Sen. Barack Obama, making what aides called the "closing argument" of his campaign, declared Monday that it was time to "get beyond the old ideological debates." Then he and Sen. John McCain spent much of the day engaged in such a debate.
With polls suggesting victory is within his grasp one week from today, Obama tried to shift into a final stage, returning to the themes of unity and change that helped propel his unlikely candidacy to the verge of the presidency. While warning of complacency, he sounded as if he were laying the groundwork not just for Tuesday's election but for an aftermath when he may inherit stewardship of a troubled country.
"We are one week away from changing America," Obama told 15,000 supporters in Mellon Arena. "In one week, you can put an end to the politics that would divide a nation just to win an election, that tries to pit region against region, city against town and Republican against Democrat, that asks us to fear at a time when we need hope."
But even as Obama called for "a new politics," at least some of his arguments sounded like old politics familiar to veterans of class-warfare battles between liberals and conservatives. Obama castigated McCain for "embracing the same old Bush-McCain policies that have failed us for the last eight years" and wanting to "give more to billionaires and big corporations and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else."
McCain accused Obama of wanting to take money from those who have it and give it to those who do not. McCain seized on a radio interview Obama gave seven years ago to reinforce the argument that the Democratic nominee wants to "spread the wealth," as Obama put it on the campaign trail recently.
McCain read the quotation in Dayton, Ohio, in a speech to supporters, who booed the notion of "redistributive change," as Obama put it. "That's what change means for the Obama administration - the Redistributor," McCain said. "It means taking your money and giving it to someone else."
Later, at a feisty rally in Pottsville, Pa., he gave his new applause line: "Sen. Obama is running to be redistributionist in chief; I'm running to be commander in chief."
The two candidates virtually shadowed each other throughout the day as they focused on Ohio and Pennsylvania. They started their days about 50 miles apart.
Ohio is considered a must-win for any Republican who hopes to capture the White House, while Pennsylvania is vital for any Democratic presidential contender. Polls in Pennsylvania show Obama with a healthy lead, while the two candidates are running close in Ohio.
GOP AD PUSH: In a fresh show of GOP concern, officials said the Republican National Committee was moving into Montana with a TV ad campaign for the first time this year. The party also is expanding West Virginia ads to run statewide. Both states had been presumed safe for McCain for weeks.
PALIN MEETS AMBASSADOR: Sarah Palin said Democrats would raise taxes and "punish hard work" if Virginia voters break a 44-year preference for GOP presidents and help elect Obama. Palin, McCain's running mate, also tried to burnish her foreign policy credentials by meeting with Israel's ambassador to the United States. "I look forward to hearing about your work with the Jewish Agency and all the plans that we have," Palin told Ambassador Sallai Meridor. She apparently was referring to the Jewish Agency for Israel, an organization Meridor formerly led.
REV. WRIGHT ADS: The National Republican Trust PAC plans to air ads in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida showing clips of controversial sermons by Obama's former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.