Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said Thursday that swing voters participating in focus groups commissioned by the D.N.C. bring up John McCain's age unprompted.
"We didn't bring it up, but they volunteered it," said Dean in response to a reporter's question. He went on to explain that voters have expressed two concerns about McCain's age. "One was a health concern, the other was, and this is really interesting . . . that his views are old-fashioned."
At the age of 72, McCain would be the oldest newly elected president in U.S. history if inaugurated in 2009.
Referring to what Dean characterized as the party's most conservative focus group in Charleston, W. Va., the DNC chairman said "the women in that group were shocked that [McCain] believed health insurance shouldn't cover birth control pills and they were shocked about his belief in abstinence only education."
While knocking McCain's "old-fashioned" views, Dean maintained that the Democratic Party was unlikely to invoke McCain's age in the fall campaign.
"I doubt we will bring it up in the election," said Dean, referring to the age issue. "There is somewhat of a higher ethical bar on what we do."
"We don't have any Lee Atwaters or Karl Roves on our side," he added.
"We don't have to," added D.N.C. spokeswoman Karen Finney. "I know the McCain campaign is saying he's a strong brand. He's not a strong brand. He's actually a pretty weak candidate."
"I don't think we have to bring up age," said Cornell Belcher, an Obama pollster who collaborated on the D.N.C.'s McCain poll. "I don't think we will."
Republican National Committee spokesman Alex Conant dismissed Dean's comments about McCain's age, saying the election would be about "judgment, character, vision and leadership -- all things voters associate with John McCain."
Dean made his comments to reporters at the D.N.C.'s "John McCain polling briefing".
Since the Democrats have not yet settled on a presidential candidate, Dean was joined in making the polling presentation by Belcher, one of Sen. Barack Obama's pollsters, as well as Allan Rivlin, whose polling firm does work for Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.
The kicker "Now that's my phone buzzing there. I don't want you to think I'm getting fresh or anything."
--Barack Obama speaking to a woman closely pressed against him for a photo when his phone started to vibrate in his pocket on his right thigh
On the campaign front. . .
-- 4:00 pm EST: Campaign Event at Lubbock International Airport, Lubbock, TX.
-- 12:30 pm ET: Town Hall meeting in Columbus, IN. -- 8:15 pm ET: Town Hall meeting in Terre Haute North Vigo High School, Terre Haunte, IN.
-- 10:00 am ET: Campaign Event at YMCA Gym, Philadelphia, PA. -- 5:00 pm ET: Campaign Event at Drexel University Main Building Atrium, Philadelphia, PA.
-- 10:45 am ET: Holds a campaign event at South Vermillion High School in Clinton, IN. -- 1:00 pm ET: Holds a campaign event at South Putnam Elementary School Gymnasium in Greencastle, IN. -- 5:30 p.m. ET: Attends campaign event at Centennial Park in Roanoke Rapids, NC. -- 7:30 p.m. ET: Attends campaign event at North Carolina Wesleyan College in Rocky Mount, NC.
--7:10 pm ET: Attends an RNC reception with First Lady Laura Bush, Broken Spoke Ranch, Crawford, TX