Barack Obama and rival John McCain enter the final weekend of their epic race for the White House, making a last dash for votes.
US election enters final days
The US Democratic nominee Barack Obama and his Republican rival John McCain have entered the final weekend of their epic race for the White House, scrambling across several states in a last dash for votes. Mr Obama, aiming to become the first African-American to be elected US president in Tuesday's vote, was seeking to lock down western battlegrounds of Nevada and Colorado before returning to the bellwether state of Missouri.
Victory in the west would go a long way towards securing an election triumph for Mr Obama, even if he loses one of the major toss-up states in the east such as Florida, a pivotal state in recent US presidential elections. Midwestern Missouri meanwhile has an impressive track record of backing the White House winner in every election since 1904, with one exception in 1956. Mr Obama was to be joined by his wife Michelle at the events in Pueblo, Colorado and Springfield, Missouri.
The would-be first couple were to head on to crucial Ohio on Sunday for three events including a rally with rocker Bruce Springsteen in Cleveland. Mr McCain, meanwhile, was preparing to hit the trail in Virginia and Pennsylvania before heading to New York to make a cameo appearance in television comedy sketch show "Saturday Night Live". Despite gloomy polls that suggest Mr Obama is heading for victory, the McCain campaign has defiantly said they remain in the fight.
At a rally in Columbus, Ohio, on Friday, a fired-up Mr McCain got a welcome lift from California Governor ? and movie star ? Arnold Schwarzenegger. Mr McCain told supporters: "I know a winning campaign when I see one. We're a couple of points back. Arnold said it best. The Mac is back. We need a new direction and we have to fight for it." However Mr Obama's massive campaign spending advantage has forced Mr McCain onto the defence. Mr McCain and running mate Sarah Palin will each race through seven states on Monday, many of them normally reliably Republican.
Mr McCain has struggled to disassociate his campaign from the Republican administration of outgoing President George W Bush. His campaign chief Rick Davis late on Friday also promised supporters that despite media reports to the contrary, Mr McCain could still win the White House. "If your television is tuned to cable news as frequently as ours are here at campaign headquarters, you have seen the pundits say John McCain and his campaign are done," Mr Davis said in an e-mail to supporters.
"If you've followed this race since the beginning, this is clearly a song you've heard before," he said. One out of seven voters is still undecided ahead of Tuesday's election, Mr Davis insisted. "That means, if 130 million voters turn out on Tuesday, 18.5 million of them have yet to make up their mind. With that many votes on the table and the tremendous movement we've seen in this race, I believe we are in a very competitive campaign," he said, insisting: "We believe this race is winnable."
In an interview on Friday, Mr Obama said the other pressing priorities if he wins would be achieving energy independence and enacting universal health care for Americans reeling from the economic crisis. "And none of this can be accomplished if we continue to see a potential meltdown in the banking system or the financial system," he said. "So that's priority number one, making sure that the plumbing works in our capitalist system," Mr Obama said.
He refused to detail his potential choice of Treasury secretary ? but noted that his economic advisers include ex-Treasury secretary Larry Summers, former Federal Reserve chief Paul Volcker and billionaire investor Warren Buffett. Mr Obama also said he had admired McCain in 2000, when the Republican had decried "low road" politics after a vicious smear campaign in his contest against president Bush for the Republican nomination that year.
"But the high road didn't lead him to the White House then, so this time, he decided to take a different route," the Democrat said. "But Iowa, at this moment, in this election, we have the chance to do more than just beat back this kind of politics ? we have the chance to end it once and for all," he said in Des Moines. "We have the chance to prove that the one thing more powerful than the politics of anything-goes ? the one thing the cynics don't count on ? is the will of the American people.
"That's how we'll steer ourselves out of this crisis ? with a new politics for a new time. That's how we'll build the future we know is possible ? as one people, as one nation." * AFP