CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — All but conceding that Congress will remain in Democratic hands, John McCain Sunday cast himself as a check on tax increases and defense cuts.
McCain warned that rival Barack Obama is already working out plans with Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to raise taxes and pull out of Iraq.
He said that prominent Democrats such as Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., have called for tax increases on the wealthy and told a rally of 2,000 supporters that they'd be targeted. "Barney means you," he told the Iowa voters.
McCain ally Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., joined the chorus, urging Iowa to elect McCain as a check on a Democratic Congress.
"Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid need adult supervision, don't you agree?" Graham said, adding that that the Democratic leaders in the Senate and House of Representatives won't be bale to raise taxes "because John won't let them."
Obama, meanwhile, drew a crowd in chilly Denver's Civic Center park that the police chief Gerry Whitman estimated at well over 100,000. While McCain cast himself as a check on the Democrats, Obama kept pushing his argument that a McCain administration would amount to a third term for President Bush.
"Just this morning, Sen. McCain said that he and President Bush 'share a common philosophy,' " Obama said. He said that McCain had voted with Bush 90 percent of the time and that Bush had returned the favor by voting early for McCain.
McCain, meanwhile, escalated his efforts to break from the unpopular Bush, saying that while he did vote with Bush 90 percent of the time, he broke with him on major issues such as Iraq war strategy and global warming.
"I respect the president of the United States, of course," McCain said. "There were a number of disagreements over philosophy."
He also strived to remind independent voters, who now support Obama by large margins in most polls, that he often breaks with his own Republican Party. "I was not popular in my own party," he said.
McCain's pitch to send him to the White House as a check on a Democratic Congress marked a turn in his efforts to wage a comeback as polls show him trailing by large margins in the battleground state of Iowa and elsewhere.
"We've closed in the last week," he said, adding that he expects to win a close election after a long night of counting votes. "This is going to be a very close race, and I believe I'm going to win it," he said. "I see the intensity out there, and I see the passion."
In Iowa, which Graham called "ground zero," the prospects for a McCain comeback appear daunting, however.
The front page of the Waterloo Courier this morning reported that Obama's lead in the battleground state is growing.
A Courier-Lee Enterprises poll found Obama leading McCain in Iowa by 54-39 percent, adding 1 percentage point to his lead from the month before. Other public polls also show Obama leading by double digits in Iowa, a close swing state in the last two presidential elections.
"I think Obama's going to carry Iowa comfortably," said Del Ali, a pollster for Research 2000, which conducted the survey for the newspaper company.
Obama's victory in the Iowa caucuses last January launched him on his way to the Democratic nomination, while McCain didn't compete in the state's Republican caucuses.
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