CANTON, Ohio -- In the final days of the race, with national polls indicating growing support for Barack Obama, Sarah Palin has crafted a two-prong strategy for taking on the top of the Democratic ticket: acknowledge Obama as a strong speaker and inspirational figure, but question his policy positions, especially on taxes and spending. Gone are the personal attacks about his connection to former domestic terrorist William Ayers and a community group accused of voter registration fraud.
"See, the rousing speeches of our opponent, they can fill stadiums. but they cannot keep our country safe," she has said repeatedly over the weekend. Originally, the line had been preceded by one calling Obama "admirable" but characterizing him as unready to lead; that line was dropped over the weekend.
Although she seems ready to acknowledge his rhetorical skills, Palin has accused Obama of having an "ideological commitment to higher taxes," and she couples him with the prospect of Democratic majorities in Congress, saying the "far left wing of the Democrat Party" would cut defense spending by 25 percent.
Just uttering the name of Rep. Barney Frank, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee who suggested the defense cut two weeks ago, brings a consistent chorus of boos, larger than when Palin mentions House Speaker Nancy Pelosi or Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Palin has tightened her stump speech in recent days and her voice has been, at times, strained from two months on the campaign trail. Like most candidates, she is logging many miles in these final days, hitting several markets in the swing states of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
At times, though, it has felt like Palin was not taking full advantage of the final 100 hours. Halloween day was spent with small stops at a tool manufacturer and an apple orchard, with several hours spent on the bus in between. And on Sunday morning, Palin's first event didn't start until noon, even with an hour of rest gained from daylight saving time. Perhaps Palin is less accustomed to the breakneck pace of the final days, having not campaigned in the presidential primaries like the three other presidential principles.
Her staff has certainly shown signs of rookie mistakes, putting her on at a rally in Ocala, Fla., just minutes before the highly anticipated Florida-Georgia football game on Saturday. Her speech ended almost the exact moment of the kickoff, and local officials acknowledged attendance would have been higher without the scheduling conflict.
And the campaign earned a large amount of egg on its face Saturday when Palin was prank-called by two Canadian radio hosts, pretending to be French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The duo held a six-minute conversation with Palin, using fake names for the prime minister of Canada and discussing the "prime minister of Quebec," without Palin raising an objection, a particularly egregious error for the governor of a state adjacent to Canada.
Campaign aides were loathe to explain how it happened, and while it was not a fatal mistake, it brought additional attention to a campaign operation that has been criticized for lack of organization and a candidate who has appeared as a neophyte on the international stage.