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McCain Goes Full Out, Day Before The Election

SCOTT HORSLEY: And I'm Scott Horsley with the McCain campaign. After John McCain's presidential hopes almost collapsed in 2007, he traveled to New Hampshire to pick up the pieces. He eventually won the New Hampshire primary after holding more than a hundred town hall meetings there. Last night, with his campaign again facing long odds, McCain returned to the Granite State for one more town hall.

(Soundbite of Republican town hall meeting, New Hampshire)

Senator JOHN MCCAIN (Republican, Arizona; Republican Presidential Candidate): In the tradition of New Hampshire, I'd like to take a few minutes and respond to any questions or comments or insults that you may have for me. Thank you very much for coming tonight.

HORSLEY: It was vintage McCain, answering questions about immigration, for example, or global warming with his signature frankness. Senior adviser Mark Salter says New Hampshire has long held a special place in McCain's heart.

Mr. MARK SALTER (Senior Aide, McCain Campaign): As far as, you know, the presidential campaign part of his career began, it began in 1999 at the Peterborough Town Hall with - we had to give out free ice cream, and I think we had about 13 people show up.

HORSLEY: There were a lot more than that cheering McCain on his return to Peterborough last night.

(Soundbite of crowd chanting "John McCain")

HORSLEY: Salter insists this visit isn't just about nostalgia.

Mr. SALTER: Oh, no, no, no. We think it's a competitive state. We think a lot of these battleground states are within the margin of error. We're up in a couple. You know, we work real hard. Move some of these; we'll catch up to him by Tuesday.

(Soundbite of Republican campaign rally, Scranton, Pennsylvania)

Unidentified Man: Well, good afternoon, northeast Pennsylvania.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

HORSLEY: Pennsylvania is the blue state McCain has been working hardest to move over into the Republican column. He campaigned yesterday in Scranton alongside former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge.

(Soundbite of Republican campaign rally, Scranton, Pennsylvania)

Mr. TOM RIDGE (Republican Politician; Former Governor of Pennsylvania): Well, we got some work to do. We got two days and a wake up. Take all this enthusiasm and grab a couple of friends and drag them to the polls as well.

HORLSEY: The McCain campaign is working to mobilize conservative voters in western and central Pennsylvania in hopes of offsetting Barack Obama's advantage in the city of Philadelphia. Kansas Senator Sam Brownback tagged along to help drum up support from anti-abortion voters. McCain held another rally in the suburbs of Philadelphia where he stressed his record against taxes and government spending.

(Soundbite of Republican campaign rally, Philadelphia)

Senator MCCAIN: I have a plan to hold the line on taxes and cut them to make America more competitive and create jobs here at home.

HORSLEY: McCain's rhetoric has not changed in the last couple of weeks, but his advisers say they see the race tightening as the campaign shakes off the effects of the financial crisis which coincided with significant gains for Obama. Polls still show McCain trailing in most major battlegrounds, albeit by shrinking margins. He told supporters in Scranton yesterday things are moving his way.

(Soundbite of Republican campaign rally, Scranton, Pennsylvania)

Senator MCCAIN: I can sense the enthusiasm and the momentum in these last 48 hours. We're going to win this race, my friends. We're going to win it.

(Soundbite of crowd ovation)

Senator MCCAIN: We're going to win it.

HORSLEY: McCain wrapped up the last weekend of the campaign with a midnight rally in Florida. That left time for just a few hours sleep before today's seven-state dash to his home in Arizona. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Miami. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.

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