Obama uptown today; McCain revs up in N.C.

With Democrat Barack Obama scheduled to stump today in Charlotte, Republican John McCain's campaign announced plans to ratchet up its efforts in North Carolina.

The McCain campaign said Saturday that it had opened 14 offices in the state and hired 20 paid staffers – a number that said it would likely grow to 20 offices and 25 to 30 staffers.

“This is a state that Sen. Obama and his campaign have targeted and put extraordinary resources and finances in the state,” Mike DuHaime, the political director for the N.C. McCain campaign, said in a conference call with reporters.

President Bush is scheduled to attend a fundraiser in Greensboro on Sept. 30 to raise money for the McCain-Palin ticket.

The McCain campaign has been playing catch-up in North Carolina, which the Obama campaign targeted early. Obama has 31 offices in the state and more than 200 staffers. Obama also has spent at least $2.5 million on TV advertising in the state – far more than McCain. Obama began his TV ad campaign in early summer, and McCain only began his during the week of the Republican convention.

The McCain campaign noted that every statewide public opinion poll has shown McCain with either a large or a modest lead in the state. They also noted that North Carolina has gone Republican in every presidential election since 1976.

DuHaime said the intensity of the Republican effort in the state is growing. He said 39,000 Republicans had requested absentee ballots, compared with 18,000 Democrats.

Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, the GOP candidate for governor, said during the conference call McCain had shown his experienced leadership by warning of the breakdown of Fannie Mae, the troubled lender, and had sought legislation to fix it.

Obama is scheduled to campaign in uptown today – his third campaign appearance in the state since the May primary. His wife, Michelle Obama, made a swing through Charlotte, Greensboro and Durham last week. Sen. Joe Biden, the Democratic vice presidential candidate, campaigned in Charlotte last weekend.

Neither McCain nor his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, has made a public appearance in the state in the general election campaign, although McCain met privately with the Rev. Billy Graham.