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The battleground: Two days out

COLORADO: The Rocky Mountain News' Sprengelmeyer on Obama's choice of locale for a Colorado rally yesterday: "With its blue-collar roots, Pueblo has long been a popular destination for Democratic presidential candidates, including Sen. John Kerry in 2004 and Obama earlier in this year's campaign. Some in Saturday's crowd fondly remember then-candidate John F. Kennedy's appearance at Pueblo's Dutch Clark Stadium during the 1960 campaign."

FLORIDA: The Miami Herald takes a look back at how Florida became an unexpected battleground that could give Obama a decisive clinch on the presidency -- or could give McCain a stunner of a comeback.

The newest Mason-Dixon poll out of Florida shows a dead heat (Obama 47%, McCain 45%). Pollster Brad Coker points to the survey's undecided voters as those who may ultimately break the state McCain's way. "McCain's best hope, he said, might be the fact that the 7 percent of voters who remain undecided overwhelmingly are white -- and could decide to vote against Obama becoming America's first black president. 'I have no clue if you'll see it,' said Coker, who noted that such last-minute-voter movement has been seen in other races involving black candidates. "All I'm saying is, you could see them go for McCain. I wouldn't be shocked."

A St. Pete Times columnist points out that Gov. Charlie Crist didn't do his party any favors by extending early voting hours in Florida. "He said it was the right thing to do. It's obviously not in his party's interests. If it were, GOP leaders would have been demanding it." More: "Crist's secretary of state, Kurt Browning, was on record as saying there was no need to extend early voting, despite a call by Florida's Democratic members of Congress to do so."  

MISSOURI: Obama leads in St. Louis County, which includes the St. Louis suburbs but not the city of St. Louis, by 17 points, according to a Politico/Insider Advantage poll. Kerry won the county by nine points in 2004. McCain, however, lead by 3 statewide in the poll.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: The Union Leader's DiStaso says Tuesday's race has the potential to redefine the state's electorate: "For New Hampshire on Tuesday, there is this pending question: Was the Democratic sweep of major offices in the 2006 mid-term elections a knee-jerk reaction to Bush and the unpopular Iraq war? Or has this historically fiscally conservative and socially libertarian state truly turned blue, like its Northeast neighbors?" 

NORTH CAROLINA: Obama maintains a 54%-39% lead in Wake County, home to Raleigh, in the Research Triangle, according to a Politico/Insider Advantage poll. That may not sound surprising, but Bush won the county in 2004, 51%-49%. McCain and Obama were tied in the poll statewide, 48%-48%. 

OHIO: A new Columbus Dispatch poll shows Obama holding a lead. Factoid of the day: "If Obama's lead of 52 percent to 46 percent in the new poll holds, he would become the first Democrat to win more than 50 percent of the Ohio vote since Lyndon B. Johnson did in 1964."
(Earlier, we incorrectly referred to the Dispatch poll as the Mason-Dixon poll. That poll shows McCain with a 47-45 lead.)

PENNSYLVANIA: The Boston Globe goes to Rochester, PA, in Beaver County, a swing county northwest of Pittsburgh that Kerry won 51-48, or by 2,200 votes out of about 83,000 votes. "I don't believe Obama's a socialist," said Hrelec, a 58-year-old Democrat and bar owner who voted for George W. Bush twice, and who is undecided this year. "The working guy in this country needs a break." Most didn't buy the "socialism" argument, citing that even Republicans voted for the $700 billion bailout plan. "Still, there remains a deep distrust of big government programs here, and strong skepticism about Obama. A number of voters feared he would transfer wealth from the middle class to help people 'who don't work' or who don't deserve it." … "The concept of wealth redistribution is as unpopular here as it is in most of America, [Muhlenberg professor Chris] Borick said, and the notion may play on racist fears of black welfare recipients siphoning money from working-class whites -- fears that have special resonance since Obama is black."

More: "[I]n an economy like this one, the success of McCain's argument may hinge less on ideology, and more on whether he can convince voters that Obama's real purpose -- as the GOP radio ad implies -- is to transfer wealth from the middle class to the poor, rather than from the rich to everyone else. Kathy Lucci, a 48-year-old saleswoman at a jewelry store in downtown Rochester, voted for Bill Clinton and Al Gore, but she plans to back McCain on Tuesday. She and her husband work hard, she said, and they give generously to the St. Jude Society, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and virtually every child selling candy bars for school or sports. But it bothers her, she said, when she stands in line to buy hamburger at the grocery store and sees someone using a food voucher to buy steak. 'When he's talking to people about spreading the wealth,' she said of Obama, 'I don't think he's talking to the middle class.'

"Hrelec disagrees. And as he sat in his quiet restaurant the other day, he seemed much more inclined to support Obama because of his middle-class tax cuts than to spurn him because of his tax hikes for the rich."

The Philly Inquirer front-pages a to-do list for John McCain. "He must get overwhelming support from his party's rural base and siphon away working-class Democrats in the Pennsylvania rust belt. Barack Obama's expected big vote in Philadelphia and its suburbs must underwhelm. And rain in the eastern part of the state wouldn't hurt." 

VIRGINIA: The Mason-Dixon polling in the state, which shows Obama up just three points over McCain (47-44%), indicates that McCain is winning the vets vote. "Nearly 60 percent of veterans prefer McCain, who spent 5½ years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. Virginia is home to more than 800,000 veterans, putting it second to California."