McCain looks to defend Va., take Pa. for GOP

PERKASIE, Pa. -- John McCain spent Saturday trying to keep Virginia in the Republican column and take Pennsylvania away from the Democrats.

McCain asked voters gathered in an airplane hangar here for their help as he struggles to win Pennsylvania, which has voted Democratic for the last four presidential elections. He also made an appearance on television's Saturday Night Live— accompanied by his wife, Cindy, for one sketch.

McCain trails Democrat Barack Obama in statewide polls by an average of about nine percentage points, according to

McCain and running mate Sarah Palin have tried to appeal to white working-class voters in Pennsylvania — a voting bloc that Obama has had difficulty winning over. Working-class voters strongly backed Obama rival Hillary Rodham Clinton during the Democratic primaries.

At a lunchtime rally in Springfield, Va. — near Washington, D.C. — McCain sought to distance himself from President Bush. "We need a new direction and we have to fight for it," McCain said.

Obama is making a major push in Virginia, especially in the vote-rich Washington suburbs. 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.)

Polls in Virginia show Obama leading McCain by an average of nearly seven percentage points. 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.

He told the Springfield, Va. crowd on Saturday that he has always had faith in the USA and that the country "has never had to prove anything to me." The line was a reference to a comment made by Obama on Friday, in which the Democratic nominee said his victory earlier this year in the Iowa caucuses "vindicated" his faith in the American people.

Obama spokesman Bill Burton said McCain was distorting Obama's comment "to attack his patriotism."

In his other remarks, McCain — a 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."

McCain's military experience appeals to Delores Randall, 72, a housewife who came to the airplane hangar in Perkasie, Pa. to hear the GOP nominee.

"The man was willing to lay down his life for this country," she said, adding that she is "afraid" of Obama. "The man has no experience."

McCain also made a national appeal on Saturday night with a guest opening appearance on Saturday Night Live. The show is being hosted by actor Ben Affleck, an Obama supporter, who announced his endorsement of McCain in the early part of the program. NBC's comedy sketch show has been skewering Palin, who also recently made an appearance.

The GOP ticket is furiously trying to visit as many battleground states before Tuesday. In the final day before polls close, McCain plans a cross-country marathon. He'll leave Miami at 6 a.m. ET Monday and end his travels at 3 a.m. ET Tuesday in Prescott, Ariz. In between are stops in Tampa; Bristol, Va.; Pittsburgh; Indianapolis; Roswell, N.M. and Las Vegas — meaning he'll be in six battleground states before ending his campaign in the same town where conservative icon Barry Goldwater ended his 1964 presidential bid.