McCain and Obama campaign in West as election approaches

RENO, Nev. -- Working to win the West, Democrat Barack Obama ridiculed John McCain on Saturday for trying to distance himself from President Bush. McCain touted his Western ties and warned that Obama is a tax-and-spend threat to the nation.

Ten days before the election, both candidates were targeting the same trio of states -- Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico. Any of them could help shape who wins the presidency.

The flurry of appearances by Obama and McCain likely represent the last time in a long campaign that the West will get this much attention. Electoral prizes such as Ohio, Missouri and Florida will soon take command.

Obama said it was too late for McCain to portray himself as independent from Bush after standing with him for years. McCain has a mixed record of supporting and bucking Bush.

Real change, Obama said, is "not somebody who's trying to break with his president over the last 10 days after having supporting him for the last eight years."

As the front-running Obama campaigned at a baseball stadium, McCain was at an outdoor rally at the New Mexico state fairgrounds in Albuquerque. The Arizona Republican called himself "a fellow Westerner."

"Sen. Obama has never been south of the border," said McCain, arguing that he has a feel for issues like water that resonate throughout the region. Obama's campaign said Obama has, in fact, been to Mexico before he got into public office.

Later, in Mesilla, N.M., McCain said he had a home-court advantage in the West.

"I know the issues, I know land, I know water, I know Native American issues," said McCain, speaking at a sun-splashed rally. "I know how western states are growing with dynamic strength. Senator Obama does not understand these issues."

The West, once reliable Republican territory, has seen its politics and demographics shift over the last decade. Bush narrowly won Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico four years ago, and Democrats see them and their 19 electoral votes as a pickup opportunity for this election.

There was a glitch for Obama in Reno, though. A generator at his rally apparently failed, killing power and cutting off his microphone. Obama said someone from the McCain campaign may have pulled the plug on the rally -- but quickly added he was kidding.

Later, at a rally at a high school football field in Las Vegas, Obama said: "We're not going to let George Bush pass the torch to John McCain."

Obama resumed his campaign in Nevada after spending Thursday night and Friday in Hawaii with his grandmother, who is gravely ill. He offered thanks to those who wished her well.

Despite sour polls, McCain pledged a scrappy close to the campaign.

"We're a few points down and the pundits, of course, as they have four or five times, have written us off," said McCain. "We've got them just where we want them."

McCain was headed briefly to El Paso, Texas, before moving on to Iowa where he's looking to make up for some lost ground in a state campaign aides argue is closer than the public polling shows. McCain was to appear on "Meet the Press" and hold a campaign rally.

Obama is campaigning on Sunday in Colorado.

Associated Press writers Dena Potter, Mike Glover and Anna Jo Bratton contributed to this report.

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