Barack Obama and John McCain will fight a weekend duel over states won in 2004 by President George W. Bush, a sure sign of the Democrat’s edge heading into the last week of the White House race.
A heavy-hearted Obama arrived back on the US mainland in the early hours of Saturday after an emotional trip to Hawaii to visit the gravely ill grandmother who brought him up, possibly for the last time.
Madelyn Dunham, 85, is suffering from a broken hip, osteoporosis and other undisclosed ailments. She is the last elderly relative Obama, 47, has left, after his mother died of cancer more than a decade ago and he has said she might not live the 10 days until the election.
Obama, who appears to have Democratic states locked up will go on the offensive in the states that send Bush back to the White House, due to campaign in Nevada and New Mexico on Saturday, both swing states where he has an advantage in latest polls before heading on to Colorado on Sunday.
McCain, 72, was trying to shore up what is normally Republican territory as polls show he needs a last minute boost in a string of swing states to stand a chance of pulling off a come-from-behind victory on November 4.
McCain had a day of campaigning planned Saturday in New Mexico before heading to midwestern Iowa where he trails Obama badly in the polls .
He was due Sunday in Ohio which is often a bellwether in presidential elections and was the state which put Bush over the 270 electoral vote threshold needed to win the White House four years ago.
Polls in Ohio show a tight race within the margin of error.
McCain on Friday tried to tar the Democratic presidential hopeful as a secret socialist in a bid to sway voters before the November 4 election.
"He believes in redistributing wealth, not in policies that grow our economy and create jobs," McCain told a rally in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
"Senator Obama may say he’s trying to soak the rich, but it’s the middle class who are going to get put through the wringer, because a lot of his promised tax increase misses the target."
At issue is Obama’s plan to let temporary tax cuts expire for the top five percent of Americans in order to give tax breaks to everyone else.
McCain said raising taxes in a bad economy will "kill jobs," and warned that Democrats have already previewed their plans to "tax and spend."
"The answer to a slowing economy is not higher taxes, but that is exactly what is going to happen when the Democrats have total control of Washington," McCain said. "We can’t let that happen."
Obama’s campaign wasted no time in issuing a retort.
"Senator McCain can continue to make these desperate and dishonest attacks, but the fact is that Senator Obama will cut taxes for 95 percent of working Americans while John McCain gives no relief at all to more than 100 million Americans," Obama spokesman Hari Sevugan said in a statement.
National tracking polls have Obama up anywhere from four to 14 percentage points, with a solid lead in most battleground states.
McCain met with small business owners at a factory in Colorado Springs, calling them "the economic hope for the future."
"They don’t want anybody’s taxes raised," McCain told reporters. "What they need is lower taxes and less government regulation of their business."
The wives of the candidates were also on the campaign trail.
Michelle Obama took her husband’s place at a planned rally in Ohio where she said her husband’s calls to fix the economy, repair the "broken" health care system and make university education more affordable were "personal" issues.
"This isn’t about politics. This is personal," she said. "And I know it is personal for every single one of us in this place."
Cindy McCain also spoke of how "personal" the election was for her, noting she has two sons in active duty in the military.
"It is because of our sons and the Palin boy and all the other wonderful young men and women serving tonight that we need John McCain as the next president," she said when introducing her husband, a Vietnam veteran and acknowledged war hero.