With five days left in the presidential race, the candidates are in a familiar pattern: They hit battleground states Thursday, trying to appeal to independent and undecided voters, and introduced new attacks based on stories in the morning paper.
In Sarasota, Fla., this morning at an Early Vote for Change Rally, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., seized upon the news that the Gross Domestic Product, the broadest measure of the nation's economic health, had fallen 0.3 percent in the third quarter, saying it's a direct result of policies President Bush enacted and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., supported.
"Our falling GDP is a direct result of eight years of the trickle-down, Wall-Street-first/Main-Street-last policies that have driven our economy into a ditch," Obama said. "And the central question in this election is this: What will our next president do to take us in a different direction?"
Obama also put the pedal to the metal on a car metaphor -- one that he's also using in a new commercial -- linking McCain to Bush's failed economic policies that he deemed a "dead-end street."
"If you want to know where Sen. McCain will drive this economy, just look in the rear view mirror," Obama told voters in Florida. "It is time to change drivers; it is time to have someone else at the wheel."
More than seven in 10 Americans disapprove of Bush's handling of the economy and 50 percent of likely voters think that McCain will continue Bush's policies instead of leading the country in a "new direction," according to the latest ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll.
In the aptly named Defiance, Ohio, John McCain jumped on comments Obama made yesterday to ABC News' Charlie Gibson about what he would do if he loses the race in five days.
"I think I could envision returning to the Senate and just doing some terrific work with the next president and the next Congress," Obama said.
"Last night, Sen. Obama said that if he lost he would return to the Senate and try again in four years for the second act," McCain told the crowd. "That sounds like a great idea to me! Let's help him make it happen!"
McCain seized on a headline that Exxon Mobil earned $15 billion in the third quarter, which is the highest quarterly profit ever, using the numbers to attack his opponent's voting record on oil.
"Today, Exxon Mobil reported record profits. Sen. Obama voted for billions in corporate giveaways to the oil companies," McCain said. "I voted against it."
"Ladies and gentlemen, what more evidence do we need that the Exxon Mobils of the world don't need a tax break? That $4 billion should go to middle-class taxpayers, people who need the money!" he said, blasting the Republican's tax plan. "John and [his running mate, Alaska] Gov. [Sarah] Palin have this upside down."
In Erie, Pa., this afternoon, Palin tried to refocus attention from the economy to national security, driving home the message that McCain is better suited to protect the nation.
"The terrorist threat will be with us for many years, and millions of innocent lives are hanging in the balance," Palin said.
In general, throughout the campaign, Obama has had one basic message: McCain offers more of the same Bush economic policies that have failed.
McCain, on the other hand, has launched multi-pronged attacks at Obama, touching upon his questionable associates, his weakness on national defense, and that he will raise voters' taxes.