Courtesy Caren Bohan
TAMPA, Florida (Reuters) – Democrat Barack Obama criticized Republican White House rival John McCain for a â€œsay anything, do anythingâ€ political style on Monday as he opened a two-day tour to kick off early voting in Florida.
McCain told supporters in Missouri that â€œnothing is inevitableâ€ and he could still beat Obama, who leads in national opinion polls as the pair began a two-week sprint to the November 4 presidential election.
â€œIn the final days of campaigns, the say-anything, do-anything politics too often takes over,â€ Obama told about 8,000 supporters in Tampa, Florida. â€œWeâ€™ve seen it before and weâ€™re seeing it again today. The ugly phone calls. The misleading mail and TV ads. The careless, outrageous comments.â€
He noted McCainâ€™s running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, told reporters on Sunday that if she called the shots she would end the automated calls being made by McCainâ€™s campaign, including some that link Obama with 1960s radical Bill Ayers.
â€œAs you know, you really have to work hard to violate Governor Palinâ€™s standards on negative campaigning,â€ Obama, an Illinois senator, told the crowd.
McCain defended the calls, shrugging off Palinâ€™s remarks in an interview to be aired on Tuesday morning.
â€œWell, Sarah is a maverick,â€ McCain told CBSâ€™s â€œEarly Show.â€ â€œThat robocall is absolutely accurate and by the way, Senator Obamaâ€™s campaign is running robocalls as we speak.â€
Obama will spend two days in Florida to encourage voters to cast their ballots early in the crucial battleground state, which has 27 electoral votes and is vital for either candidate in their quest for the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House.
More than half of all U.S. states allow voting before November 4, and Floridaâ€™s window for early voting began on Monday.
A Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll on Monday showed Obama with a 6-point edge on McCain. A new CNN poll gave Obama a 5-point lead among likely voters, down from an 8-point edge two weeks ago. Other polls also showed a tightening race.
â€œWeâ€™ve got them just where we want them,â€ McCain said in St. Charles, Missouri. He criticized Obama for already beginning to select his Cabinet officials.
Obama touted his endorsement from Republican former Secretary of State Colin Powell and said he would call on him for advice.
â€œHe will have a role as one of my advisers,â€ Barack Obama said on NBCâ€™s â€œTodayâ€ a day after earning the endorsement of Powell, who is also a retired four-star general and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
â€œWhether he wants to take a formal role, whether thatâ€™s a good fit for him, is something weâ€™d have to discuss,â€ Obama said.
McCain met with small business owners in Columbia, Missouri, and afterward repeated his charge that they would suffer under Obamaâ€™s plans to raise taxes on those making more than $250,000 a year and to increase capital gains taxes.
â€œClearly they do not want to see an increase in their taxes of any kind,â€ McCain said of the small business owners, saying Obamaâ€™s plans were â€œnot the recipe to bring our economy out of the ditch.â€
Obama announced on Sunday he had raised $150 million in September, shattering fundraising records he set earlier in the year and fueling a huge spending advantage of about 4-to-1 over McCain in recent weeks in battleground states.
McCain campaign manager Rick Davis criticized Obama for not disclosing the identities of hundreds of thousands of donors who have contributed less than $200 to his campaign. Campaigns are not required to identify those small-dollar donors.
The Obama campaign said it had added more than 600,000 new donors in September for a total of about 3.1 million, with an average donation of $86.
â€œThis pattern of nondisclosure, this pattern of nonresponsiveness, this pattern of setting their own rules to apply to this campaign is consistent with all the other patterns that weâ€™ve seen,â€ Davis told reporters.
The McCain campaign, which accepted $84 million in public funds for the general election in early September, has listed its small-dollar donors.
Davis said he was not concerned about Obamaâ€™s financial advantage, and said the U.S. economic crisis had more to do with Obamaâ€™s recent gains in opinion polls than his spending.
The Republican National Committee raised $66 million in September and will be able to help McCain compete in advertising.
â€œWe think money is not going to be what decides this race,â€ he said. â€œThe lack of money on Wall Street has had more to do with the outcome of this last month politically than the money in Barack Obamaâ€™s bank account.â€
(Additional reporting by Jeff Mason; Writing by John Whitesides; editing by David Wiessler)