Heading into the final eight days of campaigning, the two presidential candidates honed their closing messages Monday, with John McCain pledging to resolve the economic crisis without raising taxes and Barack Obama calling for an end to the politics of division.
Both took their messages to the key battleground state of Ohio, McCain in Cleveland and Obama in Canton.
Ohio, which has 20 electoral votes, never really recovered from the post-Sept. 11 recession. Long a manufacturing bastion, Ohio has lost almost 250,000 factory jobs since 2000. The unemployment rate is at 7.2%, well above the national average of 6.1%.
Unlike in other key states, Obama has struggled to sustain a big lead in Ohio despite pounding McCain with TV ads and building a strong get-out-the-vote operation.
McCain, trailing in national polls, spoke Monday after meeting with his economic advisers, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who ran against McCain in the primaries; Stanford University professor John Taylor; and two former vice presidential possibilities, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and one-time CEO of eBay, Meg Whitman.
The Arizona senator said he and his opponent "both disagree with President Bush on economic policy." The difference, McCain said, is that he believes government spending is too high, while Obama believes taxes are too low.
"It's a difference of millions of jobs," McCain said, flanked by his economic team, adding that "Americans are beginning to figure that out."
The senator also warned of the perils of all-Democratic government — a President Obama, plus House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
"My friends, this is a dangerous threesome," McCain said, criticizing their proposals for a new economic "stimulus" plan.
Obama, speaking in the industrial city of Canton, delivered what his campaign called his "close argument" as election day draws near.
Among those points is the theme of linking McCain to President Bush, the unpopular leader of the Republican party.
"I can take one more week of John McCain's attacks, but this country can't take four more years of the same failed politics and same failed policies," Obama said. "It is time to try something new."
Obama also responded to McCain's efforts to label the Democrat's plan to give a middle-class tax cut akin to socialism.
"The choice isn't between tax cuts or no tax cuts, it's about whether we believe we should only reward wealth or should also reward the workers who create wealth," he said.
"John McCain calls it socialism, but I call it opportunity, and there's nothing more American than that," he said.
Obama told a cheering crowd it was time for national unity.
"In one week, you can put an end to the politics that would divide a nation just to win an election; that tries to pit region against region, city against town, Republican against Democrat; that asks us to fear at a time when we need hope," the senator said.
In other developments:
•McCain's running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, met Monday with Israeli ambassador Sallai Meridor and apologized for not being able to meet with him sooner. She told the ambassador: "We look forward to … working with your Jewish agency."
•Sen. Joe Biden, Obama's running mate, campaigned in North Carolina, while Palin stumped in Virginia.
Contributing: David Jackson in Cleveland; Douglas Stanglin in McLean, Va.; Associated Press