Democrat Barack Obama Wednesday rolled out a prime-time advertising blitz to savage his White House rival John McCain on the economy as the Republican pressed back with character attacks six days from election day.
Some polls suggested the presidential race could be tightening a notch, as Obama geared up to deliver his nationally televised campaign pitch in the closing stretch of his bid to become America's first black president.
|US Democratic presidential candidate Illinois Senator Barack Obama speaks during a rally at Hallifax Mall in Raleigh, North Carolina|
The 30-minute ad, which was mocked by McCain even before it aired on three networks at 0000 GMT, was to feature ordinary families struggling to make ends meet as the Democrat pledged to remake the American Dream for all.
"We've seen over the last eight years how decisions by a president can have a profound effect on the course of history -- and on American lives," he was to say in the ad, according to a script released by his campaign.
"I'm worried about the couple that's trying to figure out how they're going to retire. I'm worried about the guy who has worked in a plant for 20 years and suddenly sees his job shipped overseas," said Obama, 47.
"That's who I'm worried about and that's who I'm going to be fighting for and thinking about every single day that I'm in the White House."
En route to two rallies in the coveted prize of Florida, including his first joint event with former president Bill Clinton, Obama said a vote for McCain would cripple the hard-pressed middle class and reward fat cats.
Addressing 28,000 supporters in Raleigh, North Carolina, Obama also derided his Republican opponent's attacks on his own tax proposals as "socialism."
"By the end of the week, he'll be accusing me of being a secret communist because I shared my toys in kindergarten," he said.
McCain, 72, was also campaigning in Florida where he renewed his attacks on Obama's past links to 1960s radical Bill Ayers and lambasted his opponent's credentials to be commander-in-chief.
"I think this whole issue of the relationship with Bill Ayers needs to be known by the American people," the Arizona senator told Spanish-language station Radio Mambi.
"Senator Obama said it was just a guy in the neighborhood. We know much more than that."
Ayers was a member of the "Weathermen" movement which carried out a series of bombings to protest the Vietnam War, including on the Pentagon and US Capitol. Obama's campaign say he has had no contact with Ayers since 2005.
McCain has desisted from mentioning Ayers in recent speeches, but his comments could signal a fresh onslaught on Obama's character as the election campaign enters the finishing stretch.
Later Wednesday McCain painted a doom-laden picture of what may happen to the United States if Obama is elected, saying his rival would oversee defeat in Iraq and was incapable of protecting Americans from terrorism.
"With terrorists still plotting new strikes across the world, millions of innocent lives are still at stake, including American lives," he said.
"The question is whether this is a man who has what it takes to protect America from Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaeda, and other grave threats in the world," McCain said. "And he has given you no reason to answer in the affirmative."
Whether McCain's tactics are successful remain to be seen. Polls have repeatedly shown that the economy rather than national security remains the defining issue of the campaign.
A new poll from Quinnipiac University Wednesday showed Obama with a still sizeable, albeit slightly narrower lead in Ohio and Pennsylvania but with Florida now too close to call.
Another poll from Rasmussen Reports meanwhile showed McCain closing to within three points of Obama nationwide for the first time in more than month, trailing 47 percent to 50 percent.
But another survey by CNN and Time had Obama expanding his lead in Colorado and holding steady margins in Florida and Virginia.
Bidding to seal the deal with voters, Obama was airing his ad just prior to a potentially decisive game in the baseball World Series. McCain was unimpressed.
"When you're watching this gauzy, feel-good commercial, just remember that it was paid for with broken promises," he said, attacking Obama's decision to opt out of public campaign financing.