- The Washington Times - Monday, July 7, 2008

Republicans are starting a TV offensive in battleground states to say Sen. Barack Obama is ignoring energy solutions, as both presidential candidates prepare for a weeklong campaign focus on the economy.

The Republican National Committee is airing an ad that says the party’s presumptive nominee, Sen. John McCain, has a “balanced plan” to address record-high gas prices and environmental concerns and that the senator from Arizona is “pushing his own party to face climate change.”

“But Barack Obama? For conservation, but he just says no to lower gas taxes. No to nuclear. No to more production. No new solutions,” a narrator says. “Barack Obama: just the party line.”

The spot will run in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. Both parties have identified these states as critical battlegrounds for the Nov. 4 general election, and both candidates have made multiple visits.

The RNC plans to spend about $3 million on the ad, its first that targets Mr. Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

An Obama campaign spokesman labeled the ad an “attack” and said the energy crisis can be solved only through honest debate.

“There’s a real choice in this election between John McCain’s promise to continue the Bush approach of trying to drill our way out of our energy crisis - which even he admits won’t lower prices this summer - or Barack Obama’s plan to provide meaningful short-term relief for our families and to make a historic investment in alternative energy development that will create millions of new jobs, keep the cost of energy affordable and secure our energy independence once and for all,” Obama spokesman Hari Sevugan said.

The Republican ad accuses Mr. Obama of saying “no to nuclear,” though the senator from Illinois has been criticized by environmentalists for his qualified past support for nuclear power. Mr. Obama has panned Mr. McCain’s proposal for 45 new nuclear reactors by 2030.

The RNC cites a December campaign stop in Newton, Iowa, where Mr. Obama told voters, “I am not a nuclear energy proponent.” A recent McCain Web ad used a longer version of the same remark while arguing that Mr. Obama says “no” to “clean, safe nuclear energy.”

Both ads omit the context of the remark, which Mr. Obama made in response to a young caucus participant who told the Democrat that she was “still concerned” about his support for nuclear power given its safety risks.

“I start off with the premise that nuclear energy is not optimal. I am not a nuclear energy proponent,” Mr. Obama said. “I have not ruled out nuclear as part of that package but only so far as it is clean and safe. I have the same attitude with respect to coal. We’ve got to try everything to see what works.”

Mr. Obama said that until the nation can solve safety and storage issues and “can produce clean, safe energy without enormous subsidies from the U.S. government, I don’t think that’s the best option. I am much more interested in solar and wind and biodiesel.”

During a meeting with Democratic governors last month, Mr. Obama said nuclear power is not a “panacea” for the energy crisis.

Mr. McCain also said his energy policy would include a mix of alternative sources along with offshore oil drilling.

The Democratic National Committee, lagging the RNC in fundraising, has been producing Web ads targeting Mr. McCain on the economy.

The latest, titled “Jobs First,” attempts to link Mr. McCain with President Bush. It features both the president and Mr. McCain saying the “fundamentals” of the nation’s economy “are strong.”

The Obama campaign issued a memo arguing that the two Republicans make similar points.

On Monday, Mr. McCain will hold a town hall meeting in Denver on job creation while Mr. Obama campaigns in Charlotte, N.C.

The rest of the week, Mr. Obama will make stops in Georgia, Ohio and Virginia as part of a weeklong economic focus in states that Mr. Bush carried in 2004.

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