McCain, Obama Campaigns Full Speed Ahead

After 21 months of campaigning, John McCain and Barack Obama are traveling nonstop through battleground states — making their last best case to be the next occupant of the White House.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And let's get some analysis now from NPR's Juan Williams. Good morning, Juan.

JUAN WILLIAMS: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: And let's begin with what we have just heard from Mara. How is the McCain campaign dealing with all the criticism and second guessing within the party at this point?

WILLIAMS: Well, they're busy. I mean, they're busy trying to win this election. And right now, the way they're starting to think of it is, look, you know what? We've got to make a big effort, specifically in one state that the Democrats won last time, Pennsylvania, and hope that that compensates for small losses in terms of the Electoral College map. So you're not seeing the top strategists inside the campaign focused on this larger ideological struggle. You know, McCain's argument has never been - you know, he's never been the choice of the Republican Party, as you heard. So from his position, Sarah Palin, his vice presidential selection, has been the one that's played to that conservative base and to the one who's, I think, used populist almost culture wars arguments to stir that base. McCain, on the other hand, has been somewhat distant from that. And I think that's the reason he's never been the choice of the party.

MONTAGNE: OK, final week of the campaign. And here is what we're hearing from John McCain. Two arguments. His criticism of Barack Obama's tax policies which he says would amount to a socialist redistribution of wealth and - that's one of them. Let's start with that. Has it helped him?

WILLIAMS: I think it has. I mean, that's why we now have Joe the Plumber, that now iconic figure of the campaign, out on the campaign trail for McCain. The argument is coming from McCain that Senator Obama believes that taxes are too low while Senator McCain believes that spending is too high, and secondly that there is this, you know, effort by the Obama team in terms of wealth redistribution. And McCain is saying that is something that punishes success while McCain is one that's trying to build an economic system, a tax system, that would reward success. So, that has worked with lots of people who are making money and then led to the argument about exactly who McCain's team wants to give a tax break to.

MONTAGNE: What about the second argument, McCain's arguing for divided government, basically, yeah, between the Republicans and the Democrats? Any indication that that is affecting how people are thinking about voting?

WILLIAMS: Well, again, we don't have hard numbers. But what you do see out on the campaign trail is an awareness that you would have Democrats in control across the board: Senate, House, as well as White House. And that argument has picked up steam because the idea is that - you know what? - it's not so much that Barack Obama would just be president, but that you would have lots of Democratic committee chairmen and officials - specifically the likes of Nancy Pelosi, someone who's always been, I think, demonized by the Republicans - in charge pushing very liberal policies on a very liberal president. That argument you hear all over the campaign trail.

MONTAGNE: But you say people are swayed by that?

WILLIAMS: I don't know that they're swayed by it. What is evident is that the McCain campaign believes, Renee, that they can use that argument to sway votes in these final days before the election. So they believe it is effective.

MONTAGNE: But just briefly, Barack Obama will make his case tonight with that primetime address he's giving across several networks. What's he going to say?

WILLIAMS: You know, this is so rare, Renee. You got to go back to Ross Perot to see anything like it. And of course, the amount of money being spent is so stunning, it just knocks your socks off. But that's because Barack Obama has raised a stunning amount of money, and he has it to spend. There's some criticism within the Democratic ranks that he's not using that money to help people down the ticket. It's all about Barack Obama at this point.

And what he wants to say to the American voter is so, well, prosaic. I mean, he's just going to say, I'm someone you can trust, I'm someone you know. Don't believe all these arguments about my character. I'm someone that will lead America successfully. I'm a patriot. He wants to deliver on that basic promise that he can lead America and say he's presidential.

MONTAGNE: Juan, thanks so much. NPR news analyst Juan Williams. It's Morning Edition from NPR News.

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