Doubts about John McCain's chances for the presidency grew louder among fellow Republicans on Tuesday as a White House race largely focused on Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania entered its final week
Even two Republicans once on McCain's short list for vice president sounded skeptical. In a fundraising e-mail on behalf of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Mitt Romney referred to "the very real possibility of an Obama presidency." In the Midwest, Gov. Tim Pawlenty gave a dour assessment of McCain's chances in his state, saying Barack Obama "has a pretty good advantage in Minnesota right now."
Nationally, a poll by the Pew Research Center found Obama with a 16-point lead among registered voters. The survey said Obama had 52 percent and McCain 36 percent, with independent voters supporting the Democrat by a 48-31 margin.
The Nielsen media company reported that both candidates are focusing about three-fourths of their advertising in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Obama, who had been spending four times as much as McCain on advertising, is now airing only twice as many ads as his rival, the ratings company said.
Those three states are battlegrounds, offering a combined 68 electoral votes.
The concentration of firepower comes even as Obama mounts a national advertising campaign that will culminate Wednesday evening with a 30-minute, prime-time commercial on network television. The Obama campaign bought time on CBS, NBC and Fox for $1-million per network.
The candidates also planned appearances on cable TV talk shows, including Obama on Comedy Central's The Daily Show.
The candidates kicked off their final week of campaigning in the southeastern corner of Pennsylvania, which hasn't supported a Republican presidential candidate in 20 years and where Obama is ahead in the polls. McCain is working for an upset and has Pennsylvania as the linchpin to his victory strategy.
"I'm not afraid of the fight, I'm ready for it," McCain told noisy supporters at a rally in this Republican region, home of the world's largest chocolate factory.
Obama's advisers say they are confident of victory in the state. Still, they sent him to rally supporters in Pittsburgh Monday night and to the battleground Philadelphia suburbs on Tuesday. About 9,000 people stood in the mud and a steady, cold rain at Widener University to hear him. McCain canceled a second event 50 miles away in Quakertown because of the dismal weather.
If McCain doesn't win the state's 21 electoral votes, it's hard to see how he can win the presidency since Obama is expected to pick up several of the states that helped re-elect President Bush four years ago. McCain needs one of the blue states to make up for expected losses in the red ones.