McCain makes bid for big comeback

SCRANTON, Pa. -- John McCain is sprinting to the Election Day finish line, telling supporters in "blue" Democratic states Sunday that he is the better bet to revive the economy and protect national security.

During stops in Pennsylvania, which Democrat John Kerry won four years ago, McCain said he remains "a few points" behind rival Barack Obama in the Keystone State. McCain is seven points behind in the latest USA TODAY/Gallup Poll, but the GOP nominee predicted a historic comeback.

"My friends, the Mac is back!" McCain told about 2,000 supporters at a high school gym in Wallingford, Pa., near Philadelphia. He echoed the line hours later in another gym at the University of Scranton, urging supporters to make sure they and their friends get to the polls. "We can win, but we've got to fight for it," he said.

McCain's last day on the trail begins today at 9 a.m. ET, outside the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' football stadium in Florida. From there, he heads to Tennessee, close to the Virginia and North Carolina borders; Pennsylvania; Indiana; New Mexico; and Nevada. He plans to end his second presidential bid with an event in Prescott, Ariz., the stopping point for his Senate campaigns.

"The purpose is to reach as many voters as you can in as many markets as you can," said McCain senior aide Mark Salter.

With the exception of Pennsylvania, McCain's final day will be spent in states that voted for President Bush in 2004. He faces tough fights in all of them.

McCain's closing arguments began and ended with proposals to help the struggling economy.

He said he wants to slash government spending, while Obama would expand government. McCain said he will cut taxes while Obama and a Democratic Congress plan to raise them.

"Raising taxes makes a bad economy much worse," McCain said in Wallingford. "Taxing small businesses will kill jobs," he said in Scranton.

McCain also touted his plans to buy up bad mortgages, authorize new nuclear power plants, and expand offshore drilling for oil and natural gas. The last proposal on his list produced raucous chants of "Drill, Baby, Drill!" at both Pennsylvania stops.

In his speeches, McCain continued to pay tribute to Joe the Plumber. Joe Wurzelbacher is the Ohio man whose question to Obama about tax policy produced the Democrat's answer about wanting to "spread the wealth" — a comment McCain has mocked repeatedly by saying Obama is running to be "redistributor in chief."

In discussing foreign affairs, McCain also spotlighted the first-term Illinois senator's lack of experience. "I have been tested," McCain said in Scranton. "Sen. Obama hasn't."

Flora Kinghorn, 40, a stay-at-home mom who lives in Wallingford, predicted a McCain victory because voters who have considered Obama will see "the risks behind the pretty words." McCain, she said, "gives me a sense of safety. He has put his life on the line for the country. … The other guy seems to be inexperienced."

After visiting Pennsylvania, McCain took a sentimental journey to New Hampshire, joined by Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling in Peterborough. McCain vaulted into national politics when he won New Hampshire's GOP primary in 2000. The same primary saved his foundering candidacy earlier this year, paving his way to the GOP nomination.

At his town hall meeting, McCain discussed allegations of voter fraud, college loans, immigration and clean coal technology. He vowed to make "tough decisions" on the budget: "We're going to have to scrub every agency of government."