Presidential candidates air attack ads

September 22, 2008 4:05:26 PM PDT
With six weeks left in the presidential campaign, the tone of the candidates' commercials has turned negative.Both parties are airing ads, attacking their opponents.

While many Chicagoans take pride in a city resident who could be the U.S. president, the Republican Party is saying the Chicago political roots of Sen. Barack Obama are nothing to be proud of.

A Sen. John McCain ad begins with an empty TV screen then a past Obama statement on toughness.

"In terms of my toughness, first of all, I come from Chicago," Obama said.

Then come the headshots of Chicago politicians and operatives - the mayor's brother, William Daley, convicted fundraiser Tony Rezko, state senate president Emil Jones and governor Rod Blagojevich in and out of shadowy, sinister-looking light. Each mug appears with a tagline linking the face with Obama.

"His governor, Rod Blagojevich, (has) a legacy of state and federal investigations," says the ad.

It's how six weeks before Election Day, the McCain campaign will attempt to cast the Illinois senator as a product of Chicago's Democratic Party machine and a presidential candidate about which the rest of the country should be wary.

"You have to follow his career. He has written a couple of biographies. So we want to make sure the record is straight on who really helped Barack Obama to the position he is in today," said Mike Duncan, Republican national chairman.

In Chicago Monday morning, Blagojevich, one of "the bad guys" in the McCain ad, heard about the commercial but had not seen it yet. Reporters told him it was running in Pennsylvania.

"I have an old girlfriend in Pennsylvania. I hope the pictures are good," he said.

For the record, Obama was not the party-endorsed candidate when he ran for the U.S. Senate in the 2004 Democratic Primary. His campaign pointed out that fact in a statement Monday as it issued a new television ad saying McCain's plan to de-regulate health care could have an affect as disastrous as the de-regulation of Wall Street. And the ad shows McCain standing side by side with President George W. Bush.

"Is standing with Bush as bad as being linked with 'The Machine?'" said Obama's latest ad.

"John McCain is his own man. He stood up against his party time after time. That is why he is known as a maverick in this country, and he is doing that again," said Duncan.

Obama will be in town Monday night attending two fundraisers in the city - one in the South Loop at the Standard Club.

Both campaigns say they are airing as part of national buys, meaning they aren't targeted to battleground states and are probably meant to drive negative news coverage of each other as much as reach key voters directly on television.

The Obama spot quotes an article written by McCain in Contingencies Magazine that argues for more deregulation of the health care industry just "as we have done over the last decade in banking."

"Increasing costs and threatening coverage, a prescription for disaster," the ad says over video of a somber couple examining their bills. The McCain campaign says Obama is making an "absurd" argument because McCain wants to allow Americans the ability to buy health care across state lines in the spirit that allows Americans to do interstate banking -- which isn't the problem that caused the crisis on Wall Street.

Obama has been backed by Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and other establishment Democrats since he got the Senate nomination in 2004 and has worked with them since being elected.

It is true that Obama's fundraiser Rezko is a convicted felon. And his political mentor, state Senate President Emil Jones, has an array of relatives with state jobs, arranged for his son to take over his Senate seat next year and has dragged his feet on ethics legislation.

Obama did endorse Blagojevich for re-election despite questions about his ethics, but the two are not particularly close. It's also true that William Daley has been an adviser. But it's not surprising Obama would seek economic advice from a former Commerce secretary.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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