McCain works to keep Florida red

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- John McCain criss-crossed Florida on Wednesday, trying to keep the state in the Republican column as some supporters worried about whether he can catch the better-funded Barack Obama.

"I wish I didn't feel like it was over," said Dawn Poole, a McCain backer who saw him speak at a lumberyard in Miami. "It looks that way, but it's not going to stop me from voting.

"Maybe we'll be surprised," she said.

Greta Rodriguez, a retired administrative assistant from Miami, is "hoping and praying" for McCain to prevail. While Obama is "a little bit ahead in the poll," a "silent majority" could emerge and pull out Florida for McCain, she said. McCain needs to open the "Pandora's Box" of Obama's background to win, said John Piscola, a former New York school principal who lives in Miami Beach.

A series of Florida polls released between Monday and Wednesday showed Obama with anywhere from a 2- to a 7-percentage-point lead.

"We've got to win the state of Florida, my friends, and we're going to win here," McCain said in Miami.

Republican Gov. Charlie Crist and Sen. Mel Martinez, who traveled with McCain on Wednesday, echoed his optimism about Florida.

McCain continued to hammer Obama on Wednesday on the economy and national security, saying the Democrat lacked the experience to handle either.

The question is whether Obama "has what it takes to protect America from Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda, and other grave threats in the world," McCain said in Tampa. "And he has given you no reason to answer in the affirmative."

Retired major general J. Scott Gration, an Obama campaign spokesman, criticized McCain for supporting a Bush foreign policy that has not captured bin Laden.

While Obama prepared a 30-minute commercial, which ran during prime time Wednesday, McCain taped an interview with CNN's Larry King Live in Tampa.

At events in Miami and Riviera Beach, McCain warned that Obama and a Democratic Congress would raise taxes, slowing down the economy even more. After a brief meeting with local business owners in Riviera Beach, McCain criticized Obama's half-hour "infomercial."

"As with other infomercials, he's got a few things he wants to sell you," McCain said, blasting his plans for "government-run" health care and redistribution of income. He said Obama broke his pledge to take public financing and voters should remember that the ad "was paid for with broken promises."

Obama, during a speech in North Carolina, said McCain is distorting the details of his economic plan. "If you make under $250,000, you will not see your taxes increase by a single dime," he said.

In Tampa, McCain conducted a national security roundtable featuring former military officials and supporters such as former Pennsylvania governor and Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge and Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent.

McCain also criticized Obama for being soft on former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. McCain said he would only meet with new ruler Raul Castro "after they empty the political prisons."