Ad Calls McCain's Campaign 'Dishonorable'

Obama advisers hope Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. can undercut Sen. John McCain's standing among working-class voters.
Obama advisers hope Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. can undercut Sen. John McCain's standing among working-class voters. (By Paul Sancya -- Associated Press)
By Anne E. Kornblut and Shailagh Murray
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, September 16, 2008

PUEBLO, Colo., Sept. 15 -- Sen. Barack Obama's campaign accused Sen. John McCain of running a "disgraceful, dishonorable campaign" in an advertisement launched Monday as the Democratic nominee vowed to leave no attack unanswered in the final weeks of the race for the White House.

Obama's running mate, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., also mocked McCain, saying he was making the same promises to enact change as George W. Bush had offered in 2000 but failed to deliver on. Biden also joined in accusing McCain of shameful tactics, saying he no longer recognized his longtime friend.

"When Senator McCain was subjected to unconscionable, scurrilous attacks in his 2000 campaign, I called him on the phone to ask what I could do," Biden told a crowd of about 800 in Michigan. "And now, some of the very same people and the tactics he once deplored his campaign now employs."

After a string of tactical successes by McCain and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, over the past two weeks, the Obama campaign sought to regain its footing on Monday. The shift followed a series of internal meetings, including a rare Sunday evening session at the campaign's Chicago headquarters that Obama attended.

Advisers reinforced the division of labor in the days ahead: Obama will articulate the campaign's broader message of "change" and outline how the Democratic ticket will govern, while Biden will deliver attacks against the GOP ticket, drawing on his 30-year-old relationship with McCain to undercut the Arizona senator's standing, especially among working-class voters.

But with a spate of new polls showing a very competitive race and with McCain and Palin drawing big crowds at appearances in battleground states, Obama will also take a consistently tougher line, as he did here Monday.

Appearing in front of an estimated 13,500 people at the state fairgrounds, Obama delivered a revised stump speech that centered largely on his mantra of change and took some tough shots at McCain. Accusing McCain of employing "politics that would divide this country just to win an election," Obama said the Republican had let "lies and spin consume a campaign that should be about you, should be about the issues, the great challenges of our time." He slammed McCain for saying he would reduce the influence of lobbyists in Washington, noting that the Republican has several former lobbyists in the upper echelons of his campaign.

If you believe that, Obama said, "Let me tell you, I've got a bridge to sell you up in Alaska."

And the Democrat -- using the word "change" over and over during his address -- said McCain has suddenly adopted Obama's message after running for months on experience. "For the last 19 months, he has argued that we don't need change, that what qualifies him to be president is the quarter-century he has been in Washington, the experience that comes from decades walking the halls of power," Obama said.

"But now, suddenly, John McCain says he's about change, too. He's even started using our lines. . . . He even put out an ad today -- get this -- that says Governor Palin and he would bring, and I quote, the change that we need," Obama said, drawing laughter from the crowd. "That sound familiar?"

Earlier in the day, after the Illinois senator made similar remarks at a stop in western Colorado, McCain pushed back. "Friends, Senator Obama's been saying some pretty nasty things about me and Governor Palin," McCain said. "That's okay; he can attack if he wants. All the insults in the world aren't going to bring change to Washington, and they're not going to change Senator Obama's record."

The Obama campaign is seeking to address a range of festering problems, including the candidate's persistent underperformance among female voters, especially the older ones. It rolled out a women's outreach effort Monday, led by scores of prominent female entrepreneurs, athletes and politicians, including former secretary of state Madeleine K. Albright, cosmetics entrepreneur Bobbi Brown and Yahoo! Inc. President Sue Decker.

The women will act as surrogates for Obama, advocating his support for issues such as equal pay, expansion of family leave and reduction of health care costs. Prominent women also are flooding the airwaves on Obama's behalf, including Sen. Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Govs. Janet Napolitano of Arizona and Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), a former Hillary Rodham Clinton backer.

But Obama's most aggressive advocate will be Biden, who will spend the coming weeks seeking to deflate McCain before audiences of working-class voters.

"Eight years ago, a man ran for president who claimed he was different, not a typical Republican. He called himself a reformer. He admitted that his party, the Republican Party, had been wrong about things from time to time. He promised to work with Democrats and said he'd been doing that for a long time," Biden told the group in Michigan.

"That candidate was George W. Bush. Remember that?" Biden said. "Eight years later, we have another Republican nominee who's telling us the exact same thing: This time it will be different, it really will. This time he's going to put country before party, to change the tone, reach across the aisle, change the Republican Party, change the way Washington works."

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