Obama, McCain begin barnstorming swing states

The surrogates are being deployed around the country to the most volatile areas running up to Election Day. The McCain campaign is sending surrogates to red-leaning swing states and some blue-leaning ones as well, in the hopes of picking off some 2004 Kerry states. The Obama campaign, meanwhile, is focusing on some of the 2004 red states such as Virginia, Ohio, and Florida with the hopes of painting them with the blue brush this time around.

Both candidates are also hitting each hard on taxes and trying to deflect the “socialist” label back and forth, it’s quite a comical game.

Report on the surrogates from Fox News:

As the presidential horse race enters its stretch run, Barack Obama and John McCain are deploying their surrogates to do some heavy stumping in battleground states where they’re still neck-and-neck.

The McCain camp is dispatching Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman and Sarah Palin’s husband, Todd, to Florida; former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani to Virginia; former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson to Ohio and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty to Missouri.

The Obama campaign did not provide an itinerary for its surrogates, but they will be pressed into action as Obama takes an unprecedented break from the campaign trail to visit his ailing 85-year-old grandmother in Hawaii. Michelle Obama will sub for Obama until he returns to the battleground states on Saturday.

On Wednesday, Obama made his eighth campaign stop in Virginia since securing the Democratic nomination in June. He has been traveling to Missouri, Ohio and North Carolina with Govs. Ted Strickland of Ohio, Edward Rendell of Pennsylvania and Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Jim Webb of Virginia.

Obama’s former rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton, will go to Pittsburgh and Colorado on Friday, Utah and New Mexico on Saturday and New Hampshire next week.

Clinton and Obama campaigned together in Florida on Monday, their first joint appearance since July. Winning Florida’s 27 electoral votes could ease Obama’s path to the 270 he needs to win the presidency.

McCain’s campaign hopes to win Florida by having surrogates appeal to key demographic groups, such as Lieberman to Jews and Palin to sportsmen.

“There’s obviously a clear strategy to put these surrogates in front of groups and organizations that they have the ability to mobilize,” a McCain campaign adviser told FOXNews.com, adding that these surrogates have been drawing up to several hundred people at these rallies and meetings.

But the McCain campaign’s hopes appear to be riding on one surrogate in particular, and one who isn’t even out there campaigning: Joe the Plumber, whose confrontation with Obama in Ohio over the Democrat’s tax policy re-energized McCain and gave his campaign a new attack line.

In Florida on Thursday, McCain launched what his campaign is calling the Joe the Plumber Bus Tour Rally. The goal: to hammer home its message that Obama’s economic plan is akin to socialism and welfare.

But the McCain surrogates clearly have the tougher task; most opinion polls show Obama has the easier path to the 270 electoral votes.

According to RealClearPolitics.com, Obama holds a slight lead over McCain in Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and Missouri, and his lead in Virginia is widening. McCain holds a slight lead in Indiana. President Bush won all of those states in the very close 2004 election.

“Surrogates can’t make up a difference,” said Curtis Gans, director of the Center for the Study of the American Electorate and the campaign manager for Eugene McCarthy’s 1968 failed presidential bid.

“They can help reach certain groups that are neutral or for you and help mobilize the second and perhaps influence the first,” he said. “They’re not going to make a major difference in what the polls look like.”

Video of McCain dishing out some charges against Obama via the AP:

Next, Obama is hitting back hard at McCain over the issue of taxes and making his case before many red state voters, report from Yahoo News:

INDIANAPOLIS – Democrat Barack Obama moved from defense to offense Thursday as he characterized Republican John McCain’s approach to taxes as nothing more than “putting corporations ahead of workers.”

Looking out at a sea of 35,000 people who crammed a downtown park on a chilly day, the Democratic presidential candidate noted blue-collar and manufacturing workers in the audience who waited hours to see him. They face disappearing jobs in this traditionally Republican state which has both a Rust Belt economy and rural areas.

“That’s whose president I want to be,” he yelled, getting rousing cheers in response.

With stock markets diving, unemployment rising and Indiana alone losing 4,500 jobs in September, Obama argued that the country cannot afford a President McCain who “thinks the economic policies of George W. Bush are just right for America.”

“He made kind of a strange argument that the best way to stop companies from shipping jobs overseas is to give more tax cuts to companies that are shipping jobs overseas,” Obama said of his opponent. “More tax cuts for job outsourcers. That’s what Sen. McCain proposed as his answer to outsourcing.”

Over recent days, McCain has kept up a drumbeat of criticisms of Obama’s tax plans. He’s said the Democrat would hand out “welfare” because even people who pay no taxes would receive a $500 tax credit. He also has said Obama’s entire plan amounts to socialistic tax redistribution policies.

Though Obama has appeared to gain an edge in the race for the White House amid the economic turmoil, some polls show McCain could be gaining ground with his aggressive message.

An Associated Press-GfK poll shows the race between McCain and Obama has tightened since their final debate. The poll found Obama at 44 percent and McCain at 43 percent, statistically insignificant and a change from a similar survey three weeks earlier that found Obama with a 7-point lead.

Video of Obama addressing supporters over taxes, hitting back at McCain:

It has now become a game of calling each other “socialist,” a report on that from Politico:

CINCINNATI, OHIO — A week after each candidate’s tax plan took center stage at the third presidential debate, the candidates continued to spar over Barack Obama’s comment that his plan would “spread the wealth around.”

At a Wednesday press conference in Richmond, Va., Obama gave his most extensive defense yet of his tax plan, pushing back against criticism that his economic philosophy amounted to socialism.

Republicans, said the Illinois senator, were trying to “fabricate an argument.” When McCain first opposed President Bush’s tax cuts, noted Obama, the Republican nominee described them as irresponsibly targeted.

“Was John McCain a socialist back in 2000?” Obama asked. “Cause all I’m trying to do is reverse those so we can give relief to people who really need help.”

As evidence of the Democratic nominee’s plans, McCain cited a section of Obama’s second book, “The Audacity of Hope,” at a morning event in Goffstown, N.H.

“He writes of, quote, the need for ‘labor laws and tax laws that restore some balance to the distribution of the nation’s wealth.’ He’s talked elsewhere about how, in our day, ‘the distribution of wealth is even more skewed, and levels of inequity are now higher,’” he told the crowd of roughly 2,000.

“Whatever the right word is for that way of thinking,” McCain said. A voice from the crowd shouted an answer: “Socialism!”

McCain’s focus on Obama’s intentions has, over the past few days, been accompanied by an argument that Obama is concealing the true costs of his tax plan for middle-class Americans.The Arizona senator has also questioned Obama’s ability to cut taxes for 95 percent of all Americans, hitting him particularly hard for awarding tax credits to low-income families that pay no taxes.

“How do you reduce the number zero?” wondered McCain at a Green, Ohio rally. “Since you can’t reduce taxes for those who pay zero, he’ll write them all checks for tax credits.”

Time is running short and this will probably get a lot crazier before it calms down.

Sound off below, who’s winning the debate on taxes?