(CNN) - Joe Wurzelbacher, aka Joe the Plumber, is set to team up with John McCain on the campaign trail Thursday.
He will appear at the Arizona senator's first event in Defiance, Ohio. Wurzelbacher also campaigned with Sarah Palin Wednesday.
QUAKERTOWN, Pennsylvania (CNN) - In a sign of last-minute concern about a traditionally red state, the independent arm of the Republican National Committee is launching television ads in Montana.
Democrats have only won Montana twice in the last half century, but Barack Obama has been using his vast resources for an aggressive push there - an Obama spokesman says they have 19 offices and 14,000 volunteers. John McCain has no Montana campaign offices.
"It's a cheap insurance policy" said a Republican official involved with the ad buy told CNN. "We don't expect a crash there, but we may as well buy insurance in case we do."
Recent polling has suggested McCain’s edge over Obama in the state may be in single-digit territory.
By law, the so-called Independent Expenditure arm of the Republican National Committee can produce TV ads and buy air time, as long as it does not coordinate with the party.
The Republican official said they spending $300,000 dollars in the relatively inexpensive media Montana media markets.
Montana now has two Democratic senators and a Democratic governor. Obama’s campaign already has an organization in the state thanks to the Democratic primary in June, which he won.
A senior McCain aide told CNN they are relying on a "very good state party" that has a few offices around the state.
(CNN) – McCain aides expressed relief Wednesday night that the Arizona senator “finally” used a line that took on one of Obama’s central campaign themes.
Watch: I'm not Bush, McCain says
“Sen. Obama, I am not President Bush,” he said. “If you wanted to run against President Bush you should have run four years ago. I will take this country in a new direction."
McCain advisors – who said they had been pushing him to stress that distinction more explicitly than he had in the past - immediately uploaded the quote to YouTube, and circulated it to reporters.
(CNN) – Sen. John McCain said Monday that Rep. John Lewis' controversial remarks were "so disturbing" that they "stopped me in my tracks."
Watch: McCain responds to Lewis
Lewis, a Georgia representative and civil rights icon, on Saturday compared the feeling at recent Republican rallies to those of segregationist George Wallace.
"That's not from some quote party official, that's from one of the most respected people in America. It's unfair. It's unfair and it's outrageous," he said in an exclusive interview with CNN's Dana Bash.
"I never believed that Lewis, who is an American hero whom I admire, would ever make a comment of that nature. He even referred to the bombing of a church in Birmingham. That's unacceptable," he said.
Lewis on Saturday said in a statement that McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin "are sowing the seeds of hatred and division."
"During another period, in the not too distant past, there was a governor of the state of Alabama named George Wallace who also became a presidential candidate. George Wallace never threw a bomb. He never fired a gun, but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who were simply trying to exercise their constitutional rights. Because of this atmosphere of hate, four little girls were killed on Sunday morning when a church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama," wrote the Democrat.
(CNN) - John McCain’s aides say they are certainly happy to turn the corner away from the bailout package - but insist the campaign’s stepped-up focus on Barack Obama’s character does not mean the Republican presidential nominee is going to stop talking about the economy.
Instead, they will try to reframe the economic issue as part of their overall theme against Obama: You don’t really know this guy - and you can’t trust this guy. The words in their new ad say it all: “risky… dangerous.”
Watch: Obama, McCain advisers discuss why their candidate is best for the economy
As Obama and running mate Joe Biden take a break from the trail Monday, McCain and VP nominee Sarah Palin are each pursuing a different part of that strategy.
In New Mexico this afternoon, aides say McCain is expected to revive his attacks on Obama — a top recipient of campaign cash from from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — for taking money from the failed mortgage giants, and for not coming up with solutions early in the crisis. The Arizona senator will once again talk about his own call two years ago for reform of Fannie and Freddie.
Last month, the McCain camp released ads highlighting Obama’s ties to former Fannie and Freddie officials — but that line of attack had not been prominent since a New York Times investigation alleged that campaign manager Rick Davis may have benefited financially from his firm’s links to the lenders until their collapse last month.
John McCain and Sarah Palin held a joint campaign event in Michigan last month. (Getty Images)
(CNN) - A senior McCain adviser confirms to CNN that the campaign is "shifting resources" from Michigan to Ohio and Pennsylvania, and "opening up an offensive front” in Maine.
Michigan was always a long shot for John McCain, who lost the state to native son Mitt Romney in the Republican primary. A Republican presidential candidate hasn’t won there in two decades, since George H.W. Bush’s 1988 victory. But McCain had a surprisingly close showing in some polls, and made a significant time investment campaigning in the state this year.
The most recent CNN poll of polls in Michigan shows Obama with an 8 point lead in the state. (View more state polls)
Macomb County – home of the original Reagan Democrats - was one of the first stops for McCain and running mate Sarah Palin on their post-convention tour of battleground states; they held a town hall in Grand Rapids two weeks ago. (McCain lost Macomb County to Romney by more than 20 points)
Local republican officials told CNN they were thrilled to have Palin on the ticket, saying her accent and love for guns made her someone independents and Democrats uncomfortable with Obama could relate to.
But nowhere does the economy loom larger as an issue than in this hard-hit industrial state, suffering from a decade-long slump. The Obama campaign has tried to capitalize on the Democratic nominee’s polling advantage on the issue, running ads in the state that accuse McCain of not doing more to protect Michigan jobs. (Related: Obama stumps in Michigan Thursday)
As the campaign pulls resources from Michigan, it is ramping up its efforts in Maine, where Republican Senator Susan Collins is beating national trends in her re-election bid, holding a healthy double-digit lead, along with with a strong organization in the state.
A second McCain aide says that their polling shows that “Michigan isn’t even a long shot” - but the campaign is hoping to capture at least one of Maine’s 4 electoral votes, which are designated by congressional district. This year, "every electoral vote will count," says the aide.
(CNN)– Gov. Sarah Palin will now spend two and a half days near Sedona, Arizona, to prepare for Thursday's debate, instead of prepping in St Louis, as originally planned.
Sarah Palin will be at John McCain's rustic creek side home outside Sedona for what a top aide calls "debate camp."
The aide, who's part of the team prepping Palin, tells CNN they decided to take her to debate camp there because it is an "invigorating and enjoyable place to prepare for Thursday."
"SP [Sarah Palin] loves it and has her kids and Todd coming," wrote the aide in an email.
The aide said "John McCain himself came up with the idea after thinking it would be great before his next debate.
Pailin has already been hunkered down for four days in a Philadelphia hotel for debate prep with advisers.
She will take a short break Monday to attend a rally with McCain in Ohio, before heading to Arizona.
(CNN)– John McCain is at his national campaign headquarters in Arlington, Virginia at this hour. His campaign tells us he's meeting with advisers regarding the proposed $700 billion federal bailout and
the latest negotiations and developments on Capitol Hill, and is "making a lot of calls to make sure that things stay on track."
The campaign says that Senator McCain will head to Capitol Hill later this afternoon. They weren't clear exactly what he's going to actually do when he gets there.
The campaign is touting that, as one aide puts it, McCain's "the glue that is going to potentially bind together House Republicans and Democratic members of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's caucus."
But McCain isn't engaging with House Democrats and currently isn't directly involved in the current negotiations, so it's unclear how he's the so-called glue.
When pressed on that, the campaign aide repeated the point that Camp McCain's been making for 24 hours, that McCain is the one who pushed House Republicans back to the negotiating table.
The McCain campaign is also highlighting the contrast between McCain hard at work "showing leadership" and Obama on the trail today in North Carolina, a state the McCain camp says "he won't win."
UPDATE: CNN Political Producer Tasha Diakides reports that Senior McCain Campaign Adviser Mark Salter says it looks like Senator McCain is not going to the Capitol today and will instead make phone calls from the McCain Campaign HQ in Arlington, Virginia. Salter says the Republican presidential nominee will continue that effort tomorrow, although he can't say definitively that McCain is not traveling tomorrow.
OXFORD, Mississippi (CNN) - After days and days of denials that they had anyone playing Obama in debate prep sessions, two McCain campaign aides admitted to CNN they were using a stand-in for the Democratic nominee: former GOP congressman and OMB director Rob Portman.
Portman has been playing Obama in mock debates, including a two-hour session Thursday night in McCain's Virginia apartment, and one at an Oxford high school hours before tonight's debate.
Ironically, in 2000, Portman played Joe Lieberman in mock debates for then VP candidate Dick Cheney.
Now Lieberman is a close friend and supporter of McCain's, and a regular on the road with him.
(CNN) - McCain supporter Sen. Lindsey Graham tells CNN the McCain campaign is proposing to the Presidential Debate Commission and the Obama camp that if there's no bailout deal by Friday, the first presidential debate should take the place of the VP debate, currently scheduled for next Thursday, October 2 in St. Louis.
In this scenario, the vice presidential debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin would be rescheduled for a date yet to be determined, and take place in Oxford, Mississippi, currently slated to be the site of the first presidential faceoff this Friday.
Watch: Obama camp pushes for debate
Graham says the McCain camp is well aware of the position of the Obama campaign and the debate commission that the debate should go on as planned - but both he and another senior McCain adviser insist the Republican nominee will not go to the debate Friday if there's no deal on the bailout.