It's the last full week of the 2008 presidential campaign, and Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain have whittled the political battleground down to a handful of states and a few sound bites.
Ohio is at the center of both campaigns' strategies, and both launched their final White House drives there today.
McCain came out swinging at rallies in Cleveland and Dayton, ripping Obama for statements that McCain said showed that his Democratic opponent wants to "redistribute" wealth, not increase wealth.
The Republican's attack was fueled by an Obama statement in 2001 that surfaced today in which Obama said that one of the "tragedies" of the civil rights movement was that organizers didn't "put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change."
McCain pointed to that statement as a fresh indication that Obama was intent on taxing the middle class.
"That is what change means for the Obama administration. The Redistributor. It means taking your money away and giving it to somebody else," McCain told a rally in Dayton.
The 2001 quote gave McCain fresh ammunition for his economic attack on Obama, one that he has been hammering home since Obama's conversation earlier this month with "Joe the Plumber." In that chat with plumber Joe Wurzelbacher, Obama defended his tax hikes for families making more than $250,000 by saying he wanted to "spread the wealth around."
"He is more interested in controlling wealth than in creating it, in redistributing money instead of spreading opportunity," McCain said.
Earlier in Cleveland, McCain said, "Now we know that the slogans 'change you can believe in' and 'change we need' are code words for Barack Obama's ultimate goal: redistributive change."
McCain started the day with good news in the Buckeye State, which was critical in President Bush's win over Sen. John Kerry in 2004 and Vice President Al Gore in 2000.
An Ohio Newspaper/University of Cincinnati poll indicates the Ohio race is a statistical dead heat, giving a 49-46 edge to Obama.
Obama lost Ohio to Sen. Hillary Clinton during the Democratic primaries, and no Democrat has won the presidency without Ohio's support since the state supported Vice President Richard Nixon over Sen. John Kennedy in the 1960 campaign.
But Obama also received good news to fuel his final drive.
A Washington Post poll suggests he is comfortably ahead with a 52-44 margin in Virginia, a state that has been reliably Republican in recent presidential contests.
A loss in Virginia next Tuesday, Election Day, would be a devastating blow for McCain's dwindling White House ambitions.
Obama Aims to Expand Electoral Map
Obama, whose campaign is awash in cash, has the more ambitious plans for the final eight days of the 2008 presidential marathon.
The Democratic candidate went to Canton, Ohio, today to give what he billed as the "closing argument" for his White House bid.
After all these months of debates, speeches and counterpunches, Obama's closing argument circles back to his original mantra used against his challengers in the Democratic primaries -- change.
"As I've said from the day we began this journey all those months ago, the change we need isn't just about new programs and policies," Obama said. "It's about a new politics -- a politics that calls on our better angels instead of encouraging our worst instincts."
As usual, Obama praised his rival for his war hero status, and took a shot at him for supporting President Bush.
"Sen. McCain has served this country honorably. ... He deserves credit for that," Obama said.
"After 21 months and three debates, McCain still has not been able to tell the American people a single major thing he'd do differently from George Bush when it comes to the economy," he said.
McCain, Obama Begin Final Week in Battleground Ohio
Obama will also star in his own 30-minute commercial on several television networks Wednesday, an extravagance the McCain campaign could only dream about.
McCain's latest wrinkle in his stump speech is that an Obama victory would give Democrats control of the White House, the Senate and the House.
Calling Obama "the most liberal person to ever run for the presidency," McCain warned about having him team up with fellow Democrats Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California.
"This is a dangerous threesome," McCain warned in Cleveland while flanked by his economic advisers, including former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman.
Obama and McCain will shift their attentions in the evening to Pennsylvania, another hotly contested state. The two camps will have surrogates campaigning in Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and Nevada.
McCain is trying to overcome polls indicating that Obama is solidifying a lead in battleground states that would be hard to overcome. Obama is worried by those same polls, fearing they will make his supporters overconfident and dilute voter turnout.
Obama was buoyed, however, by a massive rally in Denver Sunday that drew more than 100,000 people, one of the largest domestic crowds yet for a candidate who has specialized in drawing big crowds.
Perhaps more disheartening to the McCain camp, Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., McCain's Republican colleague in the Senate, practically threw in the towel, teling the Arizona Daily Star, "Unfortunately, I think John McCain might be added to that long list of Arizonans who ran for president but were never elected."
McCain's Age Bigger Factor Than Obama's Race; Palin Woes Continue
Obama's race may be less a factor than people feared when he began his campaign nearly two years ago.
The latest ABC News/Washington Post daily tracking poll found that 15 percent of voters admitted to feelings of racial prejudice. That's down from 32 percent last June.
That same poll had bad news for McCain.
The poll found that McCain's age, 72, was more of a factor than Obama's race. Only 50 percent say they are comfortable with McCain's age.
McCain's running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, has been dogged by controversies of her own.
Over the weekend, she stopped wearing the designer outfits purchased for her by the Republican National Committee at a cost of $150,000.
"I'm back to wearing my own clothes from my favorite consignment shop in Anchorage, Alaska," she told a rally this weekend.
Palin and McCain have had to deny throughout the weekend stories about tension between their two camps, with one unnamed source dissing Palin as a "diva."
Her staff also continues to promise the release of her medical records.
Palin surprised the McCain campaign by saying last week that she welcomed the release of her medical records. Her campaign aides have been asked almost daily when the records are going to be made public. Palin's staff has said they will be released some time this week.