- The Washington Times - Friday, September 12, 2008

DOVER, N.H. - Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama signaled Friday his campaign would mount an aggressive push to paint his Republican rival as befuddled and out of touch, using some of the tactics he decried as distracting from the nation’s important challenges.

Mr. Obama said Republican Sen. John McCain will represent President Bush’s policies on the fall ballot and serve only the “special interests” and the “wealthiest of the wealthy,” while he is the one who is actually “fighting for the middle class of this country.”

“Maybe from where he and George Bush sit, maybe things do look fundamentally sound, maybe they don’t see what’s taking place, maybe they are a bit out of touch,” Mr. Obama said during a town hall forum here. The crowd of 325 included 147 undecided and independent voters.

“I do see what’s going on all across America,” he said. “We can’t afford four more years of what George Bush and John McCain consider progress.”

The Illinois senator’s riff here was part of an all-fronts attack against Mr. McCain, who has seized a slim lead in several national polls and is inching uncomfortably close to Team Obama in key battleground states.

Two new ads suggested Mr. McCain can’t understand everyday Americans and is falsely portraying himself as offering change.

The Obama campaign said the new ads show “John McCain is out of touch with the American people and unable to address the challenges facing the country in the 21st century and bring about real change, and that Barack Obama is the candidate who will bring about change that works for the middle class.”

One slammed Mr. McCain, 72, for saying in an interview he “can’t send email” and notes “he admits he still doesn’t know how to use a computer.”

It begins by showing an unflattering photo of Mr. McCain’s early years in the Senate and a narrator stating, “Things have changed in the last 26 years, but McCain hasn’t.”

Like many Obama ads, it includes a photo of Mr. Bush and Mr. McCain side by side.

“After one president who was out of touch, we just cant afford more of the same,” the ad concludes.

The Republicans, meanwhile, parsed words to say the Democratic ticket has “lashed out” and is being “disrespectful” toward McCain running mate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

“He was the world’s biggest celebrity, but his star’s fading,” the ad states. “So they lashed out at Sarah Palin.”

It claims she was “dismissed” as “good looking,” even though Obama running mate Sen. Joe Biden meant the words as a compliment.

“That backfired, so they said she was doing, ‘what she was told,’” the ad continues, citing a portion of a quote from Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod.

According to Politico, Mr. Axelrod said of Mrs. Palin, “She tried to attack Obama by saying he had no significant legislative accomplishments — maybe that’s what she was told — but she should talk to Sen. Lugar, talk to Sen. Coburn …”

The ad followed an earlier campaign this week saying that Mr. Obama was being sexist when comparing Mr. McCain’s economic policy to putting “lipstick on a big.”

Mr. Obama did not mention Mrs. Palin during his opening remarks here, instead using Mr. McCain’s own words against him from a September 11 Service Nation forum the previous evening.

Mr. Obama read the McCain quote to the Dover voters: “It’s easy for me to go to Washington and, frankly, be somewhat divorced from the day-to-day challenges people have.”

The Arizona senator had been praising his running mate’s service as a mayor, saying it put her closer to every day people’s concerns.

But Mr. Obama made his own similar reference when talking about mayors’ work.

“The mayors have some of the toughest jobs in the country, because thats where the rubber hits the road,” he said at the Service Nation forum in New York. “We yak in the Senate. They actually have to fill potholes and trim trees and make sure the garbage is taken away.”

Less than two weeks earlier, the Obama team suspended any negative campaigning and scrapped a day’s worth of events as Hurricane Gustav approached New Orleans, urging supporters to donate time and money to the Red Cross.

Despite Hurricane Ike threatening the Texas Gulf Coast, Mr. Obama did not pull any punches.

Mr. Obama used the tough talk Friday morning during a satellite address to the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace workers.

According to the pool report, he reprised his convention speech line that his rival “doesn’t get it,” but also used a new line to blast Mr. McCain’s trade stance.

“When American workers hear John McCain talking about putting country first, it’s fair to ask - which country?” Obama told the union, to applause.

Surrogates unleashed a barrage of attacks as well.

Sen. Dick Durbin, Illinois Democrat, accused Mr. McCain of being “completely out of touch with the reality of todays economy.”

Aides said Mr. Biden of Delaware also would demonstrate the new aggressive line.

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