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Campaigning may heat up in Mississippi

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The Democratic and Republican presidential

campaigns may soon turn their focus to Mississippi - the site of

the candidates' first debate later this month.

Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama are back on the

campaign trail with their respective running mates, Alaska GOP Gov.

Sarah Palin and U.S. Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del.

Neither has scheduled pre-debate appearances in the state.

Instead, their camps will be focused on less aggressive, more

grassroots-type campaigning, such as distributing campaign

materials and holding registration drives.

The debate at the University of Mississippi in Oxford is Sept.

26.

Mississippi voters have gone solidly Republican in every

presidential election since President Jimmy Carter won it for

Democrats in 1976.

Both sides appear to be leaving most of their campaign efforts

in Mississippi largely up to volunteers and state party officials.

Obama's campaign has a Mississippi headquarters in Jackson with

a mostly volunteer staff, while the Mississippi Republican Party

has been handling McCain's efforts.

Obama spokeswoman Melanie Roussell said that from now to the

election, "neighbor-to-neighbor programs" will make up the bulk

of Obama's efforts in Mississippi.

"Instead of relying solely on paid staff and ads, our campaign

is building a different kind of organization in all 50 states -

based on local people talking to their own neighbors, family and

friends," she wrote in an e-mail.

Still, Roussell said she was confident Obama still had a chance

in heavily Republican Mississippi.

"The Obama-Biden campaign will bring the change Mississippi

needs to lower gas prices, fix the economy and end the war in

Iraq," she said. "Barack Obama and Joe Biden know the pain

Mississippians are feeling at the pump, at the grocery stores, and

with the state's sons and daughters away in Iraq."

Both campaigns also are hoping to reach Mississippians with a

message of unity.

Mississippi Republican Party Chairman Brad White said he was

reinvigorated by the McCain campaign's message of "reaching out to

people of all walks of life - Republicans, independents, Democrats,

men, women, black, white - they are appealing to everyone."

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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