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Headed Toward Election Day, Candidates Hammer Messages Home in Battlegrounds

After a recap of the latest news from the campaign trail, Gwen Ifill talks to political analysts Amy Walter and Stuart Rothenberg about key congressional races and how the electoral map is shaping up in the final weeks before the election.

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    The latest developments in the presidential campaign. NewsHour correspondent Kwame Holman reports.


    The weekend's campaign headlines belonged to Barack Obama.

    First, his campaign announced early yesterday that it raised $150 million in September, shattering the previous one-month record of $66 million, which Obama set in August.

    Then, a few hours later, Obama received perhaps the highest-profile endorsement left in the campaign: Colin Powell's.


    From NBC News in Washington, this is "Meet the Press."


    The Republican who served as President Bush's secretary of state made the announcement on NBC's "Meet the Press."

    COLIN POWELL, Former U.S. Secretary of State: He has both style and substance. He has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president.

    I think he is a transformational figure. He is a new generation coming into the world — onto the world stage, onto the American stage. And for that reason, I'll be voting for Sen. Barack Obama.


    Powell said he admired John McCain, but expressed concerns about the Republican's approach to the economic crisis, the selection of Sarah Palin as a running mate, and the party's rightward shift in recent years.

    Powell also lamented attempts by some Republicans to raise doubts about Obama's religious faith.


    I'm also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say, and it is permitted to be said, such things as, "Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim."

    Well, the correct answer is, "He is not a Muslim; he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian."

    But the really right answer is, "What if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?" The answer's no. That's not America.

    Is there something wrong with some 7-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, "He's a Muslim, and he might be associated terrorists." This is not the way we should be doing it in America.


    Obama reacted to Powell's endorsement at a rally yesterday in Fayetteville, N.C., near Fort Bragg.


    This is a city and a state that knows something about great soldiers.

    And this morning, a great soldier, a great statesman, a great American has endorsed our campaign for change.

    I have been honored to have the benefit of his wisdom and his counsel from time to time over the last few years. But today, I am beyond honored. I am deeply humbled to have the support of Gen. Colin Powell.


    McCain talked about Powell's decision to support his opponent during an appearance on "Fox News Sunday."

  • SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-Ariz.):

    Well, I've always admired and respected General Powell. We're longtime friends. This doesn't come as a surprise.

    But I'm also very pleased to have the endorsement of four former secretaries of state, Secretaries Kissinger, Baker, Eagleburger and Haig. And I'm proud to have the endorsement of well over 200 retired Army generals and admirals.


    Today, in St. Charles, Mo., McCain once again hammered at Obama's tax plan using the example of Joe the plumber, an Ohio man who confronted Obama on the issue during a recent campaign stop.


    After months of campaign-trail eloquence — and you certainly saw the eloquence — but the fact is we finally learned what Sen. Obama's economic goal is. As he told Joe, he wants to "spread the wealth around."

    He believes in redistributing wealth, not in policies that grow our economy and create jobs and opportunities for all Americans. Sen. Obama is more interested in controlling who gets your piece of the pie than in growing the pie.


    Obama responded at a rally in Tampa, Fl., this afternoon.


    It is true that I want to roll back the Bush tax cuts on the very wealthiest Americans and go back to the rate that they paid under Bill Clinton.

    John McCain calls that socialism. What he forgets — conveniently — is that, just a few years ago, he himself said those Bush tax cuts were irresponsible. He said he couldn't in good conscience support a tax cuts where the benefits went to the wealthy at the expense of middle-class Americans who most need tax relief. That's his quote.

    Well, he was right then, and I am right now.


    Obama will spend a second day in Florida tomorrow, while McCain turns his attention to another battleground state, Pennsylvania.

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