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Obama, McCain target the West's toss-up states

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[October 25, 2008]  RENO, Nev. (AP) -- Barack Obama and John McCain venture into the next-to-last weekend of their testy presidential campaign with the same target - winning the rest of the West.

Once reliable Republican territory, much of the West has seen its politics and demographics shift over the last decade. Three states considered still in play to varying degrees - Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico - could be vital if the electoral math gets tight.

Obama was resuming his campaign in Nevada on Saturday with rallies in Reno and Las Vegas before holding one at night in Albuquerque, N.M. The Democrat put aside political events on Thursday night and Friday to spend time with his grandmother in Hawaii, whom he described as gravely ill.

McCain, pivoting from his three stops in Colorado on Friday, will also be pushing hard in New Mexico on Saturday. He is holding rallies in Albuquerque and in Mesilla, farther south.

As the collapsing economy consumes voter attention, McCain has seized a line of attack that Obama is poised to deepen the problem by raising taxes. He said in Denver that Obama won't target the rich but rather the middle class by putting it "through the wringer."

Obama counters that he would lower taxes for most wage-earners and that McCain's tax plan favors wealthy corporations. He has tagged McCain as being out of time and ideas.

Polls show the path to the winning tally of 270 electoral votes is tricker for McCain, a Republican weighed down by the economic crisis and an unpopular incumbent president.

Obama, wary of overconfidence among his backers, is charting multiple winning paths.

That's where 19 electoral votes out West factor into the equation.

Nevada, with five votes, is posing the toughest challenge for Obama; the race is a tossup. Colorado is competitive, though Obama has a slight edge in polls in the state that offers nine votes. Obama is more deeply favored to win New Mexico's five votes.

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President Bush carried all three states in 2004. Obama, the front-runner nationally with 11 days until the election, is focusing his time on plucking away states Bush won four years ago.

Obama could win the White House by hanging onto all the states that Sen. John Kerry won four years ago and then sweeping the three Western states getting attention this weekend.

McCain, though, has mounted comebacks before. Political momentum can change fast.

Part of the West's demographic change includes larger numbers of Hispanics, a traditionally Democratic-leaning group that has posed a challenge for McCain. The most recent Gallup poll showed Obama leading among registered Hispanic voters, 61 percent to 29 percent.

[Associated Press; By BEN FELLER]

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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