LAS VEGAS — Presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and John McCain on Saturday hop-scotched across relatively small but potentially crucial Western battleground states before crowds starkly different in their size and enthusiasm.
It was Obama's first day back on the campaign trail after returning from a 22-hour stop in Hawaii, where he visited his gravely ill grandmother. Although perhaps tired, he appeared eager to re-engage McCain.
"They've been throwing everything at us, including the kitchen sink — all seven of those kitchen sinks," Obama said, a reference to McCain's multiple homes. "He's called me a socialist for suggesting that we focus on tax cuts for the middle class instead of the wealthy."
Speaking to a crowd here that his campaign said totaled 18,000, the Illinois senator said McCain had taken his attacks to a "whole new level" by comparing the Democrat to President Bush.
"Loco," Obama said, using the Spanish word for crazy.
During a sparsely attended rally in Albuquerque, McCain appealed to his Western neighbors for support and warned against having Congress and the White House controlled by Democrats.
"I am proud to be a senator from the West," the Arizona senator said, adding that Obama had "never been south of our border" and does not understand border or Western issues.
Despite clear skies and comfortable temperatures, it was a small turnout for a presidential campaign event, especially this close to the election. The crowd could be measured in the hundreds, not the thousands, as most Obama events are.
A second McCain rally in tiny Mesilla, N.M., appeared to draw several thousand in what is a more conservative area along the Mexican border.
McCain also suggested Obama has become overconfident about the race and has already written his inaugural address.
"When I pull this thing off, I have a request for my opponent: I want him to save that manuscript of that inaugural address and donate it to the Smithsonian," he said.
That prompted a critical response from the Obama campaign. "There is no draft of an inaugural address for Sen. Obama," spokesman Bill Burton said. "The last thing we need is a candidate like John McCain who just plans on re-reading George Bush's."
McCain's campaign, meanwhile, downplayed the importance of crowds.