Damon Winter/The New York Times
Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama are heading into the final week of the presidential campaign planning to spend nearly all their time in states that President Bush won last time, testimony to the increasingly dire position of Mr. McCain and his party as Election Day approaches.
With optimism brimming in Democratic circles, Mr. Obama will present on Monday what aides described as a summing-up speech for his campaign in Canton, Ohio, reprising the themes he first presented in February 2007, when he began his campaign for the presidency.
From here on out, Mr. Obama’s aides said, attacks on Mr. McCain will be joined by an emphasis on broader and less partisan themes, like the need to unify the country after a difficult election.
Mr. McCain has settled on Pennsylvania as the one state that Democrats won in 2004 where he has a decent chance of winning, a view not shared by Mr. Obama’s advisers.
But Mr. McCain and his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, are planning to spend most of their time in Florida, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, Missouri, and Indiana, all states that Republicans had entered the campaign thinking they could bank on.
Mr. McCain will stick with the message he has embraced over the last week, presenting Mr. Obama as an advocate of big government and raising taxes. His advisers say they will limit the numbers of rallies where he and Ms. Palin appear together, to cover more ground in the final days.
While some Republicans said they still had hope that Mr. McCain could pull this out, there were signs of growing concern that Mr. McCain and the party were heading for a big defeat that could leave the party weakened for years.
“Any serious Republican has to ask, ‘How did we get into this mess?’ ” Newt Gingrich, the former Republican house speaker, said in an interview. “It’s not where we should be, and it’s not where we had to be. This was not bad luck.”As Mr. Obama uses his money and political organization to try expand the political map, Mr. McCain is being forced to shore up support in states like Indiana and North Carolina that have not been contested for decades. His decision to campaign on Sunday in Iowa, a day after Ms. Palin campaigned there, was questioned even by Republicans who noted polls that showed Mr. Obama pulling away there. But it reflected how few options the campaign really has, as poll after poll suggests that Mr. Obama is solidifying his position.
Mr. McCain has found relatively small crowds — particularly compared with those that are turning out for Mr. Obama — even as he has campaigned in battleground states.
His campaign has become embroiled by infighting, with signs of tension between Mr. McCain’s advisers and Ms. Palin’s staff, and subject to unusual public criticism from other Republicans for how his advisers have handled this race.
Republicans and Democrats said there were signs that two states that had once appeared overwhelmingly Republican, Georgia and South Carolina, were tightening, in part, because of surge of early-voting by African-Americans. An Obama win in the states seemed unlikely — and no plans were immediately on his itinerary to travel to them — but it is a sign of how volatile a year this is that more states would seem to be coming into play, rather than being settled, as the election approaches.
Mr. McCain’s aides said they remained confident that they could win. They said their candidate did not plan to introduce any kind of formal closing speech, the way Mr. Obama is doing, but would instead hammer home the issues of taxes and spending they said appeared to be giving them some steam.
“We feel good that when people hear the message about spreading the wealth versus raising taxes , they respond,” said Nicolle Wallace, a senior McCain adviser. “It’s just a matter of whether, given Obama’s saturation paid advertising, we can get the message out there.”
The contours of these final days suggest a culmination of a strategy that Mr. Obama’s advisers put in place at the beginning: to use his huge fund-raising edge to try to put as many states in play as possible and overwhelm Mr. McCain in the final days of the race.
“It’s now a big map, so you have to be in a lot of states over the last eight days,” said David Plouffe, Mr. Obama’s campaign manager.
As of right now, Pennsylvania is the only Democratic-leaning state Mr. Obama is planning to visit, and that is only in response to what Mr. Obama’s advisers argued was Mr. McCain’s misplaced faith that he could win there. More strikingly, Mr. Obama also is making a vigorous push in Florida, after a campaign stop there last week convinced his advisers that he has a real shot of winning there.
Mr. Obama is to spend at least part of two days in the state, including a late-night rally with former President Bill Clinton on Wednesday in Orlando timed to make the 11 p.m. news.
Mr. Obama’s aides said that his closing speech, written with his top speechwriter, Jon Favreau, would return to the theme that he offered when he announced his candidacy, calling for change. Mr. Obama’s advisers said that after a long and often acerbic campaign, they believed voters were hungering for that kind of positive appeal to close out the race.
That said, they made clear that while attacks on Mr. McCain might diminish, they would not by any means disappear. “We’re in a good place right now, but nine days is a long time, so we’re just going step upon the gas,” said David Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s chief strategist. “It’s time to sum up the case in broader terms.”
The closing argument will be amplified by Mr. Obama in a 30-minute prime time infomercial presented across the major television networks on Wednesday in a rare and expensive move by a presidential candidate.
His aides said they were going to great lengths to make certain that no one becomes lulled by polls showing Mr. Obama in a strong position. Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, Mr. Obama’s running mate, has forbidden any discussion of the election result or what happens after Election Day, said David Wade, his press secretary.
“This is someone who won his first Senate race by 3,162 votes, and he hasn’t hesitated to remind his traveling staff that he expects this race to be no different,” Mr. Wade said.
Mr. Obama began boiling down his pitch to voters on Sunday, raising a question to supporters in Denver: “Don’t you think it’s time that we want to try something new?”
At Civic Center Park, tens of thousands of people spilled from an outdoor plaza outside the golden-tipped Capitol as Mr. Obama returned to the city where he accepted the Democratic nomination two months ago.
“Just this morning, Senator McCain said that he and President Bush share a common philosophy,” Mr. Obama said. “I guess that was John McCain finally giving us a little straight talk, and owning up to the fact that he and George Bush actually have a whole lot in common.”
The tensions between the McCain and Palin camps have been played out mainly in anonymous attacks from both sides over how Ms. Palin was first presented as a candidate and, most recently, over the dispute that arose following the disclosure that the Republican National Committee had spent $150,000 on clothing and accessories for Mrs. Palin and her family.
A McCain adviser came to the back of Mr. McCain’s plane on Sunday to say, only on the condition of anonymity, that those reports were overblown.
Mr. Obama opens the last eight days of the race with an incursion into several Republican-leaning regions of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina. With his Democratic supporters already highly motivated, aides said, Mr. Obama is purposefully focusing on voters who may need to take one final measure of him.
As he opens the week with a stop in Canton on Monday, Mr. Obama is working to offset Mr. McCain’s margins in conservative stretches of both states. He also is taking what could be a final trip to Pennsylvania, staging a stop in Pittsburgh and to the Philadelphia suburbs to counter an intense push by Ms. Palin in the state this week.
Mr. McCain is in Ohio on Monday, before heading to Pennsylvania.
Reporting was contributed by John M. Broder in Washington, Julie Bosman in Kissimmee, Fla., Michael Cooper in New York, and Larry Rohter from Iowa.