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Candidates Focus on Economy, Key States in Final Week of US Presidential Campaign

The U.S. presidential election campaign is moving into its final week, and both major candidates are making their closing arguments to voters before the November 4 election. Democratic Party nominee Barack Obama and Republican John McCain have campaigned Monday in Ohio and are each beginning their day Tuesday in Pennsylvania, before moving on to other important states where the race is close. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has the latest on the campaign from Washington.

Democrat Barack Obama continues to lead in the national polls and in most of the key states that will hold the balance in next week's election.

But Obama cautioned a crowd in Ohio not to take the election for granted, and to get out and work hard in the closing days of the campaign.

"Do not believe for a second that this election is over," he said. "Do not think for a minute that power concedes. We have a lot of work to do. We have to work like our future depends on it in this last week, because it does depend on it this week!"

Obama is focused on a message of change and unity in the final days of the campaign. He says if elected he would unify the country, including Democrats and Republicans, to take on the economic challenges at home and the security challenges abroad.

But Obama is not backing away from his central contention that his Republican opponent, Senator John McCain, represents a continuation of what he calls the failed policies of President Bush.

"John McCain might be worried about losing an election, but I am worried about Americans who are losing their homes and their jobs and their life savings," said Obama. "I can take one more week of John McCain's attacks, but this country cannot take four more years of the same failed politics and the same failed policies. It is time to try something new!"

Senator McCain also campaigned in Ohio, and he focused on the economy, which the polls show is the number-one issue in the election.

"With one week left in this campaign, the choice facing Americans is stark," McCain said. "My economic goals and policies are very clear."

McCain again distanced himself from the economic policies of President Bush, and noted that Americans want change.

McCain also continued his attacks on Obama's tax proposals, which some of his supporters compare to socialism.

"And that is the problem with Senator Obama's approach to our economy," said McCain. "He is more interested in controlling wealth than creating it, in redistributing money instead of spreading opportunity. I am going to create wealth for all Americans by creating opportunity for all Americans!"

Many political experts believe McCain is running out of time to close the gap in the polls in the final days of the campaign.

"What is driving this election is dissatisfaction with the party now holding the White House," said Allan Lichtman, a presidential historian at American University in Washington. "Nearly 90 percent of Americans think the country is on the wrong track. The economy is in meltdown. George Bush is the most unpopular president in the history of polling, which goes back to the 1930's."

The fact that both major presidential contenders were in Ohio on the same day this late in the campaign reflects the state's influential status in presidential elections. No Republican has ever won the White House without carrying Ohio. And John Kennedy in 1960 was the last Democratic candidate to win the presidency without carrying Ohio. Obama has a narrow lead over McCain in the latest polls in Ohio.