Obama Says 'Enough' About 'Lipstick' Smear

"Lipstick on a pig" phrase stirs increasingly negative presidential campaign.

September 10, 2008, 8:48 AM

Sept. 10, 2008— -- Sen. Barack Obama angrily challenged Republican claims that he insulted Gov. Sarah Palin by using the expression "lipstick on a pig" to describe Sen. John McCain's attempts to paint himself as an agent of change, and called the GOP indignation "phony outrage and Swift boat politics."

"What their campaign has done this morning is the same game that makes people sick and tired about politics in this country," Obama told students at Granby High School in Norfolk, Va.

Obama was referring to a new Web video that states that Obama called Palin a pig, as well as demands by the GOP's Palin Truth Squad that he apologize to Palin for the remark, insisting it was a direct shot at the Republican vice presidential candidate.

"She is the only one of the four candidates for president, or the only vice presidential candidate who wears lipstick," said former Massachusetts Gov. Jane Swift, a member of the Palin Truth Squad. "I mean, it seemed to me a very gendered comment."

Watch Gov. Sarah Palin's Exclusive Interview With ABC News' Charlie Gibson Beginning Thursday

Palin had highlighted her use of lipstick during her acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention by calling herself a "hockey mom" and joking that the only difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull was lipstick.

Obama did not sound like he intended to apologize during his campaign stop this morning in Virginia.

"Spare me the phony outrage, spare me the phony talk about change," Obama scoffed.

"The McCain camp would much rather have this be about phony and foolish diversions," Obama said. He said it was reminiscent of earlier Republican campaign tactics of "lies, phony outrage and Swift Boat politics."

The Swift Boat politics was a reference to a GOP campaign to raise questions four years ago about Sen. John Kerry's service in Vietnam, despite the fact that Kerry won three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and a Silver Star.

"Enough," Obama said and began a speech about the economy.

Nevertheless, the Republicans made clear they are not giving up on the issue.

"Obama stepped in it," a McCain aide told ABC News and the campaign believes it will resonate with women voters.

The uproar began when Obama ridiculed the argument by the GOP ticket of McCain and Palin that they would be the team to change the politics of Washington, taking over a theme that had been Obama's campaign mantra.

"'We're really gonna shake things up in Washington,'" Obama said, mocking McCain's claim to offer change. "That's not change. That's just calling something the same thing, something different. But you know you can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig.

"You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change. It's still going to stink after eight years. We've had enough of the same old thing! It's time to bring about real change to Washington. And that's the choice you've got in this election," Obama said.

Told of the whole quote, Swift suggested that Obama was also calling his opponents "an old rotten fish."

Democrats tried to dismiss the Republican accusation.

"Enough is enough. The McCain campaign's attack tonight is a pathetic attempt to play the gender card said Obama campaign senior adviser Anita Dunn.

"This phony lecture on gender sensitivity is the height of cynicism and lays bare the increasingly dishonorable campaign John McCain has chosen to run," Dunn said.

"That expression is older than my grandfather's grandfather," said Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki. "And it means that you can dress something up but it doesn't change what it is. He was talking pretty clearly about the fact that you can't just call yourself change when you've voted with George Bush 90 percent of the time."

'Lipstick' Jungle: McCain, Obama Presidential Contest Gets Ugly

The Obama campaign also pointed out that McCain used the same words -- "lipstick on a pig" -- last October to describe Sen. Hillary Clinton's health care plan.

Obama is finding, however, that the presidential race is no longer a two-man -- or a two-person -- race, and Palin's entrance has changed the dynamic.

Obama's running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, said Palin and the Republicans are eager to make the race personal.

"Folks, look, I know what she's going to try to do. She's going to try to make it as personal as she can," he said.

Palin, Biden noted, has "a "compelling initial story" and personality, and it's a big deal to have a woman nominated to be vice president, but eventually, the momentum will return to the Democrats' side.

"I think you're going to see this thing change," he said, predicting that the change will come as Palin makes her positions known on issues such as Supreme Court justices and global warming.

Obama said he didn't believe polls that showed Palin's emergence as the GOP's VP candidate had vaulted McCain and Palin into a tie or a lead with the Democrats.

"The notion that people are swinging back and forth in the span of a few weeks, or a few days, this wildly generally isn't borne out," Obama said Tuesday.

ABC News' political analyst Matthew Dowd agreed that the GOP surge may not last.

"Usually when you have swings this large and this quick, they don't stick for a long time," Dowd told "Good Morning America."

Dowd said that Palin is the "buzz" of the campaign at the moment. "It's hard to talk about anything else other than her personality. She is the pivot in this race, which everybody is trying to figure out how to deal with."

Referring to the lipstick remark, Dowd said it was "an expression that was fine to use two weeks ago. ... My guess is whether they apologize or not, Barack Obama will never use that expression again in the next 60 days."

Sarah Palin Effect: Will It Last for John McCain?

It remains to be seen whether Sarah Palin's popularity will hold up during the nearly two months of campaigning before the November election.

So far, she hasn't strayed far from the convention speech that introduced her to voters and, not including a homecoming rally when she returns to Alaska this week, has not campaigned without McCain.

Alaska is, of course, safe territory for Palin to make her solo debut. Her approval rating in her home state is sky high and the crowd will be huge.

Palin will also submit to her first grilling by the national press when she sits down later this week with ABC News' Charlie Gibson.

She will also face off with Biden in the first and only vice presidential debate next month.

ABC News' Matthew Jaffe contributed to this report.