In a bold move brimming with confidence, Democrat Barack Obama broadened his advertising campaign on Friday into two once reliably Republican states and further bedeviled rival John McCain by placing a commercial in the Republican presidential nominee's home state of Arizona.
Obama's campaign, capitalizing on his vast financial resources and a favorable political climate, announced that it was going back up with advertising in Georgia and North Dakota, two GOP states that it had teased with ads earlier in the general election campaign but then abandoned.
In what could be a final ignominy for McCain, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said the campaign would also begin airing ads in Arizona, a state McCain has represented in Congress for 26 years.
Plouffe said the race has tightened in Arizona, Georgia and North Dakota. A recent poll from McCain's home state showed the two candidates in a statistical dead heat.
In a slew of states, "the die is being cast as we speak," he said. "Sen. McCain on Election Day is not just going to have to carry the day, but carry it convincingly."
McCain campaign manager Rick Davis derided Obama's moves: "We encourage them to pick other states that we intend to win" to spend their money.
McCain was spending a second straight day touring economically ailing Ohio, a swing state with 20 electoral votes that McCain aides acknowledge is central to a victory on Tuesday. McCain was behind Obama in polls in the state.
While the Obama campaign continued to tie McCain to the unpopular President Bush, McCain assailed Obama's economic policies as recipes from the far left of American politics.
McCain told a rally in Hanoverton, Ohio, that Obama "began his campaign in the liberal left lane of politics and has never left it. He's more liberal than a senator who calls himself a socialist," a reference to Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont.
Campaigning with McCain was former GOP rival and one-time New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, who told the crowd, "John McCain was right about the single most important decision that had to be made in the last four years and that was to stick it out in Iraq."
Earlier, in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America," McCain said, "Sen. Obama's economic policy is from the far left of American politics and ours is in the center," McCain said. "He wants to raise people's taxes - that's clear."
Obama is proposing tax increases on families making over $250,000 and individuals making over $200,000 and tax cuts for the 95 percent of workers making less than $200,000.
McCain also was to campaign Friday in Columbus, Ohio, with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
In an interview with The Columbus Dispatch published Friday, Schwarzenegger made no effort to disguise the challenge facing McCain He told the newspaper it will be a "major struggle for him to win."
But, he added: "I have seen him in those major struggles in the past when he has come back when everyone counted him out," Schwarzenegger said. "During the primaries, he came back and got nominated."
Obama was to spend the day campaigning across the Midwest, with a quick stop home in Chicago to see his kids on Halloween. His first stop was where his campaign took off, in Des Moines, Iowa, where he upset Hillary Rodham Clinton in the campaign's first contest.
Independent polling in Iowa shows Obama consistently ahead in the race for the state's seven electoral votes, but McCain's campaign maintains the race is tighter than it appears.
As McCain sought to close gaps in states such as Iowa, Obama was expanding the field of play. His campaign plans to air two ads in Georgia and North Dakota - a tandem of positive and negative commercials.
One ties McCain to President Bush, showing a man adjusting a review mirror in a car as an announcer says: Wonder where John McCain would take the economy? Look behind you, John McCain wants to continue George Bush's economic policies."
The other relies on Obama's message of "unity over division" and reminds viewers that Obama has been endorsed by mega-financier Warren Buffett and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Plouffe said that in deference to McCain, the campaign would only run the positive ad in Arizona.
"It's Sen. McCain's home state," Plouffe said. "We're cognizant of that."
McCain is planning a midnight rally on Monday in Prescott, Ariz., and his election party Tuesday night in Phoenix.
Plouffe said the expanded ad campaign was not diluting their advertising in other battlegrounds. "We're always looking for opportunities to expand the map," he said.
After the Halloween stop at home, Obama was to head for a rally in Highland, Ind., a town in Democratic-dominated Lake County where Obama hopes to run up the vote to offset Republican domination elsewhere in Indiana.
Meanwhile, former Vice President Al Gore and his wife, Tipper, were to campaign for Obama in Florida.
Sprinting into the weekend, Obama was headed to the West, hoping to claim Colorado and maybe more. McCain was flying to Virginia, usually friendly country for the GOP but another place where polls give Obama the edge. McCain aides said the Arizona senator was likely to swing west also, to play to his base.
There was nothing complicated about their closing arguments to voters, with the economy the top concern. Obama is focused on linking McCain to Bush and blaming both for the nation's economic woes.
McCain had hoped the election would turn on issues like the Iraq war, where he could use his military background to convince voters he's the best choice as commander in chief. But he effectively has conceded that it's all about the economy and people's financial struggles.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)