Obama, McCain keep pushing as the days dwindle down

HENDERSON, Nev. — Democrat Barack Obama made one last push Saturday through the West, looking to secure victories in traditionally Republican Nevada and Colorado, while Republican John McCain, campaigning in the East, charged that Obama lacks "what it takes to protect America."

With just three days remaining before the election, both men's surrogates were out in full force too, including Obama's running mate Joe Biden and McCain's running mate Sarah Palin.

A memo from McCain campaign manager Rick Davis e-mailed to millions of supporters nationwide urged them to turn out and not to give up, and offered scenarios on how McCain could win. "You have seen the pundits say John McCain and his campaign are done," Davis said, but he argued that the race has tightened and "we believe this race is winnable."

Obama held an outdoor rally in Henderson before flying to Pueblo, Colo., a heavily Hispanic city two hours south of Denver. He was to close the day with a late-night rally in Springfield, Mo.

In Pueblo, Obama made fun of McCain's winning the endorsement Saturday of Vice President Dick Cheney.

"I'd like to congratulate Senator McCain on this endorsement because he really earned it. That endorsement didn't come easy. Senator McCain had to vote 90 percent of the time with George Bush and Dick Cheney to get it. He served as Washington's biggest cheerleader for going to war in Iraq, and supports economic policies that are no different from the last eight years. ...

"But here's my question for you, Colorado: do you think Dick Cheney is delighted to support John McCain because he thinks John McCain's going to bring change? Do you think John McCain and Dick Cheney have been talking about how to shake things up, and get rid of the lobbyists and the old boys club in Washington?," Obama said in prepared remarks.

McCain defended Republican turf in Virginia, tried to catch up to Obama's lead in Pennsylvania and scheduled an appearance on NBC's Saturday Night Live.

At a small rally at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va., McCain warned of Democrats holding the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives simultaneously, predicting that such a sweep would guarantee higher taxes and a U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq without victory.

McCain repeatedly invoked the names of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.

"The answer, as you know, for a slowing economy is not higher taxes, but that's exactly what's going to happen if the Democrats — God forbid — have total control of Washington. We can't let that happen."

Obama, in Henderson, Nev., continued to portray himself as a champion of the middle class and to tie McCain to President Bush's policies and the economic crisis. But he spoke less about policy specifics as he ramped up his hope-and-change rhetoric.

"We have the chance to do more than just beat back this kind of politics in this particular election," Obama said. "We can end it once and for all. We can prove that we are not as divided as our politics would suggest, that we are more than a collection of Red States and Blue States. We are the United States of America. We can steer ourselves out of this crisis, with a new politics for a new time."

On another front, responding to a report that a Kenyan half-sister of Obama's late father is living illegally in the United States in public housing, Obama's campaign issued a statement saying that he had no knowledge of her status but "obviously believes that any and all appropriate laws be followed." Aides said he would return contributions that the aunt, Zeituni Onyango, made to his campaign.

The presidential rivals also delivered their parties' respective weekly radio addresses on Saturday, making their closing arguments.

"With terrorists still plotting new strikes across the world, millions of innocent lives are still at stake, including American lives," McCain said in his address. "In his four years in the Senate, two of them spent running for president, Barack Obama has displayed some impressive qualities.

"But the question is whether this is a man who has what it takes to protect America from Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran, and other grave threats in the world. And he has given you no reason to answer in the affirmative."

Obama said that McCain "has served his country honorably. But when it comes to the economy, John McCain still can't tell the American people one major thing he'd do differently from George Bush. In this election, the biggest gamble we can take is embracing the same old Bush-McCain policies that have failed us for the last eight years."

Biden campaigned Saturday in Indiana with one-time presidential hopeful and former Sen. Birch Bayh, who served for 18 years until he was beaten in 1980 by Dan Quayle.

Indiana hasn't backed a Democrat for president in 44 years, but Bayh and his son Evan, who is a former governor of the state and now a U.S. senator, are two of the state's most successful and popular Democrats.

At an outdoor rally in Evansville, the senior Bayh urged voters to turn out and reminded the audience of his first Senate race in 1962.

"Listen closely, please," Bayh said. "We won that election, but after all the votes were counted, the margin of victory was two votes per precinct. So let's take that lesson with you. Don't let anybody tell you that their votes don't make a difference."

Palin, campaigning in Florida with her husband, Todd, and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, described the sunny weather as "beautiful, God-given solar." She failed to generate much excitement about McCain's support of offshore drilling. Close to the Gulf of Mexico, her rally chant of "Drill, baby, drill," didn't go over as well as in other parts of the country. But the crowd was with her on criticism of Obama's tax policy, which would raise taxes on the wealthy and large businesses.

Riding from New Port Richey to Polk City, Palin passed by two contradictory emblems of the swing state. First came a massive Confederate flag flying near the intersection of Interstates 75 and 4. A little further east on I-4 came a big, blue anti-McCain billboard. "McSame" it said, with "no" stamped over the top.

(Talev reported from Nevada. Douglas reported from Virginia. David Goldstein in Indiana and Erika Bolstad in Florida contributed to this report.)


Soul of the Obama campaign is in the soundtrack

McCain could still win - if everything broke his way

Nader thinks this is his year - to win 3 percent

Check out McClatchy's expanded politics coverage

(e-mail: mtalev(at)