With just two weeks to go until Election Day, U.S. presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain are campaigning in states that could decide the election on November 4. An aide to Barack Obama says he will suspend his campaign later this week in order to travel to Hawaii to visit his grandmother, who the aide says is gravely ill. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has the latest from Washington.
In the final days of the campaign, both candidates are targeting key states that will play a major role in the state by state electoral vote that will determine who becomes the next president.
Republican John McCain was in Missouri on Monday, a state that has a history of backing the winning candidate in presidential elections.
The latest polls show McCain and Democrat Barack Obama virtually tied in Missouri, and McCain sought to make headway by continuing to hammer away at Senator Obama's tax cut proposal.
"Senator Obama's economic goal is that he wants to spread the wealth around," he said. "He believes in redistributing wealth, not in policies that grow our economy and create jobs and opportunities for all Americans. Senator Obama is more interested in controlling who gets your piece of the pie than in growing the pie!"
Obama says he would provide a tax cut for 95 percent of working families, but would increase taxes for families that make more than $250,000 a year.
Senator McCain's vice presidential running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, campaigned against Obama in Colorado.
"It is not mean-spirited and it is not negative campaigning when someone is called out on their record, on their plans and on their associations," she said.
Colorado is seen as another so-called "battleground" or "swing" state because the race is close there. Both campaigns have poured resources into Colorado in hopes of winning the state's nine electoral votes. A candidate is required to garner 270 electoral votes to win the presidency, out of a total of 538 representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Democrat Barack Obama focused on the southern state of Florida on Monday, a state that President Bush won in 2000 and in 2004.
Obama focused on the national economy, which opinion polls show is by far the number one issue in the campaign.
"It is getting harder and harder to make [i.e., pay] the mortgage or fill up your gas tank or even keep the electricity on at the end of the month," he said. "At this rate, the question isn't just 'Are you better off than you were four years ago?', it's 'Are you better off than you were four weeks ago?'"
Monday was the first day that citizens in Florida could take advantage of early voting, something many states now permit before Election Day.
Obama's former Democratic rival, Senator Hillary Clinton, campaigned for Obama in Florida Monday.
She urged Democrats not to take Obama's lead in national polls for granted.
"If people start believing, 'Well, this election is over, I don't need to go vote,' we might not actually be successful," she said. "So we've got to do everything we can to reach out to everyone you know in the next several days."
New national polls give Obama a lead over McCain of between five and 11 points.
Political experts say Obama is likely to get a boost from the endorsement of former secretary of state and national security advisor, retired Army General Colin Powell.
"He has both style and substance," Powell said Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press program. "He has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president."
Powell also said he was voting for Obama because of Senator McCain's decision to tap Governor Palin as his running mate. Powell said he did not think Palin was ready to be president in the event something happened to McCain.