Barack Obama and John McCain soon will begin prepping for their final debate, set for Wednesday. Meantime, both nominees and their running mates are putting in full days of campaigning. Obama is mining for votes in states that have been GOP turf, leading McCain to intensify his attacks, asking voters whether they really know what kind of leader Obama would be.
Obama's running mate, Joe Biden, got an early start Wednesday. He was at a morning rally in Tampa, where the Major League Baseball playoffs are all the rage. Biden said Obama wished he was in Florida, too.
"But after what your Devil Rays did to the Chicago White Sox, he just couldn't do it," Biden said. "The man is hurting."
Obama might be hurting over the fate of the Sox, but otherwise, October has been good for him. The polls have been sliding his way in some important swing states. On Wednesday, his strategy for keeping that going was clear: Keep Biden on the attack, talking about how McCain has dealt with the financial meltdown.
"At 9 a.m. on September the 15th, when everything was crashing," Biden said, "John McCain said the fundamentals of the economy are strong. 11 a.m. on the same day, he said we're in a great economic crisis. That's what we Catholics call an epiphany."
"The problem with John's epiphany," he added, "is not that he saw the light — he saw the presidency slipping from his grasp."
Obama spent his day talking about the economy at a rally in Indiana, a state that President Bush won twice. Obama has decided to compete there — or at least to force McCain to spend more money there. Obama spoke about how people are struggling.
"The dream that so many generations have fought for feels like it's slowly slipping away," Obama said. "You know, back in 1980, Ronald Reagan asked the electorate whether you were better off than you were four years ago. At the pace things are going right now, you'll have to ask if you were better off four weeks ago."
He insisted it isn't time to lose faith.
"I ask you to believe — to believe in yourselves, in each other, and in the future we can build together. Together, we cannot fail. Look at this crowd here today: black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, young, old, rich, poor. We cannot fail. Not now," he said.
At one point, Obama used the phrase "if I'm president." His crowd wasn't pleased with the qualification, but he said he's superstitious. That "if" could come down to people like Heidi Stone and James Thompson, who were listening to Obama through a fence because they arrived too late to get in.
"I was raised a Republican, in a house full of Kennedy haters. And I'm out here today," Stone said. It was the first Democratic rally that either of them had attended, and Thompson said he has never voted before — but he will in this election.
"[Obama is] of a different political cloth. He's human," Thompson said, explaining what about the candidate compelled him to vote.
Stone said she has had some trouble connecting with McCain.
"When you have a wife worth $100 million, you're not really going to understand the pain of someone making $16,000 a year," she said.
The couple said they think Obama really does have a shot of winning a red state like Indiana.
"If I was raised a Republican and I'm voting for him. And [Thompson] didn't vote. ... That tells you right there that a big shift in demographic, something is going on," Stone said.