaying unexpected strength in a state where McCain was the favorite.

"It causes the McCain people and the Republicans to spend money and to spend time in a state that they actually listed as solid Republican in the spring," he said. "They said they had nothing to worry about and planned to put out no effort in Virginia. Well, guess what, it turned into a toss-up state."

Most experts believe that Obama's surge in national and some state polls is a direct result of voter unhappiness over the state of the U.S. economy and an overwhelming desire for change after eight years of the Bush presidency.