McCain visit to NH could help in South

9/14/2008 MANCHESTER, N.H. The Republican presidential contender visited the battleground state of New Hampshire to attend a NASCAR race especially popular in GOP strongholds down South.

The twofer let McCain spend time in a state where Democrat Barack Obama has opened a lead - and campaigned Saturday - while simultaneously prospecting in a different region he is counting to be part of his Election Day base.

The Arizona senator underscores his effort with a rally Monday in Jacksonville, Fla., another pivotal electoral state where recent polls have shown him leading Obama. McCain won the Republican primaries in Florida and New Hampshire this year.

"In a state like New Hampshire, no one knows better than John McCain that it's direct voter contact that sways the electorate. Seizing the opportunity to meet with voters on a large stage in New Hampshire makes an enormous amount of sense," said McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds.

Among those greeting McCain as he arrived in New Hampshire was Sen. John Sununu, who is in a close re-election race with Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, the state's former governor. Sununu did not endorse anyone in the Republican primary and has largely eschewed GOP events - including the party's recent national convention in St. Paul, Minn. - to minimize his connection to the Bush administration and any fallout from unfavorable national party trends.

McCain, and his wife, Cindy, were attending the Sylvania 300 Sprint Cup Series race at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. His running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, was spending a down day in Denver. Cindy McCain recently attended NASCAR events in Indiana and Pennsylvania.

The McCains were to attend a pre-race drivers' meeting, where the senator was to make brief remarks before touring the garage. McCain also was to command drivers to "start your engines," although rain threatened, and address the crowd via the public address system.

McCain had no public events Saturday. He spent most of the day at his campaign headquarters in suburban Washington, where used some of the time to prepare for his debates with Obama, the first of which is on Sept. 26 at the University of Mississippi.

Obama was spending Sunday off the trail and at home in Chicago. His campaign announced that it raised a record $66 million in August.

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