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Tone of US Presidential Race Continues to Sharpen

The tone of the rhetoric in the U.S. presidential campaign is sharpening with less than a week to go until Election Day. Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain are focused on the economy and each other in the final days of the campaign, as we hear from VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone in Washington.

Senator McCain is focused on winning several states that usually back Republican presidential candidates.

"And we need to win Florida. On November 4th, we've got to win the state of Florida, my friends," said McCain.

President Bush carried Florida in both of his election victories. But the latest public opinion polls give Senator Obama a narrow lead over McCain.

McCain now spends much of his time attacking Obama's tax plan, which would phase out the Bush tax cuts for upper income Americans.

McCain says Obama's real objective is redistributing wealth from the rich to the poor.

"This is the fundamental difference between Senator Obama and me. He thinks taxes are too low and I think that spending is too high," he said.

On Wednesday, Barack Obama campaigned in North Carolina, a state that last supported a Democratic presidential candidate in 1976.

"Six days," said Obama. "After decades of broken politics in Washington, eight years of failed policies from George Bush, and 21 months of a campaign that has taken us from the rocky coast of Maine to the sunshine of California, we are six days away from changing America!"

Some political experts believe that McCain's attacks on Obama's tax plan may be narrowing Obama's lead in the polls.

Obama is urging supporters not to be overconfident in the closing days of the campaign. He is also giving a sharper response to McCain's attacks.

"Lately, he's called me a socialist," said Obama. "I don't know what's next. By the end of the week, he will be accusing me of being a secret communist because I shared my toys in kindergarten."

The latest national public opinion surveys put Obama ahead of McCain by an average of six points, down slightly from earlier in the week. But new polls give Obama a significant lead in key states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Colorado. Obama is also slightly ahead or tied in normally strong Republican states like Florida and North Carolina.

The presidential race is decided by a state-by-state tally of electoral votes. The winning candidate must win at least 270 electoral votes out of a total of 538.

Some Republicans have adopted a gloomy outlook as they look ahead to Election Night next Tuesday.

Scot Faulkner worked for former President Ronald Reagan and for former Republican House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich.

"It is going to be a rough night," he said. "Right now, the polls are tightening. But clearly, McCain is behind. Clearly, most Republican incumbents in the Senate that are in vulnerable seats are also trailing. A lot of Republicans in the House [of Representatives] are in vulnerable positions as well. So unless some major changes happen in terms of voter turnout or in terms of a further tightening of the race, it is going to be a long night for Republicans."

Republicans are bracing for possible losses in both the Senate and House in Tuesday's national elections.