ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The McCain campaign’s telegraphed change of strategy to focus on Sen. Barack Obama’s judgment and associates elicited a strong response from the Democrat today, who told an audience here that now is not the time to "turn the page" on the economy to focus on what Obama calls "smears."
Appearing before a rally of approximately 28,000 people at Asheville High School this afternoon, Obama shot back at McCain, assailing the message from the Republican adviser who told the Washington Post that this week they are looking forward to "turning a page" on the financial crisis so they can focus on painting Obama as a liberal and a risk.
Obama immediately cast the Republicans’ shift in strategy as a move towards a smear campaign -– coming on the heels of Gov. Sarah Palin’s attack this weekend in which she said that Obama has been "palling around with terrorists" –- namely William Ayers, who was a member of the radical 70s group the Weather Underground.
Ayers, a founder of a radical group that the FBI characterized as "domestic terrorist" was a fugitive from justice for years, but he is now safely ensconced in the liberal world of Chicago academia, and is considered an expert on education issues. Obama has condemned the actions Ayers took years ago, but has not disassociated himself from the man, with whom he served on a board and worked on education issues. Ayers also contributed $200 to Obama’s 2000 congressional campaign, and hosted one of Obama’s first political organizing meetings, before he ran for state senate in 1996.
"His campaign has announced that they plan to –- and I quote — turn the page on the discussion about our economy and spend the final weeks of this campaign launching Swift boat-style attacks on me," Obama told the crowd today, "We are facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and John McCain wants us to ‘turn the page’ on talking about the economy?"
Obama painted the McCain campaign’s tactics as one of a desperate campaign using "smears" and "distractions" over substance and promised that his campaign will not veer from the issues.
"They’d rather try to tear our campaign down than lift this country up," Obama said. "That’s what you do when you’re out of touch, out of ideas, and running out of time. So I want all of you to be clear, I’m going to keep on talking about the issues that matter."
The McCain campaign fought back against Obama’s charge of that they are "Swiftboating" and spreading "smears."
"The last four weeks of this election will be about whether the American people are willing to turn our economy and national security over to Barack Obama, a man with little record, questionable judgment, and ties to radical figures like unrepentant domestic terrorist William Ayers," McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said in a statement. "Americans need to ask themselves if they’ve ever befriended an unrepentant terrorist, or had a convicted felon help them buy their house — because those aren’t smears, those are true facts about Barack Obama."
– Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller