Image: John McCain
Stephan Savoia  /  AP
Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., emphasizes a point during a campaign rally in Wallingford, Pa., Sunday morning.
updated 11/2/2008 6:38:23 PM ET 2008-11-02T23:38:23

Barack Obama and John McCain uncorked massive get-out-the-vote operations in more than a dozen battleground states Sunday, millions of telephone calls, mailings and door-knockings in a frenzied, fitting climax to a record-shattering $1 billion campaign. Together, they'll spend about $8 per presidential vote.

With just two days to go, most national polls show Obama ahead of McCain. State surveys suggest the Democrat's path to the requisite 270 electoral votes — and perhaps far beyond — is much easier to navigate than McCain's.

Obama exuded confidence. "The last couple of days, I've been just feeling good," he told 80,000 gathered to hear him — and singer Bruce Springsteen — in Cleveland. "The crowds seem to grow and everybody's got a smile on their face. You start thinking that maybe we might be able to win an election on November 4th."

Polls show the six closest states are Florida, Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Nevada and Ohio. All were won by Bush and made competitive by Obama's record-shattering fundraising. The campaigns also are running aggressive ground games elsewhere, including Iowa, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Colorado and Virginia.

Getting people to vote Tuesday
All that's left now for the candidates is make sure people vote Tuesday — if they haven't already.

Indeed, Election Day is becoming a misnomer. About 27 million absentee and early votes were cast in 30 states as of Saturday night, more than ever. Democrats outnumbered Republicans in pre-Election Day voting in key states.

That has Democrats — and even some Republicans — privately questioning whether McCain can overtake Obama, even if GOP loyalists turn out in droves on Tuesday. Obama may already have too big of a head start in critical states like Nevada and Iowa, which Bush won four years ago.

Video: Next president must 'act fast' "This is off the charts in some of these states," said Michael P. McDonald, a political scientist at George Mason University.

As the campaign closes, voters were being inundated with a crush of television ads and automated phone calls.

In a new TV ad, Obama highlighted Vice President Dick Cheney's support for McCain. The ad features Cheney, an extremely unpopular figure among the general public, at an event Saturday in Wyoming, saying: "I'm delighted to support John McCain. I'm pleased that he's chosen a running mate with executive talent, toughness and common sense, our next vice president Sarah Palin."

Not to be outdone, the Republican National Committee rolled out battleground phone calls that include Hillary Rodham Clinton's criticism of Obama during the Democratic primary. She is heard saying: "In the White House, there is no time for speeches and on-the-job training. Sen. McCain will bring a lifetime of experience to the campaign, and Sen. Obama will bring a speech that he gave in 2002."

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Obama and McCain campaigned on each other's turf Sunday. Obama was in Ohio, a bellwether state Bush won four years ago and where polls show Obama tied or winning. McCain visited Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, states won by Democrat John Kerry in 2004. He trails in both.

"I've been in a lot of campaigns. I know the momentum is there," McCain told supporters at a rally in Pennsylvania. Overall, polls show Obama winning or tied in more than a dozen or so states won by Bush while McCain trails in every Kerry state.

McCain is ramping up spending
McCain and the RNC dramatically ramped up their spending in the campaign's final days and now are matching Obama ad for ad, if not exceeding him, in key battleground markets in states such as Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

A Video: Thompson: McCain is a ‘closer’ fter months of planning, the Republican Party launched the last stage of its vaunted "72-hour program," when volunteers descend on competitive states for the final stretch. Democrats unleashed their "persuasion army" of backers scouring their own backyards to encourage people to back Obama in the campaign's waning hours.

More than 10,000 Obama volunteers in Ohio were knocking on doors and planning to hit their one millionth home Sunday after a five-day push.

His campaign reported that Saturday was its largest volunteer day, with more volunteers showing up to work the phones and walk neighborhood precincts than ever before in the campaign. Said Obama spokesman Bill Burton, "Our volunteers are completely engaged."

McCain's crew says theirs are, too.

"There's no doubt that we've got an uphill battle," said Rich Beeson, the RNC's political director. But, he said: "I'm not going into Election Day with any trepidation that they've put any state away" by banking early votes. "We still have a lot of voters that we can and will turn out."

The RNC reported making 5.4 million voter contacts last week, compared with 1.9 million in the same week in 2004, and it says it's volume has steadily increased since October began. Overall, it says 26 million voters have been contacted by volunteers over four months.

On Saturday alone, the RNC says an estimated 3 million voters were contacted by phone or in person, and it saw so many volunteers show up to help that in at least one state, Colorado, the party ran out of canvassing packets. Some 180,000 were gone by midday Saturday; more were printed.

For all the hype, Republicans and Democrats alike acknowledge that turnout operations usually only are determinative in contests that are close; they're good for gaining a few percentage points at the most.

Hitting the battleground states
McCain planned visits to media markets that hit battlegrounds Florida, Virginia, Indiana, New Mexico, and Nevada on Monday. A repeat trip to Pennsylvania also was slated before McCain returns home to Arizona.

Obama planned visits to Florida, North Carolina and Virginia on Monday and a quick stop in Indiana Tuesday morning.

Obama told reporters he would hold a news conference on Wednesday. Later, Obama spokeswoman Linda Douglass walked back Obama's plans, saying he'll meet the press before the end of the week, but "don't count on Wednesday."

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

Video: McCain, Obama tussle for battlegrounds

  1. Transcript of: McCain, Obama tussle for battlegrounds

    But first, let's get the very latest polls and battleground landscape from NBC 's political director, Chuck Todd , who's our kind of walking, talking GPS system.

    Chuck , what's the latest this morning, just 48 hours to go?

    MR. CHUCK TODD: Good morning, Tom . Well, there's four states that both campaigns look at their tracking polls first. It starts with Virginia , where we have Obama with a narrow lead, 47 to McCain 's 44. In Mason-Dixon polling, this is the first time Obama 's been ahead in Virginia . In Florida , we have Obama , 47; McCain , 45. This has been a consistent lead in the Mason- Dixon poll for Obama . Small , but still a lead. In Colorado , the largest lead that Obama has of any of the states we have today: Obama , 49; McCain , 44. And in, and in Ohio , a bright spot for McCain : McCain at 47, Obama at 45. This is one of those states , of course, a Republican has never won without Ohio .

    And then our other troika of states here. Nevada : Obama at 47; McCain , 43. This race has tightened in that state. Both candidates in Nevada this final weekend. In Missouri , McCain , basically a dead heat , 47; Obama , 46. And finally, in North Carolina , where we've seen lots of talk about early voting , we have McCain at 49, Obama at 46. All of these polls, of course, Tom , could change depending on what is the percentage of turnout among young voters, among African-Americans , among older voters, etc.

    MR. BROKAW: All right, Chuck , stand back for a moment and let's take a look at the big map and see what's going on there for us as well.

    MR. TODD: Well, we'll show you what we have. Last week -- here is last week's map. And I want you to take a look -- keep an eye on these states up here in the Rocky -- northern Rocky Mountain region, as well as here, the agricultural Midwest , and down here in the South , where you can see our changes this morning, and you will see what's happened. These states of Minnesota , Wisconsin , Michigan solidifying for Obama . John McCain 's not even there. Two new toss-ups: Montana and North Dakota . And if we really wanted to get precise, we'd also put the Omaha congressional district in Nebraska . Nebraska , a state that splits its electoral votes by congressional district . And in that Omaha district, it is a dead heat , Tom .

    MR. BROKAW: And, Chuck , what about voter turnout , and especially the organization of the two campaigns, getting their people to the polls?

    MR. TODD: Well, it -- we're seeing a lot of the early voting , a lot of the long lines that's made folks question whether Georgia , South Carolina could end up being much closer than people thought because of this surge among voters, particularly African-Americans . And of course, we've watched everything that's been happening in Florida and North Carolina this weekend, Tom .

    MR. BROKAW: And why would John McCain be spending so much time in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire in the final weekend, Chuck ?

    MR. TODD: Well, it's a simple math problem that he's got. Here's our, our columns here. I'm going to put all of the current toss-up states in McCain 's column, and watch his number as it grows right up here. If you move all of these states over: Indiana , North Dakota , Missouri , Montana , North Carolina , Ohio , Florida and Nevada . You see the problem he's got. He's still at 252, 18 short. So what does that mean? If he pulls a Pennsylvania over, well, we see Obama goes down to 265, McCain gets his 273. Then you asked why New Hampshire ? That's the insurance policy . Nevada , a state that is -- that Obama right now has that narrow lead in, if that went to him, then McCain would need New Hampshire to get back over his 270. So it is the only number -- path he's got left. They know this, and that's why they had to figure out how to put Pennsylvania back in play. And we don't know if it really is. We know he's spending a lot of time there. And they had to figure out if New Hampshire , a state that's been incredibly kind to McCain 's political career in the past, to see if it can resurrect him one more time.

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