John McCain and his vice presidential running mate, Sarah Palin, have introduced a kinder, gentler campaign against Barack Obama as the Republican duo has slipped farther behind in the polls with only three weeks left until Election Day.
The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll indicates that Obama is pulling away from McCain, establishing a 10-point lead in the race for the White House by a commanding 53 percent to 43 percent.
McCain had tried to overcome sliding poll numbers by aggressively attacking the Illinois senator, but the Washington Post/ABC News poll indicates that the pit-bull style may have worked against McCain and Palin.
It found that 59 percent accused McCain of negative campaigning, while 35 percent said McCain is addressing the issues.
"I think we're headed for a very big win," Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., told "Good Morning America" today.
Republicans are showing signs of worry about the state of the presidential race.
Conservative Republican William Kristol wrote in The New York Times that the McCain campaign is "close to being out-and-out dysfunctional."
"If the race continues over the next three weeks to be a conventional one, McCain is doomed," Kristol said.
McCain, speaking today in Virginia Beach, Va., acknowledged his campaign was trailing, but denied the race was over.
"The national media has written us off. Sen. Obama is measuring the drapes," he said to a cheering throng. He added, " My friends, we've got them just where we want them."
Alluding ostensibly to the country's economy, his experience as a POW, and his political fortunes, he said, "I know what fear feels like. ... I know what hopelessness feels like. ... I felt those things once before. I will never let them in again. I'm an American. And I choose to fight."
"Nothing is inevitable here," McCain said. "We never give up. We never quit. We never hide from history. We make history."
In contrast, Obama presented an afternoon rally in Toledo, Ohio, with his most comprehensive economic plan yet, and coupled it with an admonishment for average Americans to "create a new ethic of responsibility." The "era of easy money" in which people are "encouraged to spend without limits" is over, and it is time to break "the cycle of debt," he said.
"This country and the dream it represents are being tested in a way that we haven't seen in nearly a century," Obama said. "And future generations will judge ours by how we respond to this test."
McCain and Palin changed their tactics over this weekend, toning down their rhetoric and insisting to their supporters that they will battle Obama but with "respect."
At a rally in St. Clairsville, Ohio, Sunday night, Palin dropped her usual references to Obama "palling around" with terrorists and didn't mention Obama's acquaintance with former 1960s radical Bill Ayers.
That reference has prompted supporters in the last week to angrily shout out things like "traitor" and "off with his head."
Instead, the Alaska governor attacked Obama for his abortion-rights stance saying, "It's not negative and it's not mean-spirited in a campaign for me to ask you to check out our opponent's record."
At another point, Palin told the crowd, "I'm not being negative, not mean-spirited, but please check out his record on partial-birth abortion and on the Child Born-Alive Act, and I'll let you judge for yourself."