MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) -- New Hampshire launched John McCain's two presidential campaigns, and now he's hoping it doesn't end his bid for the White House.
The Republican nominee was returning Wednesday to the state whose primary he won in 2000 and again earlier this year. But there were signs it was tilting toward Democrat Barack Obama in the Nov. 4 general election.
Recent polls have shown Obama, an Illinois senator, with a lead no smaller than 7 percentage points, prompting speculation that McCain may have to surrender the state's four electoral votes and focus elsewhere if he hopes to cobble together the 270 needed to become president.
Senior adviser Mark Salter dismissed such thinking Tuesday. He said McCain was visiting New Hampshire because "we get a charge out of it. We think we're competitive there. They get it."
With less than two weeks until Election Day, McCain and his wife, Cindy, were rallying those who "get it" at a rally at St. Anselm College in Goffstown.
It was the scene of debates during both primaries and is at the center of the state the Arizona senator reveres for its tradition of retail politicking. He held more than 100 town-hall meetings in New Hampshire during this campaign cycle and has visited five times since securing the GOP nomination in February.
Political consultant Dean Spiliotes said McCain's biography-heavy campaign has worked well in a small state where a candidate can meet a lot of voters face to face.
Yet New Hampshire political trends are working against McCain.
It was the only state to vote for Democrat John Kerry in 2004 after going for Republican George W. Bush in 2000.
Democrats also swept both its congressional seats, the governor's office and both houses of the state Legislature in 2006. Those results were fueled in large part by anti-Bush and anti-Iraq war sentiment, but Spiliotes argues the shift is certainly more than a blip, if not a permanent trend.
After stopping in New Hampshire, McCain was headed to Ohio for two rallies with his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. He then was to break off and head to Florida, where Obama also is ahead in the polls.
Their campaign also released a new television ad in which various people label themselves "Joe the Plumber" and accuse Obama of wanting to raise their taxes. McCain has leveled the same charge, most recently after Joe Wurzelbacher, an Ohio plumber, challenged Obama face-to-face about his tax plans.
The campaign did not release the cost of the ad buy and said only that it would run in "key" states.