Nov. 1, 2008 -- With all eyes on the approaching finish line of the presidential election, the two candidates charted separate strategies for making face-to-face pitches to as many voters in battleground territory as possible.
Democrat Barack Obama, whom most polls show with a sturdy national lead, was to campaign Saturday in Nevada, Colorado and Missouri. Then, in the campaign's final two days, he will attempt to seal the deal in large swing states -- Ohio, Florida, North Carolina and Virginia.
"We are three days away from changing the United States of America," Obama told voters Saturday in Nevada.
Republican John McCain, meanwhile, planned to spend Saturday in Virginia and then travel to Pennsylvania -- a state billed, despite an apparently sizeable Obama lead, as a must-win for the GOP ticket.
The Keystone State has not gone for a Republican presidential candidate for two decades. That voting pattern notwithstanding, the McCain campaign has been pouring money into Pennsylvania and staging upbeat rallies in an effort to clinch the state's 21 electoral votes.
The candidates' running mates are joining the sprint with heavily freighted weekend schedules of their own. Obama's veep pick, Deleware Sen. Joe Biden, was to spend Saturday and Sunday in Indiana, Ohio and Florida, while Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska, was scheduled to target Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and Ohio.
In her recent stump speeches, Palin has introduced new criticisms of the Democratic candidate, accusing Obama at a Florida rally Saturday of engaging in "cheap" politics by misrepresenting McCain's stance on Social Security.
"Barack Obama goes around promising a new kind of politics, then he comes here to Florida and tries to exploit the fears and worries about Social Security and Medicare for retirees, and that's the oldest and cheapest kind of politics there is," Palin said.
McCain's Last Shot
McCain may be down in the polls, but neither his aggressive schedule nor the tone of his stump speeches admits any hint of defeat.
At a Saturday morning rally in Newport News, Va., where the latest CNN-Time poll has Obama ahead 53-44, McCain predicted a win, telling voters that the polls were swinging in his favor.
"We've been a couple points down but we're comin' back and we're comin' back in Virginia!" McCain said.
At times, he changed his language from "If I'm elected" to "When I'm elected," to the applauding crowd's evident pleasure.
McCain continued to hammer at the theme of his being a fighter with a track record, a resonant message in a state where a high percentage of the population has military ties.
"I've been fighting for this country since I was 17 years old and I have the scars to prove it," McCain told Virginia voters in one of his enduring stump lines. "I will never let our vets down and I will provide them with what they need. I'm going to fight to shake up Washington – my first day in Washington to my last. I'm not afraid of the fight, I'm ready for the fight."
McCain attacked Obama's record on tax policy and said electing the Democrat would threaten what he called a two-party balance of power in government, making reference to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
"Obama voted 95 percent of the time to increase taxes," McCain claimed. "We are getting a glimpse of what an Obama, Pelosi, Reid government would look like … Apparently it begins with lowering our defense and raising our taxes."
McCain will cap off the weekend in New Hampshire. While Obama is polling ahead in the Granite State, it delivered McCain victories in both 2000 and 2008 primaries.
Obama: 'We Have to Go Ahead and Bring It Home'
On Friday night, Obama returned to the state where he launched a candidacy that was seen in some quarters at the time as quixotic. He expressed gratitude to a crowd of 25,000 in Des Moines.
"On the day of the Iowa Caucus, my faith in the American people was vindicated. And what you started here in Iowa has swept the nation," Obama said.
Obama accused McCain of abandoning the integrity of his 2000 campaign and resorting to "slash-and-burn politics" in a desperate attempt at victory.
"He said, 'I will not take the low road to the highest office in this land.' Those words were spoken eight years ago by my opponent, John McCain. But the high road didn't lead him to the White House then, so this time, he decided to take a different route," Obama said.
In a last-minute boost for Obama, another prominent Republican abandoned ship and endorsed the Illinois senator. Lobbyist Ken Durbersten, the former chief of staff to Ronald Reagan, announced his support for Obama Friday.
In another bold move, the Obama campaign announced that they were advertising in Georgia, North Dakota and McCain's home state of Arizona -- states that previously were uncompetitive for Democrats.
Friday's ABC News tracking poll had Obama with a nine-point lead over McCain. Despite the polls and last-minute endorsements, Obama was taking nothing for granted and urging voters to continue to fight.
"We can't afford to slow down, or sit back, or let up for one day, one minute or one second in this last week. Not now. Not when so much is at stake. We have to go ahead and bring it home. We have got to go win this election," Obama said.
The candidates' sprint to the finish line wouldn't be complete without last-minute appeals off the stump as well. McCain will appear as a guest on "Saturday Night Live," and both candidates will make final pleas to football fans in interviews with ESPN's Chris Berman to air during halftime on Monday Night Football.
McCain's guest appearance on SNL marks the second time this campaign season that he has appeared on the show, and comes on the heels of Palin's highly viewed debut on the program
On Sunday most Americans will set their clocks back for Daylight savings time. While many of us will enjoy the extra hour of sleep, both candidates will likely fill that hour in making their final case in the race for the White House.