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McCain Plans Fiercer Strategy Against Obama

"You're going to learn a lot" in next week's debate, Sen. John McCain promised supporters in Pueblo, Colo. (By John Moore -- Getty Images)
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"I guarantee you, you're going to learn a lot about who's the liberal and who's the conservative and who wants to raise your taxes and who wants to lower them," McCain said.

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A senior aide said the campaign will wait until after Tuesday's debate to decide how and when to release new commercials, adding that McCain and his surrogates will continue to cast Obama as a big spender, a high taxer and someone who talks about working across the aisle but doesn't deliver.

Two other top Republicans said the new ads are likely to hammer the senator from Illinois on his connections to convicted Chicago developer Antoin "Tony" Rezko and former radical William Ayres, whom the McCain campaign regularly calls a domestic terrorist because of his acts of violence against the U.S. government in the 1960s.

The Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. appears to be off limits after McCain condemned the North Carolina Republican Party in April for an ad that linked Obama to his former pastor, saying, "Unfortunately, all I can do is, in as visible a way as possible, disassociate myself from that kind of campaigning."

McCain advisers said the new approach is in part a reaction to Obama, whose rhetoric on the stump and in commercials has also become far harsher and more aggressive.

They noted that Obama has run television commercials for months linking McCain to lobbyists and hinting at a lack of personal ethics -- an allegation that particularly rankles McCain, aides said.

Campaigning in Abington, Pa., yesterday, Obama continued to focus on the economy, even as he lashed out at McCain.

"He's now going around saying, 'I'm going to crack down on Wall Street' . . . but the truth is he's been saying 'I'm all for deregulation' for 26 years," Obama said. "He hasn't been getting tough on CEOs. He hasn't been getting tough on Wall Street. . . . Suddenly a crisis comes and the polls change, and suddenly he's out there talking like Jesse Jackson."

Obama highlighted a new report showing a reduction of more than 159,000 jobs last month, and he linked the bad economic news to McCain and Palin.

"Governor Palin said to Joe Biden that our plan to get our economy out of the ditch was somehow a job-killing plan; that's what she said," Obama told a crowd of thousands. "I wonder if she turned on the news this morning. . . . When Senator McCain and his running mate talk about job killing, that's something they know a thing or two about, because the policies they've supported and are supporting are killing jobs in America every single day."

McCain issued a statement yesterday saying the bailout bill "is not perfect, and it is an outrage that it's even necessary. But we must stop the damage to our economy done by corrupt and incompetent practices on Wall Street and in Washington."

Speaking in Pueblo just as the House was finishing deliberations on the package, McCain blamed fellow lawmakers for the failure to adequately regulate the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

"It was the Democrats and some Republicans in the Congress who pushed back and did not allow those reforms to take place, and that's a major reason we are in the trouble we are in today," he said. "Those members of Congress ought to be held accountable on November 4th as well."

Before the bailout crisis, aides said, McCain was succeeding in focusing attention on Obama's record and character. Now, they say, he must return to those subjects.

"We are looking for a very aggressive last 30 days," said Greg Strimple, one of McCain's top advisers. "We are looking forward to turning a page on this financial crisis and getting back to discussing Mr. Obama's aggressively liberal record and how he will be too risky for Americans."

Staff writers Michael Abramowitz and Perry Bacon Jr. contributed to this report.


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