McCain reboots, takes fight to new level

VIRGINIA BEACH -- A feisty John McCain rallied the Republican faithful on Monday, unveiling an edgier stump speech for the final three weeks of the presidential campaign and vowing to fight aggressively through Nov. 4.

Before a Virginia Beach crowd in a state usually in the GOP column, McCain shifted from attacking Democratic rival Barack Obama for ties to 1960s radical Bill Ayers and instead bristled that "the national media has written us off."

"We've got them just where we want them," the GOP nominee said.

McCain distanced himself from the Bush administration and criticized Obama as lacking experience. He warned about a Democratic president working with a Democratic Congress, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

"Sen. Obama is measuring the drapes," McCain said, "and planning with Speaker Pelosi and Sen. Reid to raise taxes, increase spending … and concede defeat in Iraq."

McCain, entering his Virginia speech to the theme from Rocky, used the word "fight" or a variation of it nearly 20 times in his speech. He alluded to his years as a Vietnam prisoner of war, saying he knows what "hopelessness" and "fear" feel like.

He did not mention President Bush by name, but said, "We cannot spend the next four years as we have spent much of the last eight: waiting for our luck to change."

The retooled speech comes as McCain trails Obama in several national polls. An average of polls compiled by has Obama leading McCain by 7.4 points. McCain told the crowd: "We're 6 points down."

Obama communications director Dan Pfeiffer said the election is not about the horse race reflected by polls, which are a snapshot in time. "It's about who will change the disastrous Bush-McCain economic policies of the last eight years," he said.

McCain will discuss the economy Tuesday in the key battleground of Pennsylvania, where he trails Obama in some polls by double digits. McCain allies, such as Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said McCain is exploring new tax cuts to encourage investment.

McCain's new stump speech was delivered in Virginia and North Carolina, states where Obama is mounting major challenges. North Carolina has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1976, while Virginia has not done so since 1964.

At the Virginia Beach rally, GOP running mate Sarah Palin said she understands Republican anger about Wall Street and "the arrogance of the Washington elite." She said: "Let John McCain turn that anger into action."