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US rivals fight over Wild West

ALBUQUERQUE, October 26 – Front-runner Barack Obama and a scrapping John McCain fought a pitched battle over western states Sunday as the Democratic nominee was to woo voters in Colorado and his Republican rival prepared to appear on national television.

Obama played to vast crowds in New Mexico and Nevada Saturday before heading to Colorado, another key battleground state, where he was to campaign on Sunday.

McCain, desperately needing to reverse Obama’s momentum, was to appear for an in-depth interview on NBC’s "Meet the Press" program.

But he faced a new rash of painful headlines about his running mate Sarah Palin, amid signs finger pointing typical of losing campaigns was beginning to afflict his White House effort.

Obama made a fresh bid to shackle Senator McCain to President George W. Bush’s unpopular economic legacy.
"John McCain’s mad at George Bush, so opposed to George Bush’s policies, that he voted with him 90 percent of the time for the past eight years," Senator Obama said in a mass rally here.

"That’s right, he decided to really stick it to George Bush 10 percent of the time."

"John McCain attacking George Bush for his out-of-hand economic policy is like (Vice President) Dick Cheney attacking George Bush for his go-it-alone foreign policy," he said, noting that Bush cast an advance ballot for the Republican nominee on Friday. "It’s like Robin getting mad at Batman."

The Obama rally in Albuquerque drew 35,000 people with an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 gathered outside, according to the local fire marshall.

Earlier, a comparable McCain event in Albuquerque drew only an estimated 1,000.

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In another blow to the Republican campaign, The Anchorage Daily News, the main newspaper in Alaska, the home state of Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, endorsed Obama, saying he "truly promises fundamental change in Washington."

At three stops in Nevada and New Mexico, Obama, who is vying to become America’s first black president, thanked wellwishers at his three rallies for a stream of flowers sent to his 85-year-old grandmother Madelyn Dunham’s apartment in Honolulu, Hawaii.

"I just want you to know it meant the world to her, it means the world to me," Obama said. "Thank you everybody for being so gracious."

McCain jumped on a report in the New York Times that Obama’s transition chief had already drafted an inaugural address for the Illinois senator, suggesting he was hubristic and took voters for granted.

"Senator Obama’s inaugural address is already written," McCain told a crowd of around 2,000 people at Mesilla’s historic plaza. "I’m not making it up. A lot of voters are undecided but he’s decided for them."

"There’s still 10 days left — maybe he’ll have written the State of the Union address before this thing is finished. I may be old-fashioned about these things, but I prefer to let the voters weigh in."

The Obama camp responded that the report that transition chief John Podesta had penned an address, which has already been published in a book, were false.

"While this charge is completely false and there is no draft of an inaugural address for Senator Obama, the last thing we need is a candidate like John McCain who just plans on rereading George Bush’s," said Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton.

Reports quoting fuming campaign insiders meanwhile suggested that a standoff was developing between Palin and McCain’s senior aides.

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The website cited four Republicans close to Palin as saying she was frustrated by her campaign handlers, whom supporters blame for a series of public relations gaffes, and was willing to disregard orders.

The Alaska Governor’s supporters accused McCain campaign strategist Steve Schmidt and senior aide Nicolle Wallace of already attempting to blame Palin for the failure of the campaign.

"These people are going to try and shred her after the campaign to divert blame from themselves," a McCain insider was quote by Politico as saying.

When asked to comment on the Politico story by AFP, Wallace said in an email: "I have no comment other than what’s in the story, if people wish to throw me under the bus, my personal belief is that the graceful thing to do is to lie there."
A unnamed source meanwhile hit out at the Alaska governor to CNN.

"She is a diva. She takes no advice from anyone," the McCain source said. "She does not have any relationships of trust with any of us, her family or anyone else."

McCain is desperate to stop Obama making a clean sweep of western states Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico which could give the Democrat breathing room as he chases key battlegrounds in the east.

National polls have Obama up anywhere from four to 14 percentage points and with a solid lead in most battleground states, but some surveys show McCain has made up some ground in Ohio, Florida and must-win Pennsylvania.


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