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."
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