IN THE HEADLINES
Economy reeling, Obama and McCain trade blame, fight for final votes in campaign homestretch ... Campaign says Obama TV ads, one positive and one negative, offer their 'closing argument' ... Biden says Obama will create jobs in hotly contested Missouri ... Palin speaks to enthusiastic crowd in Cape Girardeau ... Early voting means waiting, waiting and more waiting ... NC elections board extends early voting hours on Saturday in wake of record turnout
Economy reeling, Obama, McCain seek final votes
SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) - The election in sight and the economy reeling, Barack Obama and John McCain fought over causes, cures and the final votes that will make one of them president. Obama tied McCain to President Bush and said Americans are paying a steep price for the partnership, while the Republican linked his rival to Big Oil and record profits.
Aiming to seal the victory and become the nation's first black president, Obama raced into a day that would take him from Florida to Virginia to Missouri, all traditionally Republican territory.
McCain rolled by bus through battleground Ohio five days before the election, struggling to make up ground in a state that has voted with the winner in every presidential election for two decades.
By all available evidence, on the Thursday before Election Day the race was Obama's to lose.
The national polls showed him ahead, he was rated the favorite in a half-dozen states that sided with Bush in 2004, and surveys showed close races in three more.
Both campaigns invested heavily in turning out early voters.
New Obama TV ad takes swipe at McCain and Bush
WASHINGTON (AP) - Barack Obama's presidential campaign on Thursday released two new ads that it's calling its "closing argument" for supporting Obama over Republican John McCain.
One ad shows a man adjusting the rearview mirror in his car only to see President Bush. The unpopular president pops up again in a side mirror. And the ad goes on to use highway signs to point to various McCain policies.
The spot ends with both McCain and Bush in the rear mirror and the warning: "Look behind you. We can't afford more of the same."
The other ad focuses on Obama himself and his pledge to bring Americans together. The spot features pictures of former Secretary of State Colin Powell and billionaire investor Warren Buffett, both Obama supporters.
Biden rallies with autoworkers in Missouri
ARNOLD, Mo. (AP) - With dozens of laid off autoworkers on stage behind him, Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden pledged Thursday to do more for the middle class if he and Barack Obama are elected.
Biden said the union autoworkers did right by their employer, but 2,400 of them in nearby Fenton lost their jobs this fall as the economy soured. The workers at Chrysler's South Assembly Plant in Fenton rolled the last Dodge minivan off the assembly line Wednesday, two days ahead of schedule.
"At the end of the day, it's ultimately about jobs," Biden said.
The two presidential campaigns are hotly contesting Missouri, where a recent poll conducted for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and television station KMOV showed Obama and his Republican rival John McCain about even among likely voters. Obama himself was to address a rally late Thursday at the University of Missouri in Columbia
NewsChannel 10's Campaign 2008
Palin draws big crowd in southeast Missouri
CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (AP) - Sarah Palin told supporters Thursday that "Country First" is more than just her running mate John McCain's campaign slogan.
"That's going to be printed on every page in the employee handbook" if McCain's elected, the Republican vice presidential nominee told about 7,000 people at a packed arena at Southeast Missouri State University.
Hundreds more watched the Alaska governor speak on closed circuit TV in an adjoining recreation center.
Southeast Missouri is a conservative, heavily Republican region. George W. Bush carried nearly 69 percent of the vote in Cape Girardeau County in 2004. It's the hometown of conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh.
Palin discussed McCain's plans for the economy, energy and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Our ticket has the track record that proves we can do this," she said. "We haven't just been talking the talk. We've been walking the walk."
Want to vote? In Fla., line up and wait. And wait.
KENDALL, Fla. (AP) - Some 2 million Floridians have voted early so far, with the number ticking up by the tens of thousands each day.
While casting early ballots has resulted in some glitches in other states, Floridians have experienced unusually onerous wait times. Gov. Charlie Crist even signed an executive order Tuesday extending early voting hours to accommodate the masses.
Wait time on Tuesday at one of the state's longest lines was about 2 1/2 hours at the regional library in Kendall, a middle-class enclave southwest of the sands of Miami Beach. That's down from almost twice that the day before.
The line, some 300 strong, started inside the library, near the science fiction section. It snaked past the mysteries, twisted next to the DVDs and through the racks of the bilingual children's library. There were two seating areas for the elderly or disabled, and the line continued out the door, past a boarded-up Chinese food joint and, at times, all the way to the hulking self-storage facility down the block.
NC elections board extends early voting hours
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Early voting sites in North Carolina can stay open an extra four hours Saturday to help deal with record turnout, the state Board of Elections ruled Thursday.
The decision highlights the long lines that have formed across the surprise swing state since early voting began two weeks ago. More than 1.7 million people - or 30 percent of registered voters - cast ballots at one-stop sites through Wednesday night.
With about a third of voters nationwide expected to cast ballots before Election Day this year, Florida, Georgia and other early voting states have seen similar crowds at the polls.
Democrat Barack Obama has an 8-percentage-point lead over Republican John McCain - 50 percent to 42 percent - among registered voters, according to the latest Gallup Poll daily tracking update. Obama's lead on Wednesday was 9 points.
Barack Obama travels to Florida, Virginia and Missouri.
Joe Biden talks to voters in Missouri before attending rallies in Pennsylvania.
John McCain holds several events in Ohio.
Sarah Palin stops in Missouri before campaigning in Pennsylvania.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
"I can't wait until this election is over because I can finally go back into my bedroom." - California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who planned to campaign for Republican John McCain on Friday. His wife, Maria Shriver, a member of the Kennedy family, has endorsed Barack Obama.
STAT OF THE DAY:
In Florida, 12 percent of the state's white Democrats say they are voting for Republican John McCain, according to a recent Associated Press-GfK poll.