Page last updated at 18:38 GMT, Sunday, 26 October 2008

McCain 'doing fine' despite polls

John McCain appearing on Meet the Press
John McCain said running mate Sarah Palin was very experienced

Republican John McCain has said his campaign to become US president is "doing fine" despite polls showing him trailing his Democratic rival.

Speaking on NBC's Meet the Press nine days before the election, Mr McCain said he had closed the gap with Barack Obama in the past week.

Later at a rally he emphasised that he was ready to fight to win the vote.

Urging change, Mr Obama said McCain and President George W Bush were similar.

Mr McCain was campaigning in Iowa and Ohio on Sunday, while Mr Obama was in Colorado.

An NBC poll for Iowa gave Mr Obama 51% voter support, with Mr McCain at 40%.

However, a Reuters/C-Span/Zogby poll released on Sunday suggested a closer race overall, with Mr Obama only five percentage points ahead of Mr McCain's 44%.

"Those polls have consistently shown me much farther behind than we actually are," he said. "We're doing fine."

He continued: "We've closed in the last week and if we continue this close in the next week you're going to be up very late on election night."

"I choose to trust my senses as well as the polls, and the enthusiasm at almost all of our campaign events is at a higher level than I've ever seen."

Sarah Palin in Iowa

She's a role model for millions and millions of Americans. She's just what Washington needs

John McCain on Sarah Palin

He added: "We're very competitive here, and I'm very happy with where we are and I'm very proud of the campaign we're running."

With reports of infighting in the Republican camp, Mr McCain was asked if he wanted to defend his vice-presidential running mate Sarah Palin.

"I don't defend her - I praise her. She needs no defence."

He also said the Alaskan governor had "more executive experience than [Democratic vice-presidential candidate] Senator [Joe] Biden and Senator Obama together."

He went on: "She is a dynamic person with executive experience, leadership, reform. She's exactly what Washington needs.

"She's a role model for millions and millions of Americans. She's just what Washington needs."

The party has had to respond to revelations last week that $150,000 has been spent on Mrs Palin's wardrobe since her September appointment.

"She lives a frugal life, she and her family are not wealthy, she and her family were thrust into this," Mr McCain said, repeating that the clothes will be donated to charity.

'Common philosophy'

Responding to the Obama team's emphasis that he voted with President Bush 90% of the time, Mr McCain said both he and Mrs Palin were mavericks.

Barack Obama
Barack Obama warned people to 'tighten their belts'

"Do we share a common philosophy of the Republican Party? Of course.

"But I've stood up against my party, not just President Bush but others, and I've got the scars to prove it."

Mr Obama, addressing a rally in Colorado, said the "common philosophy" of the Republican party included giving more to the wealthy and spending millions on the war in Iraq despite the US economy struggling.

He called for an "immediate rescue plan" for the middle class, saying the recent financial rescue plan for banks was a "necessary step" in safeguarding pensions, jobs and businesses.

Mr Obama said his healthcare, education and energy plans would "not happen overnight", and warned that everyone would have to "tighten their belts".

Vote request

Mrs Palin also addressed the issue of her clothing. Speaking at a rally in Florida, she said she had "tried to ignore it because it's just so ridiculous".

But she added that the items did not belong to her and she would be wearing her own clothes after the 4 November election.

She mocked reports that Mr Obama has already written his inaugural speech, saying it showed the Democrats looked at the election as a "formality".

"We don't take any vote for granted, and we're not assuming we have your vote - we are respectfully asking for it," she told cheering supporters.

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