Candidates campaign in Midwest days before election

— -- The presidential candidates campaigned in the Midwest on Friday, hammering away at key issues just days before the election on Tuesday.

Republican presidential candidate John McCain was spending a second straight day touring economically ailing Ohio, a swing state with 20 electoral votes that McCain aides acknowledge is central to a victory on Tuesday. McCain was behind Democratic candidate Barack Obama in polls in the state.

Speaking in Hanoverton, Ohio, McCain acknowledged he's still down in the polls, but "we're coming back and we're coming back strong."

He also ripped into the "corruption" of Washington, D.C., alluding to the recent conviction of Republican Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, for failing to report gifts.

"I will clean up this mess and make you proud again," he told the cheering crowd.

McCain is scheduled to end his tour early this evening in Columbus, Ohio, with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Another Republican political celebrity, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, appeared in Hanoverton and said McCain deserves to win for two reasons — lower taxes and "the security and defense of the United States of America."

The McCain campaign confirmed Friday that the senator will appear on Saturday Night Live this weekend. Hosting the show is actor Ben Affleck, an Obama supporter.

Obama was set to spend the day on a blitz across the Midwest, with his first stop back where his run began, in Des Moines, where he upset Hillary Rodham Clinton in the campaign's first contest.

"We started the campaign right here," he told the crowd at a noontime rally in unseasonably balmy weather in Des Moines. "We weren't given much of a chance by polls or pundits."

"But I knew the size of our challenge had outgrown the smallness of our politics," Obama added. "America's hungry for a new kind of politics."

Obama accused McCain of running a "slash and burn" campaign.

"He has spent the last few weeks calling me every name in the book," the Illinois senator said, speaking from a podium decorated with hay bales and Halloween pumpkins.

He said McCain has reneged on the pledge he made during his failed 2000 campaign to take the high road to the presidency. "It didn't lead to the White House then, so this time he's decided to take a different route," Obama said.

Obama stopped briefly at home in Chicago on Friday afternoon for Halloween. He got a bit cranky with reporters as he walked with daughter Sasha, 7 , to a party. "All right guys. That's enough. You've got a shot. Leave us alone," he said.

Later, Obama capped his day with a short bus trip to a Gary, Ind. suburb, where he addressed a crowd estimated at 40,000. He told the crowd that his two daughters always have trouble deciding on their costumes for Halloween "but John McCain doesn't have that problem," he said at a park in Highland, Ind.

"Just like every year, he's going as George Bush," the Democratic nominee declared.

The Highland crowd extended far outside the hurricane fencing set up by police. Many remained listening to Obama, unable to see him.

Eric Hinkle, 42, who works for a car rental agency in Munster, Ind., said he took advantage of Indiana's early voting law to cast his ballot for Obama on Thursday. "You see all these people here -- white, black, Hispanic," said Hinkle, who is white, as a black woman next to him nodded. "He's the only one who could bring us all together."

The Obama campaign announced it is beginning to advertise in three traditionally Republican states this weekend — McCain's home state of Arizona, North Dakota and Georgia.

"We're just going to give it a go in the last several days and see how close we can get," Obama campaign manager David Plouffe told reporters in a conference call. "We've got an opportunity to maybe pull one out."

McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin, was holding four rallies in Pennsylvania.

At her first event Friday morning in Latrobe, Palin focused on the economy calling the crowd of supporters "hardworking, good, unpretentious families" who deserve good jobs and government on their side.

"Our country is facing tough times and now more than ever we need someone tough as president," she said. "We need someone, a leader with experience and courage and good judgment and truthfulness ... to get our country in the right direction" and "only John McCain has the plan to get our country back on the right track."

Palin's appearance came after former secretary of state Lawrence Eagleburger, a Republican and supporter of McCain, said on National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation that Palin was not prepared to be president.

"Of course not," Eagleburger said on Thursday's show when asked if he is entirely comfortable with the idea of the vice presidential nominee taking over the presidency in a crisis. He went on to say she could learn the vice president's job and be "adequate" at it.

He also made the case that Obama is not prepared to handle a national emergency.

"I don't think under the best of circumstances the opposition presidential candidate would be able to figure out" how to handle most crises, Eagleburger said.

Throughout the day throngs of supporters turned out for Obama and McCain.

In Des Moines, Lisa Hogan, a homemaker, showed up wearing a "Joe Biden for Vice President" button. Obama's running mate was her first choice in the Iowa presidential caucuses.

As an Arab-American, Hogan said she was impressed by Biden's determination to promote peace in the Middle East.

"I was going to support him anyway," she said of Obama. "But I was thrilled when he picked Biden."

At a fairgrounds next to the high school football stadium in New Philadelphia, Ohio, another stop for McCain Friday, supporters expressed confidence their man would pull it out because he is a more experienced lawmaker.

Sue Geist, 52, an office manager for the local health department, said McCain "has got a little better handle on what's going out here with people who have to work for a living."

Contributing: David Jackson reported from Hanoverton; Kathy Kiely reported from Des Moines; Carolyn Pesce in McLean, Va.; the Associated Press