Barack Obama and John McCain fought for votes Tuesday on critical ground in Pennsylvania, the only Democratic state McCain is still contesting on a national political map growing increasingly daunting. With just a week to go, GOP doubts about his chances for the presidency grew louder.
Even two Republicans once on McCain's short list for vice president sounded skeptical.
In a fundraising e-mail on behalf of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Mitt Romney referred to “the very real possibility of an Obama presidency.” In the Midwest, Gov. Tim Pawlenty said Obama “has a pretty good advantage in Minnesota right now.”
Nationally, a poll by the Pew Research Center found Obama with a 16-point lead among registered voters. The survey said Obama had 52 percent and McCain 36 percent, with independent voters supporting the Democrat by a 48-31 margin.
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A new Ipsos/McClatchy Poll showed a tighter race, with Obama leading McCain 48-42. That's down from an 8-point lead the week before.
The candidates kicked off their final week of campaigning in southeastern Pennsylvania, which hasn't supported a Republican presidential candidate in 20 years and where Obama is ahead in the polls. McCain is working for an upset and has Pennsylvania as the linchpin to his victory strategy.
“I'm not afraid of the fight; I'm ready for it,” he told supporters at a rally in Hershey.
Obama's advisers say they are confident of victory in the state. Still, they sent the candidate to rally supporters in Pittsburgh on Monday and to the battleground Philadelphia suburbs on Tuesday. About 9,000 people stood in the mud and a steady, cold rain at Widener University to hear him.
“I just want all of you to know that if we see this kind of dedication on Election Day, there is no way that we're not going to bring change to America,” Obama said. McCain canceled a second event 50 miles away in Quakertown because of the weather.
If McCain doesn't win the state's 21 electoral votes, it's hard to see how he can win the presidency since Obama is expected to pick up several of the states that helped re-elect President Bush four years ago. McCain needs one of the blue states to make up for expected losses in the red ones.
Early voting in some swing states appeared to be in Obama's favor.
In North Carolina, for example, the turnout for early voting has been nearly a third higher than in 2004 and the number of Democrats has been close to double that of Republicans. Democratic voters in Florida have numbered about 100,000 more than Republicans.
Early voting in Florida ends Sunday.
In North Carolina, the last day for early voting is Saturday.