In the U.S. presidential race, several new surveys in key states show Democrat Barack Obama surging ahead of his Republican opponent, John McCain. Both candidates were on the campaign trail Thursday and focused on the economy - the number-one issue for voters in this year's election. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
Senator Obama took his campaign to Indiana, a Midwest state that last supported a Democrat for president in the 1964 election.
The latest survey in Indiana, the Big Ten Battleground Poll, gives Obama a 10-point lead over Senator McCain - 51 percent to 41 percent. But other recent polls there suggest a tight battle for Indiana's 11 electoral votes.
At a rally in Indianapolis, Obama accused McCain of putting corporations ahead of workers in his economic plan, and described McCain's approach as Wall Street first, Main Street last.
"We have tried it John McCain's way," Obama said. "We have tried it George Bush's way. And we are here to say, ' Enough is enough! We cannot afford four more years of their fundamental economics.' That is why I am running for President of the United States, to get an economics that works for you!"
Obama will be taking a break from the campaign trail until Saturday to visit his ailing 85-year-old grandmother in Hawaii.
Despite the daunting poll numbers nationally and in individual key states, Republican John McCain continued to hammer away at Obama's economic plan, especially the issue of taxes.
McCain built a campaign bus tour through Florida around the man known as "Joe the plumber". Joe is an Ohio plumber who challenged Obama's tax proposals during an encounter with Obama on the campaign trail.
McCain says Obama's plan is a thinly veiled attempt to spread the wealth - taking from the rich and giving to the poor.
"We need to win on November 4, and we are going to win. We are going to win Florida and bring real change to Washington, D.C.," McCain said.
The latest Quinnipiac University poll gives Obama a five-point lead in Florida, a state won by President Bush in the last two elections.
In total, the Quinnipiac and Big Ten Battleground state polls show Obama surging to sizeable leads in several key states including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Nationally, Obama has an average lead of about seven points, according to the website Real Clear Politics.com.
McCain was also busy defending his vice presidential running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, on national television. Recent polls suggest that while Palin has energized some social conservative voters, she is hurting McCain with independents and moderates.
McCain appeared with Palin in an interview with NBC News.
"I am overjoyed to have a person who is a real reformer," McCain said. "I see all these attacks on Governor Palin. I do not live in a bubble. But those people are either not paying attention to or do not care about the record of the most popular governor in the United States of America."
A growing number of political analysts note that Obama is holding a steady lead in the U.S. presidential race. And they see fewer opportunities for McCain to close the gap in the final days of the campaign.
"Democrats are still winning the enthusiasm game," said Karlyn Bowman, who monitors U.S. public opinion at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. "They are winning the money [i.e., fundraising] game. They won the recruitment game in terms of congressional and senatorial contests. And they now have the advantage on most issues, particularly the economy - the top issue that voters care about. And they have a candidate whom more and more Americans feel good about."
Both candidates will target the same relatively small group of states, known as swing or battleground states, in the final days of the campaign. These are states like Ohio, Florida and Missouri that often hold the balance in the state-by-state electoral vote tally that decides who becomes president.