Candidates put focus on Ohio, Pennsylvania

After almost two years of constant cross-country campaigning, the presidential election has come down to a flurry of appearances in several key states.

Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama and Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin crisscrossed Ohio on Sunday, while GOP standard-bearer John McCain returned to Pennsylvania, whose 21 electoral votes were seen by his strategists as up for grabs in Tuesday's election.

As Election Day approaches, the issues haven't changed – nor has the rhetoric.

At a rally Sunday in Wallingford, Pa., just outside Philadelphia, and again in Scranton, Pa., McCain argued that Obama is too liberal for the country and wants a tax policy that redistributes wealth rather than creates new riches. Democrats are prepared to cut the defense budget even as the country is fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.

“If I'm elected president,” McCain said – then paused and amended his words. “When I'm elected president,” he said to cheers. Describing his campaign's underdog status, the Arizona senator insisted he would win. “The Mac is back,” he said as the crowd roared.

Palin campaigned Sunday in another must-win state, Ohio. In Canton and Marietta, the Alaska governor stressed themes of patriotism and fiscal responsibility.

Along with discussing the issues, Obama told a crowd in Columbus, Ohio, that he represented the politics of hope.

“Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that there are better days ahead,” the Illinois senator said. “If we're willing to work for it. If we're willing to shed our fears. If we're willing to reach deep down inside ourselves when we're tired, and come back fighting harder.”

Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” McCain campaign manager Rick Davis said that Pennsylvania would be the key to the election. Polls show the state leaning toward Obama, but “I think we've seen a significant shift in where the polling data is over the last 10 days,” Davis said.

The Obama campaign's chief strategist, David Axelrod, concurred about the importance of the Keystone State.

“I agree that it would be a key,” he said on CBS's “Face the Nation,” “I think it's a state that we both worked very hard to win.”