Obama, McCain battle across campaign's closing day

TAMPA -- Presidential contenders Barack Obama, who is leading in national polls, and John McCain, self-described underdog, were both upbeat Monday about their electoral prospects as they sprinted cross-country to rally support on the eve of Election Day.

"I am cautiously optimistic about our chances," Obama said in an interview on the Ed Schultz Show. " I think that if we work hard, if people go out and vote in the way I know is possible, then I think we have a good chance of reversing eight years of a mismanaged economy and really start helping people get on their feet again and that's what this election's all about."

McCain seemed to relish the underdog role as he fed off the energy of support at a morning rally in Tampa.

"With this kind of enthusiasm, and this kind of intensity, we will win Florida and we will win this race tomorrow," the Arizona senator said.

"The pundits may not know it, but the Mac is back. And we're going to win this election."

The final Gallup poll of likely voters showed Obama leading McCain, 53% to 42%.

Both began the last full-day of campaigning in the critical battleground state of Florida, which most polls showed as a dead heat. Polls show the six closest states are Florida, Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Nevada and Ohio.

The candidates are hitting the tossups states in search of enough electoral votes to hit the 270 needed to claim the presidency.

McCain, the Republican, was blitzing seven states in 17 hours — Florida, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Indiana, New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada —ending after midnight with a rally in Prescott, Ariz., where he has traditionally ended his Senate campaigns.

Obama, the Democrat, was stumping in Virginia and Indiana before returning home to Chicago for a huge rally in Grant Park Tuesday evening.

On Election Day, however, both planned to squeeze in one last round of campaigning close to home: McCain in New Mexico and Obama in Indiana.

The final scramble across several time zones once again reflected the state of the race for the past month, with both contenders largely hitting traditionally Republican states.

The campaigns also are running aggressive ground games, especially in Iowa, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Colorado and Virginia.

"I'm not afraid of a fight, I'm ready for it," he told a raucous crowd in Blountville, Tenn., along the Virginia border.

Obama, at a rally in Jacksonvile, Fla., hammered at McCain over economic issues, particularly his rival's remarks on the eve of the financial crisis in September that "the fundamentals of our economy are strong."

"Well, Florida, you and I know that's not only fundamentally wrong, it also sums up his out-of-touch, on-your-own economic philosophy," he said.

Obama was also pensive as he prepared for his final campaign stops.

"I feel pretty peaceful," the Illinois senator said on the "Russ Parr Morning Show."

"The question is going to be who wants it more," he said "And I hope that our supporters want it bad, because I think the country needs it."

In other developments:

• Some 27 million votes had been cast in 30 states in early voting as of Saturday night, with Democrats outnumbered Republicans in pre-Election Day voting in key states.

• In New Hampshire, McCain held his last town hall meeting of the 2008 campaign — something of an exercise in nostalgia, as he conducted dozens of such freewheeling affairs in the months leading up to his victory in that state's primary.

"I come to the people of New Hampshire to ask them to let me go on one more mission," McCain said in Peterborough.

•The two vice presidential candidates were also racing across key battleground states. McCain's running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was campaigning in Ohio, Missouri, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada and will return to Alaska to vote. Biden was dispatched to Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

In his morning rally before several hundreds supporters at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers football stadium, McCain assailed what he described as Obama's plans to raise taxes and increase the size of government, saying both would delay the return of economic policy.

The self-described maverick Republican also said Obama has never challenged the leadership of his party, and lacks the necessary experience on foreign policy.

"I've been tested — I've passed that test," said the former Navy pilot and Vietnam POW. "Sen. Obama has not."

The crowd broke in frequently to chant: "No-Bam-A, No-Bam-A," and "U-S-A! U-S-A!"

Obama exuded confidence Sunday at events in three cities in the bellwether state of Ohio, which voted for President Bush in 2000 and 2004 but is trending Democratic this year as it struggles against an anemic economy.

"We cannot afford to slow down or sit back or let up," Obama told voters at an evening rally in Cincinnati. "We need to win an election on Tuesday."

Contributing: Kathy Kiely, in Jacksonville, Fla.; Douglas Stanglin, in McLean, Va.; the Associated Press