Des Moines, Iowa Despite John McCain's prediction of an upset, Barack Obama reached for a landslide Friday, invading his rival's home state with TV ads and building a lead in early voting in key battlegrounds as the presidential race headed into a hectic final weekend.
McCain charged that Obama, bidding to become the first black president, "began his campaign in the liberal left lane of politics and has never left it. He's more liberal than a senator who calls himself a socialist," he added in Hanoverton, Ohio, a reference to Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont.
Yet with the economy almost certainly in a recession and the country clamoring for change after eight years of Republican rule, even some of McCain's allies conceded the obvious. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said it would take a "major struggle for him to win" - although he quickly added the Arizona senator had come back before when he had been counted out.
Privately, McCain's aides said their man trailed Obama by 4 points nationwide in internal polling.
An Associated Press-Yahoo News poll of likely voters put the Democrat ahead, 51 to 43, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
The same survey gave McCain reason to hope - one in seven voters, 14 percent of the total - said they were undecided or might yet change their minds.
While the race for the White House drew most of the attention, minority Republicans in Congress braced for the loss of more seats in both the House and Senate.
Some said fresh polling in North Carolina suggested that incumbent GOP Elizabeth Dole had fallen further behind since airing an ad that tried to tie Democratic rival Kay Hagan to atheists.
Four days before the election, Obama was expanding his reach, and drawing large crowds as he moved methodically from one state to another that voted Republican in 2004.
After a stop home in Chicago to share Halloween with his two daughters, Obama took a bus ride about 30 miles across the state border, capping his day with a rally in Highland, Ind. "We are four days away from changing the United States of America," he proclaimed to a cheering crowd on a comfortable October evening.
Indiana is one of about a half-dozen states that went for President Bush twice but remain up for grabs late this election season. Bush won the state by a 60-39 percent margin in 2004, and the competitive nature of the state this time around shows the strength of Obama's standing.
Obama used the occasion of Halloween to rib McCain in a new way, saying the Republican wore his usual costume: "Just like every year, he's going as George W. Bush."
Earlier in Iowa, Obama said, "What you started here in Iowa has swept the nation." His victory in the state's Democratic caucuses on Jan. 3 set him on the path to the party's nomination, and now to a lead in the presidential polls in the campaign's final hours.
One senior adviser said the Illinois senator had been given the names of potential Cabinet and White House staff picks for review but had not had much time to consider them. The official spoke on condition of anonymity.
Obama could name a chief of staff as early as next week if he wins the election, in an effort to project a sense of urgency. Aides have contacted Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois to consider a possible appointment to the post, but no job has been offered.
Aides announced he would air television commercials in McCain's home state of Arizona as well as in North Dakota and Georgia. He had run ads in the latter two states earlier in the campaign before suspending that effort.
'We want to win everywhere'
The ad in McCain's state was a soft sell in a campaign that has had its share of attacks. This spot featured endorsements from former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Warren Buffett, the nation's best-known investor. Before boarding a flight late Friday for Las Vegas, Obama responded to a shouted question about TV ads in Arizona. "We want to win everywhere," he said.
Even so, McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis, dismissed it as a waste. "We encourage them to pick other states that we intend to win" to spend their money, he said.
Davis contended, "We are witnessing perhaps, I believe, one of the greatest comebacks since John McCain won the primary."