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Originally published Monday, November 3, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Obama, McCain launch huge get-out-vote efforts

Barack Obama and John McCain uncorked massive get-out-the-vote operations in more than a dozen battleground states Sunday, millions of telephone calls, mailings and door-knockings in a frenzied, fitting climax to a record-shattering $1 billion campaign.

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Barack Obama and John McCain uncorked massive get-out-the-vote operations in more than a dozen battleground states Sunday, millions of telephone calls, mailings and door-knockings in a frenzied, fitting climax to a record-shattering $1 billion campaign. Together, they'll spend about $8 per presidential vote.

With just two days to go, most national polls show Obama ahead of McCain. State surveys suggest the Democrat's path to the requisite 270 electoral votes — and perhaps far beyond — is much easier to navigate than McCain's.

Obama exuded confidence. "The last couple of days, I've been just feeling good," he told 80,000 gathered to hear him — and singer Bruce Springsteen — in Cleveland. "The crowds seem to grow and everybody's got a smile on their face. You start thinking that maybe we might be able to win an election on November 4th."

In Peterborough, N.H., McCain held his final town-hall-style event in the state that put him on the national map in 2000 and launched his GOP primary comeback eight years later. "I come to the people of New Hampshire to ask them to let me go on one more mission," said McCain, who is looking for an upset victory against Obama.

Polls show the six closest states are Florida, Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Nevada and Ohio. All were won by President Bush but made competitive this year by Obama's record-shattering fundraising. The campaigns also are running aggressive ground games elsewhere, including Iowa, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Colorado and Virginia.

All that's left now for the candidates is to make sure people vote Tuesday — if they haven't already.

Analysts expect a historically large voter turnout. In 2004, 60 percent of eligible voters cast ballots. Michael McDonald, a George Mason University associate professor who tracks early voting, predicted Friday that this year's number could approach 64 percent, which would be the biggest percentage since 1908.

The question is, who will those voters be?

Pollsters disagree. The latest poll for CBS News and The New York Times shows Democrats outnumbering Republicans by 7 points and Obama leading McCain by 11. The latest Fox News poll shows Democrats with a two-point identification edge and Obama leading by 3. Gallup's latest poll using its time-honed "traditional likely voter" model shows Obama up by 8.

There's disagreement as well on what sort of turnout to expect from first-time voters, young people and African Americans. Democrats predict those groups will vote at a higher clip than usual and break heavily for Obama. McCain's team believes they will, too, but that voting also will increase among other groups, keeping the general makeup of the electorate roughly unchanged.

About 27 million absentee and early votes were cast in 30 states as of Saturday night, more than ever. Democrats outnumbered Republicans in pre-Election Day voting in key states.

That has Democrats — and even some Republicans — privately wondering if McCain can overtake Obama even if GOP loyalists turn out in droves Tuesday. Obama may already have too big a head start in critical states such as Nevada and Iowa that Bush won in 2004.

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As the campaign closes, voters were being inundated with a crush of television ads and automated phone calls.

In a new TV ad, Obama highlighted Vice President Dick Cheney's support for McCain. The ad features Cheney, an extremely unpopular figure among the general public, at an event Saturday in Wyoming, saying: "I'm delighted to support John McCain."

Not to be outdone, the Republican National Committee rolled out battleground phone calls that include Hillary Rodham Clinton's criticism of Obama during the Democratic primary. She is heard saying: "In the White House, there is no time for speeches and on-the-job training. Senator McCain will bring a lifetime of experience to the campaign, and Senator Obama will bring a speech that he gave in 2002." A Clinton spokeswoman said she disapproves of the ad.

Another phone call to Pennsylvania and Ohio voters takes Obama's words about coal-burning technology out of context and claims he will "bankrupt the coal industry."

The Pennsylvania GOP also unveiled a TV ad featuring Obama's former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, declaring "God damn America!" in a sermon.

Obama and McCain campaigned on each other's turf Sunday. Obama was in Ohio, a bellwether state Bush won four years ago and where polls show Obama tied or winning. McCain visited Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, states won by Democrat John Kerry in 2004. He trails in both.

McCain and the Republican National Committee dramatically ramped up their spending in the campaign's final days and are matching Obama ad for ad, if not exceeding him, in key areas of states such as Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

The Republican Party launched the last stage of its vaunted "72-hour program," when volunteers descend on competitive states. Democrats unleashed their "persuasion army" of backers scouring their own backyards to encourage people to back Obama.

McCain planned visits to media markets that hit battlegrounds Florida, Virginia, Indiana, New Mexico and Nevada today. A repeat trip to Pennsylvania also was slated before McCain returns home to Arizona.

Obama planned visits to Florida, North Carolina and Virginia today and a quick stop in Indiana early Tuesday.

Information from the Chicago Tribune is included in this report.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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