The presidential candidates from both parties campaigned frenetically on Monday, making their final pushes with a series of rallies and blitzes of television commercials for a last bout of November-style campaigning before more than 20 states vote in Tuesday’s virtual national primary.
Several candidates — including Sens. Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton and John McCain — focused their time on the delegate-rich Northeast. But the tightening race in the biggest prize of all, California, was underscored when Mitt Romney and McCain both made changes to their schedules to add 11th-hour visits there.
The final day of campaigning before Feb. 5 showed how the dynamic of the race had shifted in the last month. Clinton, who was long considered the Democratic favorite, found herself locked in a series of races in several states with Obama. On the Republican side, which only weeks ago had seemed wide open, McCain sought to ride his recent victories and rising poll numbers to the nomination, while Romney sought to win enough delegates to keep his campaign alive.
Romney spent much of the day trying to cast doubts on McCain’s conservatism — a theme that echoed loudly among conservative talk-radio commentators suspicious of his past positions on taxes and immigration.
“We’re going to hand the liberals in our party a little surprise,” Romney boasted in Atlanta, predicting victories in California and other states.
McCain responded with a national television advertisement showing Romney, in a previous campaign, saying: “Look, I was an independent during the time of Reagan-Bush. I’m not trying to return to Reagan-Bush.” The announcer says: “Mitt Romney was against Ronald Reagan before he was for him.”
The candidates embarked on a final frenzy of campaigning. Romney began a grueling 24-hour tour to try to block McCain from sewing up the Republican nomination. Clinton had an emotional moment during a nostalgic visit to Yale, where she graduated from law school 35 years ago. And, in the psychological warfare department, McCain swaggered into the heart of Romney country with a rally at Faneuil Hall in Boston, while Obama held a rally in East Rutherford, N.J., across the Hudson River from Clinton’s home state of New York.