McCain Seeks Message, Targets Obama


Despite what ought to be an early advantage nationally for Democrats because of the Republican Party's brand issue, presumptive GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain is keeping the race close, bouncing around from town hall to town hall.

The early good news for McCain is that he nearly broke even with Sen. Barack Obama in May fundraising, he's been driving daily back and forth on issues in the campaign, and he's avoided some of the early mistakes that his rival made in the first two weeks of the general election.

So far, not so bad for the Arizona senator, but not so good, either, complain a number of unnamed Republican sources to the Washington Post. They want to know what is the real message, and how McCain plans to handle the highly unpopular leader of his party, President George W. Bush, for the remainder of the campaign.

To the chagrin of some Republicans, the McCain campaign has been acting schizoid -- as one unsourced GOP strategist puts it in a Sunday Washington Post story -- and nothing underlined that fact more than when McCain released an ad showing how he's stood up to Bush on climate change, but then the next day, sided with Bush on offshore drilling. Michael D. Shear and Juliet Eilperin write up this Sunday must-read.

Advisors to Obama, D-Ill., held a conference call with reporters Sunday to announce the senator's plan for reining in speculation in the oil markets, which some argue has contributed to the higher fuel costs that Americans have faced. The plan also includes closing a loophole which exempts some energy traders from regulation, working with other countries to regulate the oil futures markets, and enacting a windfall profits tax on the top grossing oil companies. The energy debate will likely get major play the next couple of days as the world learns more about the special summit in Saudi Arabi this weekend on oil prices.

With the Midwest flood devastation on the minds of many Americans, Obama sharply attacked McCain on Saturday for opposing additional use of government money for levee and flood protection programs. McCain voted against The Water Resources Development Act last fall, reports ABC's Jennifer Duck.

"I know that Sen. McCain felt as strongly as I did," said Obama. "Feeling enormous sympathy for the victims of the recent flooding. I'm sure they appreciated the sentiment, but they probably would have appreciated it even more if Sen. McCain hadn't opposed legislation to fund levees and flood control programs, which he considers pork."

McCain's campaign said Obama was confusing the facts and engaging in typical political attacks that the Democrat rejects in his speeches," writes Nedra Pickler of the Associated Press.

Newsweek's brand new poll looks like an outliner because it shows Obama leading McCain in presidential preference by 15 points. Other recent surveys show a much closer race.

Nearly half of all Americans say race relations in the U.S. are in bad shape, and three in 10 acknowledge feelings of racial prejudice, according to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll. Among African Americans, a majority -- six in 10 -- say race relations are "not so good" or "poor."

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