McCain looks to defend Va. for GOP

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. -- John McCain spent Saturday trying to keep Virginia in the Republican column and wrest Pennsylvania from the Democrats.

"Let me state the obvious," the GOP presidential nominee told several thousand people gathered at Christopher Newport University here. "We need to win the state of Virginia."

Democrat Barack Obama is making a major push in the Old Dominion, especially in the vote-rich Washington, D.C. suburbs where McCain will stop later today. Statewide polls show Obama leading McCain by an average of nearly seven percentage points, according to

Later this afternoon, McCain will hold a rally in Pennsylvania. The Keystone State has voted for Democrats in the last four presidential elections.

McCain will also make a national appeal tonight, with a guest appearance on "Saturday Night Live" that will be hosted by actor Ben Affleck, an Obama supporter. The comedy sketch show has been skewering McCain running mate Sarah Palin, who also recently made an appearance.

On the campaign trail, McCain cast himself as an underdog in the campaign, insisting "we're a couple of points down but we're coming back in Virginia." He urged the crowd to ignore "the pundits," whom he said have already written him off. "Bless them," he said.

The former Navy pilot and Vietnam POW also stressed his anti-tax message and his military background, saying Obama's plan consists of "lowering our defenses and raising our taxes."

A win by Obama in Virginia would cap a Democratic trend in the state, which has elected two straight Democratic governors — Mark Warner and Tim Kaine — but last picked a Democrat for president in 1964. (That was Lyndon Johnson.) Warner, who is running for a U.S. Senate seat, has taped radio ads for Obama that are playing in key Virginia markets. McCain's campaign has been a fixture on Virginia radio and TV as well, hitting Obama on taxes.

Before his TV appearance tonight, McCain will hold a rally near Allentown in eastern Pennsylvania, one of the big industrial-state keys to the election. Statewide polls there show Obama leading by an average of about nine points. McCain and Palin have tried to appeal to white working-class voters, a bloc that strongly voted for Obama rival Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic primaries earlier in the year.