The longest presidential election campaign in U.S. history is in its final week, and Democrat Barack Obama continues to hold a lead in the polls over Republican John McCain. Both candidates are focused on the economy in the final days of the campaign, and on a small group of states that hold the key to victory on November 4. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports from Washington.
Senator Barack Obama leads Senator McCain by an average of seven points in the national polls. More importantly, Obama is seen as leading in the state-by-state electoral vote tally that determines who will be the next president.
But McCain remains undaunted by the long electoral odds in the final week of the campaign. He spoke to a rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
"I have fought for you most of my life, and in places where defeat meant more than returning to the Senate," said McCain. "There are other ways to love this country, but I have never been the kind to back down when the stakes are high."
In the final days of the campaign, McCain is hammering Obama's tax proposals as a thinly disguised Democratic effort to redistribute wealth from rich to poor.
"There is nothing fair about driving our economy into the ground," he said. "We all suffer when that happens. And that is the problem with Senator Obama's approach to our economy. He is more interested in controlling wealth than creating it."
Democrat Obama also campaigned in Pennsylvania in the rain at an outdoor rally near Philadelphia.
At each stop, Obama urges his supporters to get out and vote early if they can, warning against the complacency of enjoying a lead in the polls.
"And that is why in this last week that we cannot afford to slow down or to sit back or to let up, whether it is rain or sleet or snow," he said. "We are going to go out and we are going to vote because there is too much at stake!"
Obama was quick to fire back at McCain over taxes, predicting corporations and the wealthy would benefit under McCain's tax plan.
As Obama makes his final argument to voters this week, he emphasizes the themes of change and unity. But Obama never misses an opportunity to try to tie Senator McCain to the economic record of the Bush administration.
"John McCain has ridden shotgun [offered protection] as George Bush has driven our economy towards a cliff, and now he wants to take the wheel and step on the gas," he said. "They are trying to throw everything at me in these last seven days. But you know what? It is not going to work. Not this time. Not now. Because the fact that all of you are here today shows how badly you want change, shows how committed you are!"
Recent polls give Obama a lead in Pennsylvania of between eight and 13 points.
Political experts say McCain is likely to fare better in trying to win traditional Republican states that are surprisingly competitive this year, states like Virginia, North Carolina, and Indiana.
In the final week of the campaign, Obama appears to have a huge edge over McCain in the areas of fundraising, television ads, and organization.
Stephen Hess is a presidential scholar at the Brookings Institution in Washington. "Almost a flawless campaign in terms of raising money and having troops [staff and volunteers] on the ground in a sense, he is just overwhelming his opposition," he said.
Both candidates are focused on a relatively small handful of states that are competitive for both campaigns and hold the balance of votes needed for the winning candidate to accumulate the 270 electoral votes necessary to win the White House next Tuesday.