Obama, McCain campaign in battleground West

Election 2008

October 26, 2008|By Bob Drogin and Seema Mehta | Bob Drogin and Seema Mehta,Los Angeles Times

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - John McCain and Barack Obama's presidential duel moved west yesterday as the candidates held rallies in New Mexico and Nevada, key contests in the final 10 days of the race.

Fewer than 1,000 supporters came out to cheer McCain in a morning rally under crisp blue skies at the State Fair Grounds in Albuquerque. Making his sixth visit to New Mexico, the four-term Republican senator from neighboring Arizona emphasized his understanding of regional concerns, including water rights and the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

"My friends, Senator Obama has never been south of our border," McCain said. "He doesn't know these issues. I know them. ... I'm proud to be a senator from the West."

McCain trails Obama in New Mexico by eight percentage points in an average of recent polls, according to realclearpolitics.com.

Early voting began statewide Oct. 18, but McCain did not mention that at his rally. Obama's campaign says that Democrats have cast half of all early and absentee votes in New Mexico so far, with Republicans and independents splitting the rest.

The Democratic nominee rejoined the campaign trail yesterday after taking a break to visit his ailing grandmother in Hawaii.

Speaking to more than 11,000 supporters at the University of Nevada, Reno, Obama sharpened his criticism of McCain - comparing him to President Bush nearly two dozen times.

"John McCain is so opposed to George Bush's policies that he voted with him 90 percent of the time for the first eight years. That's right, he decided to really stick it to George Bush - 10 percent of the time.

"Well, let's be clear," Obama said. "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. ... It's like Tonto getting mad at the Lone Ranger."

Obama is spending most of the day in Nevada, which has five electoral votes up for grabs. His campaign is aggressively courting early voters, and more than 200,000 Nevadans have cast their ballots so far. The campaign says 53 percent of those are Democrats.

As elsewhere, Obama has outspent McCain in New Mexico, and the Democrat's TV ads seem to blanket local airwaves. Obama's campaign is running 39 offices - nearly four times as many as McCain and the state GOP.

New Mexico has swung both ways in recent elections, and its five electoral votes are a prime target for the campaigns this year.

In 2004, Bush beat Democratic nominee Sen. John F. Kerry by about 6,000 votes across the state. Four years earlier, Bush lost the state by just 366 votes to Al Gore.

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