27 Oct 2008

US presidential candidates return to campaign trail

7:53 am on 27 October 2008

America's presidential candidates have been back on the campaign trail, focussing on vital states in the country's west.

With 10 days till election day, Democratic contender Barack Obama is maintaining his lead in the polls over his Republican rival, John McCain.

The presidency is determined by a majority of the Electoral College, which has 538 members allotted to all 50 states and the District of Columbia in proportion to their representation in Congress.

Mr Obama is ahead in every state he needs to carry to get to the 270 votes required in the Electoral College.

He is also ahead in several that Mr McCain cannot afford to lose including Colarado, Ohio and Virginia.

Mr McCain acknowledges he is the underdog but has accused Mr Obama of already taking a "victory lap" by allowing an inaugural address to be drafted for him - a charge disputed by the Obama camp.

Mr McCain, struggling to defend New Mexico and other Western states that in the past have mostly voted Republican from going to Obama on November 4, seized on a report that former President Bill Clinton's one time chief of staff, John Podesta, had already written a draft inaugural address for Barack Obama.

"What America needs now is somebody who will finish the race before starting a victory lap," Mr McCain told an enthusiastic crowd in a town square in southern New Mexico.

At a rally in Reno, Nevada, Mr Obama hammered Mr McCain as little different than President George Bush.

But McCain compared himself to Harry Truman, the Democratic president who defied the odds to defeat Thomas Dewey in 1948, a victory that came so late that a Chicago newspaper had already printed headlines of Dewey's victory.

Mr Obama returned to campaigning, after taking a break to visit his sick grandmother in Hawaii, with the Western states of Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado in his sights.

In Reno, Mr Obama slammed Mr McCain for saying government should ease its regulations on business and mocked his assertion that Mr Bush's economic policies had gotten "out of hand."

Mr Obama told about 11,000 supporters at a rally at the University of Nevada that "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."