Candidates sweet-talking the voters

The pitch for Pennsylvania continues with John McCain and Sarah Palin in Hershey, while Barack Obama goes casual as he battles the elements in Chester.


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HERSHEY -- Sen. John McCain's Straight Talk Express bus drove straight into the Giant Center hockey arena yesterday, kicking off the final week of the presidential campaign in battleground Pennsylvania.

"Hershey, it is going to come down to the wire on Nov. 4 and it's going to come down to what we believe in," said Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Mr. McCain's Republican running mate, told the early morning crowd of several thousand. "Our opponents put their faith in government; John and I, we put our faith in all of you."

Mr. McCain is betting heavily on winning Pennsylvania's 21 electoral votes, the only Democratic state in which he is still campaigning.

Without Pennsylvania, it's hard to see how he can win the presidency since Democratic Sen. Barack Obama is expected to pick up several of the Republican states that helped re-elect President Bush four years ago.

Mr. Obama's advisers say they are confident of victory in Pennsylvania. Nonetheless, he campaigned in Pittsburgh Monday night, and rallied with supporters in the Philadelphia suburbs yesterday. About 9,000 people stood in the mud and a steady, cold rain at Widener University to hear him, The Associated Press reported.

"I just want all of you to know that if we see this kind of dedication on Election Day, there is no way that we're not going to bring change to America," said Mr. Obama, uncharacteristically attired in jeans, sneakers and a raincoat.

Mr. McCain had scheduled another event 50 miles away in Quakertown, but canceled because of the dismal weather. Major League Baseball canceled the completion of Game 5 of the World Series in Philadelphia for the same reason.

The World Series played a role at Mr. McCain's Hershey rally, as well. Mr. Obama is scheduled to deliver a televised address, paid for by his campaign, tonight.

"No one will delay the World Series game with an infomercial when I am president," Mr. McCain told the cheering crowd.

Mr. McCain and Ms. Palin know they are down in the polls and have some ground to make up both in Pennsylvania, where they're trailing by double digits, and nationally.

Some doubt the number is that large. Former Gov. Tom Ridge, a Republican and friend of Mr. McCain's, told reporters Tuesday that the GOP campaign was trailing but not by nearly as much as many were saying. Although he did not have any data, Mr. Ridge estimated that Mr. McCain was down by 4 to 5 percentage points, The Los Angeles Times reported.

Mr. McCain's repeated charges yesterday that Mr. Obama's tax policies are socialist, that his association with 1960s anti-war activist and Weather Underground member William Ayers was troublesome, and that his inexperience would jeopardize national security.

"It doesn't sound like any of you are supporting Barack the Wealth Spreader because you understand his plan to redistribute wealth will ultimately punish hard work," Ms. Palin told the party faithful in Hershey, a right-leaning town of 13,000 built around a chocolate factory. "It discourages productivity and, I tell you, it's going to stifle the entrepreneurial spirit that made this the greatest country on earth,"

Mr. McCain continued the attack on Mr. Obama, saying the senator from Illinois wants to control wealth, not create it. "I'm going to create wealth for all Americans by creating opportunity for all Americans," Mr. McCain said.

He stressed his economic and energy policies. His promise to reduce reliance on foreign oil drew chants of "Coal, baby, coal!"

"That's right," Mr. McCain said. "You've got coal. You've got independence, and you've got judgment, and that's how we're going to win this election."

Supporters, including state Sen. Jeffrey E. Piccola, R-Dauphin, urged the crowd to mobilize for Mr. McCain and down-ticket Republicans. Republicans "are the ones who have the progressive ideas, the new thoughts, the new way of doing things and the change America needs," said Mr. Piccola, who also is running for re-election.

Mr. McCain was headed next for North Carolina, while Ms. Palin stayed for more campaigning in Scranton, Shippensburg and University Park before moving on to Ohio and Indiana today. Mr. Obama, meanwhile, made his way to Virginia, ground Ms. Palin covered on Monday.

The Nielsen Company reported yesterday that Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama are focusing about three-fourths of their advertising in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Mr. Obama, who had been outspending Mr. McCain by up to 4-1 on advertising, is now airing only twice as many ads as Mr. McCain, the ratings company said.

Earlier, Mr. McCain called on Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska to resign after he was convicted of federal corruption charges Monday. Mr. Stevens has "broken his trust with the people," Mr. McCain said. In an interview Tuesday with CNBC, Ms. Palin said Mr. Stevens should step aside and allow the state to elect someone else. Mr. Obama also called on Mr. Stevens to step down.

Mr. Stevens is running for re-election next week and has said he would appeal the verdict.


Tracie Mauriello can be reached at tmauriello@post-gazette.com or 1-717-787-2141. The Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times contributed to this report.


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