ZANESVILLE, Ohio--The final, full week before the election began Sunday where it ended in 2004 in battleground Ohio.
Forty-one years to the day that he was shot down over Vietnam, Republican presidential nominee John McCain rallied with a crowd of about 4,000 in Zanesville on the edge of Appalachia, presenting himself as the alternative to complete Democratic control of Washington.
He also stepped up the rhetoric to put more distance between himself and the policies of unpopular President Bush.
We can t let that happen, he said to cheers. Can you imagine Barack Obama, [Harry] Reid, and [Nancy] Pelosi? My friends, tax and spend, tax and spend.
A sign held up behind Mr. McCain in the crowd summed up the purpose of his visit: Keep Ohio Red.
We have nine days to go, he said. We re a few points down. Pundits have written us off as they have before. Senator Obama is working out the details with Speaker Pelosi and [Senate President] Reid to raise your taxes and concede defeat in Iraq. We re not going to let that happen.
He s measuring the drapes , he said. I m a little old-fashioned about these things. I prefer to let the voters decide. What America needs is someone who finishes the race before starting the victory lap.
After Zanesville, Mr. McCain headed deeper into Appalachia for a similar rally Sunday night at Ohio University s Lancaster campus in a swing-vote region of a swing-vote state that could ultimately decide Ohio s, and potentially the nation s, election on Nov. 4.
Between trips to defend another 2004 Bush red state, Virginia, and make a play to convert a 2004 blue state, Pennsylvania, he will squeeze in yet another Ohio rally on Monday in the Republican stronghold of Kettering near Dayton.
Mr. McCain is counting a strong turnout from southwestern Ohio to counter anticipated strength of Democratic nominee Barack Obama out of Cleveland, Toledo, and the city s other major cities.
This weekend s Ohio Newspaper Poll shows the race for Ohio to be a statistical dead heat with a slight edge for Mr. Obama in a state that Mr. McCain characterizes as a must-win for himself if he is to capture the White House.
The Arizona senator Sunday continued to present himself as the underdog in the race.
Mr. Obama will be in North Canton Monday where his campaign said he will make the closing argument for Ohio s vote. Mr. McCain s running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, will visit Bowling Green State University on Wednesday. Mr. McCain will bring in a big gun to Columbus on Friday California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Almost forgotten in the rapid-fire visits is third-party candidate and consumer advocate Ralph Nader who plans to visit the Statehouse on Thursday.
Sally Balo, of Coschocton, attended the Zanesville rally, showing support for the man she said she will vote for when she goes to the polls on Nov. 4.
He s a patriot and stands for the moral issues that I stand for, she said. [Mr. Obama] favors abortion, he s for government control of health care, and he supports homosexuals adopting children.
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