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Va., Pa., Colo. May Hold Key In Election

Sen. John McCain arrives at a Nov. 2 campaign rally at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania.
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Sen. John McCain arrives at a Nov. 2 campaign rally at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania.
Sen. Barack Obama walks up the ramp to his plane at Pueblo Memorial Airport on Nov. 1 in Pueblo, Colo.
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Sen. Barack Obama walks up the ramp to his plane at Pueblo Memorial Airport on Nov. 1 in Pueblo, Colo.
Forest Whorton of Castleton, Va., shows his support for Sen. John McCain by riding his horse along Route 29 on Nov. 1.
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Forest Whorton of Castleton, Va., shows his support for Sen. John McCain by riding his horse along Route 29 on Nov. 1.
People listen as Sen. Barack Obama speaks during a Nov. 2 campaign rally at Ohio State House in Columbus.
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People listen as Sen. Barack Obama speaks during a Nov. 2 campaign rally at Ohio State House in Columbus.
Sen. John McCain addresses a campaign rally in the David Student Union at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va., on Nov. 1.
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Sen. John McCain addresses a campaign rally in the David Student Union at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va., on Nov. 1.
Sen. Barack Obama speaks during a campaign rally at the University of Cincinnati on Nov. 2.
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Sen. Barack Obama speaks during a campaign rally at the University of Cincinnati on Nov. 2.

With just one day until the election, national polls continue to show Democrat Barack Obama leading Republican John McCain.

But in the battleground states of Virginia, Pennsylvania and Colorado, the race seems much closer.

There, the two candidates are vying not only for attention and airtime but for the support of undecided voters. They're crisscrossing these key states, holding last-minute rallies and relying on big-name surrogates.

Snapshot From Virginia

Virginia has not been won by a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964, but Democratic volunteer Greg Fawcett hopes to help change this. Fawcett is a California-based media consultant who has already volunteered in New York and Ohio for the Obama campaign.

"Something I admired from the beginning was his asking sacrifice of people — even understanding, prior to the economic crisis, that it was a time that would require a lot of sacrifice. That's leadership to me," Fawcett said.

Obama has made Virginia's 13 electoral votes a prime target this year.

He held his first rally after the convention in the state and will hold one of his final events in Manassas late Monday night. He has opened offices in places that have not seen a presidential campaign — much less a Democratic one — in years, and his campaign is hoping for a large turnout among African-American voters.

But Republicans certainly have not conceded the state. At the McCain-Palin campaign office in Fredericksburg, a couple dozen volunteers work the phones. Doug Kulbalek is one of them. Kulbalek works for a defense contractor and said that a McCain win is crucial for the nation.

"It will be a challenging time if we have a liberal — not a Democrat — a liberal in the White House, with a supermajority, superliberal majority in both houses of Congress," he said.

McCain and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, have each made several stops in the state, including a McCain visit over the weekend. McCain is hoping that the state's rural voters and the large number of retired and active military in Virginia will help buck the Democratic trend and keep the state red for one more presidential election.

On The Ground In Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is a state that has voted for Democrats in each of the last four presidential elections, but that has not stopped McCain from spending lots of money and time there.

"We're a couple points behind in Pennsylvania. The pundits have written us off, just like they've done before. My friends, the Mac is back!!" he said at a recent rally.

The McCain campaign has made four stops in Pennsylvania in the past three days alone, including an appearance on Sunday in the voter-rich Philadelphia suburbs.

Statewide polls consistently show McCain trailing Obama — though the race has gotten tighter in the past few days. Supporters like Debbie Levinovich and Edgar Chinchilla believe McCain can still win.

"I have friends and neighbors that all have McCain-Palin signs up on their lawns, and it's exciting to see," Levinovich said.

"If we believe in polls, it will be no purpose for us to be here. According to the Democrats, this is over, and it's not over until the final results come up," Chinchilla added.

From the Philadelphia suburbs, McCain was off to a rally in Scranton. He made another appearance on Monday in the state's southwestern corner. McCain will need a strong showing in all those areas to offset big Democratic majorities in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

Obama himself has not set foot in Pennsylvania in several days, but the campaign has sent some high-profile surrogates to the area, including hip-hop mogul Jay-Z.

"Martin Luther King walked so Obama could run. Obama's running so we all can fly. Philadelphia, make some noise!" Jay-Z told supporters.

Jay-Z, along with Sean "Diddy" Combs and singer Mary J. Blige, were the headliners at a get-out-the vote rally earlier on Monday in North Philadelphia. Temple University students Tiffany Wilson and Kalima Thomas were there.

"I think it's going to be a huge turnout. I think there's going to be plenty of people, long lines. I just hope everyone comes out and votes," Wilson said.

Analysts say neither candidate will have an easy time winning without Pennsylvania's 21 electoral votes.

And From The Rocky Mountain State...

The largest block of voters in Colorado does not belong to any political party, and these unaffiliated voters decide the state's elections.

In recent years, they have been swinging toward the Democrats. Polls over the past few months show that Obama has consistently held a slim lead over McCain.

Richard Mont is a registered "unaffiliated" voter, or independent, who lives in Denver.

"I think people are just tired of the Republican ticket," he said. "I think they're tired of the Bush policies, and I think people believe that President Bush and all his cronies got us into this situation."

Unaffiliated voters in Colorado rarely mention Obama's qualifications as a reason they're supporting him. Instead, they often express frustration with Republicans over the poor economy and the languishing war on terrorism.

There are some parts of the state where McCain has very strong support.

On Monday morning, Palin addressed an enthusiastic crowd in Colorado Springs. The city is home to dozens of evangelical Christian groups.

Palin is very popular with conservatives and some unaffiliated voters, like Jack Graves of Arvada.

"I just liked her. She's just sort of like one of us," he said. "She's down-to-earth and not so political."

Both Graves and his wife, Karen, have already cast their ballots for McCain, in part because, they say, they appreciate his stance on abortion. But they also fault the McCain campaign for not doing a better job of attracting independent voters.

"I don't know who his strategist is, but I think they've given him really bad advice," said Karen Graves. "I just don't think he's out there. The things he's coming across with are too negative. He's not coming across to me as down-to-earth as Obama does in his campaigns in reaching the people."

After Palin's Colorado visit on Monday, McCain will be in Grand Junction on Tuesday for an Election Day rally.

Mesa County is another Republican stronghold in Colorado. It has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate in over four decades.

McCain supporters hope that a high-profile visit just hours before the polls close will encourage a few stragglers to go and cast their ballots at the last minute.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NPR News' Brian Naylor is a correspondent on the Washington Desk. In this role, he covers politics and federal agencies.
Joel Rose is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. He covers immigration and breaking news.
Jeff Brady is a National Desk Correspondent based in Philadelphia, where he covers energy issues and climate change. Brady helped establish NPR's environment and energy collaborative which brings together NPR and Member station reporters from across the country to cover the big stories involving the natural world.
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