Higher Standards Bite Obama, McCain

They pounced on the Hill, and this statement Thursday morning from the McCain campaign: "Barack Obama's assertion that the only problem with higher gas prices is that they've gone up too fastĀ -- saying he'd prefer a 'gradual' increase insteadĀ -- shows how clearly out of touch he is with Americans struggling with record gas prices."

The McCain quote that's circulating in Democratic circles: "I can't be a referee of every spot run on television," McCain told the Boston Herald's Hillary Chabot, in what just might be a softening on 527s. "I admire Sen. Obama and his accomplishments, but we all know there are groups who want to attack me."

Writes Chabot: "When 'The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth' released high-impact ads attacking Kerry's actions in Vietnam, McCain -- also a decorated war veteran -- called the ads 'dishonest and dishonorable' and urged fellow Republican President Bush to condemn the ads as well."

Not to be lost in Wednesday's dust-ups: Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., is on the first line of McCain defenders -- on partisan political spats, not just Iraq policy.

Said Lieberman, responding to the Democrats' attacks on McCain: "The obvious fact is that more than most any American, Senator McCain knows the sacrifices that our men and women in uniform make and the burden that their families bear and it really is wrong to suggest otherwise."

"For now, Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Democrats' 2000 vice presidential nominee, is still welcome at Senate Democrats' weekly lunches -- even if he is actively campaigning for Republican presidential candidate John McCain," Richard Simon writes for the Los Angeles Times. "But the welcome mat may not be out for long."

"Sure, it's somewhat awkward," understates Lieberman, in an interview with Simon. "What I did was unconventional. I understand that. I'm a Democrat -- an independent Democrat, but still a registered Democrat -- supporting a Republican."

You want awkward? Lieberman will help conduct a radio interview of Vice President Dick Cheney at 9 am ET Thursday.

Speaking of veeps -- current and almost -- how about Carville's advice for Obama? "If I were him, I would ask Al Gore to serve as his vice president, his energy czar, in his administration to reduce our consumption and reliance on foreign energy sources," Carville said on CNN Thursday.

Politico's Ben Smith: "I'm not sure James Carville -- with whom Obama had a public spat -- is the first person whose advice he's going to take, though come to think of it there is an open slot on the vetting committee today."

The Sked:

Obama holds a town-hall meeting in Wisconsin at 1 pm ET. From the campaign: "Obama will also meet with the first in a series families who will help to demonstrate the relief American families will get from his plan as opposed to the policies of President Bush and John McCain. . . . Obama will visit with these tax relief families periodically on the campaign trail, and he'll be discussing their stories every time he talks about tax relief --because this isn't about numbers on a chart, it's about real relief for struggling families."

Politico's Mike Allen: "Karen Hughes may spit out her corn flakes: 'Tax families' were a signature element of President Bush's presidential campaign in 2000 and his road show for his tax cut in 2001."

Waiting for McCain in New Hampshire: "Analysts say Obama offers three times the tax break for middle class," is the headline on the Nashua Telegraph story.

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