The Slinging of Mud

Two storylines dominate the campaign trail today, giving Thursday a subtle Groundhog Day feel to it: the McCain campaign's "Celeb" ad, released yesterday to much debate and discussion, and Barack Obama's comments yesterday in Iowa where he seemed to suggest that McCain was making an issue of his skin color and name.

On the first. . .

Vapid, clever, distracting, subtle as a sledgehammer, effective -- whatever your take on the "Celeb" ad it signaled the strategy the McCain campaign is going to deploy to make Obama an unacceptable choice for president. But that strategy brings risks, if voters decide that McCain has transformed from his maverick, not-your-average politician, happy warrior self.

The presumptive Republican nominee was asked about it at a town hall meeting in Racine, WI. An Obama supporter there told him he had flip-flopped on his pledge to run a clean campaign focusing on the issues.

McCain defended the ad and the campaign his team has run so far. "All I can say is we're proud of that commercial," ABC News' David Wright reports. "We think Americans need to know that I believe that we should base this campaign on what we can do for Americans at home and how we can make Americans safe and prosperous and that's the theme of our campaign."

"I respect and admire Sen Obama, but we have stark differences," McCain said.  "And those differences need to be drawn."

"These campaigns are tough," he said, "But I'm proud of the campaign we've run."

On the second. . .

McCain campaign manager Rick Davis launched the round this morning when he issued a statement accusing Obama of "playing the race card" -- and not just any card, but one "from the bottom of the deck."

McCain backed up Davis' statement in remarks to reporters on the trail today and agreed that Obama's comments were playing the card card. McCain said he was "disappointed" that Obama went there. The Obama campaign denied that that was their candidate's intention or suggestion.

Head spinning trying to keep track of the back and forth, mudslinging, attacks and counterattacks? The Obama campaign has launched a new web site detailing attacks from the McCain campaign, deemed "McCain's Low Road Express."

Back to regularly scheduled campaigning McCain and Obama head to Florida tomorrow, the second time this week the two have touched down in the same battleground on the same day.

McCain speaks at the national Urban League Conference and meets with members in Orlando. Later in the day he heads to Panama City for a fundraiser and concert with country music star John Rich. Rich has penned a song "Raisin' McCain" about the Republican candidate's time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and refusal to be released early. Sample lyrics: "He stayed strong, stayed extra long til they let all the other boys out. Now we've got a real man with an American plan, we're going to put him in the big White House."

(Take that Ludicris!)

Obama holds a town hall meeting on economic security with voters in St. Petersburg FL. He sits down with NPR's Michele Norris, host of All Things Considered, and talks about his strategy on the economy.

Congress and Energy

It looks like Congress will head into their August recess without action on an energy bill, giving both Members of Congress from both parties a talking point for the campaign trail back in their districts. Republicans will

Tivo Alert! ABC News' Kate Snow is traveling in Africa with former President Bill Clinton. Snow curtain raises the trip for Good Morning America on Friday.

On the campaign front. . .


-- 11:00 am ET: Speaks at the national Urban League Conference, Orlando, FL.

-- 11:50 am ET: Meets with members of the National Urban League conference, Orlando, FL.

-- 6:00 pm ET: Attends private fundraiser, Panama City, FL.

-- 7:25 pm ET: Attends and speaks at the Country First Concert featuring John Rich, Panama City, FL.


-- 10:00 am ET: Attends town hall meeting on economic security with voters, St. Petersburg, FL.

At the White House. . .


-- 12:30 pm: Speaks at a reception for Alabama Victory '08, Birmingham, AL.


-- 8:30 am ET: June unemployment report released.


ABC News' Jennifer Parker and Sunlen Miller: 'Dream Ticket' Meets Reality: Obama Looks Beyond Clinton LINK

ABC News' Jake Tapper: Republicans Belittling Obama's Decent, if Overstated, Energy Efficiency Idea LINK

ABC News' David Wright: McCain: 'We're Proud of That Commercial' LINK

ABC News' Jake Tapper: Are Obama's Claims About Inflating Car Tires Accurate? LINK

ABC News' Jennifer Parker: Clinton Supporter Angered By 'Other Women' Obama VP Talk LINK

ABC News' Jake Tapper: Is Obama Arrogant, or Is McCain Cranky? LINK

ABC News' Molly Hunter and Alexa Ainsworth: Sen. Kerry: McCain is 'Dead Wrong'; This is 'The Challenge of Our Generation' LINK

ABC News' Jake Tapper: Obama's New "Low Road Express" Website Against McCain LINK

ABC News's Bret Hovell: With Favre's Future in Doubt, Don't Look to McCain for Mediation LINK

ABC News' Jake Tapper: Obama Doesn't Think McCain Is Using Race, But Does Think He's Taking Low Road LINK

ABC News' Howard L. Rosenberg and Jan Crawford Greenburg: VeepBeat: The Prediction Market LINK

ABC News' Jake Tapper: Obama Asks McCain About Paris/Britney Ad: "Is That Really the Best You Can Come Up With?" LINK

ABC News' Sam Donaldson: 'Playing the Race Card' LINK

ABC News' Jake Tapper: Obama "Playing the Race Card from the Bottom of the Deck" LINK

ABC News' Matt Jaffe and Theresa Cook: Sen. Stevens Enters Not Guilty Plea LINK

ABC News' Jake Tapper: The Elitist Celebrity Quiz LINK

ABC News' Jennifer Duck: Bush Talks Retirement In WV but Claims 'Not a Farewell Address' LINK

ABC News' Jake Tapper: Prominent Liberal Blogger Says Britney Ad Implies Obama Has a "Taste for Young White Women" LINK

ABC News' Rick Klein: McCain on Taxes: Trying to Have it Both Ways? LINK

ABC News' Z. Byron Wolf: Ventura to Appear at Paul Shadow Convention LINK


McCain Stands By 'Celeb' Ad
Sen. McCain in Racine, Wisc.: "We're proud of that commercial." LINK

Obama to McCain: 'Best You Can Come Up With?
Obama challenges McCain on "Celeb" ad that compares Obama to Brittany and Paris. LINK

Obama Stumps on Race?
The McCain camp accuses Obama of playing the race card. LINK

Donaldson on 'Playing the Race Card'
Sam Donaldson analyzes the political fallout of McCain's 'Celeb' ad. LINK

'View' Ladies Debate McCain's 'Crappy' Ad
Co-hosts have heated debate sparked by McCain's latest political ad. LINK

Yo! Yo! Joy Riffs on Luda
"View" co-host performs excerpts of Ludacris' politically inspired rap. LINK

Sen. Stevens in Federal Court
Alaska politician is expected to plead not guilty to seven felony charges. LINK

Bush to Shorten U.S. Troop Tours in Iraq
President Bush says on Friday, U.S. tours will be reduced from 15 to 12 months. LINK

Israeli Prime Minister to Resign
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Wednesday that he will resign in September. LINK

Obama's Wailing Wall Prayer Snatched
Though Jewish law prohibits it, men try to steal presidential hopeful's prayer. LINK

What Is McCain's Strategy?
George Stephanopoulos weighs in on moves made by the senator's campaign. LINK

Is Obama an Empty Suit?
A new McCain campaign suggests Obama is all flash and no substance. LINK

The Bottom Line on Negative Campaigning
George Stephanopoulos discusses when candidates take the low road. LINK