VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Republican presidential candidate John McCain embraced the role of underdog Monday, telling an energetic Virginia Beach crowd that while he's down in the polls, he will not be counted out.
"The national media has written us off," McCain told his supporters. "Senator Obama is measuring the drapes, and planning with Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid to raise taxes. But they forgot to let you decide, my friends."
Watch CBN News Political Reporter David Brody for more campaign analysis, following this report.
McCain and his running mate Gov. Sarah Palin appeared side-by-side ahead of a Richmond rally later in the day. The stop was a rare appearance for the two in the state, only the second since the election season began.
Trailing in the Polls
With 22 days left in the race, McCain acknowledged he trails six points in the national polls against his rival Democratic candidate Barack Obama. The GOP hopeful is now pivoting his message from recent weeks, seeking instead to cast himself as the only candidate with the fighting experience to lead the country in a new direction.
"What America needs in this hour is a fighter; someone who puts all his cards on the table and trusts the judgment of the American people," McCain said. "I come from a long line of McCains who believed that to love America is to fight for her."
"If I'm elected President, I will fight to take America in a new direction from my first day in office until my last. I'm not afraid of the fight, I'm ready for it," he said.
Fighting for the Economy
Both McCain and Palin struck a more positive note Monday, largely refraining from attacking Obama's character. They instead promised to fight for the economy - a topic that has battered McCain's campaign while aiding his opponent's.
"We're going to get the economy rolling again, I promise," Palin said before McCain spoke.
McCain also insisted that he understood the financial fears many Americans have.
"I know what fear feels like. It's a thief in the night who robs your strength," he said. "I know what hopelessness feels like. It's an enemy who defeats your will. I felt those things once before. I will never let them in again. I'm an American. And I choose to fight."
He renewed his pledge to freeze federal spending, renegotiate distressed mortgages to help middle class homeowners, and cut taxes.
Cutting Taxes, Spending
McCain compared Obama to Herbert Hoover, the Republican who was president when the stock market crashed in 1929 triggering the Depression.
"They say those who don't learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them. Well, my friends, I know my history lessons, and I sure won't make the mistakes Sen. Obama will," he said.
He took a jab at the Democrat's big-ticket spending proposals, programs he says cannot be funded without raising taxes and adding to the country's ballooning debt.
"Raising taxes makes a bad economy much worse. Keeping taxes low creates jobs, keeps money in your hands and strengthens our economy," he said.
Thousands of rally supporters welcomed their candidate with cheering enthusaism at the packed Virginia Beach Convention Center, often chanting McCain's and Palin's name and periodically shouting "nobama."
Country music star Hank Williams Jr., sporting a crowd-pleasing Washington Redskins jersey, also entertained rally-goers for about 15 minutes before the candidates took the stage.
Both campaigns are targeting Virginia as a battleground state. The Old Dominion hasn't elected a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964, but recent polls show Obama with a slight lead over McCain.