COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — Presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and John McCain worked to woo voters in key battleground states Saturday, highlighting their personal histories while stressing the sharp differences in their policies.
McCain introduced his running mate Sarah Palin, popular among staunch conservatives and religious "values" voters, but widely unknown on the national stage before last week.
The Republican running mates are playing up their reputations as reformers, hoping to focus on their willingness to buck the party line in order to faithfully serve their country.
"We're going to go across the small towns of America and we're going to give them hope and we're going to give them confidence, and we will bring about change in Washington, DC," McCain vowed Friday.
"You know, I've been called a maverick. That's somebody who marches to the beat of his own drum. And sometimes it's meant as a compliment, and sometimes it's not," he said.
On Saturday, Palin gave the campaign's weekly radio address for the first time, continuing to outline her compelling personal story as a small town, middle class, working mother of five.
"When I ran for city council of my hometown, and then for mayor, I didn't need focus groups and voter profiles because I knew those voters, and I knew their families, too," she said. "I'm not a member of the permanent political establishment, and I have no plans to join."
But a new opinion poll showed American voters remained lukewarm about the youthful Alaska governor, doubting her readiness for major league politics after a mere 20 months at the state's helm.
While six in 10 of those surveyed approved of McCain's selection of Palin, only 42 percent believed she had the kind of experience it takes to serve effectively as president if that became necessary, according to the ABC News poll.
In the same poll, Obama's vice presidential pick, US Senator Joseph Biden, passed the experience bar with 66 percent approval, the survey found.
For his part, Obama tried to steer the debate toward the flagging US economy by slamming his Republican rival's focus on personal history as light on substance.
"Since he's not offering much change, that's why you didn't hear much about his plans for the future this week," Obama told a meeting of the influential AARP, a pressure group for older Americans.
"You didn't hear much about their health care plan that would actually tax your benefits for the first time ever ... or how they plan to fix the economy they've ruined or help you live comfortably in your later years," he said.
"I'm running for president because I believe this election is all about the issues. It's not about me, or John McCain, it's about you," he said. "It's about your lives. It's about your future."
US unemployment jumped to a five-year high of 6.1 percent in August as 84,000 jobs were slashed, according to a report released Friday that sparked fresh fears about recession in the world's biggest economy.
The jump in joblessness is likely to bring the economy into focus as the campaign heads into the final months.
"The big jump in the unemployment rate in August spells trouble for the Republicans in November," Augustine Faucher at Economy.com said after the numbers were released on Friday.
"Historically, the larger the increase in the unemployment rate, the larger the share of votes that go to the party that does not hold the presidency."