Obama up in polls as presidential race nears end

Republican Ariz. Sen. John McCain planned on making seven campaign appearances Monday. He's stopping in Nevada, New Mexico, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Florida. His campaigning will end early Tuesday morning with a rally in his home state of Arizona.

Democrat Barack Obama is not taking things easy either He's campaigning in key swing states, which were once Republican strongholds - Virginia, North Carolina and Florida. On Tuesday, he planned to meet with voters in Indiana before heading home to Chicago to watch the returns.

"I have just one word for you, Florida -- tomorrow," Obama said in Jacksonville, Fla. Obama's sprinting to the finish line of his 21-month campaign with get-out-the vote rallies in four battleground states, starting this morning in Florida and winding it all up in Indiana Tuesday.

"We are one day away from changing the United States of America," Obama said.

Obama got a glowing and perhaps surprising endorsement Monday morning from the Star-Tribune in Vice President Dick Cheney's home town of Casper, Wyoming. The editorial says, "It would be easy to simply agree with the majority of voters in this red state and endorse the Republican candidate. But this isn't an ordinary election. And Senator Obama has the potential to be an extraordinary leader at a time we desperately need one."

Caroline Kennedy was delivering the same message on "Good Morning America" Monday.

"Barack Obama has brought a whole new generation and so there's a continuity of spirit, I think, that's kind of spanning the generations, which is really -- means a lot to me, I think on a personal level but it's going to be great for our country," she said.

Obama's friends and supporters in Chicago, including State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, were calling voters in all of the key battleground states to make sure the favorable poll numbers in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Ohio and Florida are actual votes by Tuesday.

"We need to get people in here, we need to get people to support their candidate and make sure that through the last minute, the last hour, people are doing everything we can to make sure everyone gets an opportunity to go vote," Giannoulias said.

Obama's is likely glad the wear and tear of this non-stop cross-country campaign is almost over after a brain camp in Florida Monday morning.

"The Republicans are spending a lot of money on ads here in Ohio. But if you watch those ads, you don't know -- Florida, I've been traveling too much," Obama corrected himself in Jacksonville.

"That's how we're gonna change this country -- with your help," he told the crowd, amid chants of "O-bam-a, O-bam-a."

"And that's why we can't afford to slow down, sit back, or let up, one minute, or one second in the next twenty-four hours... Not now. Not when so much is at stake."

While Republican experts argued the race was tightening, several polls suggested Obama's lead was widening, with Obama leading in Pennsylvania and other states McCain must win to have a chance of capturing the presidency.

A USA Today/Gallup poll published Monday found likely voters nationwide favoring Obama by 11 points over McCain, 53-42 percent, with a margin of error of 2 percent. Other polls showed Obama with a 7 or 8 percentage point lead.

Polls conducted by Quinnipiac University suggested Obama is poised to win two critical swing states, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and is tied with McCain in a third, Florida. A win for Obama in any of these three states would make it be a devastating blow for McCain.

The poll released Monday showed Obama leading in Ohio, 50-43, with margin of error of 2.5 percent. In Pennsylvania, the poll put Obama ahead by 52-42.

In Florida, the poll suggested the two candidates were in a statistical dead heat -- Obama led McCain by 47-45, with a margin of error of 2.3 percentage points.

To win the presidency, a candidate must win at least 270 of the 538 electoral votes distributed to states roughly in proportion to their population.

In most cases, the candidate who wins a plurality of votes in a state wins all of that state's electoral votes.

With the economy in trouble and Bush's approval ratings at near-record lows, the polls suggest Democrats will not just capture the White House, but expand their majorities in both chambers of Congress.

The possibility of a dual defeat -- in the White House and Congress -- is likely not lost on Bush, who has maintained a low profile in the race.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the incumbent's invisibility is by design -- because "the Republican Party wanted to make this election about John McCain."

Determined to make sure that partisans translate their support into votes, both campaigns were focusing on Monday on get-out-the-vote efforts.

But a large part of the electorate has already rendered its verdict.

A record 27 million votes cast absentee or early ballots in 30 states as of Saturday night. Democrats outnumbered Republicans in pre-Election Day voting in key states.

Obama, 47, a first-term senator from Illinois, appealed to voters frustrated with wars abroad and economic turmoil at home.

He benefited from a campaign that raised hundreds of millions more than his opponent, and capitalized on a U.S. demographic shift as more young and nonwhite voters enter the electorate.

The Republicans have tried to curtail Obama's surge, dubbing him too inexperienced, too liberal and too tainted by associations with the political left to trust with the presidency.

The message appealed to core Republican voters, but it may have failed to persuade many Democrats and independents in the state-by-state contests, where U.S. elections are decided.

So far, Obama is favored to win all the states Democrats captured in 2004, when Bush defeated the Democratic Sen. John Kerry. That would give him 251 electoral votes.

He is leading or tied in several states won by Bush, giving him several paths to the 270 vote threshold -- such as with victories in Ohio or Florida, or in a combination of smaller states.

McCain meanwhile must hold on to as many Bush states as possible and try to capture some major Democratic strongholds, such as Pennsylvania.

Although nearly all the polls favor Obama, the outcome of the election is far from certain. It is not clear, for example, how white Democratic voters will, in the end, react to a black candidate.

The two candidates have amassed a stratospheric $1 billion, with Obama's campaign raising hundreds of millions of dollars more than his rival's. But McCain's party splurged in the campaign's final days, and is now spending as much or more on advertising than Obama in key states.

During the primaries, Obama was forced to distance himself from Wright, but McCain said he would not make the pastor an issue in the general election.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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