McCain runs marathon through seven battleground states

INDIANAPOLIS -- On the eve of Election Day, Republican John McCain was at times defiant, pleading and humorous as he made a final seven-state campaign swing looking for presidential votes.

Starting early Monday in the shadow of a football stadium in Tampa and looking to end his day on the courthouse steps in Prescott, Ariz., McCain told supporters that he needed every vote in an uphill fight against Democrat Barack Obama.

"Indiana is now a battleground state," McCain declared at an airport in this traditionally Republican state where Obama is making a major push. "But it's a battle that we're going to win."

The Indiana stop came midway through a marathon that also covered Florida, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Nevada, as well as his home state of Arizona. He and Obama also were scheduled to make halftime appearances on the Monday Night Football broadcast.

Trailing in most national polls, McCain changed course and planned a final Election Day campaign push. He was heading Tuesday to Colorado and New Mexico, two states that President Bush carried in 2004 and Obama has fought hard to win.

Running mate Sarah Palin made a separate trek through five battleground states that Bush carried: Ohio, Missouri, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada. She was heading home to Alaska to vote before rejoining McCain in Phoenix on Tuesday night.

"We need a president who has actually fought for change and made it happen," McCain said at another rally near Pittsburgh. Palin was direct, telling an Ohio crowd that "now is not the time to experiment with socialism."

At an airplane hangar in Tennessee, within minutes of the Virginia border, McCain appealed to some 2,000 supporters, "I need your vote."

Throughout Monday, McCain delivered what has become his standard set of messages: That Obama and a Democratic Congress will raise taxes and expand government, and that Obama is inexperienced.

"Tax and spend, tax and spend," McCain said in Tennessee. "That's what they're all about, my friends."

The GOP nominee's trip was calculated with TV markets in mind: The airport rally in Blountville, Tenn., looped in coverage from neighboring Virginia and North Carolina — two traditionally Republican states where Obama is competitive.

McCain also deployed some humor. Citing his recent turn on Saturday Night Live with the show's Palin impersonator, he said, "I really believe that Sarah Palin and Tina Fey were separated at birth."

Upon arriving in Roswell, N.M., where some believe an unidentified flying object landed in 1947, McCain joked: "I am pleased to announce I received the aliens' endorsement."

Family and old friends gathered around McCain on his final campaign stomps. Wife Cindy and daughter Meghan joined McCain aboard his "Straight Talk Air" plane. Members of his leadership team, including campaign manager Rick Davis and longtime top aide Mark Salter, were also there.

Other traveling companions included Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., the 2000 Democratic nominee for vice president who crossed party lines to support McCain, and Tom Ridge, the former Pennsylvania governor.

Three other Republican senators — Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Richard Burr of North Carolina and Mel Martinez of Florida — also rode with McCain.

Throughout the trip, McCain urged supporters to volunteer, knock on doors, and make sure they and their supporters got to the polls. "Don't give up hope," he said in Tampa. "Be strong."