"If I wasn't a celebrity. . ."

This may be the closest thing to good PR that Britney Spears or Paris Hilton have had in months. Being compared to a presidential candidate is far different than their usual depictions in the weekly glossies and on celebrity gossip blogs.

But for the presidential candidate? That comparison sparked a back and forth on the campaign trail today that had little to do with the issues but a lot to do with personality and image – and maybe a healthy dose of media coverage envy.

John McCain's campaign released a new ad today that blends together images of Barack Obama and tabloid mainstays Spears and Hilton, and asks "He's the biggest celebrity in the world. But is he ready to lead?"

The McCain campaign defended the ad with a memo, conference call and statements from campaign officials. The Obama campaign fired back and quoted Spears circa 2000 ("Oops he did it again!")

"It's beyond dispute that he has become the biggest celebrity in the world," McCain campaign strategist Steve Schmidt told reporters on a conference call, per ABC News' David Wright. "But do the American people really want to elect the biggest celebrity in the world?"

From Wright: "Asked why the campaign chose these particular celebrities to compare with Obama, campaign manager Rick Davis answered matter-of-factly, as though the comparison were obvious and indisputable: 'What we decided to do was find the top 3 international celebrities in the world.  Britney and Paris came in second and 3rd,' he said."

Will McCain's ad work? Let's give that 24 hours to percolate. McCain campaign and Republican officials are not worried that voters may deem this ad just another negative attack from a candidate with a bad case of sour grapes.

What the ad may tell us is that the McCain campaign finally has settled on a strategy that they will employ daily: take down Obama, with a battering personal blows if necessary, in order to make him an unacceptable choice for president. (See the RNC's new web site, The Obama Audacity Watch.)

The Obama campaign responded late today with their own ad, titled "Low Road." Not surprising, it leads with the phrase "politics of the past." Tag line: "John McCain. Same old politics. Same failed policies."

Oh and that McCain ad? It was about energy. . . and Obama's response talked about that too.

McCain and Obama are both talking abut the economy on Thursday. McCain is in Racine WI for a town hall meeting and Obama focuses on economic security in Cedar Rapids, IA.

Paying down the debt. . .

Governor Bill Richardson is doing his part to unite the Democratic party today, announcing he will hold two August fundraisers for Senator Hillary Clinton in his home state of New Mexico, ABC News' Sarah Amos reports.

Per Amos, Richardson will hold two invitation-only events on August 17th.  "One event in Santa Fe will be hosted by Dave Contarino, Governor Richardson's former campaign manager and long time strategist.  The second event will take place in Albuquerque and will be hosted by a well-known New Mexico businessman.  Clinton will be in attendance for both fundraisers."

Amos notes that Richardson has often been one of the strongest voices to call for party unity among Democrats and personally promised to be involved in helping to retire Clinton's debt. (Will this heal the hurt feelings between Richardson and the Clintons?)

On the campaign front. . .


-- 1:00 pm ET: Attends town hall meeting with voters, Racine, WI.


-- 11:30 am ET: Attends security on economic security with voters, Cedar Rapids, IA.

At the White House. . .


-- 10:30 am ET: Speaks at the 2008 annual meeting of the West Virginia Coal Association, White Sulphur Springs, WV.


-- 8:30 am ET: Releases the Gross Domestic Product for the second quarter.

POLITICAL NEWS STORIES ON ABCNEWS.COM ABC News' Jan Crawford Greenburg: Obama's Mixed Reviews from Chicago LINK

ABC News' David Chalian: McCain and Obama Have Already Spent Over $50 Million on General Election TV Ads LINK

ABC News' David Wright: New McCain Ad Mocks Obama 'Celeb' Status LINK

ABC News' Jake Tapper: The McCain Lobbyist Confusion LINK

ABC News' Sunlen Miller: Obama: McCain Trying to Make Voters 'Scared' of Me LINK

ABC News' Jake Tapper: A Ludacris Obama Supporter LINK

ABC News' Z. Byron Wolf: Stevens: Life Imitating Legislation LINK

ABC News' Jake Tapper: Leggo My Ego LINK

ABC News' Bret Hovell: McCain Gets Clean Bill of Health LINK

ABC News' Jake Tapper: "Dirty" Money LINK

ABC News' Justin Rood: Senate Votes Against 'Media Shield' Law LINK

ABC News' Jake Tapper: McCain Camp Continues Unsubstantiated Inconsistent Attacks on Obama Over Germany Trip LINK

ABC News' Matt Stuart: Romney: "I Don't Expect to be a Part of It" LINK

ABC News' Jake Tapper: Obama to House Dems: If Sanctions Fail, Israel Will Likely Strike Iran LINK

ABC News' Sarah Amos: Gov. Richardson to Hold Two Fundraisers for Sen. Clinton LINK

ABC News' Jake Tapper and Theresa Cook: Republican Senator Indicted for Allegedly Lying on Financial Disclosure Forms LINK

ABC News' Matthew Dowd: It's the Economy. . . Again LINK

ABC News' Ann Compton and Julia Hoppock: Bush Signs Massive Housing Bill LINK


Candidates Take Jabs Over Taxes
Sens. Obama and McCain attack one another over tax plans and promises. LINK

Obama: McCain Wants You to Be 'Scared' of Me
Sen. Obama says Sen. McCain's strategy is to paint him as "risky." LINK

What's the Future of Stevens and the GOP?
Many Republicans worry the cloud over Stevens will follow them to November. LINK

McCain Mocks Obama 'Celeb' Status
A new McCain ad pokes fun at Sen. Obama by comparing him to Brittany Spears and Paris Hilton. LINK

Kaine Side Steps VP Question
Kaine on Obama's VP List: "I'm not running for It. I'm not asking for it." LINK

Alaska Senator Defends Himself
Ted Stevens is accused of covering up gifts received from oil companies. LINK

How to Pick a VP
One of the biggest decisions comes with vice presidential pick. LINK

Alaska Senator Ted Stevens Indicted
The longest-serving GOP senator is accused of lying about gifts he received. LINK