Obama casts McCain as rich, out of touch

August 21, 2008 4:53:34 PM PDT
Democrat Barack Obama Thursday depicted John McCain as rich, out of touch and less a foreign-policy expert than he claims - part of the increasingly negative tone of the presidential hopeful's message as he tries to fight the perception that his campaign has stalled.Two national polls released Wednesday showed McCain has drawn almost even with Obama in the last few weeks, thanks to an aggressive new tone and a series of negative campaign commercials painting Obama as a tax raiser who is ill-prepared to lead in a dangerous world. That, in turn, has prompted Obama to step up his rhetoric against McCain.

Both an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll and a CBS News/New York Times survey found the race close - Obama with 45 percent to 42 percent for McCain.

At a town-hall meeting here, Obama was introduced by Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, widely believed to be on Obama's short list of possible vice presidential contenders. The two met privately for about 15 minutes before the campaign appearance. Kaine later batted away questions about his prospects.

"I'm going to let the campaign speak for the campaign," he said.

Speaking to supporters, Obama chided McCain for an interview he gave to the Politico Web site where he said he didn't know how many homes he owns. McCain's wife, Cindy, is an heiress to a large beer distributorship whose wealth is estimated to be at least $100 million.

"If you're like me, and you've got one house, or you are like the millions of people who are struggling right now to keep up with their mortgage so they don't lose their home, you might have a different perspective," Obama said.

Brian Rogers, a McCain spokesman, responded, saying: "We're delighted to have a debate on judgment with Barack Obama, who bought his own million-dollar mansion in a shady deal with a convicted felon. Sen. Obama is obviously frustrated and abandoning his 'politics of hope' for negative personal attacks."

Rogers was referring to Antoin "Tony" Rezko, a real estate developer and longtime Obama political patron convicted in June on more than a dozen felonies in a corruption scandal.

Obama and his wife bought their home in Chicago in 2005 for $1.6 million after getting advice from Rezko. The corruption case had no connection to Obama, and Obama has said it was a mistake to work with Rezko on buying the house.

McCain's gaffe was a lucky break for the Illinois senator, an Ivy League-educated millionaire who has battled GOP efforts to depict him as elitist and out of touch with working-class concerns.

His campaign immediately produced a television ad highlighting McCain's comments and deployed surrogates across the country to draw attention to them.

Obama also struck a defensive tone in Virginia, saying that despite his limited experience on the national stage he has shown better judgment on foreign affairs than McCain. The Arizona senator has run television ads casting Obama as a lightweight celebrity unready to be commander in chief.

"I will put my judgment on foreign policy over the last five years against John McCain's anytime. Anytime," Obama said. He insisted the war in Iraq - which McCain strongly supported - was a mistake and that the so-called troop surge McCain championed has not produced the political reconciliation needed to achieve lasting peace there.

"I think an objective analysis would say I've been right a lot more than he has, for all his years in Washington," Obama said, adding that he would consult with knowledgeable foreign policy advisers as president, including Republicans like Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel and Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar.

Obama also said McCain had no record of leadership on education policy or energy, which has emerged as a central issue in the campaign.

Still, the Illinois senator also let on that he wasn't fully comfortable in the role of negative campaigner.

Asked about the tactics of Karl Rove, Obama branded President Bush's longtime political adviser a leader of "the politics of insult" that had paralyzed Washington.

"Who goes around spending all their time insulting people?" Obama asked, even though he'd spent the better part of an hour talking tough on McCain.

On the Net:

McCain: http://www.johnmccain.com
Obama: http://www.barackobama.com