McCain dismisses sour poll numbers

October 26, 2008 7:24:16 PM PDT
Republican John McCain, behind in the polls and looking for a comeback, argued Sunday that voters should elect him president to create a check on a Democratic Congress that he says is determined to increase taxes and the size of government.McCain also ridiculed reports that Obama is polishing his inaugural address, but he focused on warning activists of the dangers of Democrats pushing for higher taxes and bigger government.

"That's what's going to happen if the Democrats have total control of Washington," McCain told supporters at an Iowa rally. "We can't let that happen."

Democrats, current in control of the House and Senate, are on track for sizable gains in both chambers, aided by the poor economy, President Bush's unpopularity, a lopsided advantage in fundraising and a robust organizational effort in key states by Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.

In Zanesville, Ohio, as he opened a campaign swing in that crucial battleground state, McCain targeted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as vigorously as Obama.

"You can imagine Obama, Reid and Pelosi," he said. "Tax and spend, tax and spend."

McCain also echoed running mate Sarah Palin, who told supporters at a Tampa, Fla., rally that Obama is acting as if he's already won.

"He's measuring the drapes," McCain said in Iowa, where public polls show him trailing Obama in the race for its seven electoral votes. "I prefer to let voters have their say. What America needs now is someone who will finish the race before starting the victory lap."

Attempting to turn Obama's call for change on its ear, McCain argued that he is best positioned to shake up Washington.

"I will take America in a new direction from my first day in office," said McCain, taking yet another step to distance himself from the unpopular incumbent president of his own party.

Earlier Sunday, during an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press," McCain complicated the distancing act when he said he and Bush share a "common philosophy" of the Republican Party, despite disagreements on Iraq, deficit spending and campaign finance reform, among other issues.

Campaigning in Denver, Obama told his audience, "I guess that was John McCain finally giving us a little straight talk."

In the interview, McCain dismissed the poll numbers that show him trailing Obama nationally and in key states, including Iowa, and said his campaign is "doing fine." A Newsweek poll released Saturday showed Obama with a 13-point lead nationally.

Iowa offers seven electoral votes. A total of 270 Electoral College votes are needed to win the presidency.

"This is going to be a very close race, and I believe I'm going to win it," McCain said.

He rejected the notion that his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, is unqualified to be president and is hurting the campaign.

"I don't defend her. I praise her. She is exactly what Washington needs," he said.

McCain continued to praise Palin at a noisy rally before 2,000 cheering backers at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls.

"We're going to bring change. With Sarah Palin, I'll guarantee you we'll do it a lot faster," he said. "She has inspired millions of Americans with her record of reform."