VIRGINIA BEACH, Va.-- John McCain has been calling Barack Obama a socialist, and Obama is calling his bluff in a new riff in his stump speech in which he ups the ante by cracking a joke about his "communistic tendencies."
He's methodically putting out the fires -- dousing flames as fast as John McCain can set them -- counting the days until Tuesday, while behind the scenes, a semi-cloistered group of lower-profile Obama aides is working on his transition and first wave of appointments.
As time is running out for a turnaround by McCain and Sarah Palin -- remember early voting is taking place in much of the nation. They are pushing the idea that Obama's tax plans amount to redistributing wealth.
Rather than argue whether he is Robin Hood in a suit, Obama tries to make them look silly.
"John McCain and Sarah Palin, they call this socialistic," Obama said at a rally at the Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Fla.
" . . . You know, the next thing I know, they're going to, you know, find evidence of my communistic tendencies because I shared my toys when I was in kindergarten, because I split my peanut butter and jelly sandwich with my friend in sixth grade."
Team Obama sprinted from Virginia to Florida to Missouri for blockbuster rallies, focusing on red states on the verge of turning blue.
Al and Tipper Gore hit Florida today on Obama's behalf in a sort of revenge tour to make up for the hanging chads and botched butterfly ballots that denied Vice President Gore the White House in 2000.
The biggest worry -- as adviser Robert Gibbs explained to me Thursday -- is the unexpected, which, of course, is hard to plan for.
McCain is bringing back convicted felon Tony Rezko and his association with Obama in robo and conference calls. The Obama team is intent on whipping up a torrent of news, hoping to keep journalists busy with campaign wrap-ups going into the final weekend -- and away from topics like Rezko.
The October surprise came in September -- the meltdown of the U.S. economy. But the financial crisis became a specific defining moment for the Obama campaign, which opened up a lead and has stayed ahead almost from the time McCain said the fundamentals were strong.
The economic calamity touched almost everyone at once, no matter race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or class -- lending validity and urgency to Obama's all-in-this-boat-together post-ideology politics.
Said Obama: "We don't need a bigger government or a smaller government. We need a better government, a smarter government, a more competent government."