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Republican John McCain and running mate Sarah Palin told a Pennsylvania audience Tuesday that “it’s wonderful to fool the pundits” and vowed to pull out an upset win over Democratic rival Barack Obama.

“I’m not afraid of the fight, I’m ready for it,” said McCain, continuing his sharp assault on Obama in a noisy rally opening his campaign day.

Palin defended the campaign’s harsh attacks on Obama.

“Our opponent is not being candid with you about his tax plans,” said Palin. “It is not mean-spirited, and it is not negative campaigning to call out someone on their record.”

The rally was interrupted briefly by Obama backers waving signs, a move Palin dismissed.

“When we get a protest like that I’m always tempted to tell security, `let them stay, maybe they’ll learn a thing or two,'” said Palin.

The campaign day was complicated by wintry weather, which forced the cancellation of an outdoor event in Quakertown. McCain was heading to North Carolina and Florida before the day was over. Palin was heading on her own to other events in Pennsylvania after the rally in Hershey.

Sagging in polls nationally and in battleground states, McCain worked to light a fire under his supporters.

“Nothing is inevitable, we never give up,” said McCain. “Let’s go win this election and get this country moving again.”

Most polls have shown Obama with a lead in the race for Pennsylvania’s 21 electoral votes, but McCain dismissed those surveys and urged a sprint to the finish.

“It’s wonderful to be back in Pennsylvania,” said McCain. “It’s wonderful to fool the pundits because we’re going to win the state of Pennsylvania.”

Pennsylvania is the only state won by Democrat John Kerry in 2004 where McCain is still mounting a full-scale campaign. Both the Republican and Democratic tickets are focusing heavily in the closing days on a few key battleground states, including Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida and Virginia.

McCain continued to label Obama a traditional liberal Democrat seeking to redistribute the wealth.

“Sen. Obama is running to be redistributor in chief, I’m running to be commander in chief,” said McCain. “Sen. Obama is running to punish the successful, I’m running to make everyone successful.”

McCain also returned to the theme that he’s the candidate who is ready to take office, seasoned by a military career and his experience as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. He brought up their differences over the Iraq war. McCain opposes and Obama favors a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. combat troops.

“Have you ever heard the word `victory’ pass through Obama’s lips?” McCain asked backers. “My friends, we’re winning in Iraq.”

McCain left few openings untouched, even bashing Obama for airing a 30-minute commercial Wednesday night that will delay the opening of a World Series baseball game if the series goes to six games.

“No one will delay a World Series game with an infomercial when I’m president,” said McCain.

While Palin has caused some headaches for the ticket, she’s very popular with the Republican base and she added energy to a rally before nearly 10,000 cheering backers.

“You are such a welcoming and patriotic state,” Palin said. “I know we have many patriots in the crowd today.”

Palin also predicted a tight election: “It’s going to be a hard-fought contest and it’s going to come down to the wire.”

The Alaska governor reprised her standard criticism of Obama’s economic plan. Labeling the Illinois senator “Barack the wealth spreader,” she said, “Joe the Plumber said it sounded to him like socialism. Now is not the time to experiment with that.”