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McCain Moves to Soften the Tone at Rallies, if Not in Ads

The attacks on Obama's character came as the both candidates offered new proposals to address the steep drop in the stock market and the effects of the ongoing fiscal crisis on Wall Street.

Obama proposed a menu of tax cuts and loans for small businesses, a temporary program he said is needed to help "Main Street" and complement what has already been done for major financial institutions. McCain said the federal government should suspend rules that require seniors to begin withdrawing from their retirement accounts when they reach age 70 1/2 to allow them more times to try and recoup recent losses.

But throughout the day, McCain's campaign continued to focus on Obama's character.

The accusation about voter fraud came in a conference call with his campaign manager, Rick Davis, who said he is worried the election is being "stolen" in several battleground states where irregularities have been alleged in voter registrations collected by ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.

"We don't think the election is something that should be stolen from the American electorate," Davis said, urging Obama to join him in calling for federal investigations and media inquiries into ACORN and its ties to Obama.

"ACORN is an organization that has violated the law on a repeated basis," Davis said. "Barack Obama has given $832,000 within the last year to an organization that is a front group for ACORN."

The McCain campaign put its accusations into a 90-second Web ad, in which an announcer accuses ACORN of "bullying banks, intimidation tactics" and "disruption of business." It says ACORN stands accused of "massive voter fraud" and says "Obama's ties to ACORN run long and deep. . . . They even endorsed him for president."

Obama aides rejected the charge, saying that Obama was never an ACORN community organizer and represented the group only as a lawyer. They said his work as an organizer in 1992 was not connected to the group.

"The McCain campaign's allegations about Senator Obama are completely transparent and false," spokesman Tommy Vietor said. Obama "believes that the registration of voters at record levels is good for our democracy, and the McCain-Palin campaign's false claims are nothing more than another dishonorable, shameful attempt to divert voters' attention from the unprecedented challenges facing their families and our nation."

The voter registration group has come under increased scrutiny since its offices in Nevada were raided Tuesday morning.

Agents with the Nevada secretary of state and attorney general's office raided the group's Clark County headquarters, alleging that ACORN had hired felons to collect signatures and had submitted about 300 apparently fraudulent registration cards.

Officials from ACORN brushed aside the charges of fraud, saying they attempt to verify obviously bogus information on voter registration forms that they collect. But, in many states the law requires them to submit forms to election officials even if they contain suspect information.

"We feel the current strategy from the right is to create and manufacture a so-called crisis of voter fraud," said Brian Kettenring, chief organizer for ACORN in Florida.

Staff writers Robert Barnes and Steven A. Holmes contributed to this report.

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