RENO, Nev. – In a scramble to lock up the West, Democrat Barack Obama mocked John McCain on Saturday for trying to distance himself from fellow Republican President Bush. McCain touted his Western ties and countered that Obama is a tax-and-spend threat to the nation.
Ten days before the election, both candidates were targeting a trio of states — Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico — that could determine the presidency if the race ends tight.
Obama riffed off his theme of lumping McCain with the unpopular president of his own party. McCain, an Arizona senator, has more aggressively blamed Bush's leadership lately for the country's woes, and the line of attack may be giving McCain some traction among remaining undecided voters.
"John McCain attacking George Bush for his out-of-hand economic policy is like Dick Cheney attacking George Bush for his go-it-alone foreign policy," Obama said. The Democrat said Bush must not mind the criticism, because he cast his vote early this week — for McCain.
As the front-running Obama campaigned at a baseball stadium, McCain was at an outdoor rally at the New Mexico state fairgrounds in Albuquerque. The Arizona Republican claimed a home-court edge in crucial battleground states in the region, calling himself "a fellow Westerner."
Obama was also spending time in Albuquerque, a sign of how determined both candidates are to nab the state's five electoral votes. New Mexico voted narrowly for Bush in 2004.
McCain stuck to tagging Obama as a traditional liberal.
"He believes in redistributing wealth," McCain said. "We've seen that movie before in other countries. That's not America."
His running mate, Sarah Palin, evoked the same theme while campaigning Saturday in Sioux City, Iowa.
While she spoke, the crowd at her rally cried out about Obama: "He's a socialist."
Obama, meanwhile, continued to use his massive fundraising appeal to his advantage.
On Sunday, the Illinois senator planned to unveil a two-minute TV ad that asks, "Will our country be better off four years from now?"
"At this defining moment in our history, the question is not, 'Are you better off than you were four years ago?'" Obama says in the ad. "We all know the answer to that." Without mentioning McCain, the ad promotes Obama's economic policies while saying that Obama will work to end "mindless partisanship" and "divisiveness."
The length of the ad, which will air in key states, highlights Obama's fundraising superiority — most campaign commercials run 30 seconds or a minute.
The Republican National Committee released its own TV ad Saturday questioning whether Obama has the experience to be president. The ad, featuring the image of a stormy ocean, says the nation is in "uncertain times" that could get worse and asks whether voters want a president "who's untested at the helm."
Once reliable Republican territory, much of the West has seen its politics and demographics shift over the last decade. Obama resumed his campaign in Nevada after spending Thursday night and Friday in Hawaii with his grandmother, who is gravely ill.
Obama offered a public thanks to well-wishers, saying it meant the world to her and to him.
In Reno, Obama's rally came to a sudden halt when a generator apparently failed, killing power and cutting off his microphone.
When the problem was fixed, Obama made light of the moment, saying people really were having troubling paying their electricity bills these days. He then said someone from the McCain campaign may have pulled the plug on the rally — but he quickly added that he was kidding.
Despite sour polls, McCain pledged a scrappy close to the campaign.
"We're a few points down and the pundits, of course, as they have four or five times, have written us off," said McCain. "We've got them just where we want them."
McCain was headed briefly to El Paso, Texas, before moving on to Iowa where he's looking to make up for some lost ground in a state campaign aides argue is closer than the public polling shows. Palin was swinging through the state on Saturday, and McCain was to show up Sunday to make an appearance on "Meet the Press" and hold a campaign rally.
Polls show the path to the winning tally of 270 electoral votes is tricky for McCain, a Republican weighed down by the economic crisis and an unpopular incumbent president.
Obama, wary of overconfidence among his backers, is charting multiple winning paths.
That's where 19 electoral votes out West factor into the equation.
Nevada, with five votes, is posing the toughest challenge for Obama; the race is a tossup. Colorado is competitive, though Obama has a slight edge in polls in the state that offers nine votes. Obama is more deeply favored to win New Mexico's five votes.
Michelle Obama delivered the Democrats' weekly radio address Saturday. In it, she urged voters to the polls while reminiscing about tagging along with her father as a young girl while he worked to register voters.
Associated Press writers Dena Potter, Mike Glover and Anna Jo Bratton contributed to this report.
On the Net:
McCain campaign: http://www.johnmccain.com/
Obama campaign: http://www.barackobama.com/index.php