- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 14, 2008

MANCHESTER, N.H. | Sen. Barack Obama told voters not to fall for Republican attempts to “distort my record,” keeping up his attacks on Sen. John McCain, whose campaign criticized the Democrat for talking politics during a hurricane.

During a rally that was scaled back as Hurricane Ike swamped Texas, the Democratic presidential nominee said Republicans “will try to undermine your trust in what the Democrats are trying to do,” but warned voters in the blue-leaning swing state that “the times are too serious for those strategies to work.”

“If we don’t [start] the changes that we need starting right now, then our children may not have the same kind of America that we want them to have,” Mr. Obama said.

Aides for Mr. McCain, who had no public events scheduled as his running mate hit the campaign trail solo for the first time, responded that Mr. Obama “showed zero restraint in the ferocity of his attacks,” calling it a “new low.”

“It says a lot about Barack Obama’s judgment that while his campaign canceled his appearance on ‘Saturday Night Live’ and his running mate stayed home, Obama went ahead and delivered a series of scathing personal attacks,” said McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds.

Team McCain cited news reports quoting Obama aides speculating that their boss would go easier on Mr. McCain because of the storm and stories about Democratic vice-presidential nominee Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. scrapping his plan to attend the rally.

The Obama campaign scoffed at the statement.

“We will take no lectures from John McCain, who is cynically running the sleaziest and least honorable campaign in modern presidential campaign history. His discredited ads with disgusting lies are running all over the country today. He runs a campaign not worthy of the office he is seeking,” spokesman Bill Burton said.

For her part, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Mr. McCain’s running mate, left her home state Saturday for her first solo campaign venture, telling supporters at a farewell rally that she will return at the end of the campaign.

“We’ve got a little travel coming the next 52 days,” Mrs. Palin told a cheering crowd of more than 2,000 gathered at the city convention center.

“But I’ll be home in November, and I’d really like to bring my friend,” she said, referring to Mr. McCain, the Republican presidential candidate.

She moved on to Nevada for a rally and is expected as early as next week to rejoin Mr. McCain on the campaign trail.

Unlike his retooled events during Hurricane Gustav at the beginning of the month, Mr. Obama continued to talk politics and slam his rival at the Saturday morning rally, which attracted 8,000 from New Hampshire and surrounding states.

Mr. Obama reprised his recent attacks on Mr. McCain, saying that the Arizona senator should be honored for his military service, but that when it comes to the plight of the middle class, he “doesn’t get it.”

“He is out of touch with the American people,” Mr. Obama said, to cheers.

He said Mr. McCain and Mrs. Palin “don’t have new ideas” to help people with health care or education.

With just 52 days before the election, campaign rhetoric remained hot as Team Obama launched a new assault on Mr. McCain’s ties to lobbyists with a McLobbyist.com Web site and campy ad suggesting that voting for the Republican is a gamble because he would rather serve special interests.

Obama chief strategist David Axelrod defended a campaign ad mocking Mr. McCain as computer illiterate as a “metaphor” of where Mr. McCain’s view would take the country.

“It’s a relevant ad,” he said. “The question is, who’s in touch. It speaks to who’s going to move this country forward.”

Mr. Axelrod said the ad goes beyond computer savvy.

“The president of the United States needs to be in touch and understand what’s going on in the lives the of American people,” he said, adding Mr. McCain seems to be “sitting on the back of the truck and looking backwards.”

The Obama campaign e-mailed to its press list a Boston Globe story saying that Mrs. Palin did not visit Iraq as the McCain campaign had initially claimed. Instead, she visited a border crossing between Iraq and Kuwait.

Obama aides also sent reporters a Bloomberg story questioning the validity of crowd counts at recent McCain-Palin rallies under the subject line: “Is there anything they don’t lie about?”

The Obama campaign also penned a long memo to reporters detailing what it called misstatements and half-truths from the McCain campaign about Mrs. Palin’s record on fiscal issues, earmarks and policy beliefs titled “Unraveling the myth of the Straight Talk Express.”

Mr. Obama’s remarks about the Republican tactics came at an abbreviated rally here, where he urged supporters to donate time and money to aid hurricane-relief efforts.

He also asked voters to keep the Gulf Coast “in our thoughts and prayers today,” noting that 4 million people were without power and as many as 100,000 homes might be destroyed.

“In moments of tragedy, the American people come together,” he said. “We may argue, we may differ, but we are all Americans.”

It was the second time in as many weeks that he scrapped campaign plans as a major hurricane threatened the Gulf Coast.

Mr. Obama adjusted his schedule after speaking with federal officials and the mayor of Houston about preparedness in the advent of Hurricane Ike, which made landfall early Saturday.

On Labor Day as Hurricane Gustav descended on New Orleans, Mr. Obama attended three campaign events in swing states Michigan and Wisconsin. Instead of giving a political speech, he urged supporters at each stop to donate time and money and remember the “quiet storms” of bad schools and poverty every day.

  • This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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