Battleground State Debate: The Shifting Campaign Tone

Govs. Rendell and Pawlenty, Sens. Martinez and Brown on endgame strategies.

Oct. 5, 2008 -- With 30 days of campaigning left to go, battleground state Govs. Ed Rendell, D-Pa., and Tim Pawlenty, R-Minn., and Sens. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, spoke out Sunday morning on a fierce new phase in the presidential race. The exclusive "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos roundtable faced off on the recent McCain campaign attacks on Obama's association with William Ayers and the Democratic nominee's strategy for striking back.

"This individual, Bill Ayers, is an unrepentant domestic terrorist," Pawlenty argued. "Now Barack Obama at the time was 8 or 9 years old, or whatever, but that's not the point, the point is this same individual, Bill Ayers, hosted some sort of political event at his home for Barack Obama when Barack was running for state legislature in Illinois when he was well into his 30s...What kind of judgment would allow an unrepentant domestic terrorist to host a political event for your in his home, in the terrorist's home?"

Martinez agreed. "It's about his judgment and who he associated with during those years and right on into his political campaign," he said.

But Brown claimed the McCain campaign is adopting a negative tone. "Well, you have seen a 26-year Senate veteran morph into an angry, desperate candidate in the last few weeks, especially in the last few days. And it just kind of makes me sad...that John McCain and Sarah Palin are resorting to these tactics," he said.

And Rendell noted that the Republican nominee previously pledged to run a positive campaign. "In March when he became the presumptive nominee, Sen. McCain said he would run a decent and honorable campaign. He hasn't and it's going to get worse," Rendell explained.

The panel also debated the candidates' health care plans. Martinez defended McCain against claims that his plan offers a tax credit while also increasing taxes. "John McCain is trying to find a way to get the health care system to cover all Americans and he does it with a tax credit. The government will give the tax credit to all Americans that cannot afford health insurance so they can then go buy it," he said. "Now Barack Obama deceiving the American people would say the money goes to the insurance company. Well, hello? When you buy an insurance policy you pay a premium to the insurance company and then when you have to go to the doctor the insurance company pays the doctor. That's how the system works."

But Rendell fought back, explaining "there are two things wrong with what Mel [Martinez] said. Number one, Senator Obama's plan does not turn it over to the government. It keeps the private insurance structure. In fact, if you're happy with the health care plan you've got with a private insurance company, you keep it. Senator Obama's cost-cutting ideas will reduce your premiums but you keep it with your private insurer."