With week to go, Obama levels 'closing argument'
ALLENTOWN, Pennsylvania (AFP) – White House front-runner Barack Obama traded barbs with John McCain over their plans for the stricken US economy as the presidential campaign entered its final full week.
With just eight days to go until polling, the pair were campaigning in the rust-belt states of Ohio and Pennsylvania after a weekend battleground blitz through western states tilting towards Obama , 47.
"After decades of broken politics in Washington, eight years of failed policies from (President) 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 one week away from change in America," Obama told supporters in Ohio.
The Illinois senator, vying to become the country's first African-American president, hammered McCain on the November 4 election's defining issue -- the economy -- but also appealed to voters to choose "hope over fear."
"It's about a new politics -- a politics that calls on our better angels instead of encouraging our worst instincts," he said in a retooled stump speech that aides said was Obama's "closing argument" as the campaign climaxes.
McCain, 72, meanwhile, speaking after meeting of his top economic advisers and business leaders in Cleveland, again accused Obama of secretly plotting to raise taxes across the board.
"Today he claims he'll tax the rich; but we've seen in the past that he's been willing to hit people squarely in the middle class."
Later McCain attempted to reignite fears of "socialism" by citing a 2001 interview given by Obama where he appeared to lament the failure of the civil rights movement to bring about greater financial equality.
"That is what change means for Barack the Redistributor: It means taking your money and giving it to someone else," he told a crowd of around 2,000 at a sports hall in Dayton, Ohio.
Obama's camp responded swiftly, rejecting McCain's comment as a "false, desperate attack."
Obama earlier berated his Republican foe for sticking to what he called the discredited economic policies of the profoundly unpopular Bush.
"When it comes to the economy ... the plain truth is that John McCain has stood with this president every step of the way," the Democrat said.
"At a moment like this, the last thing we can afford is four more years of the tired, worn-out old theory that says we should give more to billionaires and big corporations and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else."
Obama, fired up by an astonishing prowess at fundraising, was to follow up his Ohio speech with a 30-minute advertisement airing on national networks at huge expense on Wednesday evening.
McCain's electoral map is shrinking as he battles to hold on to states won by Bush in 2004 such as Iowa, where Sunday he shrugged off national and pivotal state polls that suggest Obama will triumph a week from Tuesday.
Monday's Gallup tracking poll of likely voters nationwide gave Obama a lead of 50 percent to 45 percent over McCain. Broader polls of registered voters give the Democrat a double-digit margin.
McCain began the final full week of campaigning in Cleveland before heading later to Pennsylvania, where white working-class voters proved resistant to Obama during his primary battle with Hillary Clinton.
The White House contenders flew east after sparring in the western states of Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada, which could seal victory for Obama if he can win all the states that Democrat John Kerry captured against Bush in 2004.
But the Democrat is also pursuing a multi-pronged strategy to keep the Arizona senator on the ropes in Republican bastions out east including Virginia and North Carolina.
The strategy appears to be bearing fruit. A new Washington Post survey said Obama now leads McCain in Virginia by 52 percent to 44 percent. The state has not backed a Democrat for the White House since 1964.
Read Obama's full speech here.
This video is from CNN.com, broadcast October 27, 2008.
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