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In Final Days, McCain Forced to Fly Home to Ariz. to Shore Up Support

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After senior advisers fueled rumors for two days that Barack Obama might make an appearance in Arizona during the final days of the campaign due to tightening poll numbers, his campaign announced Friday that Obama would not visit John McCain's home state. National Field Director John Carson put it straight, emphasizing the need to retain focus in the final days of the campaign:

If the election were six or seven days away, then Obama would be making a stop [in Arizona], but there is just not enough time for him to visit every place that he needs to visit.

That's impressive considering that Arizona has only voted for a Democratic presidential candidate once (Clinton in 1996, by 3 points) since Truman's landslide in 1948. Rep. Jeff Flake (R, CD-6) thought it said more about the Dole campaign than the Clinton campaign.

Four years ago, reporters gawked at empty Kerry-Edwards offices, and lamented the excitement that a McCain ticket would have brought to Arizona. Reporters were heartily impressed when McCain drew a crowd of 15,000 in Phoenix for a Bush campaign event. This year, though, Arizona's McCain-Palin offices were quiet and empty until just this week, whereas Obama offices have been crowded and full of action since they opened in early September (before that, Obama grassroots were active throughout the lower half of the state).

Another poll was released yesterday -- the sixth in a week -- this time by Research 2000, showing Obama only 1 point behind McCain -- 48 to 47. Obama had a substantial 12 point lead among early voters -- 54 percent of early voters polled support Obama, and 42 percent support McCain. Even more stunning, the poll asked who voters would support if the 2010 Senate race were held today, and Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano edged out John McCain by a significant 8 point margin.

Obama Communications Director Dave Cieslak credits Napolitano with the success of Obama's Arizona campaign, saying that the grassroots support for Napolitano in Arizona is "tremendous."

Obama Spokesperson Shannon Gilson said that Obama will be putting more resources into Arizona, though. The campaign began airing a television advertisement in Arizona for the first time on Friday that has what they are referring to as Obama's "closing argument" that envisions his "positive message" of change.

View the ad: is also targeting Arizona with their "Obamacon" television advertisement which features a lifelong Republican, former Staff Sargent John Weiler, talking about why he is voting for Obama. For good measure, he even mentions President Reagan.

Rick Davis told the Dallas Morning News that the Obama television advertisements in Arizona were "a waste of money," and added

We encourage them to please, pick other states that we intend to win.

View the ad:

The Obama campaign sent out an email Friday afternoon telling supporters in Arizona that the campaign is seeing a surge of support in states such as Georgia and North Dakota, states that were not expected to be close. The email called John McCain's home state "the latest battleground" and a "major opportunity." When Obama was boarding his plane Friday, someone shouted a question asking why he was running ads in John McCain's home state, and he responded simply

We want to win everywhere.

The Arizona co-chairman of the McCain-Palin campaign said the presidential race in Arizona

is a lot closer than we'd like.

While the Obama campaign is keeping its Arizona campaign positive, the Arizona Democratic Party sent out a press release attacking John McCain by tying him to convicted Senator Ted Stevens late Friday afternoon.

For nearly two years, McCain's camp sought special treatment from the telecommunications industry that he regulates. His wife pushed hard to have the companies put permanent cell phone towers on the family's land in Cornville.

The press release asked several pointed questions, including:

Have you ever worked so hard to get cell phone service for your constituents?
As a senator with oversight power of the telecommunications industry and the Federal Communications Commission, did you ever push companies to build cell phone towers on friends' properties? Since so many of your staffers have been lobbyists for the telecommunications industry, did they advocate that you get free cell phone towers or use their relationships to get you free cell phone towers?

And finally these:

Did you file a gift disclosure for the cell phone towers? Did you try to use your wife to avoid the Stevens scenario? How is pushing for a cell phone tower to improve your private property different from accepting a gift of remodeling services to improve the value of your home, like Ted Stevens?

This is the first press release from the Arizona Democratic Party that focuses on John McCain in more than a month. The last press release from the Arizona Democratic Party that focused on McCain was August 25. It ridiculed McCain for being unable to break 50 percent in the polls in his home state -- not exactly a vicious attack. Before that, the last time the state party had attacked McCain was July 10 in a press release that criticized him for saying that Social Security is "an absolute disgrace."

Arizona Democratic Party Spokesperson Emily DeRose had this to say about the closeness of poll numbers for the presidential race in Arizona,

In Arizona, we know John McCain better than anyone else in the country - and these new poll numbers show that the people who know him best want change. Arizona is one remaining symbol in this historic election - a symbol not only of defeating McCain, but also repudiating the failed policies of the Bush administration and signaling to the country we're ready for change.

The (Prescott) Daily Courier reported this morning that John McCain was also stepping up his efforts in Arizona with a personal visit to Prescott Monday night at 9:00 PM. After the article was released, however, the McCain campaign spent the day in seeming confusion over whether or not McCain was indeed scheduled for an appearance in Prescott. After much back and forth with Arizona reporters, the McCain campaign finally confirmed that McCain will be making an appearance there at 11:00 AM on Monday, at the Yavapai County Courthouse. This may be a symbolic appearance for John McCain, as this is also the spot where he has wrapped up his Senatorial campaigns.

According to McCain,

Prescott, Arizona's territorial capital, occupies a special place in the history of Arizona, and in the Goldwater legend. As everyone familiar with Arizona politics knows, Prescott is where Barry Goldwater formally began his Senate campaigns and his campaign for the presidency on the steps of the Yavapai County Courthouse. As his successor and in deference to his tradition, I have ended all my Senate campaigns here.

Prescott is in situated in the heart of Arizona's first Congressional district where Arizona House Representative Ann Kirkpatrick (D) and corporate lobbyist Sydney Hay (R) are vying for the seat left open by recently indicted (on federal corruption charges) Rick Renzi (R). McCain's visit to this district is no doubt meant to increase Republican turnout in this district where Kirkpatrick has held onto a significant throughout the campaign and is expected to win handily -- a district whose Republican lean may no longer be a sure thing for McCain.

In order to win Arizona, Obama will also need to at least break even in Arizona's third Congressional district. This means Obama's coordinated campaign with third district Congressional candidate Bob Lord needs a strong get out the vote effort. The race in this district will likely hinge on turnout of Hispanic voters and voters under 30 years old.

Obama will also need to run up the score in Southern Arizona, the 7th and 8th Congressional districts where Rep. Raul Grijalva (D, CD-7) and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D, CD-8) are defending their seats against Republican challengers. Obama needs to win Tucson by nearly 20 points to makeup for votes lost in Republican strongholds.

Obama grassroots support has been exceptional and continues to grow. Late Friday afternoon, volunteers in Tempe, home of the largest university in the country, said that they were being dispatched to satellite offices around Maricopa County because every available phone banking slot was full. Democratic Party spokesperson Emily DeRose said that hundreds -- perhaps thousands -- of volunteers are indeed filling their offices to capacity, then DeRose added an emphatic statement that they need every available volunteer and that every hour they give will be very valuable in this year's close election -- for candidates at every level.

Arizona Communications Director for the Obama campaign said,

It is heart warming and inspiring to have such an army of volunteers at the beginning of such a critical weekend. This final get out the vote weekend gives Arizonans a lot of opportunity to help bring about the change that Obama would bring.

DeRose said that the Democratic Party is pushing hard to increase capacity due to the polls released this week showing the presidential race as a statistical dead heat and the race in Arizona's third Congressional district also as a close race,

We are aggressively trying to raise additional late GOTV money to buy cell phones and rent canvass vans to increase our capacity to call voters and knock on doors. We anticipated a late surge of volunteers, but there are even more than we expected, and we could use even more. Arizona has 2.9 million voters.

Arizona Democratic party workers and the Obama campaign have been overrun and have spread out operations to satellite offices across the state. Volunteers are beginning to be turned away for lack of resources. The campaign has now rented the house next door to the Phoenix / Maricopa County offices to expand space and office managers there are suggesting volunteers call before coming in to find out which satellite offices needs volunteers.