Obama prepares for week of campaigning in Republican-leaning states

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama launched a week of campaigning in Republican-leaning southern states, betting that he can make a dent in rival John McCain's support by appealing to the region's large black populations and moderates unhappy with the Bush administration. Obama will make campaign stops in North Carolina, Georgia and Virginia, all southern states that have been largely dominated by Republicans. Obama's campaign has been courting those voters with his core message of change, a theme that has reverberated among some people worried about surging food and gas prices and a stumbling economy. He has also repeatedly broken with the liberal base of the Democratic Party since his head-to-head battle with McCain began, appealing to centrists by speaking supportively of the death penalty and gun rights. Analysts are skeptical about whether he can win over conservatives, considering his support for abortion rights, gay rights and other issues. But, at the very least, Obama can force McCain to spend money and time campaigning in states Republicans had long viewed as safe.