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Obama heads for Republican turf, talking economics to voters

Democrat Barack Obama yesterday begins a two-week tour of U.S. battleground states, aiming to draw sharp contrasts with Republican opponent John McCain - especially on the struggling American economy that has been laid low by shrinking growth, bounding unemployment and staggering increases in energy costs.
McCain planned a series of fundraising stops first in Virginia and the nation's capital, looking for donors as the general election campaign begins in earnest now that Hillary Rodham Clinton suspended her bid for the Democratic nomination and robustly threw her support behind Obama over the weekend.
McCain will need all the financial help he can muster as he moves toward the November vote against Obama's well-oiled fundraising machinery that has rolled up an astounding bankroll, much of it from small donors on the Internet.
Obama has raked in US$264 million in 16 months. McCain has raised less than half that much, US$115 million, in 17 months.
On Monday, Obama also will travel to North Carolina - a state that has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1976 - to talk economics to an electorate increasingly edgy about its future.
The Illinois senator plans to push into other Republican bastions with his economic message, hoping to reverse history in places like Missouri, which hasn't voted for a Democrat since 1996 and Virginia, which last voted Democratic in 1964.
By moving into such historically Republican states, Obama could force the McCain camp to spend precious resources defending traditionally home turf.
For his part, Obama faces the huge challenge of wooing the Clinton base, as the Democrats try to patch things up after what was an extended, exhausting and often bitter campaign. Time grows short for Obama on that front with the party convention set for late August in Denver. Through the primary season polls showed Clinton backers - especially women and working class voters - increasingly declaring they would vote for McCain rather than Obama.
While Obama feels comfortable with an offensive against McCain on the economy, which has badly faltered in the last months of the Republican Bush administration, the Arizona senator hopes to counter-punch with attacks on his opponent's perceived lack of experience in the international arena.