Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
JIM WATSON  /  AFP/Getty Images
Recent polls show presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has lost favorability since September, while perceptions of Democratic rival Barack Obama have have improved or remained steady.
updated 10/17/2008 4:41:46 PM ET 2008-10-17T20:41:46

Democrat Barack Obama was extending his front-running presidential campaign into Republican turf as a new poll showed support for rival John McCain receding further after a month of attacks ads and voter anxiety over the teetering economy.

In an Associated Press-Yahoo News poll of likely voters, more Americans viewed the veteran Republican senator favorably than unfavorably by just 5 percentage points, down from a 21-point difference in mid-September.

During the same period, Obama went the other way, increasing a 5 percentage-point net favorable rating to 15 points. He is now seen favorably by 57 percent to McCain's 52 percent, the poll reported.

Obama was trying to stake out ground in traditionally Republican states, likely signaling that financial concerns are trumping any racial prejudices among white working-class voters. A recent AP-GfK poll showed that Obama, who would be the first black U.S. president, has inched up among whites with no college education while McCain has lost significant ground.

He was campaigning Friday in Virginia, a battleground Southern state that has become less conservative in recent years with an influx of young, professional newcomers into the Washington, D.C., suburbs.

The state's Democratic Sen. Jim Webb never mentioned race as he introduced Obama to the predominantly white crowd at the Roanoke Civic Center, in the more conservative southern part of the state. But, he said, "Barack Obama's father was born in Kenya. Barack Obama's mother was born in Kansas by way of Kentucky," he said, adding that Obama would be the "14th president of the United States whose ancestry and whose family line goes back" in the region.

"You can trust him. I trust him," said Webb, who is white.

Polls consistently show that more Americans trust Obama to turn around the economy than McCain, who Obama has linked with President George W. Bush's unpopular policies. The AP-Yahoo News poll gives Obama a 15 percentage-point edge for better grasping how the raging financial crisis is affecting people.

Two prominent newspapers, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times on Friday endorsed Obama.

Obama aides also say he will air ads in conservative West Virginia, where he lost the Democratic primary to Clinton by 41 percentage points, and is considering pouring money into reliably Republican Kentucky and may yet return to the airwaves in North Dakota and Georgia. Those are two states Obama had tried but failed to put in play over the summer.

"It appears Obama is trying to build a mandate," said Steve Lombardo, a Republican pollster in Washington. "Can McCain do anything to turn it around? Doubtful."

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McCain was campaigning Friday in Florida and on Saturday was moving on to North Carolina and Virginia on Saturday. He lost his lead in polls in all three states during the past month.

The Republican on Friday returned to what is likely to be his theme for the final days of the campaign, that Obama wants to "spread the wealth around" — part of a comment that Obama made to a voter who asked about his tax plan.

"When politicians talk about taking your money and spreading it around, you'd better hold onto your wallet," McCain said at a rally in Miami.

On Friday, Obama told voters in Virginia that McCain would cut $882 billion from Medicare, the government health care program for the elderly, over a decade to finance his health care plan and the result would be more costly drugs, diminished services and lower quality care for seniors.

"It would mean a cut of more than 20 percent in Medicare benefits next year. If you count on Medicare, it would mean fewer places to get care, and less freedom to chose your own doctors," he added.

In response, McCain's campaign issued a statement saying Obama was "simply lying."

Candidate Brain TrustsFor weeks, Obama has been ahead in national polls, but his leads have varied. While one major poll gave him a 14-point lead early this week, the daily Gallup tracking poll Thursday showed a 6-point advantage.

But, an Associated Press analysis shows Obama with the advantage in states representing 264 electoral votes — just shy of the 270 needed for victory. McCain is favored in states representing 185 votes, with six states totaling 80 electoral votes up in the air.

Obama has the lead in all the states that John Kerry won in 2004. If he can hold those states and pick up Ohio or Florida — two big states won by Bush — or a series of smaller Bush states, he will win the presidency.

Obama and McCain on Thursday night were on the same platform for probably for the last time in the campaign, helping raise charity funds in New York City at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner by exchanging facetious jibs.

Obama told the audience that his own "greatest strength would be my humility."

Said Obama: "Contrary to the rumors you have heard, I was not born in a manger. I was actually born on Krypton and sent here by my father, Jor-el, to save the planet Earth," a reference to Superman.

McCain joked that Obama "is ready for any contingency, even the possibility of a sudden and dramatic market rebound. I'm told that at the first sign of a recovery, he will suspend his campaign and fly immediately to Washington to address the crisis," said the Republican, who drew criticism when he suspended his campaign a few weeks ago and flew to Washington promising to focus on the financial upheaval.

McCain later appeared on David Letterman's talk show, where he told the comedian he "screwed up" by canceling a "Late Show" appearance three weeks ago, then faced a sharp round of questioning about his negative ads.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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