With just eight days of campaigning left, Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama are stepping up their stump speeches to avoid stepping down on November 4.
With the political battleground well defined, states like Ohio and Pennsylvania are critical to both candidates' chances, and both senators kicked off the final full week of the campaign with stops in both.
Supporters of Democrat Obama gathered Monday evening for a "Change We Need" rally inside Pittsburgh's Mellon Arena. After an introduction by Pittsburgh Steelers president Dan Rooney, Obama told the crowd change in America is one week away.
"Sen. McCain might be worried about losing an election, but I'm worried about Americans who are losing their homes, and their jobs, and their life savings," Obama said.
"I can take one more week of John McCain's attacks, but this country can't take four more years of the same old politics and the same failed policies. It's time for something new."
At Canton's Memorial Civic Center Monday afternoon, Obama delivered a speech his campaign dubbed the "closing argument," and touched on themes consistent with those he outlined during his break-out appearance as a little-known state legislator at the 2004 Democratic Convention. Campaign officials claim the consistency has served the Illinois senator well, especially in contrast with McCain, who they say has jumped around from issue to issue, looking for anything that would stick.
Before 5,000 screaming fans, a pumped up Obama decried what he called President Bush's -- and John McCain's -- "tired worn-out old theory" of trickle-down economics.
Obama reminded voters that even after months of campaigning and three presidential debates, his White House rival had not provided the American people with a way to differentiate his policies from those of his predecessor, George W. Bush.
The Democratic nominee begins the final stretch of his campaign in Ohio, a battleground state where an Oct. 22 Ohio newspaper poll has him with a narrow lead of 49 to 46, and then Pennsylvania, another key state, where he enjoys a more comfortable margin of 13 points, according to a Morning Call/Muhlenberg College poll from Oct. 26.
According to Democratic strategist Tad Devine, Pennsylvania is "a place where Obama has been ahead in the polls; if McCain could figure out somehow how to win Pennsylvania he might be able to get back into a plausible scenario of winning the race, but that's why he's spending so much time there."
But while addressing the crowd in Canton today, Obama cautioned supporters against complacency, despite his success in the opinion polls.
"Don't believe for a second this election is over," he chided.
"Don't think for a minute that power concedes. We have to work like our future depends on it in this last week, because it does."
"Sometimes overconfidence can hurt you with your own supporters," said Devine.
Referring to voters, Devine said, "They may think you have so many votes because they see these polls and they believe these polls and they think the race is over before the people, all the people have voted."
Beyond his attacks on the Arizona Republican, Obama's speech included themes of uniting the country, similar to those themes he discussed in 2004.
"There is not a liberal America and a conservative America; there is the United States of America," Obama claimed four years ago.
Today he continued those themes. "Each of us has a role to play," Obama said.