Oct. 10, 2008 -- Sen. John McCain unleashed his harshest attack ad yet today, charging that Sen. Barack Obama "lied" about his relationship to 1960s anti-war terrorist Bill Ayers.
Despite the GOP's televised attack, it was the Republican team of McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin who braced for bad news today.
The Alaska legislature is scheduled to release its conclusions later this afternoon on whether Palin abused her authority as governor and fired the state's top cop because he refused to dismiss Palin's former brother-in-law from his job as a state trooper.
The McCain campaign tried to pre-empt the official report by releasing its own review of "troopergate," which concluded that Palin did nothing wrong and did not break any laws. It found that Palin dismissed former public safety commissioner Walt Monegan for insubordination and budgetary differences, not as part of a Palin family squabble.
At their meeting today, Alaska lawmakers plan to vote to release the estimated 300-page report and some of the 1,000 or more pages of supporting documents. The 14-member legislative panel could recommend that the case be closed, that another committee continue to investigate or that the matter be referred to criminal investigators.
Palin is in Ohio today attending several fundraisers but has no public appearances scheduled.
Obama is also in Ohio, blitzing the state where McCain is trailing in the polls and where losing would likely sound a death knell for his presidential hopes.
"Obama has a small but solid lead of a few points in the state of Ohio," ABC News' senior Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos told "Good Morning America" today. "He's outspending John McCain there by about $500,000 a week.… He wants to lock in the lead. If he locks up Ohio, he's a long way to locking up the race."
McCain, whose standing in the polls has been hurt by the economic crisis, has staked his hopes for a comeback victory by attacking Obama's character and truthfulness, particularly his relationship to Ayers, the co-founder of the radical Vietnam era Weather Underground.
McCain Joins Assault on Obama's Ayers Tie
Palin had been carrying out the assault on Obama alone until Thursday, when McCain joined the attack.
The Arizona senator escalated the offensive against Obama's character today with an ad titled "Blind Ambition." In it, the McCain campaign charges, "When convenient, he [Obama] worked with terrorist Bill Ayers. When discovered, he lied. Obama. Blind ambition."
McCain got tripped up when he made similar charges Thursday during an interview with ABC News anchor Charles Gibson. McCain said that Ayers is an "unrepentant terrorist" who said on 9/11 that his only regret was that he hadn't carried out more bombings.
The quote McCain referred to was Ayers telling a newspaper reporter, "I don't regret setting bombs. I feel we didn't do enough," to end the war.
Ayers did not say that on Sept. 11. He said it some days earlier. It happened to appear in The New York Times Sept. 11. Ayers' memoir, "Fugitive Days," had been published the day before, and he'd done a number of interviews, including with the Times, to promote the book.
Obama, speaking today in the GOP stronghold of Chillicothe County, Ohio, suggested McCain was to trying fuel anger and division.
"Nothing's easier than riling up a crowd by stoking anger and division," Obama told the Ohio crowd. "But that's not what we need right now in the United States. The times are too serious."
Obama went on to paint McCain as a candidate who has been running a game of distraction and who often makes "erratic" and "unsteady" leadership decisions. Those traits would be dangerous, Obama suggested, especially in response to the economy's downturn.
The Ayers attacks and the suggestions that Obama is untrustworthy may be McCain's "best hope," Stephanopoulos said. "He has to raise doubts about Barack Obama."
It will be a difficult task.
"Sen. McCain's biggest problem right now almost has nothing to do with him. It's the economy. It's the fact that we've had a bear market just in the past two weeks and the campaign dialogue really can't break through that tremendous noise, tremendous pain that so many Americans are feeling," Stephanopoulos said.
"He's got to figure out a way to … convince people that he's got the better plan to solve this financial crisis," Stephanopoulos said. "That's his only real hope for victory."
ABC News' Sunlen Miller and The Associated Press contributed to this report