- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign went on a “rant” when it harshly reacted Friday to news that Sen. John McCain had selected Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, a senior McCain aide said Saturday.

Just 36 hours after word leaked out that Mr. McCain would add Mrs. Palin to the Republican ticket, his campaign rekindled the controversy during the Democratic primary that Mr. Obama was condescending to middle America, exemplified by his remark that people in rural areas were bitterly clinging to guns and religion.

“The Obama campaign was caught flat-footed by McCain’s choice and typically lashed out in a rant that once again insulted small-town Americans,” McCain adviser Charlie Black said after the Obama campaign dismissed Mrs. Palin as a former small-town mayor with no foreign policy experience.

Unsure how to respond to the 44-year-old self-described “hockey mom,” the Obama camp on Saturday changed tack for the third time, issuing a new ad that seeks to refocus attacks on Mr. McCain. But the new strategy is far different from how the campaign initially responded, and illustrates just how much Mr. McCain has recast the election with his choice.

Less than an hour after word leaked out Friday that the first-term governor was Mr. McCain’s choice, an Obama spokesman put out an acerbic statement.

“John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency,” Bill Burton said. “Governor Palin shares John McCain’s commitment to overturning Roe v. Wade, the agenda of Big Oil and continuing George Bush’s failed economic policies - that’s not the change we need, it’s just more of the same.”

Hours later, Mr. Obama and his running mate, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, put out a statement with a very different tone.

“We send our congratulations to Governor Sarah Palin and her family on her designation as the Republican nominee for vice president,” they wrote. “It is yet another encouraging sign that old barriers are falling in our politics. While we obviously have differences over how best to lead this country forward, Governor Palin is an admirable person and will add a compelling new voice to this campaign.”

Said Mr. Black: “Their candidate had to repudiate his staff.”

Mr. Obama, asked about the differing statements, said with several halting pauses: “I think that, you know, campaigns start getting these hair triggers and the statement that Joe and I put out reflects our sentiments.”

After attacking and then praising Mrs. Palin, the Obama campaign has now embarked on a third tack - largely ignoring her. In the campaign’s new ad, titled “No Change,” there is no direct criticism of Mrs. Palin, a former PTA member and mother of five, including a 5-month-old with Down syndrome.

“Well, he’s made his choice,” says the ad, running nationally on cable television. “But for the rest of us there’s still no change. McCain doesn’t get it, calling this broken economy ‘strong.’ Wants to keep spending $10 billion a month in Iraq. And votes with George Bush 90 percent of the time.”

The ad concludes: “So, while this may be his running mate” - an image of Mr. McCain and Mrs. Palin morphs into a shot of Mr. McCain with Mr. Bush - “America knows this is John McCain’s agenda. And we can’t afford four more years of the same.”

Although the Obama campaign is not directly attacking Mrs. Palin, its surrogates are publicly ridiculing her experience and calling her merely a small-town mayor. Sen. Sherrod Brown, warming up the crowd for Mr. Obama in Dublin, Ohio, told a crowd that on his 72nd birthday Friday, Mr. McCain chose Mrs. Palin, and the crowd booed the mention of her name.

Mr. Brown quieted the boos quickly, but added: “Two years ago Sarah Palin was mayor of a town half the size of Bexley. Nothing against Bexley, but I don’t know that the mayor of Bexley is really quite ready to be in the White House.”

He said it revealed much about the candidates that in the first major test of executive judgment - picking a vice president - Mr. McCain chose someone “who was a mayor of a town of 7,000 people, then was elected governor, has been governor of a state for 18 months that’s half the population of Franklin County, and yet she’s going to be a heartbeat away from the presidency. No way.”

Franklin County includes Ohio’s capital, Columbus, and suburb Bexley.

Republican strategist Scott Reed said: “The Obama small-town comments show a pattern of behavior and animosity toward small-town America.”

“Obama should remember that Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan have hundreds of small towns,” he added, listing three of the top battleground states in November’s election.

Christina Bellantoni, traveling with the Obama campaign, contributed to this report.

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